Mapping Torture: CIA Black Sites during the early War on Terror

For my web map, I decided to chart the locations of eight CIA’s Black Sites that were operational at various points between the years of 2001-2009. These secret sites were used by the CIA and its affiliates to detain, transport and interrogate terror suspects. These sites were disclosed by the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence’s “Committee Study on the Central Intelligence Agency’s Detention and Interrogation Program” (2014) resulting from Senate investigations into the methods and outcomes of Enhanced Interrogation policy. Later journalism, including works notated in the web map I created, would further decode the locations of sites named in this report. It is unknown how many sites were operational during this time.

Web Map of 8 CIA Black Sites using (not Pictured: Sites G,H)

The reason I chose these eight locations is due to their direct reference in news articles and the Senate report; these sites became known due to the disclosure of documents and of individuals who were either aware of operations at various sites, operating at the site or who were being held at the various sites. These sites, stretched over long geographic distance, illustrate a chilling fact. The United States had the ability to detain individuals and make them disappear to various secret sites. In some cases, these sites were overseen by U.S. personnel and theoretically subject to U.S. policy while other sites, notably the Site near Rabat, operated outside of U.S. law with CIA funds (see map for Human Rights Watch reference source). Geography can also tell the role that other nations played in the War on Terror and in U.S. interrogation policy. The citizens of many nations had no idea that CIA facilities were operating within their national borders, nor did the American people know the location of these sites and the nature of the interrogation policy implemented on detainees who were denied legal and human rights by their interrogators. 

As this map illustrates the War on Terror­—also aptly named Global War on Terror—was in fact, truly global. The CIA would spearhead the War on Terror, projecting power onto every corner of the globe in the search for intelligence and the hunt of individuals deemed a threat to American security. The CIA, use to operating in the dark, stretched its power with the use of black sites, where its methods could go on in secrecy. Agencies following the CIA’s lead, tasked with a similar objective, would fall prey to the same methodology. With the Prison Abuses in Abu Ghraib, which also housed CIA personnel, the American public would see the face of torture, bringing the operations of black sites to face the light of day.

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