Detention Site Green, Udon Thani?

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Detention Site Green, Udon Thani?

Postby pedros » Fri May 04, 2018 10:23 am

When Gina Haspel was nominated as the next head of the CIA in March, it re-opened debate on a murky period of recent US history - the use of secretive overseas prisons to torture terror suspects. As the BBC's South East Asia correspondent Jonathan Head reports, the spotlight has fallen on Thailand, and one such "black site" which Haspel once ran.

In early April 2002, a plane took off from an undisclosed air base in Pakistan, en route to Thailand. On board was a special passenger.

Abu Zubaydah, a 31-year-old Saudi-born Palestinian, believed to be one of Osama Bin Laden's top lieutenants, had been captured a few days earlier in a joint US-Pakistani raid on Al Qaeda safe houses in Faisalabad.

He was now in the hands of CIA agents, who had decided to make him the first "high-value detainee" to be subjected to what they called "enhanced interrogation techniques" - something human rights groups say amounts to torture.

But they needed somewhere to do it. In December 2014 the US Senate Select Committee on Intelligence (SSCI) published an executive summary of a confidential 6,000 page report on these techniques.

The place where Abu Zubaydah and at least two other high-value detainees were interrogates is referred to only as Detention Site Green.

Image copyrightAFP
Image caption
Abu Zubaydah was thought to be a close Bin Laden ally
Thailand is not named as the host country. US and Thai officials have consistently denied the existence of such a facility, although the Thai denials have at times been less than wholehearted.

But a senior former Thai national security official has confirmed to the BBC that Detention Site Green was located inside the Royal Thai Air Force base in Udon Thani in the north-east. It was not large - just a CIA safe house on the base, he said.

The Americans could operate there so long as the Thai government was kept informed.

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"Whenever someone was captured by the Americans, either in other countries or inside Thailand, they were brought through the site, and later sent off again in an American plane," the official recalls.

Why Thailand?
The SSCI's report runs through the CIA's reasons for choosing Thailand:

US military custody was rejected because they would have to inform the International Committee for the Red Cross.
The large detention facility at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba was also unsuitable, as they believed secrecy would be difficult to maintain there, and either the FBI or US military might try to take charge of the interrogation.
President Bush approved the transfer of Abu Zubaydah to Detention Site Green on 29 March 2002. The Thai government was informed, and gave its consent, on the same day.

There's a long tradition of military cooperation between the US and Thailand
The choice of Thailand, and Udon Thani, would have made sense for a number of reasons:

The two countries were treaty allies.
Close US-Thai cooperation in military and intelligence affairs went back to the early days of the Cold War.
In the 1960s Thailand allowed the US to use air bases on its territory to bomb communist targets in Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia.
Udon Thani was one of the main US bases, and was heavily used by the CIA at the time, which had its own fleet of aircraft.
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