Thursday, July 11, 2013

CIA Secret Prison in Bucharest: Downtown? Not So Much...

The existence of a secret CIA prison in Bucharest back in the mid-2000's, although still officially denied by Romania and the United States, is basically old news. It housed such infamous inmates as none other than 911 Mastermind Khalid Sheikh Muhammed

It's become suddenly today new news again with the quirky detail that the CIA allowed Muhammed, an engineer by education, to design a vacuum cleaner. The CIA approved him being given resources to work on this project simply as a way to occupy his mind and help him not lose it after the "enhanced interrogations" he had experienced. 

I know where this place was. It's a northern suburb I never go to, rather, just go through on my way to points north. 

Having relearned of this prison, I've noticed that several websites seem to focus on the fact that this prison was actually in the capital city of Bucharest, as opposed to being in some remote army base in the countryside. If you Google "CIA prison downtown Bucharest" you'll find some that actually assert that the prison was located in downtown Bucharest. Others stress that the prison was "just minutes from downtown Bucharest."

Here are the pure facts. The prison is closer to being outside the city than in the downtown. Here is a Google map showing directions from the prison (A) to the theater (B) where I watch movies every week. 

As you can see, my theater truly is downtown. It's where Google puts the word "Bucharest." The prison is indeed in a residential neighborhood, but it was in the basement of a government building where people would come and go and the locals didn't know what went on in there.

And as for mere minutes from downtown, Google says it's 13 minutes. I don't think Google knows Bucharest traffic very well. I'm sure that's 13 minutes at 3am. At 3pm, it's going to take a bit more time.

The prison was reportedly closed in 2006, the inmates shipped to Guantanamo. It is, however, interesting for me to now learn that in the numerous times I visited this city from 2004-2006, Khalid Sheikh Muhammed was in the same city as me. And whenever we took a train from Gara de Nord, we were within a mile of that prison.