Page 3 of 3   <      

New Light Shed on CIA's 'Black Site' Prisons

Jabour said he was often naked during his first three months at the Afghan site, which he spent in a concrete cell furnished with two blankets and a bucket. The lights were kept on 24 hours a day, as were two cameras and a microphone inside the cell. Sometimes loud music blasted through speakers in the cells. The rest of the time, the low buzz of white noise whizzed in the background, possibly to muffle any communication by prisoners through cell walls.

Daily interrogations were conducted by a variety of Americans. Over two years, Jabour said he encountered about 45 interrogators, plus medical staff and psychologists. He was threatened with physical abuse but was never beaten.

Once, he was shown a small wooden crate his interrogators called a "dog box" and was told he would be put in it if he didn't cooperate. He was told that Khalid Sheik Mohammed, the suspected architect of the Sept. 11 attacks who was among the 14 moved to Guantanamo Bay last year, became cooperative after he had been put in the box. But Jabour said he was not subjected to the crate.

He was, however, chained up and left for hours in painful positions more than 20 times and deprived of sleep for long periods. Sometimes he would have one hand chained to a section of his cell wall, making it impossible to stand or sit.

About six weeks into his stay, he was issued a pair of pants. Later he was given a T-shirt, then shoes, a Koran and finally a mattress. Jabour said prison conditions slowly improved: Air conditioning was installed; a library was built and stocked with books in Arabic, Urdu and English. Well-behaved detainees were rewarded with movie nights, in which such Hollywood blockbusters as "Titanic" were screened. A deputy director of the facility taught Jabour how to play chess and gave him pencils and paper. Jabour used to draw pictures of trees and grass, which he hung in his windowless cell.

Jabour recalled with fondness the prison director, a man named Charlie. "He told me, 'Marwan, we need information -- if you cooperate, that is good.' I told him I wasn't hiding anything and was not a dangerous man. He told me that they didn't want to use force but would if they had to. I told him I wouldn't lie to him."

Jabour began to receive better food, including pizza and Snickers and Kit-Kat bars.

Transferred and Released

On Dec. 18, 2004, six months after his arrival, Jabour was transferred to a larger cell. Under the sink he found a small inscription that read: "Majid Khan, 15 December, 2004, American-Pakistani." Khan, whose family lives outside Baltimore, was arrested in March 2003 in Karachi, Pakistan, and was among the group transferred to Guantanamo five months ago. The U.S. government has not divulged where Khan was held during his first 3 1/2 years of incarceration.

Jabour met only one other prisoner during his time there. That was an Algerian named Yassir al-Jazeeri, a suspected high-level al-Qaeda operative who was arrested in Pakistan in March 2003. Their visits were arranged by the facility director, who told Jabour they were rewards for good behavior.

During interrogations, Jabour was often shown hundreds of photographs of wanted or captured suspects. One photo appears to have been that of Muhammad Naeem Noor Khan, a British-Pakistani who was arrested in Pakistan in July 2004.

Noor Khan, a suspected al-Qaeda operative, was thought to be involved in the planning of a disrupted 2004 attack on U.S. and British financial institutions. Babar Awan, a Pakistani lawyer hired by Noor Khan's family, said he has "heard nothing from the government authorities or any other authorities about where Noor Khan is."

There is no public U.S. government record available that states the CIA ever held Jabour, al-Jazeeri or Noor Khan.

Last April, John D. Negroponte, who was then director of national intelligence, told Time magazine that he did not know what would be the "endgame for the three dozen or so high-value detainees" in CIA custody at that time.

Jabour's odyssey ended with a secret flight to Amman, Jordan, where he woke to find himself in an office staring at government wall portraits of King Abdullah and his dead father, King Hussein. "I don't know why they released me, but I told them everything I knew . . .," Jabour said. "You have to tell them the truth and that was no problem for me. They are smart people," he said of his American captors.

The Jordanians called the International Committee for the Red Cross, which sent a representative to interview Jabour and to contact his family. He remained in Jordanian custody for six weeks, was interrogated and was then handed over to Israel's security services.

The Israelis treated him better than his other captors, he said. They got Jabour his first lawyer, an Israeli Arab named Nizar Mahajna, who said in an interview that the Israelis had held Jabour in a prison near Haifa for two months. He was not mistreated, blindfolded or shackled, the lawyer said.

Israeli authorities had considered charging Jabour with fighting for an enemy of the Jewish state. But, Mahajna said, Jabour's training in Afghanistan had occurred more than eight years earlier, he was not a member of al-Qaeda and he had never lived in the Palestinian territories.

"The Israelis were given secret information on Marwan, which they got from the Americans. It wasn't shared with me but whatever it says, the central fact remained that the Pakistanis and the Americans had let him go. Why should Israel keep him?" Mahajna said.

The Israeli government dropped the case and transferred Jabour to Gaza. Prison guards drove him to the Erez border crossing between Israel and the Gaza Strip. "Good luck," one of them said to Jabour as he crossed into Gaza, where his parents awaited.

<          3

© 2007 The Washington Post Company