Financial worries and fears about terrorism and immigration are contributing to a rise in right-wing politicians in Europe similar to Donald J. Trump.
French authorities place 24 climate activists under house arrest for the duration of the Paris climate summit under precautionary pretenses, but some are calling the government’s detention of potential protesters a violation of free speech.
This two-hour documentary on Showtime abaout the secret wars that have wholly remade a spy agency is at turns engrossing, maddening and unsatisfying.
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By the time the U.S. withdrew from Iraq, it thought it had subdued the Islamic State. The group is now on a very different trajectory.
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The leak conviction of ex-CIA officer Jeffrey Sterling exposed a range of double standards, from how the spy agency treats African-Americans to how favored officials like Gen. David Petraeus get a pass while others get prison, an issue now before President Obama, writes Chelsea Gilmour. Holly Sterling, the wife of a former CIA officer convicted of leaking details about a botched CIA plan to give flawed nuclear blueprints to Iran, has asked President Barack Obama to pardon her husband who was targeted for prosecution after accusing the CIA of racial discrimination and taking his concerns about the Iran scheme to congressional authorities. In a 14-page letter to President Obama, Holly Sterling recounted the personal nightmare of the US government’s relentless pursuit of her husband, Jeffrey Sterling, an African-American, after an account of the Iran operation – codenamed Operation Merlin – appeared in State of War, a 2006 book by New York Times reporter James Risen. After a conviction earlier this year based on only circumstantial evidence – with Risen refusing to identify his source or sources – Jeffrey Sterling was sentenced to 3½ years in prison, a punishment that the judge made more severe because Sterling would not admit guilt and insisted on a trial. Holly Sterling pleaded with the President to free her husband, noting the disparity between his sentence and the misdemeanor probation given to retired Gen. David Petraeus who admitted to giving highly classified information to his mistress/biographer and lying about it to FBI investigators. “How do you explain the obvious disparate treatment of General Petraeus?” she asked Obama. “If one strips away the race, financial status, and political clout of Jeffrey and Mr. Petraeus and solely reviewed the alleged crimes of Jeffrey and those pled by the general, it is glaringly obvious this was selective prosecution and sentencing. Mr. Petraeus pled to far more egregious acts than Jeffrey was convicted of, yet Jeffrey is rotting in a prison cell while Mr. Petraeus continues to live his life as he so chooses.” She also reminded Obama that he risked going down in history as the president who prosecuted more whistleblowers than all his predecessors combined. Obama’s zealous pursuit of leakers has stifled the normal give-and-take between national security officials and journalists, a process that historically has given the people some insights into what the US government is doing in their name. In the letter to Obama and at a news conference on Thursday, Holly Sterling sought to provide context for the US government’s aggressive prosecution of her husband. She recalled how he joined the Central Intelligence Agency in 1993 and was trained as a case officer for the Iran Task Force, which included him learning Farsi. In 1997, as Sterling was preparing to be stationed in Germany for his first overseas post, he was approached by a supervisor and told the job had been given to another employee, as Holly Sterling explained in her letter to the President. “It was at that moment, his supervisor stated [the reasoning], ‘We are concerned you would stick out as a big black guy speaking Farsi.’ With shock and dismay, Jeffrey replied, ‘When did you realize I was black?'” Based on this episode and subsequent disparate treatment, Jeffrey filed an Equal Employment Opportunity complaint based on racial discrimination – the first African-American to do so – but it was dismissed in part because of the “state secrets privilege.” During this time, Sterling and Risen were in contact about the lawsuit, which Risen described in a New York Times story in 2002. Risk of Whistle-blowing After being dismissed from the CIA, Sterling took the steps that would eventually make him a whistleblower and get him targeted as the number one suspect in the leak investigation regarding Operation Merlin. “In 2003, Jeffrey went to the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence to voice concerns he had regarding ‘Operation Merlin,’ which he worked on while at the agency,” Holly Sterling wrote. “He had grave concerns about mismanagement of the program and potential harm to our country. This was a legal and proper channel for agency employees to voice any such concerns.” Holly Sterling’s appeal to Obama reflected the desperation of a 10½-year legal battle that culminated in Jeffrey Sterling’s conviction last May on nine felony counts, including seven under the antiquated Espionage Act, a World War I-era law aimed at spies and saboteurs, not whistleblowers. Her letter seeking a pardon was the catalyst for a press conference about the Sterling case and the Obama administration’s “war on whistleblowers.” The speakers included Jesselyn Radack, a former ethics adviser to the Justice Department and herself a whistleblower; Thomas Drake, a former senior executive at the National Security Agency where he exposed both waste and privacy