Tag Archives: Black Site

White House Prepares to Defend CIA Nomination of Torture Authority Gina Haspel

Gina Haspel, current Deputy Director of the Central Intelligence Agency and nominee to lead the agency, is facing a wave of resistance from civil liberties advocates, Senators, and physicians who say her connection to past torture programs make her unfit to head the CIA. Haspel was involved in CIA “black site” prisons in Thailand and other foreign nations, and is known to have supported the use of torture. Further, Haspel is accused of destroying taped evidence of waterboarding and other forms of torture.

On Thursday, The Hill reported that the Trump Administration drafted a 27-page memo full of “talking points” meant to bolster the standing of Gina Haspel during her nomination hearing with the Senate Intelligence Committee on May 9. According to The Hill, the five main talking points highlight Haspel’s “experience and ‘common-sense’ leadership and note that she would be the first woman to lead the intelligence agency.” If her supporters are pressed about certain issues, including Haspel’s role in past torture incidents, they are encouraged to emphasize that “she is an ‘intelligence and national security expert’ who follows the law as written, and has demonstrated strong and clear leadership in very challenging positions.”

In a Reality Check last month, Ben Swann examined why Haspel’s nomination has come under scrutiny, detailing her past at the CIA including her supervision of “Cat’s Eye,” a CIA “black site” prison in Thailand.


The American Civil Liberties Union condemned the administration and the CIA for supporting Haspel’s history of involvement in torture programs. “While the CIA has said that it is “committed to transparency,” it has so far only granted senators — and not the public — access to some classified information about Haspel,” the ACLU wrote.

“Last week, the CIA disclosed a 2011 memo — written by a former CIA official with a record of excusing torture — which supposedly cleared Haspel of responsibility for the destruction of evidence documenting the brutal torture of a man in CIA custody in 2002. But the CIA shouldn’t get to cherry-pick which documents it will declassify — while hiding the most important torture records.”

Haspel’s nomination has also been opposed by a coalition of physicians and health professionals who say she is unfit to be in a position of authority. On May 3, The Physicians for Humans Rights wrote a public letter noting that Haspel supervised the first “black site” in Thailand, “where agency personnel tortured detainees using waterboarding and other long-outlawed techniques.”

The letter states:

“As health experts who understand the profound mental, physical, and societal effects of torture, we oppose the selection of a nominee who helped conceal the use of torture and held a leadership position at a “black site” where it occurred. She was in a position to know about and influence aspects of a program that purposefully inflicted severe suffering and harm on individuals, to whom the United States has yet to provide rehabilitation or redress as required under the UN Convention Against Torture, a treaty ratified by the United States. Moreover, the program enlisted health professionals to inflict this harm, a grave breach of medical ethics. In Thailand, Haspel worked with contract psychologists James Mitchell and Bruce Jessen, who developed the experimental torture methods used on Abu Zubaydah, Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, and many others.”

The ACLU notes that “one former CIA official told The Daily Beast that Haspel ‘ran the interrogation program.'” The Daily Beast has previously confirmed that Haspel “was in a position of responsibility” during the interrogations of Abu Zubaydah, a Saudi Citizen who has been held in Guantanamo Bay due to accusations of terrorism. The Senate report on CIA torture examined the treatment of Zubaydah and found that the CIA’s own emails described his torture:

“In at least one waterboarding session, Abu Zubaydah ‘became completely unresponsive, with bubbles rising through his open, full mouth. According to CIA records, Abu Zubaydah remained unresponsive until medical intervention, when he regained consciousness and expelled ‘copious amounts of liquid.’”

In addition, Joseph Margulies, attorney for Zubaydah, recently filed a motion in court requesting a federal judge order the Office of the Director of National Intelligence to conduct a search for reportedly destroyed tapes which document the torture of Zubaydah and others. Courthouse News noted that “the motion also included a sworn declaration from Gail Helt, who said she believes some of the tapes still exist”. Helt told Courthouse News she believes Haspel’s “confirmation would send the message to subordinates that there are no consequences for anything, raising the likelihood that this happens again. I hope senators keep that in mind as they cast their votes.”

