Published on Thursday, December 8, 2011 by Associated Press
's Secret CIA Prison Romania
by Matt Apuzzo
For years, the CIA used a government building — codenamed Bright Light — as a makeshift prison for its most valuable detainees. There, it held al-Qaida operatives Khalid Sheik Mohammad, the mastermind of 9/11, and others in a basement prison before they were ultimately transferred to
The existence of a CIA prison in
The Romanian prison was part of a network of so-called black sites that the CIA operated and controlled overseas in
Unlike the CIA's facility in
The building is used as the National Registry Office for Classified Information, which is also known as ORNISS. Classified information from NATO and the European Union is stored there. Former intelligence officials both described the location of the prison and identified pictures of the building.
In an interview at the building in November, senior ORNISS official Adrian Camarasan said the basement is one of the most secure rooms in all of
"No, no. Impossible, impossible," he said in an ARD interview for its "Panorama" news broadcast, as a security official monitored the interview.
The CIA prison opened for business in the fall of 2003, after the CIA decided to empty the black site in Poland, according to former U.S. officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the detention program with reporters.
Shuttling detainees into the facility without being seen was relatively easy. After flying into
The detainees could then be unloaded and whisked into the ground floor of the prison and into the basement.
The basement consisted of six prefabricated cells, each with a clock and arrow pointing to
The CIA declined to comment on the prison.
During the first month of their detention, the detainees endured sleep deprivation and were doused with water, slapped or forced to stand in painful positions, several former officials said. Waterboarding was not performed in
After the initial interrogations, the detainees were treated with care, the officials said. The prisoners received regular dental and medical check-ups. The CIA shipped in Halal food to the site from
Human rights activists have urged the eastern European countries to investigate the roles their governments played in hosting the prisons in which interrogation techniques such as waterboarding were used. Officials from these countries continue to deny these prisons ever existed.
"We know of the criticism, but we have no knowledge of this subject," Romanian President Traian Basescu said in a September interview with AP.
The CIA has tried to close the book on the detention program, which Obama ended shortly after taking office.
"That controversy has largely subsided," the CIA's top lawyer, Stephen Preston, said at a conference earlier this month.
But details of the prison network continue to trickle out through investigations by international bodies, journalists and human rights groups. "There have been years of official denials," said Dick Marty, a Swiss lawmaker who led an investigation into the CIA secret prisons for the Council of Europe. "We are at last beginning to learn what really happened in
During the Council of Europe's investigation,
Journalists and human rights investigators have previously used flight records to tie
Later, other detainees — Ramzi Binalshibh, Abd al-Nashiri and Abu Faraj al-Libi — were also moved to
Court documents recently discovered in a lawsuit have also added to the body of evidence pointing to a CIA prison in
For the CIA officers working at the secret prison, the assignment wasn't glamorous. The officers served 90-day tours, slept on the compound and ate their meals there, too. Officers were prevented from the leaving the base after their presence in the neighborhood stoked suspicion. One former officer complained that the CIA spent most of its time baby-sitting detainees like Binalshibh and Mohammad whose intelligence value diminished as the years passed.
The Romanian and Lithuanian sites were eventually closed in the first half of 2006 before CIA Director Porter Goss left the job. Some of the detainees were taken to
Associated Press writer Desmond Butler contributed to this report.
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"The master class has always declared the wars; the subject class has always fought the battles. The master class has had all to gain and nothing to lose, while the subject class has had nothing to gain and everything to lose--especially their lives." Eugene Victor Debs