In one of the more bizarre things you'll read about the CIA today, the secret Romanian prison the agency had been suspected of running has been found -- not in a some remote location tucked in the country's mountainside but in a tree-lined suburb of the nation's capital. While the Romanian government has repeatedly denied its existence and the CIA itself offers no comment, the Associated Press is spilling the details of the clandestine holding center in a Romanian government building outside Bucharest where the masterminds of 9/11 and the USS Cole bombing were once detained. From 2003 to 2006 "the CIA used a government building — codenamed Bright Light — as a makeshift prison for its most valuable detainees," begins Adam Goldman and Matt Apuzzo's report. Despite that cheery, even hopeful name of a facility "a couple blocks off a major boulevard on a street lined with trees and homes," Bright Light was a harsh place for prisoners:
The basement consisted of six prefabricated cells, each with a clock and arrow pointing to Mecca, the officials said. The cells were on springs, keeping them slightly off balance and causing disorientation among some detainees...
During the first month of their detention, the detainees endured sleep deprivation and were doused with water, slapped or forced to stand in painful positions, several former officials said. Waterboarding was not performed in Romania, they said.
After the initial interrogations, the detainees were treated with care, the officials said. The prisoners received regular dental and medical check-ups. The CIA shipped in Halal food to the site from Frankfurt, Germany, the agency's European center for operations. Halal meat is prepared under religious rules similar to kosher food.
Though the CIA might not like the comparison, Bright Light, hidden in plain sight in some foreign residential neighborhood, seems to remind us of Osama bin Laden suburban compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan. How did the CIA facility (like Osama's hideout) go undetected by civilians for years? Detainees apparently were snuck into the prison by van from Bucharest's airport, and "because the building was a government installation, it provided excellent cover," the AP writes. "People wouldn't be inclined to snoop in post-communist Romania, with its extensive security apparatus known for spying on the country's own citizens."
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.