The Guardian's bombshell about a secretive "black site" holding facility in Chicago where suspects are allegedly shackled, beaten and held for long periods of time without access to their lawyers, immediately sparked cries of alarm.
The practices reportedly taking place at the Chicago Police Department's Homan Square could be another sign that some of the same techniques used overseas in the War on Terror have crept into domestic policing practices.
The Guardian's investigation uncovered evidence of:
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 pronounced dead after he was found unresponsive inside an interview room at Homan Square.
NATO protester Brian Jacob Church told the Guardian that the facility was like a "domestic black site," referencing the CIA's network of secret prisons used to interrogate terror suspects overseas.
That's overselling it, according to Ezekiel Edwards, director of the American Civil Liberties Union’s Criminal Law Reform Project. But, Edwards told The Huffington Post, there are similarities between what the Guardian reported and practices used in the War on Terror.
"I am not certain that this terminology is appropriate, but I am certain that, if true, the practice of detaining people incommunicado before processing them for the purpose of interrogating them – whatever one wants to call Homan Square – is illegal," Edwards said in an email to HuffPost. "More broadly, this is not the first time that local policing may have taken a page from the War on Terror, or vice versa."
Edwards said, "The use of widespread electronic surveillance, militarized tactical policing and weaponry, sneak and peek searches to rummage through our homes, racial profiling, entrapment schemes using large sums of money to lure participants and where the government is the sole creator of the crime, and the unchecked power of prosecutors to use harsh sentencing laws to coerce cooperation and guilty pleas, are as familiar in the War on Drugs as in the War on Terror."
The Chicago Police Department released a statement to multiple media outlets strongly denying any wrongdoing.
"CPD abides by all laws, rules and guidelines pertaining to any interviews of suspects or witnesses, at Homan Square or any other CPD facility," the statement said. "If lawyers have a client detained at Homan Square, just like any other facility, they are allowed to speak to and visit them. It also houses CPD’s Evidence Recovered Property Section, where the public is able to claim inventoried property."
Reporter Spencer Ackerman, who authored the original Guardian story, fired back at CPD on Democracy Now.
"Notice all the things they don’t say. They don’t say when attorneys have the right to talk to their clients there," Ackerman said. "They never address at all the central question of someone being booked at Homan Square, of records being made available to the public, available to their lawyers and available to their families there."
CPD did not immediately respond to a request for comment from The Huffington Post.
Edwards said if the allegations made in the Guardian's report are true, they are unjustifiable.
"It appears that these are calculated efforts to hold people outside of the system – away from judges and lawyers – in order to interrogate and intimidate them," Edwards said. "There is no justification for such constitutionally offensive practices."