According to a report in the Associated Press, the CIA converted prisoners at Guantanamo Bay into double agents trained to help the U.S. assassinate terrorists in the prisoner's home country. In exchange, the double agents received millions of dollars paid from the agency's secret accounts. The program, which took place in a previously undisclosed, relatively luxurious compound separate from Gitmo's prison, began in early 2003 and ended in 2006, and drew personal interest from President George W. Bush.
The CIA, obviously, took a risk with the program, which trained some of the compound's most dangerous prisoners before releasing them, but, according to the more than a dozen current and former officials who spoke to the Associated Press, it was a risk worth taking.
"Of course that would be an objective," said Emile Nakhleh, a former top CIA analyst told the Associated Press. "It's the job of intelligence to recruit sources."
The training occurred at a secret facility called Penny Lane, which was located several hundred yards from the administrative offices of at Guantanamo's prison and contained eight cottages. The cottages were furnished with real beds, televisions, private patios and kitchens, and were referred to by CIA agents as "the Marriot." Some of the potential recruits requested—and received—pornography from CIA agents.
Dozens of detainees were recruited and evaluated for the program, according to the AP's sources, but only a few were selected. Those chosen then signed contracts with the CIA and were sent to their home countries to reconnect with and infiltrate al Qaeda.
Considering Dick Cheney's statements that Guantanamo contained "the worst of a very bad lot," it's worth noting that the only prisoners chosen for the program were those with extensive ties to al Qaeda. Or, to put it another way: The detainees that the CIA released were some of the very few terror suspects against whom American officials had actual evidence. Most of the rest of Gitmo's prisoners are held with little—if any—evidence tying them to terrorism.
And there's this, which presumably President Bush knew about, considering his "keen interest" in the program (emphasis mine):
One detainee agreed to cooperate after the CIA insinuated it would harm his children, a former official said, similar to the threats interrogators had made to admitted 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed.
The program was shutdown in 2006, after the number of new prisoners arriving in Guantanamo slowed. One of its double agents was providing information about drone strikes as recently as 2009, when President Obama inquired about the program.
[Image via AP]