There's a secret "black site" in New York where terrorism suspects are tortured for years at a time

Manhattan's Metropolitan Correctional Center has a special wing, 10-South, in which terrorism suspects who have been kidnapped from foreign territories are imprisoned and tortured in secret, before being given secret trials and lengthy sentences.

The families and attorneys of prisoners in 10-South are subject to "special administrative measures" (SAMs) that prohibit them from discussing the conditions in the wing. Multiple terrorism suspects have been kidnapped from overseas and brought to 10-South for years of solitary confinement, a practice classed as torture by the UN and by the majority of academics who study torture.

The solitary confinement and SAMs are inflicted on prisoners before they are tried or sentenced. One prisoner who was held at both 10-South and Guantanamo says the conditions in New York City's black site are worse than those in Cuba, a view that is confirmed by Joshua Dratel, an attorney who's represented clients in both facilities.

Most of the prisoners tortured in MCC 10-South plead guilty, but forced confessions are simply not credible.

One prisoner who recently entered into a plea bargain after two and a half years in MCC is Mahdi Hashi, a British national who was stripped of his UK passport by the British governmetn while he was in Somalia, leaving him stateless. He travelled from Djibouti to visit the UK consulate and plead his case, and according to him, was kidnapped by secret policemen who gagged and blindfolded him and beat him for hours, with assistance from FBI agents. His lawyers say his captors threatened him with physical violence and rape if he didn't cooperate.

After 30 months of solitary confinement Hashi plead guilty to providing material aid to al Shabaab. He will likely spend the next nine years in solitary at a supermax prison. The judge who sentenced Hashi agreed that Hashi did not support or attempt to induce violent attacks — rather, he was trying to broker a truce between al Shabaab and other forces to restore peace to Somalia.

In an account to be published in a new book on solitary confinement — titled Hell Is a Very Small Place — a Pakistani prisoner, Uzair Paracha, gives one of the most detailed illustrations yet of incarceration at the MCC. He was held in isolation there for two-and-a-half years after he was arrested in 2003 at age 23.

"The windows were huge but the glass was frosted so we had a lot of light but couldn't see a thing," he said. "It was a shade of white during the day, blue in the evening and early morning, black at night, and yellow when it snowed, as the snow reflected the streetlights. This was one way to estimate the time since they didn't allow any watches."

Video cameras constantly monitored the inside of Paracha's cell, including the shower and toilet areas. Lighting was completely controlled from the outside, so that guards could deliberately leave the lights on at night to make sleeping harder. With their metallic walls, the cells were like ovens in the summer and freezing in the winter.

The medical effects of Paracha's imprisonment at the MCC were severe: a weakening of his eyesight, brought about by having his entire world just a few feet away; a deterioration of physical coordination that made walking on stairs harder; and breathing problems, especially while trying to sleep.


(via MCC New York jeh, Jim Henderson, CC-0)