The Guardian posted an extraordinary article revealing that the Chicago police maintained a “black site,” an off-the-books holding facility, where they took people who disappeared upon entering.
The Chicago police department operates an off-the-books interrogation compound, rendering Americans unable to be found by family or attorneys while locked inside what lawyers say is the domestic equivalent of a CIA black site.
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.
This goes beyond shocking. Sure, in some warped romantic spy-novel sort of way, we’ve come to expect such places for foreign terrorists to be tortured and held away from prying eyes, but not here, not on American soil, not in Chicago.
- Keeping arrestees out of official booking databases.
- Beating by police, resulting in head wounds.
- Shackling for prolonged periods.
- Denying attorneys access to the “secure” facility.
- Holding people without legal counsel for between 12 and 24 hours, including people as young as 15.
At least one man was found unresponsive in a Homan Square “interview room” and later pronounced dead.
If so, this may be the most outrageous example of police misconduct ever. And yet, the story emits an unpleasant odor. The story says that Homan Square has “long been the scene of secretive work by special police units.” Had this black site been in operation for a week, perhaps it would have evaded detection and review, but “long”?
And then the story says that “at least” one person died coming out of a secret interrogation room. Dead bodies aren’t so easily ignored. They smell bad, and the stench tends to fill a courtroom or a newspaper column to capacity.
How is it possible that this off-the-books facility existed for so long, and yet nobody, no lawyer, no judge, raised its existence, whether in a criminal proceeding following an illegal interrogation, or at arraignment when a beaten defendant appears with no cognizable explanation for the imprint of the Glock on his face?
What about a civil suit? Where are the § 1983 actions for the deprivations of civil rights? Even if the state courts were part of some conspiracy to keep this black site out of the courtroom, are the federal courts part of the conspiracy as well? And what of the family of the “at least” one dead guy? Didn’t they go to a lawyer to address this little detail, that their father or husband turned up dead?
For conspiracy theorists, this feeds right into the belief that the police are in control of the system, from top to bottom, and can do as they please. See? They had a black site in Chicago and no one knew anything about it, at least not until the Guardian exposed it.
Sorry, but this stretches credulity beyond the breaking point. Aside from the fact that the people in government aren’t anywhere near smart and capable enough to keep something like this a secret for very long, there are about a million loose ends that would come back to bite the cops in the ass for even trying to maintain a black site.
The article offers no explanations for any of this. It’s as if this is nothing to pull off, as if no one would raise this in court within hours of a defendant being taken out of the hole. It’s as if random dead bodies following police seizures are no big deal, and no one, families of the deceased included, would think to take action because of it.
Is this possible? I guess. But it strikes me that this doesn’t pass the smell test, at least not without a great deal more information to explain how it could happen without anyone doing anything about it. It’s easy to write that there is a black hole hidden in Homan Square, Chicago, but that doesn’t mean I have to jump blindly into it. Without more, I’m not buying.