The salt pit

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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 functioned as a brick factory prior to the start of the US military operation in Afghanistan. In the winter of 2005 the "Salt Pit" became known to the general public over 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 Oct. 29.[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 their 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 but later 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 shared the same name as a suspect on the US's terrorist watchlist, and this triggered the suspicion of Macedonian authorities that he might be traveling on a forged passport.

A team of American security officials were dispatched to the Republic of Macedonia, where they kidnapped El-Masri without regard to his legal rights under Macedonian law.[8] It took over two months for the CIA official who ordered his arrest to take the step of verifying whether El-Masri's passport was legitimate.[9] El-Masri described being beaten and injected with drugs as part of his interrogation.

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

On Tuesday, October 9, 2007 the U.S Supreme court threw out El-Masri's appeal against the earlier judgment, without comment.[10]

Location photographed

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 in 2006 along with other items documenting Paglen's attempts 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.  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. 
  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. 
  13. Matt Apuzzo, Sheri Fink, James Risen (2016-10-08). "How U.S. Torture Left a Legacy of Damaged Minds". The New York Times. 

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