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Penny Lane: Gitmo's Other Secret CIA Facility

The Associated Press investigates a secret Guantanamo Bay facility where the CIA turned prisoners into double agents.

The U.S. apparently kept a top-secret detention center at Guantánamo Bay to turn prisoners into double agents—and then sent them off to kill terrorists at home. Called Penny Lane, the facility was housed just a few hundred yards from an administrative office of the prison. Several of the men who passed through Penny Lane would later help the CIA find and kill top al Qaeda operatives, former U.S. officials told the Associated Press. The CIA offered the prisoners freedom, safety for their families—and millions of dollars.

"It was a risky gamble. If it worked, their agents might help the CIA find terrorist leaders to kill with drones. But officials knew there was a chance that some prisoners might quickly spurn their deal and kill Americans.

For the CIA, that was an acceptable risk in a dangerous business. For the American public, which was never told, it was one of the many secret trade-offs the government made on its behalf. At the same time the government used the threat of terrorism to justify imprisoning people indefinitely, it was releasing dangerous people from prison to work for the CIA.

Nearly a dozen current and former U.S officials described aspects of the program to The Associated Press. All spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to publicly discuss the secret program, even though it ended in about 2006."

Officials said that detainees would agree to cooperate with the CIA for a number of reasons; Assurances that the U.S. would resettle their families, one thought al-Qaida had perverted Islam and believed it was his duty as a Muslim to help the CIA destroy it, and another only agreed to cooperate after the CIA implied that his children would be harmed if he refused.

All were promised money, although the exact amount each was paid is unclear. Altogether, the government paid millions of dollars for their services, with money that came from a secret CIA account codenamed "Pledge" that’s used to pay informants.

The name "Penny Lane" was indeed a nod to the classic Beatles song, and a riff on the CIA’s other secret facility at Guantanamo Bay...a prison known as "Strawberry Fields."

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