The Guardian Details The Horrors Of Chicago Police's 'CIA-Style Black Site'

from the chitanamo dept

As someone who has lived in or near Chicago my entire life, it’s been a long-standing source of amusement to hear outsiders’ perceptions of the city relayed back to me. Whether it’s our neverending association with Al Capone, the strange obsession with our casserole-style pizza, or the perception that our sports fans are meatball worshippers at the altar of Mike Ditka, so much of what people think of us just isn’t particularly true.

Unfortunately, the perception of how our police force cares to operate here is also largely incorrect: it’s so much worse than you think. If you thought it was all corruption and laziness from some (and I stress some) of Chicago’s finest, you don’t know the half of it, because the other half is the pure denial of the basic rights we are supposed to have when dealing with our protectors. The recent work done by The Guardian in detailing how Chicago police operated a CIA-style black site ought to chill the bones of anyone planning on being anywhere near my beloved city.

The facility, a nondescript warehouse on Chicago’s west side known as Homan Square, has long been the scene of secretive work by special police units. Interviews with local attorneys and one protester who spent the better part of a day shackled in Homan Square describe operations that deny access to basic constitutional rights. At least one man was found unresponsive in a Homan Square “interview room” and later pronounced dead.

The practices undertaken at the Homan facility are alleged to include detaining people without documenting their arrest, beatings, keeping detainees shackled for hours at a time, refusing attorneys for detainees access to the facility, and detaining people while refusing them legal counsel for up to a full day. These practices, by the way, weren’t reserved for the mature, but were happily visited upon minors, because when you’re going to go evil there is no point in half-assing it. Do these types of practices sound familiar to you? Would it help if the detainees were in orange jumpsuits and had the tan of a Cuban sun upon their skin? You get the point.

So, what types of hardened criminals find themselves disappeared at the Homan Square Gitmo?

Brian Jacob Church, a protester known as one of the “Nato Three”, was held and questioned at Homan Square in 2012 following a police raid. Officers restrained Church for the better part of a day, denying him access to an attorney, before sending him to a nearby police station to be booked and charged.

“Homan Square is definitely an unusual place,” Church told the Guardian on Friday. “It brings to mind the interrogation facilities they use in the Middle East. The CIA calls them black sites. It’s a domestic black site. When you go in, no one knows what’s happened to you.”

Church was held at the facility for just under 24 hours, most of that time spent cuffed to the furniture there. Though he had immediately asked to call legal counsel, this request was denied. Neither he nor the 11 other protestors that were taken there were allowed to see legal counsel until finally Church’s, and only Church’s, lawyer was allowed in after 20 or so hours. Prior to that, police had been questioning him illegaly. Because of the well-publicized nature of the protestor’s detention, lawyers had been searching for him for hours. The reason Church couldn’t be found wasn’t a bug, though. It was a feature.

Though the raid attracted major media attention, a team of attorneys could not find Church through 12 hours of “active searching”, Sarah Gelsomino, Church’s lawyer, recalled. No booking record existed. Only after she and others made a “major stink” with contacts in the offices of the corporation counsel and Mayor Rahm Emanuel did they even learn about Homan Square.

They sent another attorney to the facility, where he ultimately gained entry, and talked to Church through a floor-to-ceiling chain-link metal cage. Finally, hours later, police took Church and his two co-defendants to a nearby police station for booking. After serving two and a half years in prison, Church is currently on parole after he and his co-defendants were found not guilty in 2014 of terrorism-related offenses but guilty of lesser charges of possessing an incendiary device and the misdemeanor of “mob action”.

And yet, as ridiculous as it sounds, Church and the other protestors got off lucky.

On February 2, 2013, John Hubbard was taken to Homan Square. Hubbard never walked out. The Chicago Tribune reported that the 44-year old was found “unresponsive inside an interview room”, and pronounced dead. The Cook County medical examiner’s office could not locate any record for the Guardian indicating a cause of Hubbard’s death. It remains unclear why Hubbard was ever in police custody.

It’s quite a shame that we can’t ask Mr. Hubbard because he died within the facility where lawyers are refused entrance, where detainees are kept out of the record books, and where the police appear to operate with impunity. Now, it’s roughly around here where you’re thinking one of two things. Some of you are thinking that such a claim as this is so outlandish that there’s very little chance that it’s true. Others must be thinking that the accusations of abuse and the denial of rights are rare mistakes made by a tiny percentage of officers. Too bad this secret wasn’t all that secret.

