In a scheme reminiscent of Showtime’s Homeland, the Central Intelligence Agency spent years plying detainees at Guantanamo Bay with cosier accomodations, personal showers and even pornography – in an effort to turn them into double agents and send them back into the world to spy on al Qaeda, according to an investigation from the Associated Press.
The secret Gitmo facility was known as “Penny Lane,” named after the Beatles song. According to U.S. officials reached by the AP, only “a handful” were turned, out of dozens of prospects.
The CIA promised the prisoners freedom, safety for their families and millions of dollars from the agency’s secret accounts.
It was a risky gamble. Officials knew there was a chance that some prisoners might quickly spurn their deal and kill Americans.
But according to the report, there are no known instances of one of the double agents killing Americans.
The AP reports that while the program was discontinued in 2006, its alumni continued to help the U.S. target suspected al Qaeda figures for lethal force into the Obama administration. One official told the AP that double agents were providing information used in Predator drone strikes.
Although far more detainees passed through Gitmo under Bush, and a larger number of them are suspected of aiding terror groups after leaving, Congress has passed laws making it far more difficult for Obama to transfer anyone out of the prison, for trial or release. Any member of Congress who believes this sort of program was useful will have to reckon with the fact that restrictions passed by Congress on the ability of the Obama administration would make any similar undertaking far more difficult.
Less than ten Gitmo detainees have ever been tried and convicted on terror charges and of those only two are free today. Most have simply been transferred out, either to be released or to the custody of other countries.