Acts of Conscience

As President Obama taps Lt. Gen. Stanley McChrystal to run the Afghan war, do these revelations, divulged to Esquire at great personal risk by an elite Army interrogator two and a half years ago, imply the new commander’s aiding and abetting of torture?

Sometime in February or March, then, Jeff reported for duty at an unmarked compound. This was Camp Nama, the home of Task Force 121. From its size to its mission, everything about it was and remains an official secret.

It was a point of pride that the Red Cross would never be allowed in the door, Jeff says. This is important because it defied the Geneva Conventions, which require that the Red Cross have access to military prisons. « Once, somebody brought it up with the colonel. ‘Will they ever be allowed in here?’ And he said absolutely not. He had this directly from General McChrystal and the Pentagon that there’s no way that the Red Cross could get in — they won’t have access and they never will. This facility was completely closed off to anybody investigating, even Army investigators. »

During his first six or seven weeks at the camp, Jeff conducted or participated in about fifteen harsh interrogations, most involving the use of ice water to induce hypothermia. By his reckoning, at least half of the prisoners were innocent, just random Iraqis who got picked up for one reason or another. Sometimes the evidence against them was so slight, Jeff would go into the interrogation without even knowing their names.