“It’s sort of an open secret among attorneys that regularly make police station visits, this place – if you can’t find a client in the system, odds are they’re there,” said Chicago lawyer Julia Bartmes.

Chicago civil-rights attorney Flint Taylor said Homan Square represented a routinization of a notorious practice in local police work that violates the fifth and sixth amendments of the constitution.

“This Homan Square revelation seems to me to be an institutionalization of the practice that dates back more than 40 years,” Taylor said, “of violating a suspect or witness’ rights to a lawyer and not to be physically or otherwise coerced into giving a statement.”

Keep in mind the references to Gitmo and CIA black sites overseas and then juxtapose that to the ongoing militarization of domestic police within our borders, and the picture becomes a clear warning against allowing the practices of our military and spy organizations to trickle into our domestic police departments. Will the outside world pressure Chicago into giving up the abuse? Unlikely. The outside view of my city is often wrong, but there’s no doubting the popular assertion that Chicago is a machine, and the police department represents a powerful cog in that machine, one with a great deal of torque and few placed within which to shove a brick that will keep it from turning.

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Comments on “The Guardian Details The Horrors Of Chicago Police's 'CIA-Style Black Site'”

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104 Comments
That One Guy (profile) says:

And yet another attrocity the DOJ would never touch

“This Homan Square revelation seems to me to be an institutionalization of the practice that dates back more than 40 years,” Taylor said, “of violating a suspect or witness’ rights to a lawyer and not to be physically or otherwise coerced into giving a statement.”

Just let that sink in for a moment. 40 years of this. Four decades and counting of this kind of activity. Does anyone think they’ll stop any time soon, or ever?

People in Chicago would be better of being kidnapped by the freakin’ mob than taken into custody(or ‘custody’) by the Chicago police, at least if they work you over it’s likely to be for ‘business’ rather than pleasure, and you’re probably safer in their hands than with the police any day.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: And yet another attrocity the DOJ would never touch

How much do you bet this ramped up when Emanuel (he’s really batshit insane) became mayor? Go back to your homeland Emanuel, and by that, I mean Ukraine or Lithuania (or whatever place your heritage really is from, not that illegal “state” (how can it be a state if it has no constitution and no acknowledgement of any borders).

Oops, I’ve crossed the line into this bullshit “New Antisemitism” (I was really shocked to find it has a wikipedia entry, NPOV my ass.).

Anonymous Coward says:

“And yet another attrocity the DOJ would never touch”

Pretty much.

As the saying goes, “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing”.

When they aren’t up to their own special brand of evil, doing nothing is the DoJ’s only other state of being.

It’s really tiring being this cynical about my own government.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: This is America

And if you think one generation further down the road. “These kinds of things, if proven true, seem not to be the work of “bad apples” but of systemic corruption and abuse” might be the norm and no one might even bother to ask if it is a good or bad thing. Think that you are 50 or 60 and your children say something in the way of “but that is the ok because it is needed for reason x”. Would you want your children to be that kind of ignorant? Sorry for the ad hominem I just don’t know how to phrase it differently.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: This is America

“I was six when 9/11 happened, so for me, there’s no need for the question mark in your comment’s subject…. This is the only America I’ve ever known.”

This revelation is by far the scariest thing I have ever read. Are the children of this nation already indoctrinated to our new world police order?

Will the young simply accept the loss of the liberty protected by the bill of rights just because that is all they know?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: This is America

its quite obvious that they do work generationally…….the one thing that MIGHT give hope is the preservation of unbiased history for future generations…….but then, they work generationally, and i wouldnt put it past them to attempt to destroy online evidence they deem “dangerous” to them, over an extended period of time……but then, maybe they’ve idoctrinated everyone to a point where they feel that no one speaks up when they decide to do the digital book burning thing to do a thorough destroyin in the quickest possible time

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: This is America

“Will the young simply accept the loss of the liberty protected by the bill of rights just because that is all they know?”

Speaking personally, I don’t believe that there was every anything to lose. After all, it’s only been 40 years since the older generations got around to applying it to blacks. And that was the height of the cold war, where all of the current policies started.

