[Ppnews] The CIA's 'Black Sites'

Political Prisoner News PPnews at freedomarchives.org
Thu Mar 2 08:55:44 EST 2006

The CIA's 'Black Sites'
What are we going to do with the secret prisoners 
who cannot be tried in our courts?
by Nat Hentoff
February 24th, 2006 4:29 PM

The CIA's top counterterrorism official [Robert 
Grenier] was fired last week because he opposed 
detaining Al Qaeda suspects in secret prisons 
abroad, sending them to other countries for 
interrogation, and using forms of torture such as 
"waterboarding," [making a prisoner believe he is 
about to be drowned] intelligence sources have 
claimed. The Sunday Times, London, February 12

For more than three years, I've been reporting on 
what has been increasingly, but fragmentarily, 
revealed about secret CIA prisons around the 
world. On September 17, 2001, the president, in a 
classified order, gave the CIA these "special 
powers" (as Attorney General Alberto Gonzales 
agreed during his confirmation hearings).

These "black sites"­as they are called in CIA, 
White House, and Justice Department files­ 
escaped attempted congressional oversight until 
December 2005. But in the National Defense 
Authorization Act, the Senate finally called for 
regular reports on where those prisons are, what 
plans there are for the ultimate release of their 
prisoners, and "a description of the 
interrogation procedures used." Ted Kennedy and 
John Kerry introduced the resolution.

A similar December requirement was passed by the 
House (226 to 187) in a nonbinding resolution to 
urge the House and Senate negotiators to shine a 
shaft of sunlight on these "dark sites" in the 
final National Defense Authorization Act for 
2006. But secretly, both the Senate and House 
resolutions were killed by the conference committee.

This February, Human Rights Watch, the ACLU, 
Human Rights First, and Amnesty International 
urged the House International Relations Committee 
to support three new resolutions of inquiry into 
American use of torture, citing the fact that 
"there is still a strong perception in many parts 
of the world that the United States continues to 
facilitate or willfully ignore torture by 
rendering individuals to countries where they are 
likely to be tortured, and by holding detainees 
in secret locations closed to the International 
Committee of the Red Cross." (Emphasis added.)

But on February 10, in a party line vote, the 
House International Relations Committee defeated all three resolutions.

There has been hardly any notice in the press or 
anywhere else about these congressional setbacks 
as part of the Bush administration's continued 
success in suppressing news of what actually goes 
on in those "black sites" in the name of the United States and its citizens.

As I have noted in previous columns, there has 
been a debate for more than two years inside the 
CIA about the legality of these secret prisons 
and how to eventually dispose of the prisoners. 
They cannot be tried in American courts because 
they have been wholly denied due process under 
our constitution and so are wrongfully held.

Two years ago, FBI veteran Jack Cloonan, who had 
been the senior agent on the FBI's bin Laden 
squad in New York and later was in charge of 
investigating Al Qaeda master planner Khalid 
Shaikh Mohammed (now in some CIA "black site"), asked on ABC's Nightline:

"What are we going to do with these people [in 
the CIA secret cells]? . . . Are they going to 
disappear? Are they stateless? . . . What are we 
going to explain to people when they start asking 
questions about where they are? Are they dead? 
Are they alive? What oversight does Congress have?"

The present answer to Jack Cloonan's last 
question is this: There is no congressional 
oversight. Congress has been blocked­by its 
Republican leadership, the president, Donald 
Rumsfeld, and CIA chief Porter Goss­from having 
any oversight at all. The constitutional 
separation of powers has also fallen into a black hole.

There is, however, a quick look into one of those 
secret prisons in a December 19, 2005, Human 
Rights Watch report, "U.S. Operated Secret 'Dark Prison' in Kabul."

Eight "detainees" now being held at Guantánamo, 
another extralegal U.S. prison, have told their 
attorneys what it was like when they were 
individually held, at various times between 2002 
and 2004, in a secret U.S. facility for more than 
six weeks before being transferred to Guantánamo. 
That secret prison was apparently closed after 
the transfer. This is their story, as told in the HRW report:

"The detainees, who called the facility the 'dark 
prison' or 'prison of darkness,' said they were. 
. . shackled to rings bolted into the walls of 
their cells, deprived of food and drinking water. 
. . for days at a time . . . and kept in total 
darkness with load rap, heavy-metal music, or 
other sounds blaring for weeks at a time. . . . 
Some detainees said they were shackled in a 
manner that made it impossible for them to lie down or sleep."

One of the prisoners added that he was put in "an 
underground place," and "during the 
interrogations, he says, an interrogator threatened him with rape."

Ethiopia-born Benyam Mohammed, who grew up in 
Britain, told his attorney, in English, "[At one 
point] I was chained to the rails [of my cell] 
for a fortnight. . . . The CIA worked on people, 
including me, day and night. . . . Plenty lost 
their minds. I could hear people knocking their 
heads against the walls and the doors, screaming their heads off."

Bush, Rumsfeld, Gonzales, et al. regularly 
intone, in chorus, that the U.S. does not torture 
and always acts within the law. But if the 
fearful facts in the darkness in those CIA 
prisons are ever documented by an independent 
prosecutor in a future administration, it will 
finally be proved that, as Human Rights Watch 
emphasizes, the CIA is responsible­along with the 
president who gave it "special powers"­for 
"serious violations of U.S. criminal law, such as 
the War Crimes Act and the Anti-Torture Statute. 
. . . The mistreatment of detainees also violates 
the [International] Convention Against Torture 
and the International Covenant on Civil and 
Political Rights, both of which the United States 
has ratified, and the laws of war."

There is a rising focus around the country on 
this year's midterm elections. During the 
campaigning, will there be any mention of the 
screams in the CIA's underground prisons of 
darkness? And if there is, how many Americans 
will care enough to be repelled by their own 
silent, passive complicity in the growing moral 
darkness of this nation's leadership?

The Freedom Archives
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