“They disappeared us.”

‘Gestapo’ tactics at US police ‘black site’ ring alarm from Chicago to Washington

The US Department of Justice and embattled mayor Rahm Emanuel are under mounting pressure to investigate allegations of what one politician called “CIA or Gestapo tactics” at a secretive Chicago police facility exposed by the Guardian.

Politicians and civil-rights groups across the US expressed shock upon hearing descriptions of off-the-books interrogation at Homan Square, the Chicago warehouse that multiple lawyers and one shackled-up protester likened to a US counter-terrorist black site in a Guardian investigation published this week.

Held for hours at secret Chicago ‘black site': ‘You’re a hostage. It’s kidnapping’

As three more people came forward detailing their stories of being “held hostage” and “strapped” inside Homan Square without access to an attorney or an official public record of their detention by Chicago police, officials and activists said the allegations merited further inquiry and risked aggravating wounds over community policing and race that have reached as high as the White House.

Caught in the swirl of questions around the complex – still active on Wednesday – was Emanuel, the former chief of staff to Barack Obama who is suddenly facing a mayoral runoff election after failing to win a majority in a contest that has seen debate over police tactics take a central role.

Emanuel’s office refused multiple requests for comment from the Guardian on Wednesday, referring a reporter to an unspecific denial from the Chicago police.

But Luis Gutiérrez, the influential Illinois congressman whose shifting support for Emanuel was expected to secure Tuesday’s election, joined a chorus of colleagues in asking for more information about Homan Square.

A Black Site in Chicago? Police Accused of Running Secret Compound for Detentions & Interrogations

SPENCER ACKERMAN: Homan Square is a place where a number of undercover Chicago police task forces operate—the anti-gang force, the anti-drug task force—and it operates out of a warehouse on Chicago’s West Side that just sort of fades into the background view of the neighborhood. If you look out on the façade, as we’ve done, it doesn’t appear to have any normal police insignia signifying that it’s a precinct, like you would at your local police precinct. If you look a little closer, the signs are there. There’s a checkpoint out front with a yellow barrier to block traffic. There are both marked and unmarked cars in the yard. There’s an evidence locker in Homan Square that the cops have been saying makes the whole place public, and allows people to go look for that.

But as we started investigating, we had heard reports from lawyers and from police reform activists, criminologists, that what happens in Homan Square, beyond the sort of above and visible practices, involve things that you would only really hear about at CIA black sites overseas—extended detentions in which people are shackled and don’t have records made of where they are. That might seem, on the face of it, mundane, until you think: Relatives and lawyers have no way, when someone’s taken there, to figure out where these people are, which, as we had heard again from the attorneys who had dealt with police there, was a really disturbing thing. Finally, they had told us that when they went, as attorneys, to try and seek out their clients at Homan Square, on the few times that they were able to find out that someone was there, police would either turn them away or, when they tried to ascertain whereabout information over the phone, they would get the runaround and people maybe not telling them that they were sure that their clients had been there, or asking them, “How do we know that you’re actually a lawyer?” We subsequently found out that, you know, kind of sotto voce, in 2011, ’12, local activists and lawyers had brought this up with the Chicago police and had gotten the police to change some of their procedures, to make it clear that attorneys were allowed to visit. But we had found cases even after that where attorneys had said that they had been waiting outside Homan Square for the better part of an hour and gotten turned away.

NERMEEN SHAIKH: I want to get your response to the Chicago Police Department’s statement to your reports in The Guardian about Homan Square. They wrote, quote, “CPD abides by all laws, rules and guidelines pertaining to any interviews of suspects or witnesses, at Homan Square or any other CPD facility. 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.” So could you respond to what the Chicago Police Department’s response was to the report, and also elaborate who exactly first likened this facility to a CIA black site? One of the people whom you interviewed for the piece?

SPENCER ACKERMAN: That’s correct. To go first to the Chicago police’s response to our story—and I appreciate you allowing me the time to talk about it—notice all the things they don’t say. They don’t say when attorneys have the right to talk to their clients there. They don’t say when attorneys get to access their clients at Homan Square. They don’t say what those booking—what those records are. They don’t say—that would document someone’s appearance at Homan Square. They don’t say when those records have to be made. They don’t say in what method those are supposed to be public. 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. We asked the police those questions when they issued us and other news organizations those statements, and we’ve still yet to hear anything. For that matter, before we published the story, days before we published the story, we sent an extensive list of questions to the police. We got nothing. I went to Homan Square on Friday and was promptly turned away. There are lots of questions here that the police really do have to answer that are outstanding.