violations; former CIA analyst Ray McGovern; and Delphine Halgand, a representative of Reporters Without Borders. “I would like to remind everyone that Jeffrey Sterling is a whistleblower,” Radack pointed out. “Sterling is a whistleblower because he met with the Senate Committee on Intelligence [in 2003], a proper internal political channel that we’re always hearing people talk about and he made reports about what he saw as a botched CIA operation.” Three years later – after Risen’s book was published in 2006 – the FBI targeted Sterling as the chief suspect, searching his house near St. Louis, where he worked as a fraud investigator. There was a period of relative quiet, until 2011, when Jeffrey was lured by his then-employer to his office under the ploy of a work meeting, and then was arrested by the FBI. Though there were 90 other CIA officers who knew the details of Operation Merlin – and trial testimony during the Sterling case revealed that the FBI initially believed the leak had come from a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee – Sterling became the focal point of the investigation because he was seen as being a “disgruntled” employee who was fired by the CIA. [See Consortiumnews.com’s Persecution of CIA’s Jeffrey Sterling] During the trial, evidence presented against Sterling consisted almost entirely of the metadata of conversations (phone calls and emails) between Sterling and Risen. The metadata provided the logs of conversations but did not include any actual content of the conversations, only that they took place. At no point were the prosecutors able to find any concrete evidence that Sterling had disclosed information regarding Operation Merlin to Risen. Adequate Evidence? The circumstantial evidence was deemed adequate, however, because Sterling was being charged under the Espionage Act, which only requires circumstantial evidence to prove guilt. Besides the relative ease of getting a conviction, the Espionage Act also makes no distinction between revealing information for the benefit of the public interest and engaging in conduct designed to help a foreign enemy in wartime. “The Espionage Act has become a strict liability law, meaning that the prosecution does not have to prove that the whistleblower had any intent to harm the United States or benefit a foreign nation,” said Jesselyn Radack, who heads the Whistleblower and Source Protection Program (WHISPeR) at ExposeFacts. “Worse, Sterling’s conviction is based on flimsy circumstantial evidence that almost certainly would not result in a conviction, except under the very vague and overbroad Espionage Act.” Thomas Drake added, “And not only do they [administration officials] go after them [the whistleblowers] under the Espionage Act – it’s selective, it’s malicious, and it’s vindictive. See the problem, and of course, if you’re the government then you know this (they don’t like to admit it, but they will say it when necessary), if you’re charged with espionage there’s no public interest defense. “If you go to the oversight committee [and the committee officials] decide you might have given something to them [that they] don’t like that you gave to them, even though they have oversight responsibilities, that’s no defense either. So here you are practicing the First Amendment redress in the public interest, and you find yourself criminalized. And that’s what’s happened in this country.” Since the enactment of the Espionage Act in 1917, the Obama administration has used it to convict more people than all other administrations combined. “The Obama administration presided over the most draconian crackdown on national security and intelligence whistleblowers in US history,” Radack said. “The Justice Department has used the antiquated Espionage Act as a bludgeon to threaten, coerce, silence, and imprison whistleblowers for alleged mishandling of classified information.” Radack continued, “Meanwhile, powerful and politically connected individuals accused of the same and much worse conduct receive, at most, a slap on the wrist. Like General David Petraeus, who gave away more secret information at a much higher level to his mistress and received a sweetheart plea deal for a minor misdemeanor.” Thomas Drake elaborated” “In this country, National Security reigns supreme, it trumps everything. The primacy of national security gives the elite and those in privileged positions of power no accountability. It gives them immunity from any attempt to hold them responsible. And yet, we have an administration that has no problem licensing unto itself the authorization to leak to the press on an extraordinary level, in fact, leaking highly classified sources and methods for political purposes and to present themselves in the best possible light. “And yet, if you go to an intel committee which provides oversight on the secret side of government, or if you dare go to the press or have any contact with the press, at all, under any circumstances, then you’ll be charged with espionage. Last time I checked, real spies don’t go to the press. Real spies go to other spies. Real spies don’t make public their secrets.” Targeting Critics Drake noted parallels between the Sterling case and his own whistleblowing case, in the context of disparate treatment and seeking appropriate redress in the public’s best interest. He explained that the government will often chalk these whistleblowing cases up to “individuals … who have ‘personal grievances.’ … So you have in my [Drake’s] case and in Jeffrey Sterling’s case, we bear the full punishment, we bear the burden of the politics of abject and outright personal destruction. “We, as sources, whether to hold a mirror to those things in government that are wrong, that violate the law, that actually are, in fact, a danger to our national security, we’re the ones that pay the high price, we’re the ones that are put up on the altar of national security as sacrifices.” In 2010, the US government accused Drake, who had complained about NSA abuses, of mishandling classified material under the Espionage Act. Eventually all 10 original charges were dropped and Drake pled to one misdemeanor charge of exceeding authorized use of a computer. As for the disparity between Petraeus’s wrist-slap and Jeffrey Sterling’s prison term, Holly Sterling said, “If you honestly look at the two cases … you see that General Petraeus committed far more egregious acts than Jeffrey had allegedly done, and he did it for selfish reasons, while Jeffrey had gone to the Senate Intelligence Committee because he was concerned about the citizens of our country and what this possible Operation Merlin could have done. “So, with General Petraeus’s punishment and Jeffrey’s punishment, it’s basically saying that the thought in this country is that if you are a Caucasian person and you do wrong, that you don’t need to be punished for it and you get a slap on the wrist, while if you are a man of color, you are guilty until proven innocent and you belong behind bars.” Ray McGovern cited the troublesome use of metadata during the Sterling trial as evidence of guilt, noting that another name for metadata is circumstantial evidence. McGovern recalled that last May, “the former NSA General Council, Stu Baker, said ‘metadata absolutely tells you everything about anyone’s life. If you have enough metadata, you don’t really need any content.'” McGovern described a meeting between Stu Baker and former NSA Director Michael Hayden, in which Baker’s metadata quote was repeated in the presence of Hayden. McGovern said, “General Hayden said, ‘If you have enough metadata you don’t need any content – we kill people based on metadata.’ Well, we also imprison people based on, mostly illegally acquired, metadata” – a reference to the NSA’s collection of metadata on people around the world, including American citizens. Dangerous Precedent Delphine Halgand cited the dangerous precedent for whistleblowers and journalists that the Sterling trial represented because of the use of metadata: “The Department of Justice built a case against Sterling based entirely on circumstantial evidence and they sustained his conviction in what the BBC called, ‘a trial by metadata.’ How is it possible that proving the simple existence of contacts between a former CIA operative and a journalist is sufficient to convict someone of espionage? “Is a relationship with a reporter the new catalyst for government prosecution of whistleblowers, whether alleged or actual? If anybody can be sentenced in the United States just because he was merely talking to a journalist on a regular basis, where is press freedom heading in the country of the First Amendment?” Halgand continued, “It is really clear that the Department of Justice chose to make an example of Jeffrey, to warn government employees against talking to journalists. Leaks are the lifeblood of investigative journalism in this country given that nearly all information related to national security is considered secret and classified. “In fact, the war on whistleblowers is designed to restrict all but the officially approved version of events. The United States has witnessed an alarming trend in curtailing freedom on information these recent years, and as we heard earlier, President Obama’s so-called ‘war on whistleblowers’ played an important role in this decline.” As Thomas Drake put it, “In the United States, national security is currently engaging in unamending the First Amendment. The cornerstone, the foundation of the Bill of Rights and all of our liberties and freedoms. If you don’t have the ability to do redress for grievances, if you don’t have the ability to publish what is in the public interest, to inform people, to associate freely one to another, then what we call our constitutional republic, this special form of democracy, begins to erode and disappear.” Jesselyn Radack summed up the issue by reminding that whistleblower-leak investigations “mak[e] clear that punishing whistleblowers is a backdoor way of punishing journalists.” While curtailing the freedom of the press may be the ultimate target of this “war on whistleblowers,” Radack and Drake both remarked that, tragically, it is usually the whistleblower, the source, who takes the brunt of the law. Holly Sterling reiterated that sentiment in her letter to Obama. “Not only has Jeffrey suffered but so have his family, his friends, community and society. And now an intelligent, strong, ethical, and productive member of our world feels as though he ceases to exist while in prison.” While Holly Sterling has requested a presidential pardon, Sterling’s team is also appealing the court’s decision. But as media critic Normon Solomon, who helped host the press conference, put it, “‘Glacial’ would be overstating the speed with which the US government is willing to proceed on such appeals.” Radack added, “A pardon is vastly preferable to an appeal because appeals can take years and cost tons of extra money whereas a pardon can be done in a snap and it also erases the crime.” But she added, “I predict that General Petraeus will have a pardon before Jeffrey Sterling gets either a pardon or an appeal.”
