Unsealed CIA Memos Provide Shocking 'Salt Pit' Black Site Details

Tyler Durden's picture

A new batch of 274 CIA documents connected with Bush era torture have just been made public as a result of a lawsuit brought by families of victims. Contained in the documents are newly unearthed details on the CIA's "black site" program which reached its peak under Bush's 'war on terror' as well as shocking details revealing how the agency integrated its contract psychologists into its 'enhanced interrogation' program in order to give torture a veneer of legality. While much of this story of CIA torture has already slowly come to light over the past few years, especially with the 2014 Senate Intelligence Committee report, the just released documents capture internal high level agency discussions revealing a cover-up in action.

Many of the memos focus on the CIA's infamous 'Cobalt' site in Afghanistan (also code named The Salt Pit), routinely described in headlines as the "sadistic dungeon" and "dark prison" for its full sensory deprivation darkness which detainees experienced round the clock, sometimes for years, as well as the two psychologists credited with designing the program of brutal interrogation techniques: John "Bruce" Jessen and James Mitchell. 

Two surviving prisoners and the family of a detainee who died at the Colbalt site reached an out-of-court settlement with the CIA psychologists in August after a lawsuit was brought for their role in the torture. As was hoped, the CIA and Pentagon were forced to declassify the documents related to the case in pretrial discovery. 

Satellite image of Cobalt site, also called the Salt Pitt, from now public documents.

The documents show the psychologists had been directly involved in designing and implementing torture, and that the blurring of lines between CIA interrogators and the psychologists originally brought in for "research" and development of techniques had agency leadership worried over future legal ramifications. Jessen himself had spent 10 days at the Cobalt facility in November 2002 where he was involved in interrogating Gul Rahman - a suspected militant who died of hypothermia while chained naked from the waist down to a concrete floor. He died 5 days after Jessen left. 

Ironically, a key fact rarely highlighted is that Gul Rahman was captured among Gulbuddin Hekmatyar's Hezb-i-Islami faction, which itself had previously been funded and vastly expanded by the CIA  as part of Operation Cyclone. By 2010 terror leader Hekmatyar himself would enter negotiations with then President Karzai, and by 2017 would be fully reconciled with the US-backed government in Kabul.

Dr. Bruce Jessen, left, and Dr. James Mitchell, psychologists who contracted with the C.I.A.

The Guardian summarizes the newly released "Chronology of Significant Events" court findings covering the specific time period of Rahman's slow death at the Salt Pit as follows:

  • November 2002: Rahman wearing only socks and diaper; supervisor has concern regarding hypothermia
  • Rahman subjected to 48 hours of sleep deprivation, rough treatment, cold shower and other measures but remained noncompliant.
  • Subjected to cold conditions and minimum food and sleep... confused due to dehydration and fatigue.
  • Cable recommends future use of continued environmental deprivations with interrogations 18 out of 24 hours daily
  • Linguist asks questions about the temperature at which hypothermia occurs
  • November 19 2200 hrs guard check - Rahman is alive.
  • 2300 hrs guard check - Rahman is alive.
  • November 20 0400 hrs guard check - Rahman is alive.
  • 0800 hrs guard check - Rahman is alive.
  • 1000 hrs guard check - Rahman is dead.

The Guardian further describes the now declassified documents as providing "the fullest picture yet of what the three men suffered [associated with the lawsuit] in that secret CIA dungeon – and of how fatefully their lives intersected with the rise and fall of James Mitchell and Bruce Jessen, the men who designed the torture regime."

Highlighted below are some revealing sections from the newly released batch of CIA torture memos - some of the below were already available before the latest release:

CIA contracted psychologists created an “Exploitation Draft Plan” which involved holding captives in soundproof cells in hidden facilities that were beyond the reach of the Red Cross, the press, and even internal US government oversight. The plan notes: No International Red Cross [IRC] nor even US observers. Detainees were essentially "disappeared" individuals and not even family members knowing their fates. Rahman's family didn't know of his whereabouts or death for seven years until an AP report unearthed his name. As noted in the below memo, Pentagon involvement ended with capture and transfer as a DoD psychologist accompanied the captive "unbeknown to the subject" after which the CIA psychologists would be involved in interrogation. 