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black site in Chicago?

The disappeared: Chicago police detain Americans at abuse-laden ‘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.

Alleged police practices at Homan Square, according to those familiar with the facility who spoke out to the Guardian after its investigation into Chicago police abuse, include:

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.

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.”

RAHM EMANUEL’S CHICAGO POLICE OPERATING DOMESTIC BLACK SITE

The Guardian reports that the CPD detains mostly poor, black and brown people at Homan. Once at the site, detainees are allegedly beaten by police, shackled for hours and denied access to counsel. There is no booking at Homan Square, so details about who has been detained at the facility are scarce. “Witnesses, suspects or other Chicagoans who end up inside do not appear to have a public, searchable record entered into a database indicating where they are,” Ackerman wrote. “Lawyers and relatives insist there is no way of finding their whereabouts.”

One detainee, 44-year-old John Hubbard, died in an interview room at Homan. There are no official records — or a coroner’s report — concerning Hubbard’s official cause of death, or why he was detained in the first place.

Jacob Church, a member of the NATO Three, was also held at Homan. The NATO Three — three men charged with conspiracy to commit terrorism when the NATO summit convened in Chicago in 2012 — also included Jared Chase and Brent Betterly. It was the first terrorism case Chicago had seen. Church told The Guardian that he was chained to a bench for 17 hours and denied phone calls. His lawyer eventually tracked him down and was allowed to speak to him through a weird “floor-to-ceiling chain-link metal cage.”

The allegations of a Chicago black site follow a Guardian investigation into longtime Chicago police detective Richard Zuley. Zuley was known as a corrupt and brutal interrogator during his time with the department, especially when it came to black suspects. And he apparently took what he learned in Chicago with him to Guantánamo Bay, where he arrived in 2002. At Gitmo, Zuley reportedly threatened detainees with death, placed them in cold rooms, and orchestrated situations in which detainees were beaten and led to believe they were going to be killed.

Chicago police have a notorious record of human rights abuses. In 1968, police beat Vietnam War protestors at the Democratic National Convention. Black Panther Party leader Fred Hampton was assassinated during a 1969 operation involving Chicago police and the FBI. And last October, former Chicago police detective Jon Burge was released from prison after serving time for perjury and obstruction of justice in connection to his alleged torture of more than 100 victims. Four of his victims were pardoned after claiming their confessions were false and coerced. Other torture victims are now seeking reparations, while Burge is enjoying his police pension.

Today is election day in Chicago, with incumbent mayor Rahm Emanuel seeking a second term. He is running against four under-financed, and lesser known, opponents. When reached for comment, a City Hall spokesperson said, “The Mayor is getting the vote out,” while a spokesperson for Chicago Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy declined comment.

From Chicago to Geneva, a Call for Police Accountability for Violence and Torture

Because the United States signed and ratified the torture convention, May said the group’s hope is that their report will compel the United Nations to take action.

“We are asking for the United Nations to recommend that the federal government intervene and provide oversight of the Chicago Police Department, and help manage reform of the Chicago Police Department,” she said, also demanding “that the US Department of Justice open a pattern and practice investigation of the CPD’s treatment of youth of color and seek the entry of a consent decree that requires the CPD to document, investigate and punish acts of torture.”

May pointed to the Justice Department’s civil rights investigation into the Cleveland police department as an example of what they’d like to see in Chicago. The probe, announced in March 2013, will investigate whether police in Cleveland regularly use excessive force.

Todd St. Hill, an organizer with We Charge Genocide who is also going to Geneva, said that the best way to make the most of the UN visit is to connect it with organizing on the ground. The visit to Geneva will “put an appropriate label as to what’s going on in the city as far as police relationships [with] people of color.”

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banks v. labor?

The capitulation of Syriza and the lessons for the working class

In the hours following an agreement that is nothing less than a complete capitulation to the European Union, Tsipras let loose another barrage of demagogic lies in a pathetic attempt to deny the magnitude of Syriza’s prostration and to cover up his own political bankruptcy.

“We kept Greece standing and dignified,” declared Tsipras, in a televised statement that seemed oblivious to reality. He claimed that the agreement with Eurogroup finance ministers “cancels austerity.” Tsipras added: “In a few days we have achieved a lot, but we have a long road. We have taken a decisive step to change course within the euro zone.”