It’s not so much that we “accept” the loss of liberty, it’s that we recognize that nobody ever had it unless the current administration wanted them to. And short of civil war, the younger generation will never have any real representation at a high enough level to matter to the administration. Not when the President must be 35, and the bureaucracy is based mostly on seniority and presidential appointment. And with the age distribution skewing ever higher, voting isn’t much of a solution anyway.

Tony (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: This is America

“This revelation is by far the scariest thing I have ever read. Are the children of this nation already indoctrinated to our new world police order?

Will the young simply accept the loss of the liberty protected by the bill of rights just because that is all they know?”

For the most part, yes, because the parents don’t know, don’t care, or are too busy to actually teach their kids the truth.

But there are a few. My son, for one, and some of my daughter’s friends, who we talk to regularly and who understand the real meaning of liberty.

Far too few, though.

Anonymous Coward says:

Imagination aka Movie Scene

“At least one man was found unresponsive in a Homan Square “interview room” and later pronounced dead.” …

Tell me what you know *punch*, tell me *punch*. I give you 5 minutes to think about it. …*5 minutes later*.. Hey, so what you wanted to say?… Hey, hey… damn he’s dead. Who else we got?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

The Gitmo cop would be Richard Zuley.

But let’s not forget about Jon Burge, who ran the “Midnight Crew” band of cops that tortured people to get false confessions. They operated for almost 20 years, and torture included suffocation, burning, and electroshock to the genitals.

He was convicted of perjury & obstruction in 2010, and got out last year. Why no conviction for the torture? The statute of limitations ran out. Yeah, Illinois has a statute of limitations on goddamn torture. Oh, almost forgot: he got to keep his pension.

Anonymous Coward says:

Welcome to the Police State of America. This article tells you it is here. Obama got the NDAA, Chicago didn’t bother. So how many other facilities like these exist across the major cities of the US? How many more do we not know of where prisoners just vanish and no one knows where they are. Apparently when and where they die is also a mystery. When did they move the southern border of the US to Canada?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

The worst part about it is that Obama or the Dems should be against such a thing

EVERYONE should be against such a thing.

and if the Reps get the power stuff like this will be done on a daily basis.

I feel like if McCain had been elected, seeing as how he had actually been tortured, he might not have tolerated it.

Chicago, of course, is mostly run by Democrats, but this isn’t really a party vs party thing. If enough individual voters made this issue a priority for a long enough period of time, it would get fixed, even if it was by some idiot who just wanted to get elected.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

I feel like if McCain had been elected, seeing as how he had actually been tortured, he might not have tolerated it.
I might not be up to date but how was McCain tortured? Just for clarification before I can actually reply. I always thought he (if anything) would be the one doing the torturing.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

Own reply. Google ftw! I’ve mistaken him for someone else. Got it now and yes I guess you are right. But I think that even if someone had picked it up for political gain they might do the same thing on another point for the same reason, political gain. Guess it stands in the end that the only reason to be against torture or unlawful behaviour is if you experienced it yourself.

David says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

I feel like if McCain had been elected, seeing as how he had actually been tortured, he might not have tolerated it.

Uh, politician here? It’s ok if you do it to the bad guys. The bad guys are those who are not the good guys. And the police are the good guys.

They don’t have empathy with human beings. You might as well elect big roaches.

Pragmatic says:

Re: Re: Re:

People don’t vote for third parties, they’ve convinced themselves that the candidate of their choice won’t get in so it’s a wasted vote. They either don’t vote at all (which lets one of the other two in by default) or vote for the party they hate least.

We need to encourage people to vote third party in enough numbers to get a third party candidate elected. It’s the numbers that matter; one vote isn’t worth much but 100,000 could change get a decent candidate in. We just need to agree on a candidate.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

The NDAA is an incomprehensible mess anyway. With Obama’s Signing Statement (a signature of the Bush Presidency), to it, it kinda says that this law can’t supersede existing laws protecting americans etc. No defense of Obama here, but he had the spine to pass something that’d make him look awful, and watered it down. It’s just funny that during the Bush years, all good things sent to dubya’s desk that were good things were annulled in this way by his Signing Statement, and he abused that thing a lot. Obama, not so much.

