Citing anonymous former U.S. intelligence officials, the Associated Press revealed the basement of a Romanian government building in Bucharest codenamed Bright Light was the secret location of a CIA prison, but Romanian officials denied knowing about it.
The CIA held and interrogated valuable detainees there, including 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheik Mohammad and other al-Qaida operatives, before transferring them to Guantanamo Bay in 2006 when the agency's overseas "black sites" network, mostly located in remote sites in Lithuania, Poland and Thailand, closed, before the CIA's detention and interrogation program ended in 2009, the AP reported this week after investigating the secret prison in partnership with German public television.
According to the news agencies, the CIA's prison in Bucharest was hidden in a building that houses the National Registry Office for Classified Information (ORNISS) where classified information from NATO and European Union is stored, but ORNISS officials denied the CIA ever ran a prison in the highly secure building's basement.
ARD Panorama's program about the facility, which had been widely reported though its location remained secret, and where harsh interrogation methods (that many would term torture) were used, aired December 8.
Mother Jones reported in November 2009 that then CIA director Leon Panetta stated the detention facilities and black sites were effectively closed in 2006 and a plan for decommissioning any that remained was underway, but in July Mother Jones reported about charges detailed in The Nation that the Obama administration has been operating a secret prison Mogadishu, Somalia.
The news agencies' revelation the CIA operated a secret prison and "enhanced interrogation" program amid a bustling Bucharest neighborhood for years could send many more journalists out seeking answers to the questions: How many CIA black sites might be hidden in plain sight still, and where?