Not a word of this is true. The Eurogroup statement signed by Syriza commits its government to “refrain from any rollback of measures and unilateral changes to the policies and structural reforms.” In other words, the Greek government will continue to enforce the existing austerity measures implemented by the previous government.

Moreover, Syriza is to prepare further “reform measures, based on the current arrangement,” specified in the hated Memorandum, which Tsipras had previously pledged to repudiate. And though Syriza had insisted that it would write down Greece’s enormous debt, the agreement with the Eurogroup states that the country will “honor their financial obligations to all their creditors fully and in a timely manner.”

Far from cutting off ties with the “troika,” the government has now promised to “work in close agreement with European and international institutions and partners,” specifically mentioning the European Central Bank and the IMF, which together with the EU make up the troika. As before, “any disbursement of the outstanding tranche of the current [European Financial Stability Facility] programme” depends on a review by “the institutions.” Thus, Greece is to remain in the stranglehold of the troika.

Reading the Greek Deal Correctly

To understand the issues actually at stake between Greece and Europe, you have to dig a little into the infamous “Memorandum of Understanding” signed by the previous Greek governments. A first point: not everything in that paper is unreasonable. Much merely reflects EU laws and regulations. Provisions relating to tax administration, tax evasion, corruption, and modernization of public administration are, broadly, good policy and supported by SYRIZA. So it was not difficult for the new Greek government to state adherence to “seventy percent” of the memorandum.

The remaining “thirty percent” fell mainly into three areas: fiscal targets, fire-sale privatizations and labor-law changes. The fiscal target of a 4.5 percent “primary surplus” was a dog as everyone would admit in private. The new government does not oppose privatizations per se; it opposes those that set up price-gouging private monopolies and it opposes fire sales that fail to bring in much money. Labor law reform is a more basic disagreement – but the position of the Greek government is in line with ILO standards, and that of the “programme” was not. These matters will now be discussed. The fiscal target is now history, and the Greeks agreed to refrain from “unilateral” measures only for the four-month period during which they will be seeking agreement.

Cassidy acknowledges some of this, but then minimizes it, with the comment that the deal “seems to rule out any large-scale embrace of Keynesian stimulus policies.” In what document does any such promise exist? There is no money in Greece; the government is bankrupt. Large-scale Keynesian policies were never on the table as they would necessarily imply exit – an expansionary policy in a new currency, with all the usual dangers. Inside the Euro, investment funds have to come from better tax collection, or from the outside, including private investors and the European Investment Bank. Cassidy’s comment seems to have been pulled from the air.

Another distant fantasy is the notion that the SYRIZA team was “giddy” with political success, which had come “practically out of nowhere.” Actually SYRIZA knew for months that if it could force an election last December, it would win. And I was there on Sunday night, February 8, when Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras opened Parliament with his version of the State of the Union. Tsipras doesn’t do giddy. And Yanis Varoufakis’s first words to me on arrival at the finance ministry just before we went over to hear him were these: “Welcome to the poisoned chalice.”

Greece: Austerity for the Bankers

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IS: Islamic or not?

What ISIS Really Wants

Our ignorance of the Islamic State is in some ways understandable: It is a hermit kingdom; few have gone there and returned. Baghdadi has spoken on camera only once. But his address, and the Islamic State’s countless other propaganda videos and encyclicals, are online, and the caliphate’s supporters have toiled mightily to make their project knowable. We can gather that their state rejects peace as a matter of principle; that it hungers for genocide; that its religious views make it constitutionally incapable of certain types of change, even if that change might ensure its survival; and that it considers itself a harbinger of—and headline player in—the imminent end of the world.

The Islamic State, also known as the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS), follows a distinctive variety of Islam whose beliefs about the path to the Day of Judgment matter to its strategy, and can help the West know its enemy and predict its behavior. Its rise to power is less like the triumph of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt (a group whose leaders the Islamic State considers apostates) than like the realization of a dystopian alternate reality in which David Koresh or Jim Jones survived to wield absolute power over not just a few hundred people, but some 8 million.

We have misunderstood the nature of the Islamic State in at least two ways. First, we tend to see jihadism as monolithic, and to apply the logic of al‑Qaeda to an organization that has decisively eclipsed it. The Islamic State supporters I spoke with still refer to Osama bin Laden as “Sheikh Osama,” a title of honor. But jihadism has evolved since al-Qaeda’s heyday, from about 1998 to 2003, and many jihadists disdain the group’s priorities and current leadership.

