Extrajudicial prisoners of the United States, in the context of the War on Terrorism, refers to foreign nationals the United States detains outside of the legal process required within United States legal jurisdiction.[citation needed] In this context, the U.S. government has been accused of maintaining covert interrogation centers, called black sites, operated by both known and secret intelligence agencies.[1][2] Of these prisoners some are suspected of being from the senior ranks of al Qaeda, referred to in U.S. military terms as "high value detainees."[citation needed] According to Swiss senator Dick Marty's reports on "Secret detentions and illegal transfers of detainees involving Council of Europe member states", about a hundred persons had been kidnapped by the CIA on European territory and subsequently rendered to countries where they may have been tortured.[1][2]. While former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld has described those detained in Camp Delta at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, as "the worst of the worst,"[citation needed] it is now known those with the highest intelligence value are not detained or interrogated in Cuba, and are thought to be held at "black site" facilities in Eastern Europe.

Ghost detaineesEdit

Main article: Ghost detainees

Ghost detainees are extrajudicial prisoners whose identity hasn't been revealed and whose families don't know their locations. They are thus deprived of any Habeas Corpus rights. Ghost detainees' identities, or indeed capture, have been kept secret. As such they are a subset of extrajudicial prisoners, which also includes all the detainees who were held in Guantanamo, etc.[citation needed]

Suspects held by US Civilian Intelligence agenciesEdit

High-value detaineesEdit

On September 6, 2006, American President George W. Bush confirmed, for the first time, that the CIA had held "high-value detainees" in secret interrogation centers.[citation needed] He also announced that fourteen senior captives were being transferred from CIA custody, to military custody, at Guantanamo Bay and that these fourteen captives could now expect to face charges before Guantanamo military commissions. Critics, and elements of the FBI, had long speculated that the captives held in the secret interrogation centres had been subjected to abusive interrogation techniques, and thus any evidence derived from their interrogations could not be used to prosecute them.[citation needed] Transfer of these fourteen men had emptied the CIA's secret interrogation centers. Critics pointed out that Bush had not announced that the CIA's secret interrogation centers were being closed.[citation needed]

The fourteen "high-value detainees" transferred on September 6, 2006
name notes
10011 Mustafa al-Hawsawi
  • believed to have arranged large wire transfers of funds to finance terrorist operations.[3]
  • captured in Pakistan in March 2003, current location unknown
  • President Bush announced his transfer to the Guantanamo Bay detainment camps, in Cuba, on September 6, 2006.[4]
10012 Ahmed Khalfan Ghailani
10013 Ramzi bin al-Shibh
10014 Waleed Muhammad bin Attash
  • said to be tied to both the Cole bombing and 9-11[3][6]
  • captured on April 29, 2003
  • Human Rights Watch reports he is said to have described ties between Iran and al Qaeda during his interrogation
  • President Bush announced his transfer to the Guantanamo Bay detainment camps, in Cuba, on September 6, 2006.[4]
10015 Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri
10016 Abu Zubayda
10017 Abu Faraj al-Libi
10018 Ali Abdul Aziz Ali
  • helped transfer funds to the 9-11 hijackers.[3]
  • arrested on April 29, 2003
  • President Bush announced his transfer to the Guantanamo Bay detainment camps, in Cuba, on September 6, 2006.[4]
10019 Hambali
10020 Majid Khan
10021 Mohamad Farik Amin
  • reported arrested in June 2003.[3]
  • helped scout the sites of terror bombings in Thailand
10022 Mohammed Nazir Bin Lep
10023 Gouled Hassan Dourad
  • Transferred to Guantanamo on September 6, 2006.[3]
10024 Khalid Sheikh Mohammed

Other captives in custodyEdit

American intelligence officials have made public the names of some of the suspects the CIA has reported to have been held. The capture of other detainees is not acknowledged.[citation needed] According to the US military this is in order to spread disorder among their opponents.[citation needed] It also has the effect of keeping critics of the extrajudicial detention in the dark as to the circumstances of detention and conditions in the prisons (see ghost detainee).[citation needed]