Abu Zubaydah, the CIA’s first black site prisoner. (Photo: Department of Defense) Also see: Court Appeal Highlights Poland’s Role in CIA Torture Program In spring 2003 an unnamed official at CIA headquarters in Langley sat down to compose a memo. It was 18 months after George W Bush had declared war on terror. “We cannot have enough blacksite hosts,” the official wrote. The reference was to one of the most closely guarded secrets of that war – the countries that had agreed to host the CIA’s covert prison sites. Between 2002 and 2008, at least 119 people disappeared into a worldwide detention network run by the CIA and facilitated by its foreign partners. Lawyers, journalists and human rights organisations spent the next decade trying to figure out whom the CIA had snatched and where it had put them. A mammoth investigation by the US Senate’s intelligence committee finally named 119 of the prisoners in December 2014. It also offered new insights into how the black site network functioned – and gruesome, graphic accounts of abuses perpetrated within it. Many of those 119 had never been named before. The report’s 500-page summary, which contained the CIA official’s 2003 remarks, was only published after months of argument between the Senate committee, the CIA and the White House. It was heavily censored, while the full 6,000-page study it was based on remains secret. All names of countries collaborating with the CIA in its detention and interrogation operations were removed, along with key dates, numbers, names and much other material. In nine months of research, the Bureau of Investigative Journalism and The Rendition Project have unpicked these redactions to piece together the hidden history of the CIA’s secret sites. This account unveils many of the censored passages in the report summary, drawing on public data sources such as flight records, aviation contracts, court cases, prisoner testimonies, declassified government documents and media and NGO reporting. Although many published accounts of individual journeys through the black site network exist, this is the first comprehensive portrayal of the system’s inner dynamics from beginning to end. [Click here to search The Rendition Project’s interactive database of all CIA prisoners] The “Covert Action” Memo The CIA’s authority to operate prisons began with a document called a “covert action memorandum of notification” – a secret order signed by President Bush the week after the 9/11 attacks. For the first time in its history, the CIA was given permission not only to take prisoners but also to decide whom to detain, why and for how long. After several weeks of discussions, high level officials concluded it would be a mistake for the agency to manage its own detention system. The risks – including media exposure, diplomatic problems with countries hosting prisons and complications over site maintenance – were judged too great, and military custody was settled on as the best long-term solution. This assessment, passed down by senior officials in November 2001, proved to be prescient. It did not take long for the CIA’s caution to founder in the tide of events, however. In late March 2002, everything changed. The CIA captured the man they took to be their first “high value” detainee. He was a Palestinian named Abu Zubaydah, and the agency believed – wrongly – that he was “number three in al-Qaeda”. The decision to hold him in secret and under CIA control was hastily taken. The agency began considering what to do with him around March 24, four days before he was captured. It rejected the idea of having the US military hold him, “because of the lack of security and the fact that [he] would have to be declared to the International Committee of the Red Cross”. They were worried that if he went to the newly established military prison at Guantánamo Bay they might lose control of their prize. Nor did they want to send him to one of the countries which had recently dealt with prisoners on their behalf – perhaps Jordan or Egypt – because “the results of that country’s recent interrogations had been disappointing”. Instead, CIA bosses reversed their previous decision and set up their own detention facility. To conceal the locations of the CIA’s prison sites, the 2014 Senate report gave them colour code-names. But it also gave enough details of events at each site to allow us to match the code-names with public source data pointing conclusively to specific countries. Get the data: Our complete table of CIA prisoners with capture dates, detention dates, and what happened afterwards Our black site database matching prisoners to locations The first prison, which the report nicknamed “Green”, was in Thailand. The country was not far from Pakistan, where Abu Zubaydah had been captured, and its officials swiftly agreed to host the site and provide security for it. Problems with the hosts soon emerged. Reshuffles of Thai government personnel meant that the CIA Station Chief had to engage in “continued lobbying” to keep the prison open. Less than a month after the site was set up, the agency estimated that the number of Thai officials who knew about it was already in double figures. It did not take long for media organisations to pick up on the fact that the CIA’s most important catch was being held in Thailand. It was an inauspicious beginning. Barely more than six months after the site had opened, its continued operation was judged to be too great a risk. The prison was closed down on December 4 2002. By this time it had accommodated only two prisoners: Abu Zubaydah and the suspected organiser of the 2000 bombing of the USS Cole in Aden, Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri. Nashiri had been captured in the United Arab Emirates in October and handed over to the CIA in November. Torture in Thailand Although it never held many prisoners, the Thailand site was