Particularly intense "interrogation" sessions involved medical personnel attending to detainee wounds, and even applying antibiotics, so that torture could continue: "The straps were removed: subjects breathing continued to be rapid. Subject was then instructed to off the [water] board under his own power, which he did. The interrogators pointed to the small box and said, 'you know what to do.'... At 1130 hours, taken out of small box, hooded, and made to stand against a cell wall: at 1230 hrs, back into the large box (unhooded)--note that medical officers dressed as security team member at this time gave subject Betadine to clean wound. Subject was also given a topical antibiotic to apply to the leg wound... At 1450 hrs, back to large box. At 1601 hrs into small box: 1612 hrs, subject was heard crying/wimpering/chanting, 1635 went from small box to floor, sitting down hooded; and 1655 hrs, returned to large box, unhooded..."

CIA leadership envisioned that psychologists Jessen and Mitchel would provide a legally "defensible" veneer to torture sessions (after being paid $81 million). So long as their personal assessments vouched for detainees being of mentally sound mind, "enhanced interrogations" could be initiated. "In my read of the DOJ memo, providing we abide by our water board process on [redacted] (qualified medical staff present, the defensible exam is done and we follow our procedures) I believe the water board can be approved by CTC/LGL [CIA's internal legal review team] without the need for further input from DOJ." Jessen and Mitchel were paid $81 million by the CIA in the process.

CIA leadership suggested psych evals be done from afar based on mere review of a file in order to set up a minimally invasive rubber stamp process. "to get waterboard approvals, we need a psychological evaluation... [Name redacted] indicated that we need to make a 'defensible' psychological analysis indicating that, given the individual's particular mental disposition, he would not suffer prolonged and sever psychological problems resulting from the enhanced interrogation techniques... can OTS make a defensible analysis based on a file review on the targets? Or do they need to have a psych eval done on the ground, face-to-face?  [Name redacted] indicates that all it must [be] is 'defensible.'"

Doctors and nurses were requested to be present during sessions. One email with the subject line "Medical coverage planning" asked "There would be nurses on site correct?" This was presumably to allow torture to continue after detainees were injured, wounded, or sick - while also preventing those running the program from being legally exposed to prosecution. 

Internal admissions of "blatant disregard for ethics": CIA contracted psychologists' ethics were questioned even by colleagues. They "have both shown blatant disregard for the ethics shared by almost all of their colleagues." Other emails admitted: “No professional in the field would credit their later judgments as psychologists assessing the subjects of their enhanced measures." And also, “if some untoward outcome is later to be explained, their sole use in this role will be indefensible.”

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peddling-fiction's picture

Soon the harvest of these wicked souls begins.

But first, they will suffer terribly.

peddling-fiction's picture

You are deluded and in for a nasty suprise.

ZIRPdiggler's picture

I wouldn't count on it.  Hitlary Cunton and her Crime boss hubby went on a murder-crime spree that lasted four decades and they're still free (thanks in part to our gutless AG, Mr. 'I'm recusing-myself-Sessions', who won't get involved in anything that matters).  That piece of shit is all over the resurrection of the failed "war on drugs" though. 

peddling-fiction's picture

These kinds of "accounts" are always settled, one way or another.

This has always been so. Just when you think you are off, scot-free, you are not.

Chupacabra-322's picture

It’s time for absolute, complete Elimination by Extreme Prejudice, the Pure Evil War Criminal Treasonous Seditious Psychopaths at the CIA.

Eliminate & KILL THEM ALL.

Are you reading this loud & clear Langley?

The days of your Pure Evil War Criminal Treasonous Seditious Psychopathic day of Murdering, Torturing, Drug / weapons running, money laundering, droneing, destabilizing countries, illegal surveillance are fast coming to an end.

