Global detention system

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"Secret prisons holding unnamed prisoners in underground cells in unnamed places for undetermined time periods out of reach of any country’s law or of international law without any oversight by human rights groups or anyone but the jailers. ... You read something as chilling as that and you want to squeeze your eyes tight shut and desperately avoid learning what you already know from the headlines." --The Next Hurrah, November 2, 2005.
"The power of the Executive to cast a man into prison without formulating any charge known to the law, and particularly to deny him the judgement of his peers, is in the highest degree odious and is the foundation of all totalitarian government whether Nazi or Communist." --Sir Winston Churchill, November 21, 1943.

A secret global detention system is being operated by the Pentagon and the CIA to incarcerate non-U.S. citizens suspected of being terrorists. The system, which handles thousands of floating "ghost prisoners," is scattered throughout the world from Afghanistan to Guantánamo Bay in Cuba, although it is now believed that Afghanistan is at the hub of the system. [1]

The System

The operation was brought to light in a December 18, 2003, New York Times report by James Risen and Thom Shanker. At the time, they related that, according to U.S. government officials, Saddam Hussein had entered the "Post-9/11 Web of U.S. Prisons" as "prisoner No. 1." [2]

The "system," they wrote, was "a secretive universe, ...made up of large and small facilities scattered throughout the world that have sprouted up to handle the hundreds of suspected terrorists of Al Qaeda, Taliban warlords and former officials of the Iraqi government arrested by the United States and its allies" since the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon on September 11, 2001, and the subsequent U.S.-led war in Iraq. [3]

. . . and Systematic Detention

A review of more "than a dozen documents and investigative statements obtained by The Washington Post" showed, despite claims by "senior defense officials" that the "CIA practice of hiding unregistered detainees at Abu Ghraib prison" was "ad hoc and unauthorized, ... that the agency's 'ghosting' program was systematic and known to [at least] three senior intelligence officials in Iraq." March 24, 2005. Also see Abu Ghraib: 'Ghost Detainees'.


The CIA Secret Prisons Leak

Stopping the Torture

Enemy Combatants & habeas corpus

Ghost Prisoners

On March 19, 2005, the Guardian Unlimited/UK's Adrian Levy and Cathy Scott-Clark reported that they had learned from their investigation that Afghanistan is now the hub of the global network of detention centers, with as many as 10,000 floating ghost prisoners held incommunicado. "The secrecy surrounding them prevents any real independent investigation" and "arrest can be random and allegations of torture commonplace." [4]

The Guardian's Isabel Hilton wrote on July 28, 2004, that, under military order No. 1, issued by President George W. Bush "in November 2001, the president gave himself the right, in defiance of national and international law, to detain indefinitely any non-US citizen anywhere in the world. Many ended up in Guantánamo where at least some of their names were discovered. Others simply vanished. They became in the US euphemism, ghost prisoners, an unrecorded host held in secret, their detention denied, hidden from the Red Cross, legal or family access barred, their fate in the hands of unaccountable and unnamed US personnel." [5]

Prisoner Data Base

The names of prisoners detained in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, is posted on the Washington Post website, with the most recent update November 1, 2005.

Related SourceWatch Resources

External links



  • FM 3-19.40 (formerly FM 19-40). Military Police Internment/Resettlement Operations, Headquarters, Department of the Army, August 1, 2001. Includes sections on "Protection of Captives and Detainees" and "Protection of Enemy Prisoners of War and Civilian Internees" as they pertain to a military operation.
  • Army Regulation 210–35. Installations. Civilian Inmate Labor Program, Headquarters, Department of the Army, Washington, DC, January 14, 2005: "This regulation provides guidance for establishing and managing civilian inmate labor programs on Army installations. It provides guidance on establishing prison camps on Army installations. It addresses recordkeeping and reporting incidents related to the Civilian Inmate Labor Program and/or prison camp administration."