Other captives reported to have been held in CIA custody
name notes
Jamil al-Banna
Muhammed al-Darbi
  • Captured as a result of extended interrogation techniques used in secret interrogation centres.[8]
  • A Yemeni, captured in August 2002.[9]
Omar al-Faruq
  • alleged to have been a liaison with Southeast Asian Islamic militants[6]
  • arrested June 5, 2002
Abu Zubair al-Haili
  • said to have been a former member of Iraq's secret police, the Mukhabarat
  • said to have been a liaison between Iraq and al Qaeda
  • said to have run terrorist training camps
  • said to have plotted to destroy NATO vessels in March 2001.
Abd al-Salam Ali al-Hila
Abd al-Hadi al-Iraqi
Adil al-Jazeeri
  • said to have been a liaison between al Qaeda and the Taliban[6]
  • believed to have been involved in transferring funds for terrorist activities.
  • captured on June 17, 2003
  • transferred to US custody on July 13, 2003
  • US State department confirmed custody in December 2003, location unknown
Yassir al-Jazeeri
Ibn al-Shaykh al-Libi
  • may have been the first detainee to have been subjected to coercive interrogation techniques.[10]
  • reported Iraq had an arsenal of WMD, and provided al Qaeda with WMD training, cited in Powell's UN speech
  • then recanted the WMD claim, after the invasion, and after the USA failed to find any WMD
Bisher al-Rawi
Abdul Rahim al-Sharqawi
  • one of the 25 top al Qaeda leadership members.[11]
  • called "Riyadh the Facilitator,"
  • said to have been captured before April 2002.
Mohammed Omar Abdel-Rahman
  • al Qaeda trainer
  • operational planner for 9-11
Musaad Aruchi
Hassin Bin Attash
Abdul Aziz
Abu Faisal
Hassan Ghul
Mohammed Naeem Noor Khan
  • al Qaeda's computer expert
  • agreed to be a mole after his capture on July 13, 2004
  • mole status outed by Condoleezza Rice on August 2, 2004
Tariq Mahmood
Binyam Mohammed
  • told his lawyers he was detained in "the dark prison" in Kabul
  • claims he was tortured in the black sites
  • On 23 February 2009, almost seven years after his arrest, Mohamed was repatriated from Guantánamo to the UK, where he was released after questioning.
Abd Al-Hamid Al-Suri
  • Also known as Baha’Bin Mustafa Muhammad Jaghal, Musa Muhamat Julaq Augol, Abd Al-Hamid Al-Sharif, Musa Uglo
  • Identified as a suspected al Qaida member during Abdullah Khan's Administrative Review Board hearing.[13]
  • Captured in Peshawar, Pakistan, in January 2002.
  • Captured with a computer alleged to have 19 English-language manuals on bomb making on it.
  • Wounded feet limit his mobility, was in Peshawar for medical treatment
  • Said to be in his mid twenties.

Legal status of detaineesEdit

Main article: illegal combatant

Shortly after the Invasion of Afghanistan the Bush administration announced a policy that combatants captured "on the battlefield" in Afghanistan would not be afforded the protections of POW status as described in the Geneva Conventions. This policy triggered debate both within and outside of the US government. The Bush administration argument in favor of this policy was that the Geneva Conventions the USA signed protected the fighters of only recognized states, and al Qaeda fighters didn't qualify. Further, they argued, the Taliban wasn't a real government either. They characterized Afghanistan as a "failed state," one without a legitimate government.

Classifying captives as illegal combatantsEdit

The Bush administration calls these captives "illegal combatants" or "unlawful combatants." These terms are not explicitly used in the Geneva Conventions. The third Geneva Convention, however, signed prior to World War II, does define "lawful combatant." The Convention obliges signatories to afford captured lawful combatants significant rights and protections. Such captives are entitled to be classified as Prisoners of War (POW). Internal critics within the US military and US government argue that failing to afford POW protections to combatants captured in the global war on terror would endanger American soldiers, when they were captured, in current and future conflicts. Other critics argue that classifying all combatants as illegal combatants is in violation of article 5 of the third Geneva Convention, which describes how a captor should treat combatants who are suspected of violating the Geneva Conventions such that they strip themselves of its protections. Article 5 says that combatants suspected of violations of the Conventions are to be afforded POW protection until the captors have convened a "competent tribunal."

The Bush administration has expanded the criteria for classifying captives as illegal combatants. Individuals captured around the world are now classified as such if US intelligence officials believe they have sufficient evidence to tie the individual to terrorism.

There are circumstances when the legislative and judicial branches can overrule the executive branch. In Rasul v. Bush, the US Supreme Court ruled that detainees in the global war on terror did have the right to mount legal challenges within the US judicial system.

Use of interrogation techniquesEdit

There have been vigorous debates within the US intelligence community over what techniques should be used on the detainees.[10] The debate was triggered over the interrogation of Ibn al-Shaykh al-Libi, described as the first senior al Qaeda captive.[citation needed] It was reported that initially his interrogation was being conducted by the FBI because they had the most experience interrogating criminal suspects.[citation needed] Their interrogation approach was based on building rapport with suspects and they did not use coercive techniques.[citation needed] They argued that coercive techniques produced unreliable false confessions and that using coercive techniques would mean that the evidence they gathered could not be used by the prosecution in a trial in the US judicial system.[10]

However, impatience for actionable intelligence led to the handover of responsibility for interrogation to the CIA, who were authorized to use "enhanced interrogation techniques".[citation needed] In reaction to the release of the abuse pictures from Abu Ghraib, the CIA suspended the use of "enhanced interrogation techniques."[14]

Legal justification for the use of "enhanced interrogation techniques"Edit

Secretary Rumsfeld assured the world that the detainees held in Guantánamo Bay were going to be treated in a manner consistent with the treatment of Geneva Convention POWs. In 2004, confidential memos surfaced that discussed the limits to how much pain, discomfort and fear could be used in the interrogation of detainees in the global war on terror. The memos showed that there was active debate within the Bush administration.

