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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saldulilem's picture

Body horror makes classic horror look like Eurohorror

css1971's picture

Power doesn't need to make sense. The point is to have your way because you are more important than everyone else. Whether your way is better or smarter, sane, or even more moral is irrelevant.

uhland62's picture

Stalin didn't say it that way (me thinks) but he did the same. CIA black sites or GULAG in Siberia, same thing in green.  

Jack Oliver's picture

And the 'Gulag's' were financed and set up by the JEWS !!

saldulilem's picture

But, but they took babies out of incubators ...

Fireman's picture

It is all coming home to USSA. Karma!

Father ¢hristmas's picture

It is a good thing we elected Donald J. Trump.

Everyone knows how Donald is a fierce advocate for human rights.  His passion for fair, humane treatment of enemy combatants is second only to his dovish position on military conflicts and escalation.


just the tip's picture

harry palmer was lucky.

44_shooter's picture

You just can't make this shit up...from wiki:

Bruce Jessen (born July 28, 1949) is a psychologist, Air Force retiree, and former Mormon bishop.

Mitchell, who is retired and lives in Land O' Lakes, Florida, spends his free time kayaking, rafting and climbing.[15] He describes himself as an atheist and a supporter of Amnesty International.

A Mormon bishop and an amnesty international supporter - that were torturing people. Only in America.

Eyes Opened's picture

WOW !! Just fucking... WOW !!

One might say he is an "exceptional" human being....


iadr's picture

Took me a moment, but makes sense:


"true believers"- in making the world "better" .  Thus, no sacrifice is too great... Ie the end always justifies the means.

Odd that one is religious, and one athiest. Odd couple. Shows there are 2 ways to get to the same spot.

konadog's picture

It's not terribly uncommon for the worst people to be prolific virtue signalers.

Kefeer's picture

Why is that shocking at all?  Mormonism is a false religion (worse than the atheist or secular humanist) and atheist is a person without a moral compass.  People do not seem to understand the nature of mankind and those who are under the influence of money and power get drunk on it and the degree of man's inherit nature is magnified.  Read Romans 1:28-32 for the reason and exactly how it is manifested as but one example.

Redneck Makin-tosh's picture

Astonishing, is anyone on trial for this or are the type of people who were (allegedly) just following orders immune from prosecution even if they are bringin' the country into disrepute, desecrating the flag and generally undermining every principle it was meant to represent?


Swamp Yankee's picture

How the hell did these chuds get a pic of my horseshoe pit?

mpcascio's picture

The article doesn't say how they were captured or what they were doing.

Hugh Mann's picture

ISIS = Israeli Secret Intelligence Service

Maestro Maestro's picture


All spooks are psychopaths.

DeaconPews's picture

Don't want to be tortured? Don't be a jihadi.

Fuck 'em, fuck 'em all.

Maestro Maestro's picture

The Jihadists are Americans. America is Jihad.

It's either America or the human race. No other choice.

Exterminate Americans (aka Muslim terror) and save a planet.

Even the Jews admit it (aka rats jumping off sinking ship): http://m.jpost.com/american-politics/russia-us-is-pretending-to-fight-is...

Kefeer's picture

The problem is you are supporting things that are above the law; one of the problems in D.C. that keep eroding our liberties.

Posa's picture

Lots of people were snatched up by bounty hunters so their guilt/innocence was unknown.

The super-secrecy on these interrogations was imposed to conceal the fact that these were very low-level figures who were tortured into confessions ("evidence") ... or that they had facts about US- Saudi collaboration to produce and stage  the 9/11 Terror Spectacle that required their silence or elimination.

SmittyinLA's picture

Jamie Gorelick the FNM fraudster, 911 Commish and Iran agent hired and represented the torture shrink docs to her own committee acting as employer and employee, she wasn't sued she had immunity provided by herself.

Jamie was on the SLB board 2002-2010 https://www.justice.gov/opa/pr/schlumberger-oilfield-holdings-ltd-agrees...

I believe Iran funded her career, is the 911 Commish an agent of Iran a conflict of interest?

Wahooo's picture

Why are Jessen and Mitchell still alive and why are their families safe?

Kefeer's picture

Crickets on the MSM I'll guess; this is what " inventors of evil" look like.

The expression of their faces bears witness against them, And they display their sin like Sodom; They do not even conceal it. Woe to them! For they have brought evil on themselves.....Damnation to the wicked! It shall be ill with him, for what his hands have dealt out shall be done to him. - Isaiah 3

Totally_Disillusioned's picture

Problem with all this is, how many Americans were snatched off the streets of the US, taken to these black sites and similarly tortured?  We've learned the alphabets are the enemies within - do we want them to have this level of lawlessness?  They created the terror groups out of paid mercenaries used initially for regime change but later used for chaos/disruption that has prolonged the mideast wars for over 15 yrs.  All this madness must stop.

