Ghost prisoners, or ghost detainees, are individuals held in detention centers who have their identities hidden by people not registering them and keeping them anonymous. This term is used by the executive branch of the United States federal government.
In 2007, Michael Hayden, the then-chief of the CIA, stated that his agency had detained approximately 100 individuals at CIA black sites in foreign countries since the 2002 capture of Abu Zubaydah, an alleged Al Qaeda terrorist.
While the terms "ghost prisoners" or "ghost detainees" is specific to the United States, other countries also operate networks of extralegal detention centers, such as China’s black jails.
These ghost detainees are often suspected Islamic terrorists and were captured under George W. Bush’s War on Terror following the 9/11 terrorist attacks in New York City.
These prisoners are kept off the books to obscure their physical location from their families, and they are at risk of going through torture techniques as the United States government ostensibly attempts to procure terrorist-related information from them.
Ghost prisoners do not have the same rights as other prisoners. They do not have the right to a speedy trial or have access to a jury of their peers. They are not allowed contact with the outside world and are not allowed legal representation.