According to Human Rights Watch, the Bush Administration has operated a secret prison near Kabul, Afghanistan since 2002. The secret prison is affectionately known as "The Dark Prison". It has served as the drop off point for detainees captured in Afghanistan, Pakistan and the Middle East. Detainees are introduced to the art of torture here before being shipped off to other secret CIA torture stations or to Guantanamo Bay. The Dark Prison is the halfway house of the torture world. They practice the kinder gentler version of torture at The Dark Prison, leaving the more esoteric forms of torture to the more permanent CIA black sites.
The authorized kinder gentler torture techniques practiced by the CIA include (in increasing levels of discomfort):
1. The Attention Grab: The interrogator forcefully grabs the shirt front of the prisoner and shakes him.
2. Attention Slap: An open-handed slap aimed at causing pain and triggering fear.
3. The Belly Slap: A hard open-handed slap to the stomach. The aim is to cause pain, but not internal injury. Doctors consulted advised against using a punch, which could cause lasting internal damage.
4. Long Time Standing: This technique is described as among the most effective. Prisoners are forced to stand, handcuffed and with their feet shackled to an eye bolt in the floor for more than 40 hours. Exhaustion and sleep deprivation are effective in yielding confessions.
5. The Cold Cell: The prisoner is left to stand naked in a cell kept near 50 degrees. Throughout the time in the cell the prisoner is doused with cold water.
6. Water Boarding: The prisoner is bound to an inclined board, feet raised and head slightly below the feet. Cellophane is wrapped over the prisoner’s face and water is poured over him. Unavoidably, the gag reflex kicks in and a terrifying fear of drowning leads to almost instant pleas to bring the treatment to a halt.
These authorized techniques combine with creative freelance techniques to give The Dark Prison its reputation. Human Rights Watch has documented reports from detainees who have been guests there:
The detainees said U.S. interrogators slapped or punched them during interrogations. They described being held in complete darkness for weeks on end, shackled to rings bolted into the walls of their cells, with loud music or other sounds played continuously. Some detainees said they were shackled in a manner that made it impossible to lie down or sleep, with restraints that caused their hands and wrists to swell up or bruise. The detainees said they were deprived of food for days at a time, and given only filthy water to drink.
It was pitch black no lights on in the rooms for most of the time…. They hung me up. I was allowed a few hours of sleep on the second day, then hung up again, this time for two days. My legs had swollen. My wrists and hands had gone numb…. There was loud music, [Eminem’s] “Slim Shady” and Dr. Dre for 20 days…. [Then] they changed the sounds to horrible ghost laughter and Halloween sounds. [At one point, I was] chained to the rails for a fortnight…. The CIA worked on people, including me, day and night…. Plenty lost their minds. I could hear people knocking their heads against the walls and the doors, screaming their heads off.
On the upside, no detainee claimed to have been kept at the facility for longer than six weeks. The other benefit of being in The Dark Prison is that it is convenient to the airport:
Most of the detainees said they were arrested in other countries in Asia and the Middle East, and then flown to Afghanistan. Detainees who arrived by airplane said they were driven about five minutes from a landing field to the prison. Afghan guards told some of them that the facility was located near Kabul. Some detainees who were kept at the facility were transferred at various times to and from another secret facility near Kabul. The detainees said they were later transferred to the main U.S. military detention facility near Bagram, where many other Guantánamo detainees say they were initially held.
The downside of course is that if you are unlucky to be an inmate at The Dark Prison, you are likely at the beginning of a long journey that will be punctuated by torture and more torture at other facilities around the world. You will either be "disappeared" or find yourself in Guantanamo Bay.
There is some speculation that The Dark Prison may have been closed in late 2004 in favor of the better-equipped facility in Bagram, Afghanistan. Nevertheless, this facility remains as another dark spot in the tortured legacy of George W Bush and his Administration.
When the Bush Administration has been relegated to the dustbin of history, we will look back at facilities like The Dark Prison and Abu Ghraib with shame and disgust. We will look back at this time in history as the period when America misplaced its humanity.
[Cross posted at Bloggers Against Torture]