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Torture and Task Force 121

Sarah Meyer

March 27, 2006

Index Research

"I’ve got this apparatus set up — the black special-access program — and I’m going in hot." Steven Cambone, quoted in The Gray Zone by Seymour Hersh.

A recent important NY Times article by Eric Schmitt and Carolyn Marshall was about abuse in the 'Black Room’1 at Camp Nama near Baghdad. The NY Times map and the map of Baghdad Airport at US Camp Victory – al Nasr appear undistinguishable.

Schmitt and Marshall say that Task Force 6-26 was 'renamed’ Task Force 121 and moved to Balad. Balad is now the largest US airbase in Iraq and is situated in the Sunni Triangle, upon which anti-US-occupation Iraqis lob mortars.

However, Task Force 121 was already in existence. TF121 was formed from TF5 (Afghanistan) and TF20 (Iraq). It is a combination of Air, Army and Navy Special Forces. As of 2004, TF121 was composed of 4 elements.

  1. Grey Fox: a deep-cover organisation based at Fort Belvoir in Northern Virginia. Specializes in spying. After 9/11, Grey Fox was incorporated into
  2. Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) at Fort Bragg, North Carolina; they report to Command Centre in Tampa, Florida.
  3. CIA Special Activities Division.
  4. Special Operations Aviation Division (Black Hawks, Chinooks, AH-6.) Resources, including spy satellites, Predators, helicopters, Cruise missiles and C120 gunships are at their disposal.

The CIA Paramilitary are not considered as 'part of the armed forces,’ are therefore exempt from the Geneva conventions," i.e. not governed by the laws of war. "The Special Activities Staff (SAS) is one of the least known covert units operating on behalf of the US Government."

British2 and Australian SAS, as well as Poland's GROM and Norway’s Marinejeger are reported to be connected to TF121.

According to The Real Truth, TF121’s duty is "pre-emptive manhunting" (Saddam Hussein, Osama Bin Laden, Mullah Omar, eg.) – 'high value targets.’ TF121 is reputed to bear a resemblance to The Vietnamese Phoenix Programme. In Vietnam3, says the Real Truth, the "operation got out of control." … many of those assassinated had nothing to do with the war but were targeted because of private grievances."

"Most disturbing," continues The Real Truth, "are TF121's interrogation techniques which reportedly violate the Geneva conventions on the conduct of war. These techniques are employed not just on their targets, but also on their family and friends. We are told TF121 gets around the Geneva conventions by "contracting out" the interrogations to "foreign experts" who are skilled in the use of psychotic drugs, electroshock therapy, psychological trauma, and other means for the infliction of pain and distress. TF121's official position is that it does not know what techniques its contractors use."

The TF121 techniques sound like those used by TF6-26 at Camp Nama, Baghdad.

The TF 121 techniques also sound like those ascribed to the "special access program" (SAP),4 discussed in A Chain of Command by Seymour Hersch5 and again in Alfred McCoy’s A Question of Torture.6 Rumsfeld is known to have wanted to wrest control from the CIA. The SAP "is known to only a few officials," amongst whom appear to be President Bush, Secretary of Defense, Donald Rumsfeld and Stephen Cambone. Please read Jason Miller’s review of McCoy’s book here. McCoy’s book is extensively footnoted and also has a large bibliography. Hopefully, this very excellent book will now get "the attention it deserves."7

Various websites associate the following names with TF121. Some names are also duplicated with TF6-26.

    1) Rumsfeld, Cambone, Boykin, Rear Admiral Bill McRaven

    2) Air Force Brigadier General Lyle Koenig

    3) General John Abizaid, reported to be responsible for forming TF121.

    4) Some of the above and Maj. Gen. Stanley McChrystal, CIA Director George Tenet

    5) Col. Stuart A. Herrington, Maj. Gen. Barbara Fast, Brig. Gen. Richard P. Formica, Lt. Gen. Ricardo S. Sanchez.

    6) Kenneth S. McGraw, Gen. Bryan D. Brown, Vice Adm. Lowell E. Jacoby, Maj. Gen. Michael E. Ennis

Has TF121 now been renamed Task Force 145, as stated in the NY Times? More clarification and information about the 'black’ activities of this Task Force - whatever their TF number - would be welcome.

"Presumably," I asked Thomas Ricks of the Washington Post, who visited and wrote evocatively about Balad, "a new 'detainee' centre (aka torture cell) has now been set up by the now renamed TF121 at Balad? Or not?" Ricks replied, "There is indeed a big JSOTF8 compound at Balad. If they do have a detention room, I presume it would be inside that compound. I wasn't allowed inside it, and nor were the Army and Air Force officers I was with."

If you, too, wish to be a Task Force psychopath, see here.

If, however, you carry compassion and justice in your heart, watch this short heart-numbing video, Children of Abraham –Death in the Desert.

Then read Guide to Passing Resolutions Supporting Impeachment / List of Resolutions Passed.

[1] Seymour Hersh notes in 24.05.04, New Yorker, The Gray Zone: "All the so-called "black" programs had one element in common: the Secretary of Defense, or his deputy, had to conclude that the normal military classification restraints did not provide enough security."
[2] See Basra Shadowlands
[3] See Hersh, Seymour, Moving Targets, New Yorker, August 12 2003.
[4] Special Access Programs (SAPs) [PDF]
[5] Hersh, Seymour, A Chain of Command, Harper Collins, New York 2004
[6] McCoy, Alfred, A Question of Torture, Henry Holt, New York 2006, p. 116, 132.
[7] Tom Engelhardt’s comment 21.03.06
[8] Joint Special Operations Task Force

The URL to this blog is: Torture and Task Force 121

Sarah Meyer is a researcher living in Sussex, UK.
You can contact her at: sarahmeyer@freedom255.com

:: Article nr. 21966 sent on 28-mar-2006 01:24 ECT


Link: indexresearch.blogspot.com/2006/03/torture-and-task-force-121.html

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