Totally_Disillusioned's picture

Problem with all this is, how many Americans were snatched off the streets of the US, taken to these black sites and similarly tortured?  We've learned the alphabets are the enemies within - do we want them to have this level of lawlessness?  They created the terror groups out of paid mercenaries used initially for regime change but later used for chaos/disruption that has prolonged the mideast wars for over 15 yrs.  All this madness must stop.

vegan's picture

Your tax dollars at work...

Calculus99's picture

Interesting fact I learned the other day. 

Ho Chi Min was good friends with which US Agency in the years leading up to ther Vietnam war? 

C'mon, it's not too hard, 3 letters beginning with C and ending with A! (actually the OSS, which preceeded the CIA). 

And we all know about how that Agency was friends with Bin Laden don't we. 

And Saddam. 

'Good guys' turning into 'bad guys' at the flick of a switch...

And on an on the killings and bombings go with the only winners being the money men...

Posa's picture

Yup. Orwell was a journalist, not a fiction writer.

samsara's picture

As that 'great' American Cheney 'The Dick' said of water boarding 'it's a slam dunk'

Be proud America Do you think these morally superior CIA, et al would be capable to execute a false flag event in this country?

Take a few minutes to watch a brave ex-CIA tell all on what and how the. CIA does.

CIA Agent Whistleblower Risks All To Expose The Shadow Government

Kevin Shipp


Why are Trump and Jamele Hill two peas in a pod?

Both believe that it's of national importance whether some blacks neel or stand at a sports event that 98% wont even remember next year.


Drain the Swamp?  forget about it.


mrjinx007's picture

Look, we have these videos and taped private conversations on you.  Here is 3 million for your campaign to run for .... Good luck,  We'll be in touch once you get elected.

Racer's picture

And the US have nuclear bombs and are threatening North Korea.... as well as numerous other wars they have been involved with and started over the last years


purplelama's picture

Remember, they broke through the walls of the Pentagon, releasing what was contained therein.


That is not dead which can eternal lie.  With strange aeons even death may die.

esum's picture


SamEyeAm's picture

I rather like the idea of black sites. You wanna fly airplanes into our buildings and people, bomb the USS Cole and bomb two of our embassies in Africa, expect to get fucked with.

samsara's picture

Define useful stooge.

Someone after all this time still believes the gov conspiracy theory on 911

Like my mom used to say;

"Some minds are like cement, All mixed up and permently Set"

Uchtdorf's picture

Then why hasn't the US declared war on Saudi Arabia?

Greed is King's picture

Have you ever thought of asking WHO employed them to fly airplanes into your buildings etc ?. A little FACT you should ponder over; the airplane flying terrorists who flew into your buildings were predominantly Saudi`s, not those who were blamed for the atrocity, and then invaded and conquered as punishment, no they were`nt Afghans or Iraqi`s, they were`nt even from Uncle Sams detested enemy Iran, they were from Americas ALLY SAUDI ARABIA, and within hours of the attack two plane loads of Saudi`s living in America were rounded up by the FBI and shipped home to SAUDI ARABIA. What was that all about ?, think it over !!!.

Bemused Observer's picture

There is a special place in Hell for medical personnel who participate in stuff like this. I'm just letting you know...


Really, you DON'T want to be on the 'other side' and have it discovered that you were a member of one of the healing professions. These guys should pray they live as long as possible, just to hold off the inevitable judgement that's coming their way.

dltff-ya's picture

The man on the street is fine with 'end justifies the means' arguments. That is the core of our
problem. No media will sample this and attempt to debate the consequences.

If told the vital interest of the nation are at stake- can we allow torture?- they say sure.
Trouble is 1) who determines the interests of the state. 2) Evil like that must be forbidden
even in the face of somebody's clam that it will results is some kind of good by some terrible
calculus of the devil.

Longus Dongus's picture

These sites serve an important function. Torture tapes are produced at the sites for our leaders. They watch them over and over in their spare time. While jacking their little peters then eat their own ejaculate. Except Diane Feinstein, she sticks her huge dildo up her stink hole while she watches them.

redmudhooch's picture

CIA/MOSSAD/Deep State are the enemy of the world.

They are truly evil. No debate.

They need to wiped from this planet.

Peace will follow.

Solio's picture

The nation is so far gone. Follow the blood money trail.

ConnectingTheDots's picture

Jessen and Mitchell have a lot of karma awaiting them.

I would not want to be in their shoes when they ultimately meet their maker and have to explain their actions.

Sanity Bear's picture

Pentagon has weaponized social psychology.

See: "The Lucifer Effect: Understanding How Good People Turn Evil"


The whole thing is well worth everyone's time, but I'd like to point particularly to the Q&A session at the end where this lauded emeritus in the field discusses the likelihood of his work having been weaponized.

If you view and understand the material, I think you'd agree with my conclusion that there is no way it hasn't been, and with gusto.