Central Intelligence Agency

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A CIA (Central Intelligence Agency) operative saved by members of Seal Team Six that was captured by a radical group overseas, comes home and sees the black site that he worked at, Abu Ghraib, plastered all over the news. The news is saying American operatives have been torturing their detainees, and that there is a fine line between interrogation and torture. However, they do not realize how the United States uses espionage, the CIA black sites, and their interrogation tactics to prevent terrorists and their threats. Even though there is speculation that American military and operatives are torturing their detainees at these black sites. With the United States leading the war on terror since the attacks on September 11th, the world has improved tremendously on countering terrorism. The use of espionage, black sites and interrogations have all played a key role in preventing terrorist attacks and their mission.

From an article in the Washington Post it is said there are black sites throughout eight countries. The exact known location of these prisons and which eight countries host them are on a need to know basis, and only the President and some officials know where they are. (Vitkovskaya, 2017). Even though the article only speaks of eight countries having them, there has been some speculations saying there are twenty black sites in other countries. Since the sites are classified and the government mainly denies the existence of them, there is no report or statement that shows exactly how many sites there are.

One of the first sites was called Quartz and founded in Poland, the CIA and Polish Intelligence agreed to work together on this site. It was a two-story prison and even though they spent millions of dollars on the site, it could only house a dozen detainees. One of the rooms had a treadmill where the captives were able to work out at if they cooperated with the government. There is the infamous Guantanamo Bay detention center in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. It caught fame from being a center location in the movie A Few Good Men. As well as another known black site Abu Ghraib, that was all over the news in 2004 for having CIA agents and military members detain suspected terrorists. Even though, there is speculations and opinions on what happened at these sites, in one way or another they have helped prevent terrorism.

With the attention that war prison Abu Ghraib brought upon the United States and the rest of the world on how the American government treats the alleged terrorist detainees. It has created discussions and arguments on if the interrogation tactics being used are inhumane and if they violate human rights. During the Bush Administration officials said that Abu Zubaydah who was interrogated and water boarded many times revealed information which led to the capture of Khalid Sheik Mohammed, Mohammed was the architect behind the September 11 attacks. Former CIA director George Tenet said that because there were enhanced interrogations done to Al - Qaeda members, the detainees released information on 20 plots against United States buildings, and a possible airborne attack. (Thompson & Ghosh, 2009). The CIA contracted Mitchell, Jensen & Associates to develop twenty interrogation techniques, however only ten were considered humane enough to be useful in interrogation.

Some of the ten were water boarding, sleep deprivation, and stress positions. In Abu Ghraib, located in Iraq detainees were said to be naked during December, where temperatures would drop to 40 degrees Fahrenheit at night. They were also chained and handcuffed in positions that prevented them from sitting down or falling asleep which caused sleep deprivation. “When I arrived in Fallujah there was a small chair, about 2 feet tall, made of plywood and two by fours, and it had plastic zip ties used to secure someone's hands on the bottom. The Palestinian Chair was intended to put someone in a crouched position from which they could not recover and forced all their weight onto their thighs and their calves and they stayed there for as long as an interrogator decided they were going to stay”. ("'It Was Torture': An Abu Ghraib Interrogator Acknowledges 'Horrible Mistakes'," 2016).

America has been using spies since the first President of the United States was in office. Spies have deployed with every war in covert operations since the revolutionary war, whether it was to influence another government to release land to America like what happened in 1810 throughout 1812. When James Madison had sent out spies to infiltrate Spain and have them give Florida to the United States. (“History of American Intelligence – Central Intelligence Agency”,2007”). Looking at times during the Cold War Adolf Tolkachev was a Russian scientist who believed in America and its allies. Tolkachev would meet with American operators and delivered thousands of documents to the United States without ever leaving Russia, helping the allies turn the tide of the Cold War. After the attacks on September 11th, the CIA was rounding up as many militants as they could.