There’s absolutely NO questions as to when this Engineered Collapse occurs ground zero target for complete ELIMINATION will be Langley.

Tick, tock. MotherFuckers...

Akzed's picture

That piece of shit is all over the resurrection of the failed "war on drugs" though.

You mean the CIA op known as Operation Eliminate the Competition?

herefortheshow17's picture

Well that is sure some evil sadistic type shit. Our government couldnt possibly do something like that..

BarnacleBill's picture

Yes it is pure bloody sadism. Torturers are less than human - feral beasts that deserve to be shot on sight. I wonder if their family members understand the revulsion in which they're regarded by us non-sadists.

divingengineer's picture

These guys are Pikers, they wanna see torture.....
36 hrs of Yoko Ono music and they would be begging to tell me everything.

lew1024's picture

I agree with the sentiment, but in fact, it is easy to turn ordinary folks into anything you want.

Stanford Prison Experiment and Milgram's work.

Oldwood's picture


It's not just Americans, it is the unaccountable power without consequence. The heinous nature of war brings the horrible out in humanity. Let's just make sure not to pretend that many of these people who were tortured were not capable if not already guilty of so much more.

There is an illness that yearns to feed our guilt, to convince us of our terribleness not to be comparable with any other.

History is repleat with endless examples of things far worse than this. We should not minimize or dismiss it, but neither should we commit ourselves to suicide in atonement or seek renwed purity through sacrifice.

There is nothing new under the sun, and no matter how vigorously progressives attempt to convince us we can become something different, our best defense against it is the recognition it lives within all of us.

Eyes Opened's picture


"We should not minimize or dismiss it, but neither should we commit ourselves to suicide in atonement or seek renewed purity through sacrifice."


And what SHOULD u do ??

Accountability is non-existant in the US, institutionally & individually.


"The heinous nature of war brings the horrible out in humanity"


This IS NOT WAR !! This is empire-building & is illegal & immoral, yet all u do is wring your hands & say "Not in my name !! "   NOT TRUE ... if u are american, u are accountable... 


To say that "people do much worse than that"... & that it's "not just America committing such acts" is to  fail to recognise one own culpability. Lay the blame where it should lie, then DO something about it.

And NO ONE has asked for suicidal atonement.....

Shemp 4 Victory's picture


To say that "people do much worse than that"... & that it's "not just America committing such acts" is to  fail to recognise one own culpability. Lay the blame where it should lie, then DO something about it.

Casting the blame for the negative consequences of their actions across all of humanity is a favorite tactic of US citizens. The "exceptional" nation takes credit for all good and blames human nature for their own fuck ups. In this US world order, propaganda is rife, denial of basic facts is a genetic urge, and dilution of responsibility is as vital as breathing.

lasvegaspersona's picture

Torture was one of the things that got folks hung at Nuremburg.

We are supposed to be better than that. 

I think it is mostly a thing sadist  like since a tortured prisoner will say anything. Then the sadist can keep toruring until the find inconsistencies.

Were we to good for truth serum?

land_of_the_few's picture

Yep try these ones, it wasn't just men either:

10. Wanda Klaff 9. Dorothea Binz ( The Binz ) 8. Greta Bosel 7. Alice Orlowski 6. Ilse Koch 5. Juana Bormann 4. Herta Bothe 3. Hildegard Lachert 2. Ruth Neudeck 1. Maria Mandel ( The Beast )


Mustafa Kemal's picture

Cobalt site. Kindof a pretty cobalt color from above. But from inside?

aloha_snakbar's picture

That Jessen dude has hands the size of a Barbie doll

herefortheshow17's picture

LOL right? And they give Donald shit about small hands. Unbelieveable .

Larry Dallas's picture

This is really disturbing to read.

Everytime i see George W. on TV, he looks increasingly less comfortable with the world knowing a lot of bad things happened under his watch. He’s getting spooked...