where the basic blueprint of the CIA’s detention regime was invented. It was also where the CIA’s interrogators pioneered their new “enhanced” questioning techniques. Abu Zubaydah was repeatedly waterboarded, sleep-deprived, forced into stress positions and held in boxes. These included a coffin-shaped box, in which he spent eleven days in total, and a box less than three feet square in which he spent 29 hours. Observing one of his interrogations in August, a medical officer wrote: The sessions accelerated rapidly progressing quickly to the water board after large box, walling, and small box periods. [Abu Zubaydah] seems very resistant to the water board. Longest time with the cloth over his face so far has been 17 seconds. This is sure to increase shortly. NO useful information so far … He did vomit a couple of times during the water board with some beans and rice. It’s been 10 hours since he ate so this is surprising and disturbing. We plan to only feed Ensure for a while now. I’m head[ing] back for another water board session. The goal, as the two contractor psychologists who masterminded the interrogations put it in August 2002, was “to reach the stage where we have broken any will or ability of subject to resist or deny providing us information (intelligence) to which he had access.” “There Is Nothing Like This in the Federal Bureau of Prisons” Immediately after Abu Zubaydah’s capture, the CIA had started to make plans for a detention centre nearer the centre of the action, in Afghanistan. It was to be “totally under [CIA] control”. Initial construction costs of over $200,000 were approved in June 2002 and the building was ready to hold its first prisoners in mid-September. Meanwhile, a handful of prisoners captured outside Afghanistan before September had been held in Afghan facilities where “the CIA had unlimited access to them”. These were three men captured in Georgia at the end of April (Zakariya, Jamal Eldin Boudraa and Abbar al-Hawari) and two picked up in Pakistan in late May (Hassan Muhammad Abu Bakr Qa’id – better known as Abu Yahya al-Libi – and Ridha Ahmad Najar). The CIA’s first prison in Afghanistan – which the Senate report nicknamed “Cobalt” – had 20 cells. It operated until April 2004. During this time, the CIA documented 64 prisoners held there. But as the Senate’s researchers noted, “inadequate record keeping” meant that the CIA itself could not precisely determine how many people it had detained. According to the Senate report, 20 prisoners were held in Cobalt between September and December 2002. They were Ayub Marshid Ali Salih, Bashir al-Marwalah, Ha’il al-Mithali, Said Saleh Said and 16 others. Our research shows that, excluding Abu Zubaydah, 37 prisoners had entered the detention programme by the end of December. A few of these were quickly moved out. Hassan bin Attash and Ramzi bin al-Shibh, captured in Pakistan on September 11, were in Afghanistan for around three days before being transferred for interrogation to other countries where the CIA did not have its own prisons. Nashiri had been sent to Thailand. Ten prisoners were passed over to the US military in Bagram before the end of the year: Ayub Ali Salih, Bashir al-Marwalah, Ha’il al-Mithali, Said Saleh Said, Musab al-Mudwani, Shawqi Awad, Rafiq al-Hami, Tawfiq al-Bihani, Bisher al-Rawi and Jamil el-Banna. Aside from Nashiri, however, there is no indication that anyone was sent from Afghanistan to Thailand, despite one CIA officer claiming that Cobalt was intended as a holding site “for those detainees en route to [Green]”. Like Green, Cobalt was a place where the CIA experimented with its enhanced interrogation techniques. The agency held its first training course for interrogators on the use of EITs between November 12 and 18. By this time, its agents had already tried out the techniques on at least seven prisoners in Afghanistan, as well as on Nashiri and Abu Zubaydah. The seven were Ridha Najar, Rafiq al-Hami, Tawfiq al-Bihani, Lutfi al-Gharisi, Hikmat Nafi Shaukat, Gul Rahman and Abu Badr Ghulam Rabbani. One, Gul Rahman, died. The CIA’s interrogation chief described Cobalt as a “dungeon”, while a senior analyst stated that the site itself “is an EIT”. And a delegation from the Federal Bureau of Prisons, who visited in November 2002, were “wow’ed” – “They have never been in a facility where individuals are so sensory deprived,” an official reported. Afghanistan was to remain the principal holding bay for the CIA’s prisoners throughout the detention programme. By the end of 2002, the agency had embarked on one of the programme’s most extraordinary and problematic aspects: the use of secret detention sites in Europe, far away from the battlefield. “A Train Wreck Waiting to Happen” The lakeland region of Masuria in northern Poland might seem an incongruous neighbourhood in which to house al-Qaeda’s most wanted. But the choice was not random. The region is home to a military and intelligence training base and the neighbouring town of Szczytno boasts a major police academy. The discreet airbase at Szymany – a few kilometres down the road – was used to receiving visiting dignitaries and businessmen. Everyone in Szczytno knows someone in the security services, according to one local resident, and people here are adept at keeping their mouths shut. Nashiri and Abu Zubaydah arrived in Poland on board a chartered Gulfstream jet on a snowy day in December 2002. Initially the Polish site had been planned to house just them. Six months later it held five, beyond the capacity of its “three purpose-built ‘holding units'”. Ramzi bin al-Shibh was the first to be added to the new location. He arrived at Szymany airport on February 8 