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

Hillary Clinton in Moscow.

The Russians have told Secretary of State Hillary Clinton that they are not keen on imposing new sanctions against Iran in order to thwart its efforts to develop nuclear weapons, reports The New York Times . This should not come as a surprise, since the Russians have shown signs that they were not particularly enthusiastic about the prospect, but American officials seemed to think that the Russians would agree in the end. That now seems even more unlikely. American officials have been underestimating the Russians these days -- or at least not taking into account the level of aggression that Russians have toward the United States, even with President Obama in office. Americans seem to think that the Russians will come around and start to see things their way on foreign policy issues – but that is misguided. Just as Clinton was arriving in Moscow, Russia's chief of the Strategic Missile Forces announced that “Russia would deploy multiple-warhead missiles in December, the...

Russia, Iran, and Nukes.

Are Russian nuclear scientists helping Iranians build a nuclear warhead? For years, people have been concerned that Russian scientists would take off and help some rogue country, whether Iran or North Korea, develop weapons. As David Hoffman , author of The Dead Hand: The Untold Story of the Cold War Arms Race and Its Dangerous Legacy , said in an online Washington Post chat, officials in other countries had indeed tried to lure Russian scientists, and on one occasion a busload of Russian scientists, headed for North Korea, had been stopped at the airport. Today, Russian defense experts here in Moscow assure me that is no longer the case: The Russian scientists are not going anywhere, not as long as they are paid and well-fed, which they apparently are. A recent story in The Sunday Times makes it seem as though in fact some of them, at least, have apparently been meeting with Iranians. Israel's prime minister has given the Kremlin “a list of Russian scientists believed by the...

Journalism in Russia.

One of the problems that journalists -- both foreign and Russian -- have while working in Moscow is one of perception. Namely, journalists believe that they are working in an environment in which they can report the news fairly and impartially without being penalized for their work. Sadly, that has not been the case in recent years, and two new incidents underscore that reality. Journalist Alexander Podrabinek , who writes for Radio France International and for Russian newspaper Novaya Gazeta , recently published an article about a Moscow kebab restaurant and explained that it had been forced to change its name from “Anti-Soviet” – a joke, of course, in the post-Soviet Russia -- to “Soviet” because of pressure from a local government official who felt like the name of the restaurant was an insult to Russian history. Podrabinek disagreed with the decision to change the name of the restaurant, and members of a right-wing, nationalistic group known as Nashi...

The Specter of Containment

Should we approach today's nuclear threats using Cold War policy?

George Kennan, member of the State Department Policy Planning Staff, sits at this desk on June 25, 1947. (AP Photo/John Rooney)
Throughout his life, George Kennan felt a great love for the Russian people. He was an admirer of Anton Chekhov's plays and enjoyed taking long walks in the Russian countryside. However, he had no illusions about their despotic leaders. During the Stalinist trials, Kennan worked as an interpreter for the U.S. ambassador and witnessed "the dictator's madness and demonic suspicion," writes Nicholas Thompson in his new book, The Hawk and the Dove: Paul Nitze, George Kennan, and the History of the Cold War . Kennan's understanding of the complexity of the Soviet Union and the savage brutality of Stalin led him to create an enduring doctrine known as "containment," in the late 1940s which "was used more than any other to describe America's Cold War policy," Thompson writes. The strategy was seen as a way to avoid a nuclear world war, and it continues as a theme in U.S. foreign policy today, with analysts relying on containment as a way of dealing with possible threats from Iran and North...

Evasive Maneuvers

Journalists learn what to do if they're captured in Afghanistan -- or rural Virginia.

(Eric Palma)
How do you dress for an abduction? That was the question on my mind as I prepared for my first day of kidnapping school -- or, as it is officially known, Centurion Risk Assessment Services' Hostile Environment and First Aid Course, a weekend-long training program designed to prepare foreign correspondents and aid workers for the worst. I had been told to wear old, comfortable clothes and eventually settled on a black top and Lululemon yoga pants. If they were good enough for a downward-facing dog, they would probably work in a hostage situation. On an unseasonably cool Saturday morning in August, I signed some indemnity forms and boarded a van with nine other journalists and our course trainer Taff, a muscular, tanned Welshman in black flip-flops. As we rode toward the rural training ground in Woodstock, Virginia, we talked about the different kinds of assailants who target journalists. "Which is better -- a thug or a trained assassin?" I asked. "Either way, what are you supposed to...