Federal Bureau of Prisons covered up visit to CIA torture site

With a looming Trump presidency, the ACLU and many others are gravely concerned with the President-elect’s remarks on the campaign trail regarding the reimplementation of torture.


Obtained through a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) recently acquired a series of emails revealing that the Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) sent personnel to Afghanistan in order to assist CIA officials at a black site where at least one detainee was tortured to death. After praising the CIA’s enhanced interrogation methods, the BOP employees agreed to cover up the visit and their involvement in the CIA’s torture program.

According to the 2014 Senate torture report, the CIA operated a black site prison in Afghanistan nicknamed the “Salt Pit” and codenamed “COBALT” which housed nearly half of the detainees identified by the Senate’s report. The CIA officials running the black site became notorious for inducing sleep deprivation, food deprivation, physical beatings, torture positions, and forced rectal suppositories.

In November 2002, the CIA invited BOP officials to evaluate and train personnel operating the Salt Pit around roughly the same time a detainee named Gul Rahman died in custody. According to the Senate torture report, Rahman was subjected to beatings, sleep deprivation, auditory overload, stripped naked, given a cold shower, and left shackled to a wall for hours where he eventually froze to death.

Matthew Zirbel, the CIA officer responsible for Rahman’s death, did not recover any actionable intelligence from his enhanced interrogation.

Instead of notifying the public or simply denouncing the CIA’s torture program, the BOP officials praised the agency’s techniques at the black site prison while falsely claiming that the “staff did not mistreat the detainee[s].” According to their assessment, the BOP officials informed the CIA that “the detainees were not being treated inhumanely [sic].”

More than a year after the BOP’s clandestine endorsement of black site activities, German citizen Khalid El-Masri was abducted by the Macedonian police in a case of mistaken identity and handed over to the CIA. After months of beatings and forced rectal suppositories, El-Masri was released without charges.

Due to the fact that the Senate torture report mentioned the BOP’s involvement in assessing black site prisons, the ACLU filed a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit after bureau officials refused to divulge their covert activities with the CIA. On Sunday, the ACLU agreed to end the suit after the BOP released a series of emails discussing their involvement with the CIA black site along with a sworn declaration describing the cover-up.

According to the emails, two BOP officials visited Guantanamo Bay and the Salt Pit to evaluate and train Defense Department personnel operating these prisons. In an email from 2011, one of the bureau officials admitted, “We were not even allowed to speak with our supervisor about what was going on.”

Interviewed twice by the FBI about their covert trip to Afghanistan, the two bureau officials were reportedly never told why they had been selected for the assignment. They were only instructed never to discuss their participation in the CIA’s torture program nor retain any records of their involvement.

With a looming Trump presidency, the ACLU and many others are gravely concerned with the President-elect’s remarks on the campaign trail regarding the reimplementation of torture along with waterboarding the families of suspected terrorists. Time will reveal whether Trump is a true psychopath or merely a pathological liar.


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