2003. Khaled Sheikh Mohamed, the alleged 9/11 mastermind, followed at the start of March on a flight from Kabul. Abu Yasir al-Jaza’iri, initially held in Afghanistan, was also moved to Poland, probably at the end of March. Others followed in June and July. A month into its operation, the atmosphere in the site was already tense. Base officers disagreed with headquarters about how to treat Nashiri, while headquarters thought that the on-site team were being “too lenient”. An unqualified officer was found to have experimented on Nashiri with a drill, an unloaded gun and a stiff brush, prompting an investigation by the CIA’s Inspector General into what interrogation methods were being used at the remote sites and how they were being authorised. Then in January 2003, despite assessments by interrogators that Nashiri was not withholding information, one of the psychologists managing the interrogation programme proposed a new plan for him, including waterboarding and “the full range of enhanced exploitation and interrogation measures.” In response, the CIA’s chief of interrogations announced his intention to quit. “This is a train wreak [sic] waiting to happen,” he told colleagues. “I intend to get the hell off the train before it happens.” “Three or Four Rooms … No Questions Asked” As the most important prisoners were filtered into Poland on business jets in spring and summer 2003, the CIA was taking possession of more captives in Afghanistan. Some were flown in from far afield. After a lengthy period in Egyptian custody (during which he fabricated information linking Saddam Hussein to al-Qaeda that proved critical in the Bush administration’s public relations push around the Iraq war) Ibn Shaykh al-Libi was brought into the CIA’s Afghanistan site in February. Tanzanian national Suleiman Abdallah was flown in from Djibouti in March. Several men captured in Pakistan were also transferred into the Afghanistan site. They included Libyan anti-Gaddafi fighters Abu Hazim al-Libi and Mohammed al-Shara’iya, the son of the imprisoned Egyptian “blind sheikh” Mohammed Asadallah, and Mustafa al-Hawsawi. By mid-August, data compiled by the Bureau and The Rendition Project shows that the programme was starting to creak at the seams, with 44 prisoners. Most of these were still in Afghanistan; a couple more – Khallad bin Attash among them – had been transferred to Poland, while two inmates of the Polish site had been moved out to a “temporary patch” in Morocco. The CIA supplemented Cobalt with another site in Afghanistan, nicknamed Gray, which Senate investigators calculated held eight prisoners in 2003, although “almost no records” were kept for it. But they still needed more space. One solution was to use Afghan facilities for prisoners deemed not sufficiently important for the agency’s own sites. As Cobalt’s manager wrote: They [Afghan officials] also happen to have 3 or 4 rooms where they can lock up people discretely [sic]. I give them a few hundred bucks a month and they use the rooms for whoever I bring over – no questions asked. It is very useful for housing guys that shouldn’t be in [Cobalt] for one reason or another but still need to be kept isolated and held in secret detention. As the Senate report authors commented, “The host country [Afghanistan] had no independent reason to detain these individuals and held them solely at the behest of the CIA.” At least four prisoners were farmed out to Afghan sites: they included Hamid Aich and Mohamed Dinshah. Two of the CIA’s prisoners, Laid Saidi and Majid Khan, were also held at a “safehouse” in Afghanistan. And Hassan Ghul, although only in Afghanistan for two days in January 2004, was removed from Cobalt to a “[redacted] facility for portions of his interrogations”. Testimonies from former prisoners show that many of them were shuttled around two or three different locations in the vicinity of Kabul at this time. Unsettling Discovery On September 22 2003 the CIA carried out a major reshuffle of its most important detainees. The Polish site was closed and its inmates spread between a prison in Romania, called “Black” in the Senate report, and two sites in Guantánamo Bay (“Maroon” and “Indigo”). The “temporary patch” in Morocco was also emptied as Bin al-Shibh and Nashiri were moved out to Guantánamo. Some of Cobalt’s prisoners, including Ibn Shaykh al-Libi, were transferred to the new locations too. The secret Guantánamo sites were short lived. After less than four months the CIA became concerned that an anticipated US Supreme Court decision would mean legal representation and habeas corpus rights for the five prisoners it was holding there. They were hurriedly shipped out again on a series of contracted flights to Morocco and Romania between March 27 and April 14 2004. With these new sites established in September, the CIA had hit peak capacity. More than 50 and perhaps as many as 60 prisoners were on its books in October and November 2003. Some 44 were in Afghanistan. The programme had become bloated. That December, CIA officers in Afghanistan made an “unsettling discovery”: “we are holding a number of detainees about whom we know very little”. The majority of [CIA] detainees in [Afghanistan] have not been debriefed for months and, in some cases, for over a year. Many of them appear to us to have no further intelligence value for [the CIA] and should more properly be turned over to the [U.S. military], to [Afghan] authorities or to third countries for further investigation and possibly prosecution. In a few cases, there does not appear to be enough evidence to continue incarceration, and, if this is in fact the case, the detainees should be released. This “unsettling