Secretive Gitmo Program 'Flipped' Detainees to Become Spies

Some 'Penny Lane' double agents tracked down al-Qaida operatives.

Detainees stand during an early morning Islamic prayer at the U.S. military prison for "enemy combatants" on Oct. 28, 2009, in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
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The CIA turned some terrorist prisoners into double agents at the secretive federal prison in Guantanamo Bay, sending them back out into the world with millions of dollars to help the U.S. track down other foreign enemies, according to a new report by The Associated Press.

[READ: Obama Renews Call to Close Guantanamo Bay]

Multiple active and former officials spoke with the AP about a hidden facility at the naval station dubbed "Penny Lane," which is spread out in a series of cottages and took its name from the Beatles song. Other facilities on the base have similar monikers, such as "Strawberry Fields." There, CIA agents trained detainees to return to their homes with the promise of freedom in exchange for helping the intelligence service find other targets.

The program ended in 2006 with mixed results, as some helped find and kill top al-Qaida operatives while others disappeared into the ether without any further CIA contact.

Almost 750 detainees arrived at the detention facility in 2002 and 2003, the first years it was opened to house wanted or suspected terrorists. The CIA quickly realized it could exploit this collection of potential extremists for help identifying further targets.

Dozens were evaluated for potential recruitment into the program, but only "a handful" from a series of countries signed agreements to leave the facility as spies, AP reports.

The removal of detainees from Guantanamo Bay remains a sticky and complicated prospect. Some, such as the alleged 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, remain on trial. Others have been cleared for release, but the U.S. cannot find a country, including the detainees' home nation, who will accept them.

[ALSO: Senate Paralyzed on What to Do About Guantanamo]

The U.S. has strict rules governing the transfer of a current or former detainee to another country, including guarantees they will not be tortured.

Roughly 16 percent of those who have been freed from Gitmo rejoined the extremist fight against the U.S.

The Associated Press has more details on the secretive CIA "Penny Lane" program, including some detainees who asked for and received pornography, and the living conditions at the program's cottages.

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