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In custody, he was thrashed with sticks, beaten with wire, and tortured. He confessed to every charge the Pakistanis threw at him, saying anything to stop the beatings. It was the start of the War on Terror, when George W. Bush’s administration told U.S. allies “you’re with us or against us.” Those allies acted with near impunity to please Washington, assuming they could do anything to a man if he was suspected of terrorism.


Pakistan was essential to the U.S. war in Afghanistan and was paid handsomely in the form of billions of dollars of military aid. When the Pakistanis handed Rabbani over to the Americans, essentially selling him for a $5,000 cash bounty, the foreigners were wearing masks, their faces concealed. Rabbani, the Pakistanis told the Americans, was not a taxi driver from Karachi, but a wanted terrorist called Hassan Ghul. Rabbani was scared, terrified even, but he was going to tell the Americans the truth: He was a taxi driver, this was all a case of mistaken identity. “I expected justice immediately,” he later said.


But instead, he was spirited away, put in diapers and flown to an isolated CIA black site north of Kabul. The Americans named it Cobalt, after the rich blue mineral buried in the Afghan mountains. It was also referred to as the Salt Pit, but the men held within its walls would always know it as the Dark Prison.


According to the U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee Report on Torture, at one point the Dark Prison held nearly half of the 119 detainees identified in the government report. Rabbani is one of the 17 men mentioned by name, recognized as a detainee who endured what the CIA was calling “enhanced interrogation techniques” (EITs), 9/11 parlance for torture, without government authorization.

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