Archiving Terrorists in the False-Floored Cells in the Basement

Goldman and Apuzzo are back on the dark sites beat, this time with a description of the dark site in Bucharest, Romania where the CIA stashed Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and others after shutting down the site in Poland.

This prison was built into the basement of a classified archive now used by NATO and the EU.

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. It was hidden in plain sight, a couple blocks off a major boulevard on a street lined with trees and homes, along busy train tracks.

The building is used as the 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.


The basement consisted of six prefabricated cells, each with a clock and arrow pointing to Mecca, the officials said. The cells were on springs, keeping them slightly off balance and causing disorientation among some detainees.

Of course, the site presumably couldn’t have served as an archive for NATO and the EU at the time it was being used as a prison starting in Fall 2003. Romania entered NATO in 2004 and the EU in 2007.

Now, perhaps this was an old communist era facility, as the Polish prison was.

But it sure seems ill-advised for Romania to turn an old CIA prison–where torture prohibited by the EU charter took place–into an EU bureaucratic archive.

14 replies
  1. joberly says:

    Fascinating story, EW, thanks for posting. The AP story says “The cells were on springs, keeping them [KSM and other detainees] slightly off balance and causing disorientation among some detainees.” Oy vey!

    I’ve been to Romania on a church mission several times and know Bucharest a little. I assumed the secret prison was out at Otopeni, the airport and old Soviet aerodrome. What a surprise to learn from Goldman and Apuzzo’s reporting that it is on Strada Mures, not far from the main train station, the Gara de Nord. Interesting, also, that the story says the food was flown in from Frankfurt. The best public market in the city is right near the prison.

    Here’s one other link that gives the legal basis for the National Registry for Classified Information. It was established by “Government Emergency Ordinance” in November 2002. It’s true that Romania did not join NATO until 2004, but it had sought membership not long after the fall of the dictatorship in the mid-1990s.

  2. Peterr says:

    I can just see the orientation tour for a new archivist. . .

    Old Hand: In this room we store the NATO paper files, and across the hall are the EU paper files. (walking down the hall, and opening a door to a room filed with computers) Here’s where we keep the electronic files.

    Newbie: What’s down those steps at the end of the hall?

    Old Hand: That’s where we keep the wetware files.

    Newbie: Wetware?

    Old Hand: Wetware. That’s the classified information kept not on paper, not on computers, but locked away inside some terrorist’s mind.

    Newbie: You mean . . .? (Old Hand nods, Newbie swallows hard) Ummm . . . I don’t think you need to show me what’s down there.

    Old Hand: As the knight who guarded the holy grail said to Indiana Jones, “You have chosen . . .wisely.”

  3. Mary says:

    Interesting that the article says that there was “babysitting” going on long after the torture interrogations had wrapped due to lack of remaining intel. The complaint from the sources seems to be that they were stuck doing 90day babysitting rotations instead of other more important work. But the info also undercuts all the original justifications for black siting as a necessary isolation part of the interrogation. Leaving black siting to hide crimes as the only answer left standing.

  4. Mary says:

    Are you going to add any thoughts on the water dousing that the article says was routine? No water boarding, but lots of dousing.

  5. Peterr says:

    @emptywheel: Or, of course, things could have gone the other way.

    Romania: “We’d like your support for our membership application to NATO and the EU.”

    US: “NATO and EU membership is complicated, you know. Both groups want to make sure that all the members are capable of contributing, because neither NATO nor the EU are cheap. We’re not in the EU, of course, but we’ll give your application our fullest consideration.”

    Romania: “I’m sure you will. Speaking of fullest consideration, we’ve been giving some consideration to some urban renewal work in Bucharest. We’ve got some great ideas, and the architects have some very interesting proposals that we’re looking at. Of course, we’d have to tear down some of the old buildings. Say, now that I think about it, I believe one of those buildings is being used by the CIA. . . .”

    US: “You wouldn’t dare.”

    Romania: “Wouldn’t dare what? Whatever it is, I don’t think you should worry about it. We’ll give your concerns our . . . what was the phrase you used? Oh yes . . . our ‘fullest consideration’.”

    US: “Thank you — I believe you’ve made your position very clear. We’ll talk to our NATO partners and our EU friends, and do what we can to encourage a positive response to your application.”

    Romania: “How gracious of you . . .”

  6. Mary says:

    OT, but another Raymond Davis is getting some court attention.

    This one a former US military officer (whose current whereabouts are unknown) who a Chilean court says is implicated in the deaths of two US journalists After th US backed coup in 1973.

    Tortured and killed journalists, infants killed in their mothers arms, 18 yo sent to die and lose their limbs in a war based on tortured false admissions – thank god for all those cheerful torturers and killers, keeping Americans safe.

  7. prostratedragon says:


    I believe those regimes also did a lot of dual-use of seemingly innocuous office and industrial facilities (even a subbasement in a fashionable retail establishment, iirc) —much like any other criminal body, when you think about it, e.g. Satriale’s. The corruption need never to be any farther away than is convenient for those engaging in it.

  8. joberly says:

    @Peterr: Perhaps it went something like that way, Peterr. But the text of the Romanian Emergency Decree of November 2002 reads as if Romania was trying to achieve compliance with existing NATO standards for handling classified information. Had Romania not satisfied NATO that it could keep alliance state secrets, it would not have gained membership in 2004. I can’t say why this called for an emergency decree, but if I have my chronology correct, the US did not have custody of KSM in November 2002 at the time of the Romanian decree. The water-boarding took place in March 2003, before the US transferred KSM to Bucharest.

  9. sd says:


    One purpose of ‘springs’ under a room is for sound proofing. The suspension prevents sound from traveling. Recording studios commonly use this same technology in various forms.

    My guess is someone heard a description of rooms on ‘springs’ and made an assumption that it meant the rooms bounced.


  10. joberly says:

    About those cells-on-springs: Here’s an excerpt from Romania’s 2002 Emergency Decree. It looks like they anticipated “special rooms and containers” for their secret archive:

    “EMERGENCY ORDINANCE no. 153/2002 on the organization and functioning of the National Registry Office for Classified Information

    The Government of Romania enacts this Emergency Ordinance:
    Art. 1. – (1) The National Registry Office for Classified Information, hereinafter ORNISS, is organized and functions as a public institution with legal power, subordinated to the Government and directly coordinated by the Prime Minister, with authority at national level in the field of classified information security.


    To this end, ORNISS:
    • organizes the accountability of lists and information classified as SECRETE DE STAT(state secret), of the maintenance periods in the classification levels, of the personnel cleared and authorized to manage information classified as SECRETE DE STAT, and of the records of authorizations from the bodies holding or using classified information;


    • settles the security requirements for the special rooms and containers, for locking mechanisms, cipher combination systems and padlocks and approves their usage for the storage of information classified as SECRETE DE STAT according to the law;

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