Intelligence


"The Salt Pit"
CIA Interrogation Facility outside Kabul

On March 3, 2005, an article by Dana Priest titled "CIA Avoids Scrutiny of Detainee Treatment" and published in The Washington Post exposed the existence of a "black-site" or secretly-run CIA interrogation facility in Afghanistan code-named the "Salt Pit." Located to the north of Kabul's business district, the Salt Pit was reported to be an abandoned brick factory built on a 10-acre site, consisting of a three-story building, as well as several smaller buildings.

The facility was established as an interrogation center following the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan in October 2001. In addition to serving as a detention facility, the site was reportedly also used to train Afghan counterrorism forces. Eventually the site was expanded to serve as a CIA's substation which was accessible only to CIA agents and a small number of Afghan guards. Before the Salt Pit became operational it is believed that CIA interrogations took place in a number of heavily secured metal shipping containers at Bagram air base.

Although designated as an Aghan "host-nation facility", manned by Afghan guards, the site was, according to the report, financed entirely using CIA funds, covering salaries, maintenance and electricity, among others. This was meant to provide some level of protection for CIA officers for actions being perpetrated within the confines of the site. The CIA also reportedly determined who would be detained at the facility. The prison was, at the time, the largest CIA prison in Afghanistan.

As of the time of the March 2005 Washington Post article, the brick factory had already been torn down. This followed the November 2002 death of an Afghan detainee at the "Salt Pit" who froze to death overnight after having been stripped naked, was buried and kept "off-the-books". The CIA case officer in charge of the facility has since reportedly been promoted, though an investigation by the CIA Inspector General had been opened. As of mid-March 2005, the US Justice Department was reportedly considering pressing charges in that case. As of early November 2005, the CIA officer had not been charged.

Another article published in November 2, 2005, by The Washington Post provided additional details about the facility. Although manned by Afghan guards and surveillance cameras, the facility was later relocated to Bagram Air Base for security reasons as the road leading to the site was not considered safe to travel. The facility at Bagram Air Base was itself reportedly closed and operations conducted there relocated elsewhere.

The "Salt Pit" was only one part of a worldwide network of covert detention centers established since the 9/11 terrorist attacks and operated by the CIA. Other sites reportedly included one in Thailand (shut down after its existence was revealed in 2003) and a small site located at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba (reportedly closed in 2004) and a Soviet-era compound located in Eastern Europe. The Washington Post article reported that CIA interrogators operating in those sites had been given permission to use "Enhanced Interrogation Techniques" despite the prohibition of some of these techniques, such as 'waterboarding' by the U.N. Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, to which the United States and 'black sites' host-countries are parties to.

This network was reported to be in addition to prisons located in other countries to which detainees are "rendered", including reportedly Egypt, Jordan and Morocco.



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