With the beginning of the so-called War on Terror in the early 2000s, the CIA set up a network of secret prisons in Afghanistan and elsewhere around the world. Hundreds of “ghost prisoners” went through this system of extrajudicial disappearance and imprisonment. The black sites became synonymous with torture. The locations of the secret prisons were some of the CIA’s most closely-guarded secrets.
To find the Salt Pit, I used a collection of commercial satellite imagery, a compass, testimonies from former prisoners, and a map drawn by a former prisoner. Although they were blindfolded, hooded, and shacked, prisoners who spent time at the Salt Pit consistently describe a ten-minute ride from the Kabul International Airport to the prison. I also had a map drawn by a man named Khaled el-Masri of what he believed the interior of the prison looked like. If you draw a circle around the Kabul airport that represents the distance that one might travel in ten minutes, and compare that to el-Masri’s map, the Salt Pit jumps out at you.
The Salt Pit is located in an old brick factory a few miles northeast of Kabul, along an isolated back-road connecting Kabul to Bagram.
The second “black site” shown here was brought to my attention by Afghan journalists and human rights activists in Kabul. The code name of this second site remains unknown.