Tara McKelvey

Tara McKelvey, a senior editor at the Prospect, is a research fellow at NYU School of Law's Center on Law and Security and the author of Monstering: Inside America’s Policy on Secret Interrogations and Torture in the Terror War.

Recent Articles


Now that Robert McNamara is gone , it is worth looking back at his legacy, not the least of which was the emotional morass that he left behind. He was despised by so many for what happened in Vietnam, and with such an intensity, that people even tried to assault him, as Paul Hendrickson described in his book The Living and the Dead: Robert McNamara and Five Lives of a Lost War , recounting one night in September 1972 when someone recognized McNamara riding on a ferry near Martha’s Vineyard and tried to throw him overboard. Years later, the assailant told Hendrickson, "I just wanted to confront [McNamara] on Vietnam." For a long time, it seemed unlikely that anyone would ever have that kind of evil-icon status, but more recently Donald Rumsfeld seems to have taken on that role. A commuter waiting for a bus at Dupont Circle recognized Rumsfeld in February and lit into him: “I became more vociferous and enraged the longer it went: mass murderer, traitor, torturer, rapist of children,” he...


A news photographer told me that when he was covering the war in Iraq in 2004 and 2005, he discovered that the Army color-coded photographs that appeared in newspapers and magazines: Green meant that they liked the picture and that it reflected well on the troops; yellow meant that they had mixed feelings about the picture; and red meant that the photograph showed the troops in a bad light. The people who were guilty of taking too many red-coded photographs found it harder to get access to soldiers. That was back when Donald Rumsfeld was in charge -- a man who was, of course, hostile toward the media and tried to guilt-trip them into presenting a positive picture of U.S. forces in Iraq. When he left office, those days were supposed to be over. Except that they are not over -- not by a long shot. An article in today’s Stars and Stripes , a publication that receives federal funding but is editorially independent from the Pentagon, said that one of their reporters, Heath Druzin , was...

Keeping Secrets

Lawyers and shrinks have privilege; journalists should, too. But it's not that simple.

In Confidence: When to Protect Secrecy and When to Require Disclosure by Ronald Goldfarb, Yale University Press, 289 pages, $27.50 Several months after the abu Ghraib scandal broke in 2004, I interviewed an Iraqi woman who had been held at the prison and used her name in an article about the abuse that took place there. Afterward, the woman, who had seven children, was kidnapped, badly tortured, and killed. I will never know whether she was murdered because she had spoken to me or was just another casualty in a barbaric war. Nevertheless, I do know that her decision to meet with an American journalist set her apart from other people in her Baghdad neighborhood and increased the chances that she would become a target. During the interview, I asked for her permission to publish her name, and she agreed not only to be identified but also to be photographed. In retrospect, I made a terrible mistake. Journalists sometimes have a responsibility to protect subjects from themselves, and I...

Our Man in Kabul

Richard Holbrooke learned some hard lessons in Vietnam. Now he is applying them to Afghanistan and Pakistan.

At 5 P.M. on a weekday in Oak Grove, Kentucky, not far from Fort Campbell, a dark-haired woman is standing in front of her house on Artic Avenue. She watches her dog run through the yard. Inside, her 3-year-old son waits. She tells me that her husband is coming back from Afghanistan in a few days. He has been deployed three times, and he will probably be sent over again. When I ask when his fourth deployment will be, she shrugs her shoulders. "Who knows," she says, declining to give her name for fear it will get her husband into trouble with the military. "We're the last ones to know anything." As soldiers and their spouses frequently announce, they signed up for this life. They know the risks. The troops are in Iraq and Afghanistan to improve security and reduce violence, and sometimes soldiers and marines die in the process. Still, the effects of the wars, with their multiple deployments, instability, and loss of life, are palpable on Artic Avenue. The house across the street is...

A Piecemeal Approach to Undoing Bush's Wrongs

The liberal post-Bush fantasy involves Watergate-style, months-long congressional hearings on the recently departed administration's illicit activities, exposing the criminality of warrantless wiretapping, torture, rendition, and other programs. Except that President Barack Obama has already said he wants to move on. "We need to look forward as opposed to looking backward," he told George Stephanopoulous in January on This Week. After all, the president and Congress have an economic meltdown on their hands. So no Watergate-style drama -- at least that scenario is unlikely. Yet Americans may still have a chance to scrutinize Bush administration policies through a series of congressional hearings. Rather than a full-scale examination, Congress is likely to investigate Bush-era policies on a piecemeal basis. This approach may not have the same intensity as a series of hearings broadcast nightly on network television, but it could still have interesting, and important, results. Here is...