By Mark Wachtler
March 5, 2015. Chicago. (ONN) The Windy City has earned a new reputation in the eyes of the world. In addition to the corruption, taxes, traffic, and being the murder capital of America, Chicago and its police department have found themselves at the center of one torture scandal after another. From Chicago to Guantanamo Bay, CPD officers have been found torturing countless individuals in violation of local, state, federal and even international law.
Immediately after The Guardian article, protesters flocked to the CPD Homan Square facility. Image courtesy of Inquisitr.com.
This author is going to take the unpopular position that torture is evil. And Chicagoans, inspired by their local media, have spent decades pretending that the Chicago Police don’t torture people. But case after case after case have shown that they do. And the countless multi-million-dollar legal settlements paid by the taxpayers, not the torturers, is evidence to prove it. Now, Chicago’s 40-year dirty little secret is out. And the whole world is watching.
A brief history
Here’s an illustration of just how bad Chicago’s reputation has gotten. Who is the most famous Chicago Police officer in the world? More than likely, your answer is Jon Burge. For a brief reminder, Burge is the CPD Commander who is accused of leading a team of officers that tortured over 200 innocent Chicagoans to coerce murder confessions during the 1970’s and 1980’s. The result was an audit of Illinois death row inmates using DNA evidence which proved that more than half the people convicted of murder in Illinois and sitting on death row were actually innocent.
Governor George Ryan, who would later be imprisoned himself for corruption, immediately abolished the death penalty and released the wrongly convicted victims. The people of Chicago are still paying multi-million-dollar settlements to this day and Commander Burge and his officers never spent a day in jail for torture. He was instead briefly jailed for lying to the FBI to cover up the torture and has been released just in the past few weeks. A result of the ongoing scandal was a UN report in 2014 blasting the United States for human rights abuses, specifically naming the Chicago Police Department and its culture of torture.
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Help Wanted - CIA Torturer
When Congress and President Bush declared war on terror in 2001 and the American military invaded Iraq and Afghanistan, ironically to find a Saudi who was hiding in Pakistan, the CIA found itself buried in an ocean of terror suspects that needed to be interrogated. In countries from Poland to Syria, dozens of CIA secret torture facilities were opened where detainees from the war could be questioned outside the restraints of the law. But questioning quickly evolved into what President Bush termed, ‘enhanced interrogation techniques’.
When the CIA began scouring the torture profession for contractors to send to places like Guantanamo Bay, they struck gold with the Chicago Police Department. As described by a scathing report from The Guardian in the UK two weeks ago, the US military found, ‘the hero they had been looking for’ in the form of Chicago Police Detective Richard Zuley. Like his co-worker Jon Burge, Zuley is credited with having the uncanny ability to close more than his share of murder cases with confessions over his 25-year CPD career.
Chicago’s dirty secret
As The Guardian investigators looked closer at the Chicago Police detective made famous for his interrogation abilities at Guantanamo Bay, they discovered Chicago’s dirty secret. The British paper writes, ‘A Guardian investigation has uncovered that Zuley used similar tactics for years, behind closed police-station doors, on Chicago’s poor and non-white citizens. Multiple people in prison in Illinois insist they have been wrongly convicted on the basis of coerced confessions extracted by Zuley and his colleagues.’
The report goes on to explain, ‘The Guardian examined thousands of court documents from Chicago and interviewed two dozen people with experience at Guantanamo and in the Chicago criminal justice system. The results of its investigation suggests a continuum between Guantanamo interrogation rooms and Chicago police precincts. Zuley’s detective work, particularly when visited on Chicago’s minority communities, contains a dark foreshadowing of the United States’ post-9/11 descent into torture.’
Showing that this is no conspiracy theory, but an admitted blight on the United States, The Guardian interviewed a number US command personnel from America’s semi-secret interrogation facility in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. The paper quotes former US Marine Lieutenant Colonel and military legal prosecutor Stuart Couch saying, “I’ve never seen anyone stoop to those levels…It’s unconscionable, from a perspective of a criminal prosecution, or an interrogation, for that matter.”
The report goes on to quote Mark Fallon, deputy commander of the now-disbanded Criminal Investigative Task Force at Guantanamo Bay. He said Richard Zuley’s interrogation technique, derived from 25 years on the Chicago Police force, “was illegal, it was immoral, it was ineffective and it was unconstitutional.”
