CIA Black Site in Romania: Hidden in Plain Sight

<a href="">Andrew Becraft</a>/Flickr

On Thursday, the Associated Press published their exhaustive investigation into “Bright Light,” a one-time CIA black site that was used in key anti-terrorism operations. From 2003 until its closing in 2006, Bright Light was one of the agency’s most vital detention and interrogation facilities in the Bush administration’s war on terror. Some of the most notorious terror suspects of the past decade—including alleged 9/11 architect Khalid Sheikh Mohammed—passed through the secret prison located near the heart of Bucharest, Romania’s capital. The AP, in conjunction with the German public television program ARD Panorama, uncovered details of the site’s interrogation program, building layout, and other critical information. Here’s the photo of the facility’s exterior that has been making the rounds online:

After gazing at that, you’re probably thinking that this top-secret CIA prison looks an awful lot like a rundown DMV. The report describes the black site as “hiding in plain sight, on a leafy residential street along a busy set of train tracks in Romania’s capital”:

Unlike the CIA’s facility in Lithuania’s countryside or the one hidden in a Polish military installation, the CIA’s prison in Romania was not in a remote location. The building is used as [the Romanian government’s] National Registry Office for Classified Information, which is also known as ORNISS. Classified information from NATO and the European Union is stored there. Former intelligence officials both described the location of the prison and identified pictures of the building.

Although ex-intelligence officials told the AP that waterboarding did not take place at Bright Light, they did confirm that other “harsh interrogation tactics”—*cough* torture! *cough* *cough*—were performed on high-value detainees in the basement jail. Before suspects were granted humane treatment (dental care, Halal food, and so forth), they were subjected to a month of sleep deprivation, stress positions, and other forms of physical interrogation.

True, the unpleasant, grisly details of Bush-era abuses are already widely known and verifiable. The AP story does, however, help to chip away at any remnants of CIA romanticism. After all, there is something rather blatant about this kind of torture being carried out in an ordinary, busy residential area—just like in Reservoir Dogs!:

Anyway, the whole piece is definitely worth a read.


In 2014, before Donald Trump announced his run for president, we knew we had to do something different to address the fundamental challenge facing journalism: how hard-hitting reporting that can hold the powerful accountable can survive as the bottom falls out of the news business.

Being a nonprofit, we started planning The Moment for Mother Jones: A special campaign to raise $25 million for key investments to make Mother Jones the strongest watchdog it can be. Five years later, readers have stepped up and contributed an astonishing $23 million in gifts and future pledges. This is an incredible statement from the Mother Jones community in the face of the huge threats—both economic and political—against the free press.

Read more about The Moment and see what we've been able to accomplish thanks to readers' incredible generosity so far, and please join them today. Your gift will be matched dollar for dollar, up to $500,000 total, during this critical moment for journalism.

We Recommend


Sign up for our newsletters

Subscribe and we'll send Mother Jones straight to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.


Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.


We have a new comment system! We are now using Coral, from Vox Media, for comments on all new articles. We'd love your feedback.