The destruction of these torture tapes is a significant part of why the public is largely still in the dark about torture. Haspel and her supporters have said she was simply following orders when she ordered her subordinates to destroy documentation of torture. The destruction of these torture tapes was reportedly ordered by Jose Rodriguez, former director of the CIA’s Counterterrorism Center. In 2005 he ordered the destruction of more than 90 videotapes that showed detainees undergoing waterboarding and other torture methods. When he was finally questioned under oath regarding why he ordered the videos destroyed, Rodriguez acknowledged that “it would make the CIA look bad, and almost, in my view, destroy the clandestine service because of it.”

In August 2017, a confidential agreement was reached between two psychologists tasked with designing and implementing the CIA’s torture program and the American Civil Liberties Union. The ACLU originally filed suit against James Mitchell and John Bruce Jessen in October 2015, accusing them of operating a “joint criminal enterprise” via their creation and promotion of violent torture methods. After the ACLU consistently overcame every legal barrier, the trial was scheduled to begin in June 2017. However, due to the Trump administration’s attempts to stop officials from testifying, U.S. District Court Judge Justin Quackenbush set a new date before a settlement was eventually reached. The settlement allowed Mitchell, Jessen, and the CIA to avoid the release of more damaging information related to the controversial torture program.

During the trial, the defense asked the judge to order Haspel “to provide a deposition discussing her allegedly pivotal involvement in an episode the CIA has tried repeatedly to put behind it.” However, the Trump administration and then-CIA Director Mike Pompeo asserted “state secrets” and kept Haspel from being questioned.

The continued secrecy surrounding Haspel’s true role in implementing the CIA’s torture program signals that the federal government seeks to conceal the actions taken by the latest nominee to head the world’s largest spy agency. A Washington Post article published May 6 has reported that Haspel “sought to withdraw her nomination Friday” in light of concern from White House officials that her background in torturing terrorism suspects might prevent her confirmation, according to four senior U.S. officials. “Haspel told the White House she was interested in stepping aside if it avoided the spectacle of a brutal confirmation hearing on Wednesday and potential damage to the CIA’s reputation and her own, the officials said.”

Lawyers: Homan Square Allegations Are A Citywide Problem

Chicago, IL- Allegations of physical abuse and denial of Constitutional rights of suspects held at the closely guarded Homan Square warehouse in Chicago have led to lawyers claiming that such accusations are not limited to one particular facility and it is a problem spread throughout the city.

The descriptions of abuse at Homan Square, including shackling of arrestees for prolonged periods, suspects suffering head wounds while in holding, and officers holding suspects-even minors- without access to an attorney are not unique to this specific building, according to veteran criminal defense attorney Richard Dvorak. Dvorak said that “Everything that was described [in the Guardian story] was something that happens every day. I think it’s pretty systemic throughout CPD.”

First Defense Legal Aid Executive Director Eliza Solowiej also said the problems were not necessarily worse at Homan Square than at other police precincts. “It’s not just this facility. This is a citywide problem,” she said.

Criminal defense attorney Robert Loeb suggested that other Chicago detective headquarters may have more problems with inappropriate detention and interrogation tactics than at Homan Square.

The Chicago Police Department responded to The Guardian’s story revealing abuse allegations at Homan Square in a statement:

Homan Square is a facility owned and used by the Chicago Police Department. The facility is considered sensitive because many officers who operate there are often involved in undercover assignments, and advertising their location could put their lives at risk. Other sensitive units housed at the facility include the Bureau of Organized Crime, SWAT Unit Evidence Technicians, and the CPD ballistics lab.

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. There are always records of anyone who is arrested by CPD, and this is not any different at Homan Square. The allegation that physical violence is a part of interviews with suspects is unequivocally false, it is offensive, and it is not supported by any facts whatsoever.

Loeb said that “The denial that the police spokesman made was way over the top and unjustified because we do know from those terrorism cases that there were abuses,” and added that “Whether or not it’s some [black site] plot? OK, I might be skeptical of that.”

Since The Guardian’s story about Homan Square was published, at least two more detainees have spoken about their time at the building. Alleging that he was detained upon suspicion of selling drugs, a man named Kory Wright told The Intercept that he was never read his Miranda rights, no paperwork was filled out, his fingerprints were not taken, and he was zip-tied to a bench. Deandre Hutcherson, who was taken along with Wright, said a Chicago officer stepped on his groin, hit him in the face several times and then kicked him in the genitals during interrogation.


