In 2003, a secret compound, known as Strawberry Fields, was constructed near the main Guantanamo Bay detention camps, in Cuba. It was not until August 2010 that reporters found that it had been constructed to hold CIA detainees classified as "high value". These were among the many men known as ghost detainees, as they were ultimately held for years for interrogation by the CIA in its secret prisons known as black sites at various places in Europe, the Mideast, and Asia, including Afghanistan.
Matt Apuzzo and Adam Goldman, in an exclusive report on August 7, 2010, for the Associated Press, reported that the "high value detainees" Abu Zubaydah, Abd al-Nashiri, Ramzi bin al-Shibh, and Mustafa al-Hawsawi, had first been transferred to military custody at Guantanamo on September 24, 2003. They reported that CIA agents thought they had learned most of the information to be extracted from these individuals. At the time, the CIA thought the men could be held securely and secretly at Guantanamo, without any prospect of the public learning that they had been subjected to what United States courts have determined is torture, including waterboarding, one of the euphemistically termed enhanced interrogation techniques. These techniques had been specifically authorized by political appointees in the Office of Legal Counsel, Department of Justice (DOJ), in the Bush administration, in August 2002, in what came to be known as the Torture Memos.
David Johnston and Mark Mazetti, writing in the New York Times in August 2009 also described the camp. They quoted CIA officials, who said that the camp's nickname in 2003 was a reference to the Beatles' song "Strawberry Fields Forever", because the detainees would be held there "forever".
As the habeas corpus petitions collectively known as Rasul v. Bush made their way to the United States Supreme Court for its ruling in 2004, the CIA took the four men back into their custody. Apuuzo and Goldman report the Bush government returned the men to CIA custody three months before the Supreme Court's ruling, to avoid the possibility of having to release any information about them.
The Supreme Court held that detainees had the right of habeas corpus to challenge their detention before an impartial forum, and none had seen counsel. Up until that time, no detainees had been able to challenge the grounds of his detention. The Supreme Court's ruling would have compelled at least some information about the four detainees to be publicly revealed.
According to Scott Horton, writing for Harper's Magazine in August 2010, the men were removed from Guantanamo on March 27, 2004. Horton described the men's covert removal as an instance of "Three-Card Monte at Gitmo".
In continuing challenges to the secrecy imposed by the Bush administration, in January 2006, US District Court Judge Jed S. Rakoff ruled that the United States Department of Defense had to publish a list of all the detainees who had been held in Guantanamo by March 3, 2006.
On May 15, 2006, the DOD published a list of 759 names, which included persons held at the camp from January 2002 to May 15, 2006. By 2006, hundreds had already been released without charges. This list did not include Abu Zubaydah, Abd al-Nashiri, Ramzi bin al-Shibh or Mustafa al-Hawsawi.
In Hamdan v. Rumsfeld (2006), the Supreme Court ruled that the Bush administration's process of Combatant Status Review Tribunals and military commissions was unconstitutional, as the executive branch had set up a separate justice system outside the federal and military systems, which was not authorized by Congress. The administration worked to gain legislation for its goals.
These four men and ten other "high-value detainees" were transferred from CIA to military custody at Guantanamo in September 2006, by which time the Bush administration was assured of passage of the Military Commissions Act of 2006. The legislation was signed in October. Passed by Congress to authorize the military tribunals the administration wanted for trying detainees, its provisions included a restriction against detainees using federal courts for habeas corpus actions. All pending habeas cases were stayed as a result of the act.
In Boumediene v. Bush (2008), the Supreme Court ruled that the MCA was unconstitutional, as detainees could not be deprived of their fundamental right of habeas corpus. It also ruled that they could access federal courts directly, which the Bush administration had sought to prevent. Numerous actions were refiled in federal courts.
On November 25, 2013, Goldman and Apuzzo of the Associated Press reported that the CIA operated a second secret camp on the Guantanamo Naval Base, from 2002 to as late as 2006. This base, called Penny Lane, was used to hold captives who were under consideration for being recruited as double agents, who would surreptitiously penetrate, and inform on, al Qaeda, the Taliban, and other groups suspected of being allied with them. Its name, Penny Lane, like Strawberry Fields, was taken from a song from the Beatles' Magical Mystery Tour (1967) album.
- Matt Apuzzo, Adam Goldman (2010-08-07). "AP Exclusive: CIA flight carried secret from Gitmo". Associated Press. Archived from the original on 2010-08-06.CS1 maint: BOT: original-url status unknown (link)
- Ben Schott (2009-08-13). "Strawberry Fields: A disturbing C.I.A. nickname for the Guantánamo Bay detention centre". New York Times. Archived from the original on 2010-08-11. Retrieved 2010-03-16.CS1 maint: BOT: original-url status unknown (link)
- David Johnston, Mark Mazetti (2009-08-12). "Interrogation Inc.: A Window Into C.I.A.'s Embrace of Secret Jails". New York Times. Archived from the original on 2010-08-11. Retrieved 2010-03-16.CS1 maint: BOT: original-url status unknown (link)
- Scott Horton (2010-08-06). "Three-Card Monte at Gitmo". Harper's Magazine. Archived from the original on 2010-08-11. Retrieved 2010-08-11.CS1 maint: BOT: original-url status unknown (link)
- OARDEC. "List of Individuals Detained by the Department of Defense at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba from January 2002 through May 15, 2006" (PDF). United States Department of Defense. Retrieved 2006-05-15.
"CIA turned Guantanamo Bay detainees into double agents, officials claim". The Guardian (UK). 2015-11-26. Archived from the original on 2015-04-02.
But those aware of the cottages knew it best by its sobriquet, Penny Lane, a nod to the Beatles song and a riff on the CIA's other secret facility at Guantánamo, a prison known as Strawberry Fields.
Adam Goldman, Matt Apuzzo (2013-11-25). "The secret Guantanamo Bay facility where CIA turned prisoners into double agents". Washington, DC: The Province. Archived from the original on 2013-11-26.
Some of the men who passed through Penny Lane helped the CIA find and kill many top al-Qaida operatives, current and former U.S. officials said. Others stopped providing useful information and the CIA lost touch with them.