What Happened in the “Black Sites”

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The Council of Europe report provides the first-ever glimpse of what took place inside the CIA’s secret detention facilities in Poland and Romania. It’s not a complete account — the report attributes its information to “current and former detainees, human rights advocates, or people who have worked in the establishment or operations of CIA secret prisons” — but it’s by far the most complete account available. Here‘s a selection of what conditions in the so-called “black sites” were like:

Clothes were cut up and torn off; many detainees were then kept naked for several weeks. …

At one point in 2004, eight persons were being kept together at one CIA facility in Europe, but were administered according to a strict regime of isolation. Contact between them through sight or sound was forbidden… and prevented unless it was expressly decided to create limited conditions where they could see or come into contact with one another because it would serve (the CIA’s) intelligence-gathering objectives to allow it. …

The air in many cells emanated from a ventilation hole in the ceiling, which was often controlled to produce extremes of temperature: sometimes so hot that one would gasp for breath, sometimes freezing cold.

Many detainees described air conditioning for deliberate discomfort.

Detainees were exposed at times to over-heating in the cell; at other times drafts of freezing breeze.

Detainees never experienced natural light or natural darkness, although most were blindfolded many times so they could see nothing.

There was a shackling ring in the wall of the cell, about half a metre up off the floor. Detainees’ hands and feet were clamped in handcuffs and leg irons. Bodies were regularly forced into contorted shapes and chained to this ring for long, painful periods.

All italics in the original.

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