US backs off bid to reopen CIA 'black site' prisons: officials

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WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The Trump administration has for now backed off a draft executive order that would have called for a review of whether the United States should reopen overseas "black site" prisons, where interrogation techniques often condemned as torture were used, U.S. officials have told Reuters.

The New York Times, citing unidentified officials, on Saturday said the White House was circulating a revised version that did not have language that contemplated reopening the prisons. It said the revised draft did, however, contain parts of the earlier draft, including expanding the use of the military's Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, detention center.

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Reported 'black site' and secret CIA prisons
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Reported 'black site' and secret CIA prisons

DigitalGlobe satellite imagery of a the Salt Pit outside of Kabul, Afghanistan on September 1, 2014. The Salt Pit was the codename of an isolated clandestine CIA black site prison and interrogation center in Afghanistan. It is located north of Kabul and was a brick factory prior to the Afghanistan War. The CIA adapted it for extrajudicial detention.

(Photo DigitalGlobe via Getty Images)

Homan Square, Chicago, on February 24, 2015, the location where Chicago police detain Americans at abuse-laden 'black site'. Americans unable to be found by family or attorneys are locked inside what lawyers say is the domestic equivalent of a CIA black site.

(Photo by Marcus DiPaola/NurPhoto) 

A soldier closes the entrance gate of Military Air Base nr. 86, near Mihail Kogalniceanu village (250km East from Bucharest), 04 November 2005. On Wednesday, The Washington Post said the CIA was running a network of secret facilities for captured terror suspects in eight countries, outside the reach of the US justice system. The rights group Human Rights Watch said it believed Poland and Romania had cooperated with the CIA based on flight records and other evidence. One of the places mentioned to be used as prison for terror suspects is Air Base 86, which was providing logistics support during the Iraq war and is supposed also to became a NATO base.

(DANIEL MIHAILESCU/AFP/Getty Images)

This picture taken on October 19, 2010 shows the Szczytno-Szymany airport in Szymany. Poland has charged its former spy chief as part of a probe into claims it hosted a CIA 'black site' where suspected Al-Qaeda members were allegedly tortured, a newspaper reported on March 28, 2012. Polish prosecutors launched an investigation in August 2008 into allegations that Warsaw had allowed the US Central Intelligence Agency to operate a secret prison on its soil to interrogate top suspects in the September 11, 2001 attacks. Polish campaigners said in July that they had obtained official records about seven CIA planes -- five of them carrying passengers -- which landed in 2002 and 2003 at Szymany, a Polish military base in northeast Poland.

(Artur Reszko/AFP/Getty Images)

Barbed wire fence surrounding a military area is pictured in the forest near Stare Kiejkuty village, close to Szczytno in northeastern Poland January 24, 2014. Polish prosecutors investigating allegations the CIA ran a secret jail in a Polish forest said on Friday they will look into a newspaper report that gave new accounts about the alleged "black site."

(REUTERS/Kacper Pempel)

This picture taken on October 19, 2010 shows the Szczytno-Szymany airport in Szymany. Poland has charged its former spy chief as part of a probe into claims it hosted a CIA 'black site' where suspected Al-Qaeda members were allegedly tortured, a newspaper reported on March 28, 2012. Polish prosecutors launched an investigation in August 2008 into allegations that Warsaw had allowed the US Central Intelligence Agency to operate a secret prison on its soil to interrogate top suspects in the September 11, 2001 attacks. Polish campaigners said in July that they had obtained official records about seven CIA planes -- five of them carrying passengers -- which landed in 2002 and 2003 at Szymany, a Polish military base in northeast Poland.

(Artur Reszko/AFP/Getty Images)

Cars pass by barbed wire fence surrounding a military area in Stare Kiejkuty village, close to Szczytno in northeastern Poland January 24, 2014. Polish prosecutors investigating allegations the CIA ran a secret jail in a Polish forest said on Friday they will look into a newspaper report that gave new accounts about the alleged "black site."

(REUTERS/Kacper Pempel)

A car passes by barbed wire fence surrounding a military area in the forest near Stare Kiejkuty village, close to Szczytno in northeastern Poland January 24, 2014. Polish prosecutors investigating allegations the CIA ran a secret jail in a Polish forest said on Friday they will look into a newspaper report that gave new accounts about the alleged "black site."

(REUTERS/Kacper Pempel)

A U.S. soldier, carrying bottles of mineral water, walks past a C-130 Hercules transport plane at the Kogalniceanu military air base near the Black Sea port of Constanta, Romania, 155 miles east of Bucharest in this March 13, 2003 file picture. Poland and Romania, close U.S. allies in ex-communist central Europe, denied November 3, 2005, they were hosting secret CIA prison facilities used to interrogate al Qaeda captives.The Washington Post reported earlier that the CIA has been hiding and interrogating suspects at a secret facility in Eastern Europe, which the paper said was part of a covert global prison system that has included sites in eight countries.

