I made a mistake in my story the other day about the CIA’s murder of Gul Rahman at the Salt Pit black site in Afghanistan—the same mistake that just about every other media outlet made in covering the story. Several people brought it to my attention, including data journalist Caspar Egas, who dissected the case at Medium.
In short, I wrote that Rahman, who froze to death while shackled to a wall, was one of 26 cases of “mistaken identity,”as described in Footnote 32 of the Senate torture report. But it turns out the CIA detained at least two people named Gul Rahman, the one I wrote about, in 2002, and the second in 2004.
The second Gul Rahman—the person referred to in Footnote 32—survived his ordeal. He was held in solitary confinement for a month even after the CIA realized it had picked up the wrong person, and the agency kindly gave him a “nominal payment” upon his release. He was picked up because he had the same name as another (i.e. third) Gul Rahman, who was “believed to be targeting U.S. military forces in Afghanistan” and who apparently was never captured.
As Egas wrote, this conjures “up an image of haphazard dragnets sweeping up the Afghan equivalents of ‘John Smith’.”
So it seems that Gul Rahman, whom the CIA murdered in 2002, was not a case of mistaken identity; he was a “suspected militant.” You can read about his capture in this Associated Press story here, as recounted by his friend who was detained along with him and who was tortured at the Salt Pit as well.
Rahman “was taken during an operation against…an insurgent group headed by Afghan warlord Gulbuddin Hekmatyar and allied with al-Qaida,” the AP said. Hekmatyar, who was notoriously violent (even by the standards of Afghan warlords), received hundreds of millions of dollars from the CIA during the 1980s, when he was fighting Soviet forces.
It’s a complicated affair but whether Rahman was “guilty” or not, he certainly shouldn’t have been tortured to death by the CIA.