- US Senate’s ‘Torture Report’ documented 119 victims of CIA torture
- Al Jazeera speaks to the former secret prisoners, including two Libyans who opposed Gaddafi
“In the immediate aftermath of 9/11, we did some things that were wrong. We did a whole lot of things that were right, but…we tortured some folks.” President Obama, August 2014
In Search for the Dark Prison, a moving two-part Fault Lines documentary on Al Jazeera, Sebastian Walker sets out on a global quest to find the victims of the CIA’s infamous torture program.
Post 9/11, the CIA tortured 119 detainees from 20 countries, according to a heavily-redacted 2014 Senate Select Committee on Intelligence (SSCI) report. 26 of these did not meet the CIA’s own standards for detention, according to the US government report.
The victims Sebastian speaks to all spent time at what they call The Dark Prison, widely believed to be the same purpose-built torture facility that the SSCI code-named Detention Site Cobalt. Sebastian tracks the black site’s most likely location to an old brick factory on the outskirts of Khwaja Rawash airport in Kandahar, Afghanistan.
Even with redactions, the SSCI report of what happened there reads like a horror film: isolation in total darkness, constant deafening music, rectal rehydration, keeping detainees in coffin-shaped boxes, and chaining one detainee to the wall in a standing position for 17 days.
Dozens of those tortured – like Mohamed Ahmed al Shoreiya Ben Soud and Khalid Al-Sharif – were never charged with a crime and have now been released.
Mohamed and Khalid were both members of The Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG), which opposed Muammar Gaddafi. In 2004, the US state department designated LIFG as a terrorist group, but Mohamed and Khalid were detained the year before, and say their battle was with Gaddafi, not Washington.
The two men understandably do not want to go into everything that happened to them, but say they are haunted by flashbacks and nightmares.
“Often times I’m sitting with my family and I disconnect completely, disconnect emotionally, and I drown in these painful memories,” says Mohamed. “Many times my children ask me, ‘Dad, why are you staring into space?’”
He says he doesn’t think he’ll ever be able to tell his children what he went through.
“The most dangerous thing I was thinking of was that they had no red lines,” Mohamed says. “They are willing to do anything.”
Khalid says their torturers threatened to kill them. “They would say to us: ‘We can kill you now. No one would know where you are or who killed you.’”
Mohamed says what happened to him and other torture victims should concern everyone. “Today it happened to us; tomorrow it’ll happen to someone else. Maybe in the future, the American government will consider some segment of the population as threats and it will torture them as well.”
As lawyer James Connell tell Sebastian, “If another future president decides to use torture again, they already have an infrastructure built.”
To this day, only one individual has been jailed in connection with the CIA’s torture programme: whisteblower John Kiriakou, the first person to confirm the agency’s use of waterboarding in 2007. No other prosecutions have been pursued.
Search for the Dark Prison premieres on Al Jazeera English on 13 September 2016 at 2230 GMT and will be available to embed from YouTube after it airs. Part two premieres on 20 September 2016.