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Exclusive: Secret interrogation facility in Chicago reveals creeping aspects of war on terror in US city as accounts describe shackling and brutality without basic rights.

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.

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.

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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 with 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 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 Garrry McCarthy declined comment.

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In science it often happens that scientists say, "You know that's a really good argument; my position is mistaken," and then they would actually change their minds and you never hear that old view from them again. They really do it. It doesn't happen as often as it should, because scientists are human and change is sometimes painful. But it happens every day. I cannot recall the last time something like that happened in politics or religion. - Carl Sagan

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