Bin Laden viewed his terrorism as a prologue to a caliphate he did not expect to see in his lifetime. His organization was flexible, operating as a geographically diffuse network of autonomous cells. The Islamic State, by contrast, requires territory to remain legitimate, and a top-down structure to rule it. (Its bureaucracy is divided into civil and military arms, and its territory into provinces.)

The Atlantic Ignores Muslim Intellectuals, Defines “True Islam” As ISIS

In the piece, author Graeme Wood makes the case that the militant group — whose actions have sparked protests and widespread revulsion around the world — represents a highly authentic version of Islam. Far from being an aberrant or deviant offshoot of traditional Islamic beliefs, it is described as being a faithful expression of them — representing “a coherent and even learned expression of Islam.” While the author notes that the overwhelming majority of Muslims do not share the views of Islamic State, and indeed see the group as un-Islamic, he denies that their version of the religion is more genuine.

“In the past, Westerners who accused Muslims of blindly following ancient scriptures came to deserved grief from academics,” Wood writes, citing the example of Edward Said and others who called for academics to focus on the social conditions in which religious extremism takes root. “But focusing on [social conditions] to the exclusion of ideology reflects another kind of Western bias: that if religious ideology doesn’t matter much in Washington or Berlin, surely it must be equally irrelevant in Raqqa or Mosul.”

Wood is right in pointing out that there are people in the world today — including those carrying black banners in places like Raqqa and Mosul — who take religion very seriously.

But just as a failure to recognize this fact may represent the bias of a Western observer, there is also a glaring bias in dismissing or ignoring the great mass of established and recognized religious scholars of Islam in the Muslim world whose theological conclusions are starkly at odds with the radical revisionism of Islamic State. 

Indeed, there are actually people alive in our modern world who have spent their entire lives studying and practicing Islam in conjunction with philosophy, history and linguistics, and who also take seriously the idea of being “very Islamic.” They also happen to represent an established tradition of mainstream religious scholarship which millenarian groups like ISIS have made it their stated mission to eradicate.

One prominent example of this is the “Letter to al-Baghdadi,” in which some of the most prominent Islamic scholars in the world condemned the actions of ISIS on a purely theological basis as representing a heretical version of Islam. Far from being a reflexive or apologetic statement, the arguments contained therein are grounded in long-established precepts of religious jurisprudence intended to prescribe the rules and bases of personal and social conduct for practicing Muslims.

What makes groups like Islamic State “radical” in the first place is that they reject all these centuries of scholarship and tradition, and innovate a newly “reformed” Islam — often pieced together with concepts of ideology and organization drawn from contemporary fascist and Marxist-Leninist movements. Such freelancing is a common characteristic of Islamic extremist groups, and despite their pretensions to ancient revivalism it is also a reflection of their inescapably modern revolutionary heritage.

Unfortunately, however, The Atlantic chooses to elide this context and accept the self-definition of Islamic State without question. In the article, arguments put forward by I.S.’s Muslim critics are invoked without content, only to be dismissed as “embarrassed and politically correct” and a “cotton-candy view of their own religion.”

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“my way or the highway”…

Deadly “Dissent”: Hidden Hell Lurks in New Critique of Syria Policy

Ford’s road to Damascus conversion from militant interventionist to skeptical opponent of American policy in Syria seems at first like a positive development; it’s always good to have another voice raised against America’s knee-jerk militarism — and it’s even better PR for anti-war forces if that voice comes from the center of the Establishment itself, right? So Ford’s new stance is getting some play and praise among the dwindling circles of “progressives” who oppose the Peace Prize Prez’s policies of permanent war.

But a closer look at Ford’s position reveals that his “opposition” to the new Obama approach is based on the same argument as his earlier criticism of the president’s policy: that it isn’t bloodthirsty enough.

Ford may now concede that the “moderate” rebels are not up to the job of overthrowing Assad and defeating the jihadis in order to clear (or raze) the ground for a properly pro-US regime. But he still believes that this violent razing and regime implantation should be America’s goal in Syria. What he calls for now is not the amateur hour of the cobbled-together moderates, but a “professional ground force” to come in and do the necessary bloodwork of empire.

Of course, Ford is a savvy realist. (He wouldn’t be writing for FP if he weren’t!) He recognizes the political difficulties of such a course, as McClatchy reports:

Ford said the time had come for U.S. officials and their allies to have a serious talk about “boots on the ground,” though he was quick to add that the fighters didn’t need to be American. He said a professional ground force was the only way to wrest Syria from the jihadists.

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