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At Guantanamo, a Prison Within a Prison

Army officials investigating the Abu Ghraib prison scandal concluded that the CIA had held "ghost detainees" at the prison, inmates who were not registered or officially acknowledged, a violation of military rules.

Asked about the arrangement with the CIA at Guantanamo Bay, Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman said he could not comment on operations of other agencies. "As we have stated since the beginning of detention operations at Guantanamo, the ICRC has access to detainees at Guantanamo and is permitted to meet with them, consistent with military necessity," Whitman said in a statement. Pentagon policy "is that all [Defense] detainees, including those at Guantanamo, are treated humanely, and in accordance with applicable law," the statement continued.

At the U.S. Navy base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, the CIA maintained a heavily guarded prison inside a prison where it held al Qaeda detainees for interrogation. (Tomas Van Houtryve -- AP)

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One U.S. official knowledgeable about the arrangement with the ICRC considered it a positive step forward. "There is no one in Gitmo who is not identified," he said, using Guantanamo Bay's nickname.

Red Cross officials declined to say where they had been permitted to visit, or whom. "We have been granted broad access to the camp," the ICRC said in a prepared statement. "We are confident we have visited all of the people detained at Guantanamo, in all of the places they are being detained."

The CIA has worked at Guantanamo Bay since the early days of the prison camps, which opened in January 2002 when the first men captured in the Afghan war were transferred to a collection of chain-link cages called Camp X-Ray. The CIA has kept an office at the Navy base and takes part in interrogation sessions of Defense Department detainees alongside FBI agents, military intelligence officers and others in what are called Tiger Teams.

Many of the interrogations have been conducted inside trailers set up within the perimeter of Camp Delta, a more permanent compound of steel cages that took the place of Camp X-Ray by the end of 2003.

The facility used by the CIA is in Camp Echo, which also houses high-value military detainees. The camp consists of more than a dozen single-story concrete-block huts built away from the main prison complex. Each hut is divided in half. Inside is a steel cage, a restroom, and a table for interviews and interrogations, according to sources familiar with the facility.

The CIA's facility has been "off-limits to nearly everyone on the base," said one military official familiar with operations at Guantanamo Bay.

One of the huts at Camp Echo has been occupied by a detainee named Mohamedou Oulad Slahi, according to one source familiar with the new compound. Slahi, a Mauritanian businessman, acted as the liaison between a group of Islamic radicals living in Hamburg and al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden, according to the Sept. 11 commission.

According to statements given by the key plotter, Binalshibh, Slahi persuaded the men to go to Afghanistan, rather than Chechnya, to fight.

He arranged their travel and for them to meet al Qaeda operatives in Pakistan, who in turn arranged a meeting between Binalshibh and bin Laden.

Slahi was arrested by secret police in Mauritania during the night on Sept. 27, 2001, members of his family told local media at the time. By December, he was in U.S. custody.

Researcher Julie Tate contributed to this report.

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