By Larry Siems
There were 20 cells inside the prison, each a stand-alone concrete box. In 16, prisoners were shackled to a metal ring in the wall. In four, designed for sleep deprivation, they stood chained by the wrists to an overhead bar. Those in the regular cells had a plastic bucket; those in sleep deprivation wore diapers. When diapers weren’t available, guards crafted substitutes with duct tape, or prisoners were chained naked in their cells. The cellblock was unheated, pitch black day and night, with music blaring around the clock.
“The atmosphere was very good,” John “Bruce” Jessen told a CIA investigator in January 2003, two months after he interrogated a prisoner named Gul Rahman in the facility. “Nasty, but safe.”
The waterboard was rolled in, and the interrogator says again, “You know what to do.” Told he could end the torments if he told interrogators what they wanted to know, the cable reports, “Subject whimpered that he had nothing.”
Jessen, one of the two contract psychologists who designed the CIA’s “enhanced interrogation techniques”, spent 10 days in the secret prison near Kabul, Afghanistan, in November 2002. Five days after he left, Rahman, naked from the waist down and shackled to the cold concrete floor, was discovered dead in his cell from hypothermia.
In August, Gul Rahman’s family and Mohamed Ben Soud and Suleiman Abdullah Salim, two surviving prisoners of the Afghan black site, reached an out-of-court settlement in their lawsuit against Jessen and James Mitchell seeking restitution for torture.
By settling the suit, Mitchell and Jessen avoided a trial that would have brought into the full light of an American courtroom what happened in the prison codenamed Cobalt, and known simply as “the Darkness” to its prisoners.
But much of what the plaintiffs hoped would be aired before a jury can be found in 274 documents the CIA and Pentagon were forced to declassify and release during pre-trial discovery.
These documents, many of them scheduled to be entered as exhibits at trial, provide the fullest picture yet of what the three men suffered in that secret CIA dungeon – and of how fatefully their lives intersected with the rise and fall of James Mitchell and Bruce Jessen, the men who designed the torture regime.
The guy with all the tricks
Among the most illuminating of these documents is the report CIA investigators delivered to James Pavitt, the agency’s deputy director for operations, on 28 January 2003 on the death of Gul Rahman. In 32 clear-eyed pages, and in attachments that include a stark “Chronology of Significant Events” and notes from interviews with Jessen and the young CIA officer assigned to manage the black site, the investigation reconstructs the decisions that killed a prisoner just 69 days after the facility opened. …
(Commoner Call photo by Mark L. Taylor, 2017. Open source and free to use with link to www.thecommonercall.org )