2015 - the cat’s out of the bag
From Jon Burge in the 80’s and 90’s to Richard Zuley and the 2000’s, to the Homan Square black site today - little seems to have changed in Chicago. Nine days ago, The Guardian, along with The Daily Mail in the UK, put the Chicago Police Department and city leaders in the global spotlight once again. This time, citizen disappearances and secret CPD black sites have been added to the accusations of torture.
The Guardian wrote last week, ‘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.’
The Daily Mail in Britain published its own description, ‘One man who walked inside said he was cuffed to a bench for 17 hours. Another was only found after he was transferred to the hospital with a head injury. A third ended up dead. What did all three men have in common? They had been taken to Homan Square. Operated by the Chicago police, Homan Square is an unmarked warehouse on the West Side where local attorneys and a protester claim Chicago police are operating a CIA-style black site.’
Homan Square and the NATO 3
Immediately after the two Guardian reports and the story from the Daily Mail, Chicago city officials released a blanket statement of denial against all accusations relating to the mysterious Homan Square police facility.
What seems to have caused the latest black eye for the city of Chicago and its police department is an account by one of Chicago’s now famous ‘NATO 3’. They were the three stoners who were framed by a Chicago Police infiltrator during Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s ill-planned NATO and G8 Summits scheduled simultaneously for downtown Chicago in 2012. After Emanuel created a ‘Constitution-free zone’ encompassing downtown Chicago where the Bill of Rights was arbitrarily dissolved by the Mayor and City Council, US federal officials yanked the G8 Summit from Chicago at the last minute due to fears of chaos and violence, not just by protesters, but by police as well.
One of the NATO 3, Brian Jacob Church, told The Guardian of his experience, including his secret detention and interrogation at the Homan Square police facility. Strangely, city officials mocked the accusations by insisting the facility isn’t a secret. It’s an old Sears warehouse that, according to a report from the Chicago Sun Times, ‘now houses the police department’s Organized Crime Bureau, the Evidence and Recovered Property Section, its ballistics lab and the SWAT unit.’
What is the truth about Homan Square?
Citing CPD spokesman Marty Maloney, the report explains, ‘The public is able to recover inventoried property from the evidence unit and news conferences are regularly held at Homan Square when the department shows off seized drugs. And unlike other Chicago Police facilities over the years, no allegations of torture have been reported in the media in connection with Homan Square.’ It’s curious how the spokesman didn’t deny allegations of torture. He just denied that they’ve been reported in the media.
What’s even more revealing about the NATO 3’s version and the Chicago Police Department’s version is that the NATO 3’s story doesn’t contradict itself. The city just confirmed that the facility at Homan Square isn’t a secret. It’s a warehouse, lab, PR backdrop and home to the SWAT team and Organized Crime bureau. Interrogations and incarcerations don’t happen there, except when they do.
And according to the NATO 3’s Brian Jacob Church, he was taken to Homan Square and secretly interrogated 17 hours by Chicago Police before he was finally brought to a real police station in the Harrison District for official questioning. He insists he was shackled the entire time, never read his rights, not allowed to make a phone call and not allowed to speak to an attorney.
Maloney dismissed Church’s accusations saying, “If lawyers have a client detained at Homan Square, just like any other facility, they are allowed to speak to and visit them.” The CPD spokesman didn’t say how it is that an attorney can do that if the detained individual is ‘disappeared’ by the police and vanished into a secret detention facility without anyone’s knowledge that he or she is there, as Church says happened in his case.
Rahm Emanuel’s October Surprise
So, who’s telling the truth? Brian Jacob Church didn’t accuse the police of physical abuse or torture, only that they made him disappear for 17 hours while he was secretly interrogated. On the other side, Mayor Rahm Emanuel and his police department insist Church is lying and things like that don’t still happen in their Chicago.
In the face of global accusations from Britain to the UN to Guantanamo Bay, the city of Chicago claims it neither tortures nor makes people disappear anymore. It’s obvious the second half of that denial is untrue because it’s been standard procedure in Chicago for decades, and still is. But if the first half proves to be true, and the CPD has had a free and protected reign of terror over the people of Chicago for the past four years, it could prove to be Mayor Emanuel’s October surprise.
One thing’s for certain, the scandal isn’t going away. In the face of steadfast denials by Emanuel and his police, The Guardian has launched a public campaign to find more Chicagoans who’ve been ‘disappeared’ by the Chicago Police Department. Depending on how many they find, and especially if accusations of torture are involved, Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s days in office could be numbered.
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