I am a Man I am Forty's picture

really disturbing, didn't even charge him with anything, just tortured and killed him

tmosley's picture

Men go to prison. Dogs get put down.

divingengineer's picture

I’m sure he was a saintly family man too.
They didn’t send him there for public urination.

Abaco's picture

Right.  The CIA NEVER scoops up an innocent party. 

Last1Out's picture

Were you picked on as a young man, last year?

The girls on the bus take your lunch money a lot?

divingengineer's picture

They did, until I picked up the phone and reported them as terrorists.
Now they are in Gitmo and I’m eating their lunch.

Cloud9.5's picture

He is approaching the end of his days.  More and more he is going to be consumed by the wonderings of whether hell is real or not.  I suspect he can already smell the burning sulfur. 

Heywood Jablomi's picture

sounds like fun. where do i sign up?

ZIRPdiggler's picture

McShitstain is still alive, eh?  Boy he made a fortune from the MIC, as head of the senate arms.  Millions $$$ folks.  Thank you MIC:  making 'murica shittier, one endless war at a time.    

East Indian's picture
“To die, to sleep - 
To sleep, perchance to dream - ay, there's the rub,
For in this sleep of death what dreams may come...” A long coma, with terrible dreams, is appropriate for those who profit out of wars. 
SheHunter's picture

if there is a just god McStain will die a painful slow agonizing brain cancerous death.

AurorusBorealus's picture

This is a handfull of documents about a couple of tortured prisoners who disappeared, but happened to be discovered.  This was not a few "isolated" cases, and Bush did not "invent" the CIA torture program.  It has existed since the 1960s.  What Bush's lawyers did was merely take a "black ops" program and provide some legal justification for it, so that it could be "expanded" and even every day soldiers such as those at Abu Ghraib and Bagram prison could participate in torturing people.

The CIA began torturing people in the 1960s, after experimenting with torture techniques in the 1950s.  The use of LSD and other mind-altering drugs were part of this "research" into torture.  The first major torture program (that we know about) was conducted in Vietnam.  It was called Project Phoenix.  The CIA then set up workshops throughout Latin America to train secret police and death squads in Guatemala, Chile, and other countries in torture techniques.

These are not "allegations" or "conspiracy theories."   These are confirmed historical facts, attested to by numerous participants, victims, and even photo-documents.  The U.S. has no moral authority anywhere in the world.  The crimes committed by the U.S. government, which the American people have deliberately ignored, are among the most serious "crimes against humanity" in human history.

The CIA is the most despicable institution on the face of the planet earth and with their silence in the face of these atrocities, the American people have been the CIAs willing co-conspirators.  This documentary should help people to understand these historical FACTS. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7VW6KTOMkxk

MD's picture

Reading this kind of stuff, as an American... If the Norks nuke America tomorrow, and end all of this, I'm fine with it.

Enceladus's picture

The CIA was worried about prosecution? Seems quaint. I assumed that they did whatever they wanted unfettered by moral or legal compunctions.

NoWayJose's picture

NAH - no prosecution - just big payoffs using taxpayer money.

AurorusBorealus's picture

They were worried about what would happen if some grunt soldier, whom they recruited to expand the torture program to includes thousands of prisoners, took pictures and these pictures became public.  As it so happens, a bunch of soldiers at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq did exactly that.  Since the CIA had paid off a few psychologists and lawyers to make some of their practices seem "legal," whatever that means, they could hide the large-scale torture program behind a bunch of legal jargon, punish the few privates and corporals who took the photos, and avoid all culpability.

In point of fact, by international law, Bush, Cheney, and all the people who work for the CIA are international war criminals, who would be hung by the neck until they are dead if this were Nuremburg.  And that is why you need more defense spending.  So that international criminals like the Bush family can continue to walk the streets freely.  Because if the U.S. empire collapses, someone will hunt them down, and maybe even find them hiding in a "spider-hole" somewhere in Texas. 

