The Salt Pit (Oh no they didn’t! Oh yes they did!)

“I am not what I am”
-Iago ‘Othello’

“There is a prison in the more ancient part of the world, a pit where men are thrown to suffer and die. But sometimes a man rises from the darkness, sometimes the pit sends something back.”
– The Dark Knight

Khaled EL-Masri also known as Khalid EL-Masri or Khaled Masri (depending on which Levantine Arabic Pronunciation you prefer),was mistakenly abducted and handed over to the CIA.

And after much conjecture and deep seated reflection they kidnapped him, dressed him in a diaper and orange jumpsuit , flew him to Afghanistan and detained him for four months in a detention centre known as ‘The Salt Pit’.

Khaled EL-Masri was detained because his name sounded similar to that of Khalid AL-Masri an alleged mentor to an Al-Qaeda Terrorist Cell.

EL-Masri,AL-Masri? Yeah the names sound similar, but then I’m a lay person and not an experienced, multi-lingual, fluent Arabic speaking , world weary,culturally astute, CIA Operative.

Whilst ‘residing’ at the Salt Pit EL-Masri was sodomized,beaten, starved and repeatedly interrogated.

EL-Masri took part in a hunger strike, demanded that he be offered due process and succeeded in gaining a meeting with the head of the prison and a key CIA Officer.

All the CIA could think about was how to minimize their losses now that they had ascertained that he was not the man they were looking for. They were all for dumping him back in Macedonia and denying any claims he might make as to where he had been for the last four months; but they were not to be let off so easily…


Whilst the CIA was thinking about how to minimize the fall out from erroneous renditions,all EL-Masri could think about and indeed all he could do was memorize the telephone numbers of the families of the other men who were being held captive with him. The idea being to let those families know that these men were still alive.

EL-Masri was eventually released and with the help of a German prosecutor started the lengthy process of validating his claims against the U.S government ( the CIA after all, were in their care).

On the 13 December 2012 he was awarded compensation by the ECHR (his case was rejected by the American courts).

And here’s the punchline,how many more detainees have been mistakenly ‘rendered’ because they looked like or their names sounded like somebody else?

We now know about the Salt Pit AND Camp Bastion, we don’t yet know a great deal about the ‘Ghost Ships’ where prisoners have been held and have been tortured.

How easy would it be to disappear some one who had been erroneously detained in a body bag off the side of such a ship.

But they wouldn’t do that would they?


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