discovery” was followed by another blow, as the International Committee of the Red Cross informed US authorities of their discovery that CIA prisoners in Afghanistan were being held “incommunicado for extensive periods of time, subjected to unacceptable conditions of internment, to ill treatment and torture, while deprived of any possible recourse.” The letter, which included a “fairly complete list” of CIA prisoners, “prompted CIA Headquarters to conclude that it was necessary to reduce the number of detainees in CIA custody”. Around May 2004, the CIA transferred 18 prisoners to US military custody in Bagram. It released five more and transferred another seven to foreign custody around the same time. Our research shows that, between January and August 2004, two prisoners were sent to Algeria (Jamal Boudraa in January and Laid Saidi in August) and three to Libya (Al-Shara’iya, Adnan al-Libi and Abu Abdallah al-Zulaytini, all in August). Mohamed Dinshah was transferred to the custody of an unspecified country between the end of January and the middle of March. Meanwhile, the CIA closed down Cobalt and moved its occupants to a new prison in Afghanistan, nicknamed Orange. The first prisoners arrived in Orange in an en-masse transfer in April 2004. Orange was billed as a “quantum leap forward” because of its “heating/air conditioning, conventional plumbing, appropriate lighting, shower, and laundry facilities.” As the Senate report noted, however, “although some of the cells at [Orange] included plumbing, detainees undergoing interrogation were kept in smaller cells, with waste buckets rather than toilet facilities.” “Querulous and Unappreciative” After its rapid growth in 2003, and the upheavals which followed this – the swift exit from the undisclosed Guantánamo sites, the wholesale transfer from Cobalt to Orange and the shedding of prisoners prompted by the ICRC – the programme’s volume levelled off. In late June 2004 there were 34 prisoners spread between Afghanistan, Romania and the re-established temporary holding unit in Morocco. This number had dropped to 29 by December. After the switch from Cobalt to Orange, only eight prisoners entered the programme in the rest of 2004. Most of these are known to have been captured in Pakistan. Although the pressure of overcrowding had now reduced, other causes of instability increased during this period. In February 2005, after months of rising tensions with local officials in which the they were accused of being “querulous and unappreciative recipients” of Moroccan cooperation, the CIA lost access to the prison it had been using as an overflow facility. On February 17-18 it moved its detainees out of there and began operations in a new prison in Lithuania (nicknamed Violet). On the day of the transfer the CIA counted 29 prisoners in its programme in total, spread between Afghanistan, Romania and Lithuania. Five prisoners – two Libyans and three Yemenis – were sent back to their home countries in April and May 2005. They were Abu Hazim al-Libi, Ayyub al-Libi, Salah Nasir Salim Ali, Mohd al-Shomaila and Muhammad Abdullah Saleh. Four new prisoners were brought in to the detention programme in 2005. Two, Ibrahim Jan and Abu Ja’far al-Iraqi, were handed over to the CIA by the US military in Iraq in the autumn. The others, Abu Munthir al-Magrebi and Abu Faraj al-Libi, had been flown in in May. Research indicates that Abu Munthir had been picked up in Tunisia. Abu Faraj was captured in Pakistan and passed briefly through Afghanistan; he was then transferred into Romania along with Abu Munthir. “Mediocre or, I Dare Say, Useless Intelligence” The Romanian site held “many of the detainees the CIA assessed as ‘high-value'”. These included Khaled Sheikh Mohamed, Hassan Ghul, Janat Gul and Nashiri. By the time that Abu Faraj al-Libi was flown in there, the site’s own manager considered the prison to be dysfunctional. He was troubled by the “natural and progressive effects of long-term solitary confinement on detainees”. And he was exasperated by the personnel deployed there, “more than a few” of whom he described as “basically incompetent”. The quality of debriefers and security officers being sent to the site was degenerating, while the information coming out of it was “mediocre or, I dare say, useless”. The CIA transferred some prisoners, including Khaled Sheikh Mohamed, from Romania to Lithuania in October 2005. The following month it was forced to abandon the site altogether. Revelations about the secret prison network in the Washington Post caused the Romanian authorities to demand the prison’s closure within days, and the remaining captives were flown to Afghanistan via Jordan on November 5. The CIA now had only two active prison sites: one in Lithuania, the other in Afghanistan. At this point the programme held 27. “Endgame” In March 2006, the Lithuanian site also closed. Medical care for Mustafa al-Hawsawi – who had been subjected to “rectal exams … with ‘excessive force'” and was suffering from “chronic hemorrhoids, an anal fissure, and symptomatic rectal prolapse” – was inaccessible there, making the site itself unsustainable. The CIA shifted its prisoners out of Lithuania and into a final Afghan site, nicknamed Brown, which held 10 people between March and September 2006. At this point the CIA was locked in argument with the Department of Defense about the long-term “endgame” for its captives. