It comes as a horrid surprise to many Americans that secret prisons exist in the “land of the free”. What many find even more horrifying are the who, what, why and where of it all. Secret American “political” prisons are considered by the majority of Americans as just downright un-American!
According to Investigative journalist Will Potter, the secret prisons emerged during the last Bush administration in response to the 9/11 destruction of the New York Twin Towers.
America’s Secret Political Prisons Revealed
In August 2015, Potter gave a presentation to a TED audience about his visit to a Communications Management Unit (CMU). The title is as deceptive as the tactics that the CIA (Central Intelligence Agency) is known for. Potter revealed that there are two CMUs operating within US prisons. One is located inside the Terre Haute, Indiana prison and the other can be found inside the Marion, Illinois prison.
Potter told the audience that both CMUs somehow bypassed “the formal review process that is required by law.” Seeing it as his mission to inform Americans of CMUs existence, Potter was quick to point out that he wasn’t advocating whether or not any of the prisoners were innocent. He has in effect donned the role of a whistleblower.
Potter told the audience, “As a journalist, I think these stories of what people in power do when no one is watching, are precisely the stories that we need to tell.” Potter also has the distinction of being the only reporter who has been allowed inside these prisons that house 60-70 “second-tier terrorists”. Potter said, “…they’re [prisoners] overwhelmingly Muslim.”
He explained further, “Prisoners are sent to a CMU because of their race, their religion or their political beliefs.” He admits to the audience that he was shocked that such permission was granted for him to visit the prison since, “I learned that the FBI has been monitoring my work… I had even learned through the, Bureau of Prisons Counterterrorism Unit, that they had been monitoring my speeches about CMUs, like this one.”
Yet, the condition of his visit was that he must interact with the prisons as a friend not a journalist; he couldn’t conduct interviews with the prisoners he met. One of the prisoners informed Potter of an official warning “by CMU officials that if I [Potter] asked any questions or published any story, that he would be punished for my reporting.” The visits were monitored and Potter was told he couldn’t talk about his visits afterwards. Of course, that goes against all that a journalist is (2).
Who Is Incarcerated?
What qualified these political prisoners as threats to the US? Potter explained, “The government won’t say who is imprisoned here.” He did find a few court records and was able to interview prisoners somehow. In his TED presentation, Potter gave a few examples of the inmates he talked with. One was “Dr. Rafil Dhafir, who violated the economic sanctions on Iraq by sending medical supplies for the children there.”
Another was an Iraqi refugee from Saddam Hussein’s reign. According to Potter, the man claimed he was “asked to bear witness to a loan, which is a tradition in Islamic culture.” One of those involved with the loan was recruiting for a fake attack and the witness was convicted of conspiracy. This appears to be a case of guilty by association.
Other prisoners included environmental activists and animal rights activists who are dubbed as “balancers”, meaning they’re incarcerated there in order to keep the population from being 100% Muslim. This, explains Potter is to “deflect” any possible racial law suits.
Potter said that prisoners told him they are not physically tortured. However, they claim they suffer psychologically since they have drastically fewer visits and communication privileges than other prisoners. They told him that they’re even prevented from hugging their families.
CIA’s Secret Prisons around the World
Most American have learned of other secret CIA prisons around the world. Some of the best known ones have been discovered and in many cases legal action taken mostly against the hosting countries.
In December 2014, International Business Times (IBTimes) published a Senate investigative report, heavily redacted concerning several CIA secret prisons. “Detention Site Cobalt” located in Afghanistan was built in 2002 and touted as the “most brutal” (3).
The report identified the prison as being dark 24/7 compared to a “dungeon”. The IBTimes reported, “Torture tactics employed by interrogators there hoping to ‘break’ the site’s prisoners included dousing suspects in water, leaving them in cold cells and blasting music to keep them up for days at a time. Forced rectal feedings also took place.”
Some of the other secret global prisons included:
–> Detention Site Green: (Thailand) The IBTimes also reported this CIA prison existed during “early years of first decade of the 21st century”
–> Bright Light: (Romania – closed 2006) Prison for terror suspects, including Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, 9/11 mastermind. AP (Associated Press) investigation reported, “Harsh interrogation tactics that took place in the facility’s basement included sleep deprivation and stress positions.”
–> Quartz: (Poland) “Quartz hosted prisoner abuses, the European Court of Human Rights has ruled, though few details have been made public.” Shut down in 2003, 9 months after it opened.
–> Lithuania: Secret detention facility operated 2004-2005 in a ‘former café’. “The facility was used to torture up to eight suspects at once, using tactics like forced standing, stress positions and sleep deprivation, according to human rights advocacy groups.”
–> Somalia: In December 2014, The Nation reported that a CIA base is hidden in plain sight at Mogadishu’s Aden Adde International Airport and was only four months old. The site is a CIA operated “counterterrorism training program for Somali intelligence agents and operatives”. An underground “secret” prison is located in the Somalia National Security Agency (NSA) basement. While the prison is “officially run by the Somali NSA, US intelligence personnel pay the salaries of intelligence agents and also directly interrogate prisoners” (4).
These are a few of the better known secret CIA prisons. Many people think it’s naive to believe such facilities are new to the world of clandestine operations. Perhaps the unearthing of such facilities is a reflection of advance technology that supports whistleblowers who have greater access to worldwide audiences where their cries are louder and impossible to ignore.
References & Image Credits:
(1) TSW: CIA Torture Prisons Were Probably Worse than You Can Imagine
(2) Will Potter
(3) Internet Business Times
(4) The Nation
(5) Salt Pit Image