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Salt Pit.jpg

Coordinates: 34°34′36.48″N 69°17′25.80″E / 34.5768°N 69.2905°E / 34.5768; 69.2905 The Salt Pit is the codename of an isolated clandestine CIA black site prison and interrogation center in Afghanistan. It is located north of Kabul and was the location of a brick factory prior to the Afghanistan War. The CIA adapted it for extrajudicial detention. In the winter of 2005, the "Salt Pit" became known to the general public because of two incidents.


Death in custody

The recently assigned CIA case officer in charge of this prison directed the Afghan guards to strip Gul Rahman naked from the waist down, and chain him to the floor of his unheated cell, and leave him overnight, according to the Associated Press. Rahman was captured in Islamabad on October 29, 2003.[1][2][3][4][5][6] In the morning, the suspect was dead. A post-mortem examination determined that he froze to death. The Washington Post described the CIA camp commandant as "newly minted", on his first assignment. ABC News called the CIA camp commandant "a young, untrained junior officer". The Washington Post's sources noted that the CIA camp commandant had subsequently been promoted.

Rahman was buried in an unmarked grave, and his friends and family were never told of what happened to him. They learned of his fate in 2010 after an AP story revealed Rahman had died at Salt Pit.[1][3]

Khalid El-Masri

Khalid El-Masri, a German citizen, was kidnapped from the Republic of Macedonia and rendered to Afghanistan.[7] El-Masri's name was similar to that of a suspect on the US's terrorist watchlist; the Macedonian authorities thought he might be traveling on a forged passport, and notified the regional CIA station. A team of American CIA officials were dispatched to the Republic of Macedonia, where they kidnapped El-Masri after he was released by the Macedonian officers, but without regard to his legal rights under Macedonian law.[8] It took over two months for the CIA official who ordered his arrest to assess whether El-Masri's passport was legitimate.[9] El-Masri described being beaten and injected with drugs as part of his interrogation.

On May 18, 2006 U.S. Federal District Judge T.S. Ellis, III of the Eastern District of Virginia dismissed a lawsuit El-Masri filed against the CIA and three private companies allegedly involved with his transport, stating that a public trial would "present a grave risk of injury to national security."[9] A Court of Appeals also dismissed the case.

On October 9, 2007 the U.S Supreme Court declined to hear El-Masri's appeal of the lower courts, without comment.[10]

Location photographed

The artist/geographer Trevor Paglen claims to be the only civilian to have taken a photo of the Salt Pit. Using El-Masri's testimony, Paglen located the Salt Pit using Google Earth and traveled to Afghanistan, where he photographed the facility using a long-distance lens.[11] He claims that he knew he was on the right track when he passed a goat herder wearing a baseball cap with the logo of Kellogg, Brown & Root on it. The photo was shown at Bellwether Gallery in New York City in 2006, together with other items that documented Paglen's efforts to trace secret government projects. It was produced in an edition of one, and bore a price tag of $20,000.[12]


  1. 1.0 1.1 Dana Priest (March 6, 2005). "CIA Avoids Scrutiny of Detainee Treatment: Afghan's Death Took Two Years to Come to Light; Agency Says Abuse Claims Are Probed Fully". Washington Post. Retrieved 2007-06-28. 
  2. Brian Ross, Richard Esposito (November 18, 2005). "CIA's Harsh Interrogation Techniques Described: Sources Say Agency's Tactics Lead to Questionable Confessions, Sometimes to Death". Retrieved 2007-06-28. 
  3. 3.0 3.1 Adam Goldman, Kathy Gannon (2010-03-28). "AP INVESTIGATION: Cautionary Tale From CIA Prison". ABC News. Retrieved 2010-04-21. 
  4. Cathy Gannon, Adam Goldman (2010-04-06). "CIA victim said to have rescued future Afghan pres". Yahoo News. Retrieved 2010-04-20. [dead link] mirror
  5. Jane Mayer (2010-03-31). "Who Killed Gul Rahman?". New Yorker magazine. Retrieved 2010-04-20.  mirror
  6. "Did CIA Torture Victim Once Rescue Hamid Karzai?". CBS News. 2010-04-06. Retrieved 2010-04-20.  mirror
  7. "CIA accused of detaining innocent man: If the agency knew he was the wrong man, why was he held?". MSNBC. April 21, 2005. Retrieved 2007-06-28. 
  8. Georg Mascolo, Hans-Jürgen Schlamp, Holger Stark (November 28, 2005). "The Hunt for Hercules N8183J". Der Spiegel.,1518,387185,00.html. Retrieved 2007-06-28. 
  9. 9.0 9.1 Dana Priest (December 4, 2005). "Wrongful Imprisonment: Anatomy of a CIA Mistake: German Citizen Released After Months in 'Rendition". Washington Post. Retrieved 2007-06-28.  Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; name "WashingPost200051204" defined multiple times with different content
  10. "US court rejects CIA kidnap case". BBC. October 9, 2007. Retrieved 2007-11-23. 
  11. Trevor Paglen. "The Black Sites". Retrieved 2008-02-11. 
  12. "Black Site Specific". Artnet. December 7, 2006. Retrieved 2008-01-08. 

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