A remarkable report from Spencer Ackerman at The Guardian has revealed in detail the existence of an interrogation facility used by Chicago police to detain and hold people in secret. The report describes how police have used a "nondescript warehouse" to keep detainees out of booking databases, beat prisoners, shackle them for "prolonged periods," and keep them from legal counsel for up to 24 hours — including even children as young as 15.
If that sounds familiar, it's because the US has used similar facilities around the world since 9/11 in its prosecution of the "war on terror." CIA "black sites" around the world have been used to secretly detain, interrogate, and torture alleged enemies of state. Use of these sites for "extraordinary rendition" is one of the darkest aspects of the US war on terror, and has been the target of criticism from a broad spectrum of observers.
America has entered a period of constitutional horror
Unlike the CIA's black sites, The Guardian reports that the Chicago facility targets people who aren't suspected of terror-related activities; the site is reportedly shared by anti-gang and anti-drug police units.
In one instance, The Guardian reports, 12 people who were protesting a Nato summit in 2012 were taken to the warehouse. One man, Jacob Church, says he was cuffed to a bench for around 17 hours and interrogated without receiving Miranda rights. "Essentially, I wasn't allowed to make contact with anybody," Church told The Guardian. "I had essentially figured, 'all right, well, they disappeared us and so we're probably never going to see the light of day again.'" An attorney who eventually gained access to the facility reportedly had to talk to Church through a "floor-to-ceiling chain-link metal cage." But most attorneys, The Guardian notes, have been completely turned away from the site.
One detainee, John Hubbard, died in the facility, The Guardian reports. At the time, The Chicago Tribune unceremoniously reported the event under the headline "man in custody found unresponsive, dies."
"That scares the hell out of me."
The Guardian's report lands in the wake of a national conversation that began last year about police militarization in the US. Last August, the world witnessed a shocking display of force against residents of Ferguson, Missouri, who assembled to protest the killing of an unarmed teenager. Police in military battle dress rolled armored vehicles with sonic weapons down suburban streets, pointed sniper rifles at peaceful protesters, assaulted and harassed journalists, and unilaterally heightened tensions for dubious reasons. Police militarization and brutality have, of course, been an issue before Ferguson — just ask the participants of Occupy Wall Street.
As The Guardian's report demonstrates, it's not just weapons from the war on terror that are flowing to police departments across the country: it's tactics and attitudes, too. "I've never known of any kind of organized, secret place where they go and just hold somebody before booking for hours and hours and hours," retired DC homicide detective James Trainum told The Guardian. "That scares the hell out of me that that even exists or might exist."