The agents went and tried to recruit members of the terrorist cells. The CIA used anything in their power to encourage the detainees to be a double agent, which meant even resorting to bribery before the new double agents even left the compound. During the war on terror, an Iraqi national infiltrated the Islamic Front organization otherwise known as ISIS. Captain Harith al-Sudani, was a captain in Iraq's national intelligence agency. He went deep under cover and became a very trustworthy advisory of the Islamic Front. Before he disappeared after going to a farmhouse where the ISIS requested him to be, he prevented 18 suicide bomber attacks as well as 30 vehicle bombing attacks while being undercover in the terrorist cell.

There is a common saying “Fake it until you make it”, and that is true even for undercover spies and military members. They are expected to become something they are not. A man who swore an oath to protect his country, is now being asked by that same country to go undercover in a notorious terrorist organization to discover and exploit their secrets. Humans are not robots, they have feelings, they can even be persuaded some more easily than others. When someone decides to go undercover for months or even years at a time, their once solid view point can become distorted and they might struggle with what they are doing. An excellent example of desertion in the past decade is the story of United States Army sergeant Bowe Bergdahl.

Bergdahl deserted his post in Afghanistan and was eventually captured and held captive by the Taliban. If someone who willingly signed up to serve his country decided to desert his nation, imagine what would have happened if he had to go under cover and pose as being part of the Taliban. All over the news there is reports and interviews with former and current government officials saying that the interrogation techniques are considered torture and they are violating human rights. Former president Barack Obama was content with his decision to ban harsh interrogation techniques used by the CIA at their black sites, which included water boarding. In a statement Obama says, " I believe that waterboarding was torture and, whatever legal rationals were used, it was a mistake." (MacAskill, 2017) One of the main scandals to come from the Abu Ghraib detention center was the death of a detainee, whose official cause of death was ruled a homicide.

Taken from an autopsy report from a prisoner at Abu Ghairb, " Manacle! AI-Jamadi, an Iraqi National, died while detained at the Abu Ghraib prison where he was held for interrogations by government agencies. According to an investigative report, Mr. AI-Jarnadi was captured by Navy Seal team #7 and resisted apprehension. External injuries are consistent with injuries sustained during apprehension. Ligature injuries are present on the wrists and ankles. Fractures of the ribs and a contusion of the left lung imply significant blunt force injuries of the thorax and resulted in impaired respiration. According to investigating agents, interviews taken from individuals present at the prison during the interrogation indicate that a hood made of synthetic material was placed over the head and neck of the detainee. This likely resulted in further compromise of effective respiration. The cause of death is blunt force injuries of the torso complicated by compromised respiration. The manner of death is homicide. " ("CIA Copy of Autopsy Report: Manadel Al Jamadi, Abu Ghraib Prison, Iraq (Homicide)," 2014)

The public who believe waterboarding is torture, does not realize that the standard military personnel, members of the special forces, and government agents go through waterboarding training, experience CS gas, get OC sprayed, and for some endure SERE (Survival evasion resistance escape) training during their careers. On a countless number of times all these techniques and methods were considered lawful by the Department of Justice. For the use of detention centers and interrogations by the CIA “ If Democrat staffers had talked to any of us (probably hundreds), they would have had to deal with our absolute assurance that this program led to the capture of senior al-Qa’ida operatives (including helping to find Osama bin Laden); added enormously to what we knew about al-Qa’ida as an organization; and led to the disruption of terrorist plots, saving American and Allied lives.´(Hayden/CIA Director, 2014)

Overall, the United States and the rest of the world has been using these methods since their respective countries and governments were created. Whether the public wants to see the good these techniques are doing or believe they are only negatively affecting the war on terror. Espionage, black sites, and interrogation methods will continue to be used to change the outcomes of the wars, persuade governments and influential people of power, and prevent terrorist attacks foreign and domestic.  

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Central Intelligence Agency. (2019, Dec 11). Retrieved November 28, 2023 , from

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