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld had decided not to accept any more CIA prisoners in Guantánamo Bay. Without this option, the agency had only two possibilities: “to begin transferring those detainees no longer producing intelligence to third countries, which may release them” – or simply to release them itself. Starting in February, the CIA gradually began to disperse the prisoners that it was willing to send to foreign custody. Saud Memon was first to go – probably to Pakistan – while the Bureau’s research indicates that Ibn Shaykh al-Libi was sent to Libya on April 14. At the end of June, several other prisoners were shipped out. They include Marwan al-Jabbur, who was taken to Jordan. Bureau research indicates that the same plane could have transferred Abd al-Bari al-Filistini to Jordan and Abu ‘Abdallah to Saudi Arabia. Firas al-Yemeni was returned to Yemen around the start of September. Other prisoners who were transferred abroad at this time were Janat Gul, Hassan Ghul, Qattal al-Uzbeki, Abu Yasir al-Jaza’iri, Abdi Rashid Samatar, Abu Munthir al-Magrebi, Ibrahim Jan and Abu Ja’far al-Iraqi. The last 14 remaining “high value detainees” were finally sent to Guantánamo at the start of September 2006. On their arrival, President Bush announced to the world that in addition to those held in military detention, “a small number of suspected terrorist leaders and operatives captured during the war have been held and questioned outside the United States, in a separate program operated by the Central Intelligence Agency.” The speech was the US government’s first acknowledgement of what had by then become an open secret. After September 6 2006 the programme was dormant. It revived sporadically for the detention of the last two CIA prisoners: Abd al-Hadi al-Iraqi (held November 2006 to April 2007) and Muhammad Rahim (July 2007 to March 2008). After Rahim was sent to Guantánamo the CIA continued to maintain two prison sites, empty but ready and waiting. They were managed by a contracting company, Mitchell Jessen Associates. The company had been set up by James Mitchell and John Jessen – the two psychologists who had engineered the blueprint for the interrogation programme. A letter from the CIA’s director, Leon Panetta, in April 2009, obtained by Vice News, stated that Mitchell Jessen Associates had a contract “for services related to the two remaining CIA detention facilities”. Previously MJA had provided “interrogation services, security teams for renditions, facilities, training, and other services”. By 2009, however, the CIA had informed them that their services would be reduced to providing security teams for the empty facilities, “given that the agency would not be engaging in interrogation or operating blacksites”. The contract – due to run until March 2010 – was terminated early. But – Panetta told congressional overseers – the agency retained the authority to carry out renditions and “to detain individuals on a short-term, transitory basis”. 42 of the CIA’s 119 prisoners are now known to have been released. 30 are still in US custody. Seven have died. Of the rest, some are still in the custody abroad, while others remain untraced. 35 prisoners held in Afghanistan in 2002 Zakariya, Jamal Eldin Boudraa, Abbar al-Hawari, Hassan Muhammad Abu Bakr Qa’id, Ridha Ahmad Najar, Ayub Ali Salih, Bashir al-Marwalah, Ha’il al-Mithali, Musab al-Mudwani, Said Saleh Said, Shawqi Awad, Umar Faruq, Abd al-Salam al-Hilah, Asat Sar Jan, Akbar Zakaria, Rafiq al-Hami, Tawfiq al-Bihani, Lutfi al-Gharisi, Hikmat Nafi Shaukat, Yaqub al-Baluchi, Abd al-Rahim Ghulam Rabbani, Gul Rahman, Abu Badr Ghulam Rabbani, Haji Ghalgi, Nazar Ali, Juma Gul, Wafti bin Ali, Adel, Qari Mohib Ur Rehman, Shah Wali Khan, Hayattulah Haqqani, Bisher al-Rawi, Jamil el-Banna, Ghairat Bahir, Pacha Wazir 18 prisoners transferred to Bagram around May 2004 Abu Nasim al-Tunisi, Muhammad Jafar al-Qahtani, Adel Ben Hamlili, Abdullah Ashami, Ridha Ahmad Najar, Ghairat Bahir, Noor Jalal, Hassan bin Attash, Abd al-Rahim Ghulam Rabbani, Abu Badr Ghulam Rabbani, Muhammad Amein al-Bakri, Ali Jan, Riyadh the Facilitator, Abd al-Salam al-Hilah, Binyam Mohamed, Sanad al-Kazimi, Suleiman Abdullah; and probably Muhammad Khan (son of Suhbat) 8 prisoners entering CIA custody April-Dec 2004 Abd al-Bari al-Filistini, Ayyub al-Libi, Marwan al-Jabbur, Qattal al-Uzbeki, Janat Gul, Ahmed Ghailani, Sharif al-Masri, Abdi Rashid Samatar 27 prisoners held across CIA sites in November 2005 when the Romanian site shut down Abu Zubaydah, Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, Ramzi bin al-Shibh, Ibn Shaykh al-Libi, Khalid Shaykh Mohammad, Mustafa al-Hawsawi, Abu Yasir al-Jaza’iri, Ammar al-Baluchi, Khallad bin Attash, Majid Khan, Abu Zubair, Bashir bin Lap, Hambali, Firas al-Yemeni, Hassan Ghul, Saud Memon, Hassan Ahmed Guleed, Abu ‘Abdallah, Abd al-Bari al-Filistini, Marwan al-Jabbur, Qattal al-Uzbeki, Janat Gul, Ahmed Ghailani, Abdi Rashid Samatar, Abu Faraj al-Libi, Abu Munthir al-Magrebi, Ibrahim Jan 14 HVDs sent to Guantánamo from Afghanistan in September 2006 Abu Zubaydah, Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, Ramzi bin al-Shibh, Khalid Shaykh Mohammad, Mustafa al-Hawsawi, Ammar al-Baluchi, Khallad bin Attash, Hambali, Bashir bin Lap, Hassan Ahmed Guleed, Ahmed Ghailani, Abu Faraj al-Libi, Majid Khan, Abu Zubair Who Was in the European Prisons? Poland: Abu Zubaydah, Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, Ramzi bin al-Shibh, Khalid Shaykh Mohammad, Khallad bin Attash. Our research also indicates Abu Yasir al-Jaza’iri and Samr el-Barq. Romania: Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, Khalid Shaykh Mohammad, Khallad bin Attash, Samr al-Barq, Hassan Ghul, Janat Gul, Abu Faraj al-Libi. Associated Press also gives Hambali, Ramzi bin al-Shibh, Ammar al-Baluchi. Our research indicates Abu Munthir al-Magrebi. Lithuania: Khalid Shaykh Mohammad, Mustafa al-Hawsawi, Abu Zubaydah