Benswann.com will be keeping a close eye on developments regarding Homan Square and other “black sites”.

Activist Groups To Rally Against Chicago’s Reported Interrogation Headquarters

Chicago, IL- As news has spread exposing an alleged interrogation facility in Chicago known as “Homan Square” where suspects are reportedly detained, abused and denied Constitutional rights, several activist groups have come together to increase awareness of the facility and the due process violations occurring there.

Earlier this week, The Guardian interviewed attorneys, law enforcement agents, and a former detainee of Homan Square in its exposé of the closely guarded building where few are allowed access.

Groups including PANDAA, Cop Block, The Anti Media, Police the Police, Anonymous and The Free Thought Project are organizing calls to action online and in Chicago to push for the reported interrogations at the warehouse to end. A “Twitter Storm” instructing people to send tweets using the hashtag #Gitmo2Chicago has been announced and is set to begin on Friday night at 7 p.m. Central. There has also been a protest scheduled for Saturday, February 28th at 3 p.m. Central to take place at 3379 Fillmore St in Chicago.

Benswann.com will be keeping a close eye on developments regarding Homan Square and other “black sites”.


h/t: The Free Thought Project

Alleged “Black Site” In Chicago Detaining And Interrogating Suspects

Chicago, IL- A warehouse on Chicago’s west side, known as Homan Square, is allegedly being used as an interrogation facility similar to a CIA “black site” according to an extensive report by The Guardian.

The Guardian reports that Homan Square operates in secret and regularly denies its detainees their Constitutional rights by using the following practices:

  • 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

The Guardian interviewed various attorneys, former law enforcement agents and a man named Brian Church, a protester who said he spent 17 hours at Homan Square handcuffed to a bench. Church was the only detainee willing to speak out to the Guardian. Attorneys for other detainees have stated that their clients fear retaliation from police.

Church was a protester who became known as one of the “Nato 3” accused of terrorism in 2012. Church was not convicted of terrorism but served time for misdemeanor “mob action” and possession of an incendiary device. He is now on parole. “What sticks out the most in my mind is the amount of armored vehicles they had in their garage just sitting there,” Church told the Guardian about what he noticed at Homan Square. “Big vehicles, like the very large MRAPs that they use in the Middle East.”

Sarah Gelsomino, Church’s lawyer, recounted that she and other attorneys spent 12 hours searching for him and could not find any booking record. An attorney was later allowed entry into Honan Square before police transferred Church to a police station.

Attorneys said that it’s a rarity to be allowed inside the building to see a client. “It’s sort of an open secret among attorneys that regularly make police station visits, this place [Homan Square]– if you can’t find a client in the system, odds are they’re there,” said Chicago lawyer Julia Bartmes. The Guardian was denied access to the interior of the building and a man at the facility only said that “This is a secure facility. You’re not even supposed to be standing here,” and refused to answer any questions.

Former Chicago police superintendent Richard Brzeczek said the facility is “not really a secret location, but it’s kind of a cloistered location.” Brzeczek acknowledged the presence of floor-to-ceiling chain-link metal cages inside the building, “much like going into, say, a factory where there are certain areas that are secure.”

Bartmes recalled a phone call from a mother who said she was worried her 15-year-old son had been detained by police. It was later found the boy was being questioned at Homan Square, and Bartmes said that she was refused access. Bartmes said she was told “you can’t just stand here taking notes, this is a secure facility, there are undercover officers, and you’re making people very nervous.” Bartmes said the boy was released after 12 or 13 hours, facing no charges.

One death has been reported at Homan Square. In February 2013, John Hubbard was found unresponsive inside one of Homan Square’s “interview rooms” and later pronounced dead. The Cook County medical examiner’s office was unable to find a record for the Guardian ruling a cause of death for Hubbard, and the Guardian was unable to find why Hubbard was detained by police in the first place.

Tracy Siska, a civil-rights activist with the Chicago Justice Project and criminologist, said that facilities like Guantánamo Bay and Abu Ghraib cause interrogative practices to “creep into other aspects.”

“They creep into domestic law enforcement, either with weaponry like with the militarization of police, or interrogation practices. That’s how we ended up with a black site in Chicago,” she said.