ACLU sues over secret documents about alleged CIA torture site

By Andrew V. Pestano

WASHINGTON, April 14 (UPI) -- The American Civil Liberties Union filed a lawsuit on Thursday against the Obama administration to obtain documents about a CIA detention site in Afghanistan where prisoners were allegedly tortured.

The non-profit organization said it wants to see documents the federal Bureau of Prisons refused to hand over after declining a Freedom of Information Act request.


Representatives from the bureau visited the Afghanistan site in November 2002, but has declined to provide information about the trip. A U.S. Senate report revealed the Bureau of Prisons said the CIA site was "not inhumane," adding that the visiting team was "wowed" by the level of sensory deprivation the CIA achieved against suspects.

"Code-named COBALT and also called 'the Salt Pit,' the site held people suspected of terrorism, and they were tortured there, according to the U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee's torture report that was declassified in 2014," the ACLU wrote in a statement. "In 2015, the Bureau of Prisons declined the ACLU's FOIA request for documents related to the COBALT visit, writing that 'no such records exist.'"

The Department of Justice oversees the Bureau of Prisons, so the ACLU's lawsuit is effectively against the administration of President Barack Obama. The ACLU alleges conditions at COBALT were inhumane, citing instances in which prisoners were kept in indefinite solitary confinement and shackled to a wall while standing with a bucket to be used for human waste while in near-complete darkness.


"What business did the Bureau of Prisons have with a torture site in Afghanistan?" Carl Takei, staff attorney at the ACLU's National Prison Project, said in a statement. "We asked the Bureau of Prisons for any and all documents related to an official government trip taken halfway around the world, but they came up with nothing, not a single email. Anyone who has traveled for work would agree that this is difficult to pull off without a paper trail, yet that's what the Bureau of Prisons would have us believe. This trip has been documented by the United States Senate. It's time to come clean."

One detainee died while in custody at COBALT due to suspected hypothermia. The Senate report said he was stripped naked except for a sweatshirt and shackled to a wall while exposed to the cold concrete floor. He was also forced to stay awake for 48 straight hours and subjected to other "rough treatment" and "auditory overload."

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