Black sites in Chicago

The disgraceful and criminal torture practices of the US government have not aroused as much anger and disgust here as they should have. People seem to find reasons to excuse them, using various arguments depending on their political views. The excuses range from the ‘ticking time bomb’ scenario that actually justifies torture to regretful expressions that because the people being tortured were ‘captured on the battlefield’ there exists the possibility that they may be guilty. These are arguments whose absurdity I will not even bother to refute. All these excuses have at their root the feeling that torture is being used only on other people, foreigners, and Muslims, people who are ‘not like us’. The rest of us are safe.

But people seem to not realize that the powers-that-be do not really care about such distinctions, except insofar as the degree to which public reaction is influenced. So these practices are initially done on people who have been demonized and made ‘the other’ so that the public acquiesces, and then it makes it easier to expand the practices to less marginalized groups.

It is now revealed that this has already happened. The abusive tactics that were done by the CIA at the infamous black sites were also being done right in the city of Chicago, complete with people being kept chained in cages and denied access to lawyers and their families. You can read about the site here. Prisoners were treated in ways that were similar to the odious practices in Guantanamo.

A Chicago detective who led one of the most shocking acts of torture ever conducted at Guantánamo Bay was responsible for implementing a disturbingly similar, years-long regime of brutality to elicit murder confessions from minority Americans.

In a dark foreshadowing of the United States’ post-9/11 descent into torture, a Guardian investigation can reveal that Richard Zuley, a detective on Chicago’s north side from 1977 to 2007, repeatedly engaged in methods of interrogation resulting in at least one wrongful conviction and subsequent cases more recently thrown into doubt following allegations of abuse.

Zuley’s record suggests a continuum between police abuses in urban America and the wartime detention scandals that continue to do persistent damage to the reputation of the United States. Zuley’s tactics, which would be supercharged at Guantánamo when he took over the interrogation of a high-profile detainee as a US Navy reserve lieutenant, included:

  • Shackling suspects to police-precinct walls through eyebolts for hours on end.
  • Accusations of planting evidence when there was pressure for a high-profile murder conviction.
  • Threats of harm to family members of those under interrogation used as leverage.
  • Pressure on suspects to implicate themselves and others.
  • Threats of being subject to the death penalty if suspects did not confess.

Zuley was also involved in some of the harshest Guantanamo interrogations, allowing him to transfer these practices between the two sites.

There are now calls for an investigation of the Chicago black site but you can be sure that Zuley will be described as just a ‘bad apple’, even though the amount of resources devoted to this site shows that it was official policy.


  1. doublereed says

    It’s almost like inquisitions require employing inquisitors.

    Personally, I don’t want inquisitors to be the ones who determine in how we treat other people. I know, I know, I’m pretty wacky.

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