The CIA black site prison had 20 cells. Described as “stand-alone concrete boxes,” the cell block was outfitted with stereo speakers that played music 24 hours a day to prevent captives from communicating with each other. Captives, who first arrived there in September 2002, were often held in total darkness. Some were subjected to mock executions.
Four of the cells at the black site — it was located in Afghanistan and code-named COBALT, but it was also referred to as the Salt Pit — had “high bars… to which prisoners can be secured.” These four cells were designed specifically for sleep deprivation.
The prison is where a 34-year-old Afghan militant and suspected al-Qaeda operative named Gul Rahman froze to death in November 2002 after undergoing a brutal torture regimen that included being beaten, doused with cold water, and left half-naked while chained to the floor of his cell. Several of the techniques CIA interrogators used on Rahman were unauthorized; in August 2002, a Department of Justice attorney named John Yoo had written a legal memo sanctioning nearly a dozen torture methods for use on high-value captives.
The graphic description of the conditions of Rahman’s confinement and the disastrous operations of COBALT were laid bare in 14-year-old, closely guarded CIA reports that probed the circumstances of his death; those reports [pdf at the end of this article] were just turned over to VICE News in response to a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit. Separately, the CIA also declassified and publicly posted to its website a trove of other documents related to its so-called “rendition, detention, and interrogation” program and the treatment of detainees in custody of the agency in response to separate FOIA lawsuits filed by VICE News and the ACLU.