The Presence of "Ghost Prisoners" at Guantanamo

Senate Select Committe on Intelligence

Committee Study of the Central Intelligence Agency's Detention and Interrogation Program, pp. 140f[166f].
December 2014


Pages 140f[166f]: Beginning in September 2003, the CIA held a number of detainees at CIA facilities on the grounds of, but separate from, the U.S. military detention facilities at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. [NOTE 848] 

[NOTE 848: CIA detainees were held at two facilities at Guantanamo Bay, DETENTION SITE MAROON and DETENTION SITE INDIGO [NOT THEIR REAL NAMES, SEE BELOW]. A third CIA detention facility, DETENTION SITE RED [NOT ITS REAL NAME, SEE BELOW] [REDACTED] See […] and September 1, 2006, Memorandum of Agreement Between the Department of Defense (DOD) and the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) Concerning the Detention by DOD of Certain Terrorists at a Facility at Guantanamo Bay Naval Station.]

In early January 2004, the CIA and the Department of Justice began discussing the possibility that a pending U.S. Supreme Court case, Rasul v. Bush, might grant habeas corpus rights to the five CIA detainees then being held at a CIA detention facility at Guantanamo Bay. [NOTE 849] Shortly after these discussions, CIA officers approached the [REDACTED] in Country [REDACTED] to determine if it would again be willing to host these CIA detainees, who would remain in CIA custody within an already existing Country [REDACTED] facility. [NOTE 850] By January [REDACTED], 2004, the [REDACTED] in Country [REDACTED] had agreed to this arrangement for a limited period oftime. [NOTE 851]

Meanwhile, CIA General Counsel Scott Muller asked the Department of Justice, the National Security Council, and the White House Counsel for advice on whether the five CIA detainees being held at Guantanamo Bay should remain at Guantanamo Bay or be moved pending the Supreme Court's decision. [NOTE 852] After consultation with the U.S. solicitor general in February 2004, the Department of Justice recommended that the CIA move four detainees out of a CIA detention facility at Guantanamo Bay pending the Supreme Court's resolution of the case. [NOTE 853] The Department of Justice concluded that a fifth detainee, Ibn Shaykh al-Libi, did not need to be transferred because he had originally been detained under military authority and had been declared to the ICRC. [NOTE 854] Nonetheless, by April 2004, all five CIA detainees were transferred from Guantanamo Bay to other CIA detention facilities. [NOTE 855]

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  • To read the notes cited above, please consult the full summary of the committee study.
  • The International Criminal Court (ICC) defines "enforced dissapearance" as "the arrest, detention or abduction of persons by, or with the authorization, support, or acquiescence of, a State or a political organization, followed by a refusal to acknowledge that deprivation of freedom or to give information on the fate or whereabouts to those persons, with the intention of removing them from the protection of the law for a prolonged period of time." The ICC considers the systematic practice of enforced disappearance a crime against humanity. See ICC Statute, Articles 7(1)(i) and 7(2)(i).
  • Working with logs of secret CIA flights compiled by European authorities and carrying out private interviews with US officials and others familiar with the CIA, The Associated Press was able to identify four of the five "ghost prisoners" mentioned above: Mustafa al-Hawsawi, Abd al-Nashiri, Abu Zubaydah, and Ramzi bin al-Shibh. The passage cited above confirms the presence of Ramzi bin al-Shibh and identifies a fifth: Ibn Shaykh al-Libi.
  • The secret flight records also pinpoint the exact dates of arrival and departure of the first four prisoners. They arrived in Guantanamo on September 24, 2003 and left on March 27, 2004. They were thus kept as "ghost prisoners" at Guantanamo for more than six months.
  • The imprisonment of Ibn Shaykh al-Libi at Guantanamo has never been officially acknowledged. He should therefore be added to the official list of 779 Guantanamo prisoners.
  • Ibn Shayk al-Libi was assigned Internment Serial Number 212 (see Wikileaked DAB for ISN 213). Before being ghosted to Guantanamo, al-Libi was rendered to Egypt. There, under torture, he falsely indicated that Iraq was supporting al-Qaeda and was providing assistance with chemical and biological weapons. Secretary Colin Powell used this information in his February 2003 speech before the United Nations justifying the invasion Iraq later that year. Ibn Shaykh al-Libi was subsequently transferred to Libya, where he died in prison.
  • In September 2006, the four prisoners identified by the Associated Press returned to Guantanamo as officially acknowledged prisoners. As such they could be represented by lawyers and visited by the Red Cross, two rights that were  denied to them while they were ghost prisoners at Guantanamo.
  • Guantanamo is said to contain several secret CIA detention centers. They have been variously dubbed Strawberry Fields, Penny Lane, The Marriott, Platinum, Camp Seven, Camp No, The General's Cottage. A variety of sources recognizes but two distinct sites among them: Strawberry Fields and the rest (see for example Terry Holdbrooks, Traitor, p. 38, the Associated Press piece by Goldman and Apuzzo, and Joseph Hickman's Murder at Camp Delta, p. 107). Penny Lane opened in 2003 and remained functional until June 9-10, 2006 or shortly thereafter (this is the date of the first three deaths in custody, and it has been suggested that these deaths had something to do with this closure). Strawberry Fields opened in the heels of the closure of Penny Lane. It was fully operational by the time of Mr. Hickman's departure from Guantanamo on March 10, 2007. Consequently, the CIA facility mentioned in the portions of the Senate Committee Study excerpted above is Penny Lane.