Some human rights critics[who?] believe that the existence of those memos is tacit acknowledgment that American intelligence officials had already been engaging in coercive interrogation techniques.

Legislative challenges to interrogation policyEdit

US Senator John McCain, a former POW from the War in Vietnam, attached a passage to a military spending bill that would proscribe inhumane treatment of detainees and restrict US officials to only use the interrogation techniques in the US Army's field manual on interrogation. Ninety of the one hundred Senators supported this amendment.

On Thursday, October 20, 2005, Vice President Dick Cheney proposed a change to McCain. Cheney tried to get McCain to limit the proscription to just military personnel, thus allowing CIA personnel the freedom to use more brutal techniques. McCain declined to accept Cheney's suggestion.[15]

U.S. Government denial of allegations of mistreatmentEdit

Main article: Periodic Report of the United States of America to the United Nations Committee Against Torture

The United States government, through the State Department, makes periodic reports to the United Nations Committee Against Torture. In October 2005, the report focused on pretrial detention of suspects in the War on Terrorism, including those held in Guantánamo Bay and Afghanistan. This particular Periodic Report is significant as the first official response of the U.S. government to allegations that prisoners are mistreated in Guantánamo Bay. The report denies the allegations. However, the report does not address detainees held elsewhere by the CIA. Recently, the Director of the CIA, Michael Hayden has acknowledged that some detainees have been subject to waterboarding as per several OLC (Office of Legal Council) memos. General Hayden states that currently (as of 2/7/08) waterboarding is not part of the authorized interrogation techniques for U.S. agents.

The CIA's Inspector General began looking into a number of cases where innocent men were captured and transported through "erroneous renditions." There was said to be 3,000 individuals who found themselves in CIA custody.[16]

Geneva Conventions complianceEdit

On July 20, 2007, President Bush issued an executive order banning torture of POWs by intelligence officials.[17] Amnesty International points out that the Bush administration has a very limited definition of torture. Relevant to understanding this order, note that whilst the US is a signatory, it has failed to ratify that portion of the Geneva Convention, Protocol I, which would grant these persons POW status.[17] The US is one of only 6 countries that haven't.

Location of the suspects held by US Civilian Intelligence agenciesEdit

File:Orthographic projection over Diego Garcia.png
Location Details
USS Bataan John Walker Lindh was held, for two months, in a secure facility aboard the USS Bataan. Human rights critics[who?] believe he was merely one of half a dozen high value detainees held there.
The Salt Pit
  • a clandestine, remote, CIA detention facility, in Afghanistan
  • German national Khalid El-Masri, a victim of mistaken identity, who shared the same name as one of a senior al Qaeda cadre who was still at large, was held there for five months, in the winter of 2004.[18]

See alsoEdit


  1. 1.0 1.1
  2. 2.0 2.1
  3. 3.00 3.01 3.02 3.03 3.04 3.05 3.06 3.07 3.08 3.09 3.10 3.11 3.12 3.13 "Detainee Biographies" (PDF). Office of the Director of National Intelligence. September 6, 2006. Retrieved April 18, 2007. 
  4. 4.00 4.01 4.02 4.03 4.04 4.05 4.06 4.07 4.08 4.09 4.10 4.11 Bush confirms existence of secret CIA prisons for high-value terror detainees, The Jurist, September 6, 2006
  5. Bush Acknowledges Existence of Secret CIA Prisons, Voice of America, September 6, 2006
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 document "The United States’ “Disappeared”, The CIA’s Long-Term “Ghost Detainees”"]. Human Rights Watch. pp. 7. document]. Retrieved 2008-08-26. 
  7. FBI NY announces conviction of Uzair Paracha, November 25, 2005
  8. U.S. Decries Abuse but Defends Interrogations: 'Stress and Duress' Tactics Used on Terrorism Suspects Held in Secret Overseas Facilities, Washington Post, December 26, 2002
  9. "List of 'Ghost Prisoners' Possibly in CIA Custody". Media with Conscience. 2005-05-30. 
  10. 10.0 10.1 10.2 Al Qaeda-Iraq Link Recanted: Captured Libyan Reverses Previous Statement to CIA, Officials Say [1] 2004-08-01
  11. Al-Qaida killed/captured , MSNBC
  12. White House announces capture of Hassan Ghul
  13. Summarized transcript (.pdf), from Abdullah Khan's Administrative Review Board hearing - page 98
  14. CIA Puts Harsh Tactics On Hold: Memo on Methods Of Interrogation Had Wide Review [2] 2004-06-27
  15. Cheney Plan Exempts CIA From Bill Barring Abuse of Detainees [3] 2005-10-25
  16. Wrongful Imprisonment: Anatomy of a CIA Mistake: German Citizen Released After Months in 'Rendition' [4] 2005-12-04
  17. 17.0 17.1 Bush orders CIA to comply with Geneva Conventions [5] 2007-07-20
  18. CIA accused of detaining innocent man: If the agency knew he was the wrong man, why was he held?, MSNBC, April 21, 2005

External linksEdit