King of Ruperts Land's picture

We need to redeem ourselves by bringing these criminals to justice. How could that not be the right thing to do? If ever there was justice this would be it. I would join the posse on this one.

Lets saddle up!

AurorusBorealus's picture

The solution to evil in this world is not revenge.  It is goodness.  Be good.  Be kind.  Help those in need.  Love your neighbor.

lew1024's picture

Yes, do good. A fair trial before hanging.

King of Ruperts Land's picture

I still believe that if you have the right witnesses and the right evidence and navigate the legal system to get it to the right place, then no one is above the law.

In the case of the Clinton's many times the witness dies just before getting to that right place.

In the case of the CIA they just design things so there can be no witness and no evidence. Or they have an expert or a document that covers their ass.

They just made sure they did it where no one could see.

Abaco's picture

That is delusional.  Hillary ADMITTED to comitting crimes and Comey says "nope, not going to prosecute" and Sessions says I'm going after dope smokers and stealing stuff without due process.

NoWayJose's picture

The next War is not going to be played on TV watching missiles blow up buildings. There will be desperate ‘bad guys’ who want information from any prisoners. These same ‘bad guys’ likely scrape the remains of their friends off their boots each day. Real war has always been fought this way - it won’t be clean or pretty - and prisoners will be abused and tortured - as they always have.

HRH Feant2's picture

Hypothermia chained to a concrete floor in a desert.

There is a certain kind of schadenfreude in that kind of justice.

As for nurses and doctors on hand as witnesses. The same shit happens every day at every VA hospital. Where it is still legal and considered ethical to administer ECT (electroshock) as therapy.

Perfectly legal in the modern medical system.

EDIT: where is the outrage? I posted this comment some time ago. Everyone is furious about how the US treats combatants. Other than one upvote not one single fucking peep about how the US treats veterans.

Excuse me but applying voltage to ones brain, under sedation, is not therapeutic. That is nothing less than bloody fucking torture and ECT should be called out as such by every so-called fucking Doctor. Now.

People want to protest? Start protesting how the government makes it legal to use such a barbaric fucking practice on veterans. And have the US Taxpayer pay for it.


Eyes Opened's picture

U want people to shed tears for "veterans"... fucking mercenaries, who VOLUNTEERED for this shit...

And anyone drafted should simply have stated they are a concientious objector & fuck 'em...

But no... too busy chanting USA USA USA !!! 

Without veterans there would be NO wars....

Thank you for your service ???

Fuck off & die....

11b40's picture

Without veterans, there would be no USA.  You may have your eyes opened, but your brain sounds about 15 years old.

Blue Steel 309's picture

Psychologists have committed some of the most heinous crimes I have ever heard about, under the shield of their profession.

Ms No's picture

A lot of this is diversion.  The water boarding wasn't shit.  They were drilling people's kneecaps out in Abu Gharib.  Where do you think the CIA recruits from to find people that will do that?  Prisons, for one.  Why do you think the CIA was torturing people to begin with when they knew they had nothing to do with Sept 11 and they knew that there were no WMD?  Do you think they were trying to find AlCIAda in Iraq?  Were they just torturing men who wanted to defend their nations?  The CIA has always done unbelievably horrific shit.  It's what they do.  They don't invade, steal resources, implant globalist leaders in nation after nation by being choir boys.  They are the sickest bastards on the planet and they're coming for you too.

Psychopaths always accuse others of what they themselves are doing. 


HRH Feant2's picture

There is a particular VA where people are sent as punishment. Chillicothe, Ohio.

Fueled by psychopathy.

Ms No's picture

Do you think the CIA hasn't tortured and murdered countless children to use as leverage against their parents?  You think they're aren't involved in the child trafficking trade where people spend small fortunes to buy babies and children to torture and screw to death?  You think they aren't behind all the heroin and all the countless deaths and suffering?  You could never begin to estimate what they have done in probably 100 nations.  If it's dark and there is money to be made they're in it.  That agency is Satan incarnate.  It's so sad that so many people have admired and defended it.