(Bogdan Cristel / Reuters)

Barbed wire fence surrounding a military area is pictured in the forest near Stare Kiejkuty village, close to Szczytno in northeastern Poland January 24, 2014. Polish prosecutors investigating allegations the CIA ran a secret jail in a Polish forest said on Friday they will look into a newspaper report that gave new accounts about the alleged "black site."

(REUTERS/Kacper Pempel)

Barbed wire fence surrounding a military area is pictured in the forest near Stare Kiejkuty village, close to Szczytno in northeastern Poland January 24, 2014. Polish prosecutors investigating allegations the CIA ran a secret jail in a Polish forest said on Friday they will look into a newspaper report that gave new accounts about the alleged "black site."

(REUTERS/Kacper Pempel)

Cars pass by barbed wire fence surrounding a military area in Stare Kiejkuty village, close to Szczytno in northeastern Poland January 24, 2014. Polish prosecutors investigating allegations the CIA ran a secret jail in a Polish forest said on Friday they will look into a newspaper report that gave new accounts about the alleged "black site."

(REUTERS/Kacper Pempel)

A cameraman films a military area in Stare Kiejkuty village, close to Szczytno in northeastern Poland January 24, 2014. Polish prosecutors investigating allegations the CIA ran a secret jail in a Polish forest said on Friday they will look into a newspaper report that gave new accounts about the alleged "black site."

(REUTERS/Kacper Pempel)

Homan Square, Chicago, on February 24, 2015, the location where Chicago police detain Americans at abuse-laden 'black site'. Americans unable to be found by family or attorneys are locked inside what lawyers say is the domestic equivalent of a CIA black site.

(Photo by Marcus DiPaola/NurPhoto) 

A view of the training base of the Lithuanian State Security Department that is suspected to be a former secret CIA prison, October 2009. A suspected former CIA secret torture prison that used to hold Al Qaeda members has been uncovered in Europe. The former riding academy in Vilnius, Lithuania housed up to eight suspects at once according to a former U.S. intelligence officer.

(Photo by Lava/ Barcroft Media / Getty Images)

Barbed wire fence surrounding a military area is pictured in the forest near Stare Kiejkuty village, close to Szczytno in northeastern Poland January 24, 2014. Polish prosecutors investigating allegations the CIA ran a secret jail in a Polish forest said on Friday they will look into a newspaper report that gave new accounts about the alleged "black site."

(REUTERS/Kacper Pempel)

A military car passes by barbed wire fence surrounding a military area in the forest near Stare Kiejkuty village, close to Szczytno in northeastern Poland January 24, 2014. Polish prosecutors investigating allegations the CIA ran a secret jail in a Polish forest said on Friday they will look into a newspaper report that gave new accounts about the alleged "black site."

(REUTERS/Kacper Pempel)

The watchtower of a military area is pictured in a forest near Stare Kiejkuty village, close to Szczytno in northeastern Poland, January 24, 2014. Polish prosecutors investigating allegations the CIA ran a secret jail in a Polish forest said on Friday they will look into a newspaper report that gave new accounts about the alleged "black site."

(REUTERS/Kacper Pempel)

A view of the training base of the Lithuanian State Security Department that is suspected to be a former secret CIA prison, October 2009. A suspected former CIA secret torture prison that used to hold Al Qaeda members has been uncovered in Europe. The former riding academy in Vilnius, Lithuania housed up to eight suspects at once according to a former U.S. intelligence officer.

(Photo by Lava/ Barcroft Media / Getty Images)

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A senior administration official confirmed the initial draft was no longer under consideration. "It was a transition draft never under serious consideration by the administration," the official said. "We have abandoned that transition draft."

The now-defunct CIA program used so-called enhanced interrogation practices, including simulated drowning, known as waterboarding, that were criticized around the world and denounced by former President Barack Obama and other senior U.S. officials as torture.

Officials familiar with internal administration discussions said it was unclear when any alternative might be approved and said there were conflicting views within the administration on how to proceed.

Neither Central Intelligence Agency Director Mike Pompeo nor Defense Secretary Jim Mattis had been consulted about the draft order before it leaked on Jan. 25, according to officials.

News of the draft executive order last week led to a bipartisan outcry in Congress. The draft plans also met with bitter resistance from the CIA and the military, according to officials in both.

The black site prisons were used under President George W. Bush to detain terrorism suspects after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks and were formally closed by Obama.

Last week, President Donald Trump tapped Gina Haspel, a veteran CIA officer who supervised one of the prison sites, to be deputy director of the spy agency.

(Reporting by Mark Hosenball; Additional reporting by Steve Holland in Palm Beach, Florida; Writing by David Shepardson and Tim Ahmann; Editing by Dan Grebler)


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