Maybe the NDAA only works in a martial law state, where the Signing Statement for it refers to now “frozen” laws, so only the NDAA remains.

nasch (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

No defense of Obama here, but he had the spine to pass something that’d make him look awful, and watered it down.

That didn’t water it down because signing statements have no legal force. I can’t see how some of those provisions could be constitutional, but the signing statement is just a pinky swear not to use parts of it.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

“More specifically, the corner of W. Fillmore & S. Homen. Enjoy having your rights virtually violated today, on Google Earth.”

Weird or funny depending of your humor. If I search for Fillmore & Homen I get a postion near the “Chicago Police Department-Prostitution”

https://www.google.com/maps/place/Chicago,+IL+60624,+USA/@41.8677168,-87.7105922,19z

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

Yeah, it looks like the east end of the building is flagged prostitution. There’s also a “property recovery” annex accessed from a door on the north face of the building, but the west half of the building is the part that the Guardian pictures as the “black site.”

It’s definitely not the plain vanilla police station, which is at 3315 W Ogden Ave.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

Yes, there is another building. Read the damn article. Plenty of ex-cops and lawyers have been there, and stated as much. That “doofus” (I’m assuming you’re referring to Church) was held at the S. Homan building for 17 hours, until a lawyer got in to see him. He was only then moved to the 11th district station and booked. There’s plenty more in the article, if you care to trouble yourself.

http://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2015/feb/24/chicago-police-detain-americans-black-site

Anonymous Coward says:

Frankly, I’m surprised that these kind of facilities are not going up all across the country. With so many people in the nation’s federal, state, and local police agencies now having training and experience in the US military’s “black” sites, it’s naive to think that none of it will ever filter down to domestic police work. Many cops served in the military (including reserves) so it’s only natural that they’ll be taking the things they learned in a far-off war (whether legal tactics or war crimes) and applying them to the way they treat civilians at home.

And the thing about black sites is that prisoners are blindfolded while entering and leaving, and the torturers wear masks and no nametags to identify them. So victims have nothing to report. The cops could set up such a place and easily deny that it even exists. Who is anyone going to believe, anyway, some dirtbag criminal or a trustworthy police officer?

Maybe now the guys who say nothing when asked, “where’d you hide the body?” might be more willing to start talking after a few hours of waterboarding — which leaves no scars or marks or other evidence other than the say-so of the waterboardee.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

It’s just a chain of violence really. How many of these cops that bring people to that place suffer from PTSD and take it out on others, benefiting only those who first sent these now-cops as 16 year old kids back in 2003 to Iraq.

Having PTSD and cracking and not taking it on others is not a showing of weakness, it’s the opposite. Those who get in the circle of senseless violence they’ve been indoctrinated to see as the norm most often won’t recognize how fucked up they are, it’s all they’ve ever known.

Anonymous Coward says:

This is the example that has been set, with no reprecussions……i had hoped that local authority would have the sense to stand up for their neighbours, yet it looks like they are completely capable and willing, at least in this case, to screw over their neighbours………..creating a class above others

Forced “class” order
Leader
Politician
Military
Company
Police
Something
Something else
Insert *—–*
The colour blue
Citizen

GEMont (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

…with some sort of crime.

“Obstruction of Justice” most likely, since justice is now meted out for the members of the Ownership Society only.

You want justice for you and your family?

Get filthy stinking rich, and become a member of the 1%.

Remember, it does not matter how you get rich, only that you get rich, because, once you’re rich, the laws against criminal activities no longer apply to you.

GEMont (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 The 1%...

Since the decline in health of the 99%, and thus the rate of death among the poor and middle classes is far faster than the decline in the number of billionaires and their minions, I tend to disagree.

In truth, the disease of fascism ends when the rulers have stolen all of the wealth from the public – lower and middle classes – and since there is at that point, nothing left to steal from those beneath them, they turn on each other as the only sources of wealth left to steal.

So the number of members of the secret super-rich fascist army does indeed diminish fairly rapidly near the terminal point of the disease’s progress.

Only the winners of that contest get to leave the corpse of the nation they destroyed and seek a new host elsewhere and that would indeed be more like 0.01%.

