Exclusive: CIA Torture Doctors Toured Federal Supermax Prison in 2003, Learned How to Respond to Hunger Strikes

Jeffrey Kaye
7 min readNov 28, 2018
USP Florence ADMAX — Photo: Bureau of Prisons

The super-maximum security or administrative maximum (ADX) federal prison in Florence, Colorado is widely considered the most remote, the harshest, the most punishing prison in America. Its prisoners include Ted Kaczynski (the “Unibomber”), purported 9/11 would-be terrorist Zacarias Moussaoui, “shoe-bomber” Richard Reid, and many other political and convicted terrorist prisoners.

According to former ADX prisoner Eli Hager, “It’s just the harshest place you’ve ever seen. Nothing living, not so much as a blade of grass anywhere.”

“My cell was all concrete. Every single thing, made out of concrete. The walls, floor, the desk, the sink, even the bed — a slab of concrete.”

In July 2003, three doctors from the CIA’s Office of Medical Services, and two senior officers from the CIA’s Rendition and Detention Group (RDG) were invited by Bureau of Prison (BOP) officials to visit ADX Florence. CIA officials were looking for help as their super-secret detention program was growing by leaps and bounds.

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According to a newly declassified document obtained by the ACLU, written by the chief of CIA’s Office of Medical Services (OMS) in 2007, by 2003 “the number of post-interrogation detainees” had grown, and “with no apparent prospect of transfer elsewhere, OMS had turned to the Federal prison system for insight into long-term prison care.”

Only a month earlier, in June 2003, Bureau of Prisons personnel were “invited to [CIA] Headquarters to discuss problems of long-term confinement.” This exchange of visits between CIA and BOP adds to what already had been revealed about collaboration between the nation’s top spy agency and the federal bureaucracy in charge of the nation’s prison system.

A June 2016 story at Vice by Jason Leopold explored the nature of BOP’s assistance to the CIA in late 2002. According to Leopold’s research, BOP “provided training to interrogators and guards on specific interrogation techniques,” including the use of short-shackling (or…