The Experience Of Black Site Detainees

Now, thanks to a new FOIA release from CIA, DOJ (and courtesy of ACLU), we have a pretty good sense of what detainees at the CIA's "black sites" overseas experienced. For the agency, protecting CIA personnel and the cover of the facility was paramount. The purpose of the memo was to evaluate whether the CIA techniques, as described by the CIA, complied with the Constitution, the Geneva Convention and other statutes preventing torture. According to the Justice Department, the conditions imposed on detainees "do not amount to punishment" because there was no evidence available that punishment was the intention of those doing the confining.  Again, make note that the Justice Department was evaluating information provided by the CIA. As we've learned, what the CIA said it was doing, and what CIA officers actually did, were often two different matters.

Incoming detainees were blindfolded immediately, but the material is "opaque," and is taken off during interrogations. Detainees are stripped, then shaved, but not "punitively" -- and allowed to grow their hair back after the first shearing. Detainees, apparently, could hide foreign objects in their hair. If a detainee so desired, other body parts can be shaved.  A footnote:

"Arguably, this initial act of shaving is more like an interrogation technique than a condition of confinement. Here, however, we analyze shaving only as a condition of confinement and thus examine the corresponding government interest associated with using shaving to facilitate institutional security."

Detainees are ... a redaction here, referring to a condition of their cells -- but they aren't kept from human contact and aren't subject to sensory deprivation. The detainees had access, according to the memo, to books, movies, and even gym equipment.

White noise was played in the walkways between cells, and some of it, the CIA acknowledged, might penetrate into the detainees cell, but only a little bit, and at low decibel levels.

Two 18 watt T-8 fluorescent lightbulbs kept the cell illuminated 24/7. Only "some" detainees were given eyeshades to help them sleep.