However, I don’t think the situation has reached anything near that point yet, so I’ll stick with my (popularly posited) 1% estimation until such time as the number of fascists in power begins to visibly decline after the public is completely drained of its wealth and privilege and the fascists begin to eat each other.

—-

GEMont (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Oddly enough...

That’s what is sorta unique about this cycle.

In all of human history, there has never been as many educated literate citizens as exists currently. There has never been anything remotely similar to the fledgling hive mind we fondly call the internet.

For the very first time ever, the public is aware of and witnessing the methods and means of the heat-death of a civilization – fascism.

There is actually still a small chance that this time, the bastards will fail and we will see their heads on pikes along main streets all over the world.

Mind ye, I’ll not be holdin’ me breathe in anticipation of this hitherto impossible finale – humans being humans.

But it is not in my nature to stop trying. 🙂

—-

GEMont (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

Not sure about Russia, but China is manufacturing everything for the Five Eyes countries, because all their factories were sent to China.

After all, you can’t really have a good war when your people are employed and happy. Take away their ability to get jobs and they’ll line up for the only jobs in town – soldier, sailor, bomber-pilot and spy.

It always works.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

Reminds me of the speech of Martin Niemoeller:

First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Socialist.

Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.

It’s all a slippery slope.
Just replace socialists with terrorists, then unionists with criminal and if you run out of groups of people to push down the slope, you will be going next.

GEMont (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Fascism is not heavy on original thinking.

Its an ancient and proven conquest process that changes very little over the centuries, because it works.

It almost always succeeds because its an invasion from within by the very people we normally hold in highest esteem, and the public is always too busy watching for the fascist-manufactured invasion from without – in today’s case, Terrorists – to notice that their laws are being turned against them.

Sadly, because it is a secret war, waged from behind the scenes, using deception and guile rather than guns and bombs, and because it is waged against a people by their own wealthiest members, who can rewrite the laws at will, and who own the machines of production and finance, it is nearly impossible to prevent its success once it has taken over the nation’s government.

The really bad part is, like an infectious disease, it always leaves the nation it infects, broken and weak, if not completely destroyed, when the glutted conquerors move on to a new host, carrying away the nations wealth.

tomczerniawski (profile) says:

Re: Sometime the Guardian is wrong

Remember “America does not torture”?

Remember “We have no black site in Poland”?

Remember “There is no detainee abuse at Abu Ghraib”?

How about we not take the first official denial as gospel truth, considering the government’s shocking frequency of lying… if the Guardian is wrong, I’m sure they’ll retract that article. Aaaaany time now.

Anonymous Coward says:

Speaking as a downstate Illinoisian, one of the things I find most annoying about Chicago is the attitude many Chicagoans have that Chicago == Illinois. For instance, we have to deal with the fact that Chicago often elects representatives to the state legislature who try to pass state laws that the rest of the state doesn’t need and doesn’t like in an effort to solve Chicago’s problems.

A good example of this was concealed carry. Until a couple of years ago, Illinois was the only state that did not allow concealed carry, and all attempts to legalize it were blocked by the Chicago contingent, largely at the urging of the Chicago PD and mayor’s office. The only reason it got legalized at all is because a federal judge ruled the prohibition unconstitutional, and even then there was no small amount of nasty words coming from those who fought against it for so long.

GEMont (profile) says:

Look to the past to see the future.

Gitmo Chicago.

Don’t look now, but there’s likely one of these in your city too – they just aint been caught yet.

Its like renderies – stinky eye-sores that exist in every city, but nobody ever sees them.

In fact, I’d lay odds that these civilized pseudo-military police “concentration” camps are common to every large city in America and have been for years – at least as long as the cops have been buying soldier-wear and weapons of massive destruction from the military.

Fascism is a business model that is run under the exact same “rules of order” every time.

Uriel-238 (profile) says:

Re: Our constitutional framers begged to differ.

No one is the good guys and no one should be trusted to use unilateral powers even for protection from the bad guys.

Granted we human beings love authority figures. We’ll feed Jews (or prisoners, or academics, or non-Christians) into the wood chipper if a handsome enough administrator with a nice hat directs us to.

But the US was framed on the idea that no one person, or small association can be trusted to fairly govern the rest of us.

Men are not angels. We need government or we’ll kill each other. And we need protection from government by other men, or they’ll kill us.

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