Nation Mag Claims ICE has Network of Secret Detention Faciilities — in the USA

In America's Secret ICE Castles, the Nation magazine claims that our immigration police has 186 secret detention facilities scattered around the country.

Among the more hair-raising allegations:

  • A year ago, a top ICE official boasted, “If you don't have enough evidence to charge someone criminally but you think he's illegal, we can make him disappear.”
  • The 186 are mostly unmarked, and locals don't know about them.
  • People sent to these offices are kept off ICE's registry system so that people looking for them cannot find them.
  • Although ICE is not supposed to incarcerate US citizens, it has; they (like the immigrants ICE processes) are denied access to counsel.
  • At least one US citizen was deported as a result of this system.
  • One purpose of the system is to make it more difficult for lawyers to find prisoners before they are deported.

Much of the info concerns activities of the Bush admin; some of it clearly is still happening. The article is maddeningly unclear about how many.

Glenn Beck got a lot of ink a while back for claiming that Obama planned to build a network of secret detention centers in the US in order to lock up Republicans. Who knew that they already existed and were used to deny process of law to suspected undocumented foreigners? Add these to the secret camps in Afghanistan, Lithuania and elsewhere.

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9 Responses to Nation Mag Claims ICE has Network of Secret Detention Faciilities — in the USA

  1. Patrick (G) says:


    I think that the proper attitude to take is if there is no judicial oversight of the detention of private persons, then the executive branch is engaging in unconstitutional, criminal behavior. Those involved should be treated as presumptive kidnappers and subject to the penalties for human trafficking.

  2. The irony is that Fox is very likely the only news outlet that will expose the story to the mainstream if it turns out to be legitimate.

  3. Vic says:

    To be fair, Glen Beck does not believe in the FEMA camps. He has said so over and over again. He’s has joked about it a few times and people have latched onto that. He has also tried to get proof one way or the other when he got fed up with hearing about it (his audience includes many FEMA cap believers), but could not prove or disprove it. My understanding is that he does NOT believe they exist. And really, who would?

    But if you are interested in this kind of stuff, I can’t understand, Michael, why you do not start some sort of rational discussion about the Gitmo detainee trials? This is, presumably, something you’ve wanted to see all these years. Now the rubber has hit the road, so what’s going to happen – and is it really a good idea?

    Will evidence obtained through torture be admitted in a civilian U.S. Court – thus setting scary precedent? Or will it be kept out, thus ensuring either aquittal, or a baseless (evidentiarily) conviction, setting yet another bad precedent? And if KSM is aquitted, will he be released? Justice says no he won’t – so NOW we’ll have an aquitted prisoner, duely tried, being held. Still WORSE precedent. Or will he actually be released – in which case an admitted terrorist, who wanted the death penalty for his admitted crimes, will be released – thus creating the ultimate campaign ad for a lucky opponant. Is there ANY possible good, in bringing these people into the U.S., thus granting them certain rights they don’t have now, and that other POW’s tried here never had, setting really bad legal precedents on the way, and having a show trial that will probably result in nothing any different than indeffinate detention anyway, other than making Bush-haters feel like they got one over on him?

    There are serious legal issues, that you have addressed on this blog in the past regarding the Gitmo folks, how about NOW? It might be time better spent than fluff about wackjobs that this we’re all going to be locked up by our government in a secret camp if we step out of line. Seriously, there’s actually important stuff going on in the world that legal minds can publically digest and make interesting – unless you prefer the political version of the Jon + Kate = 8 stories.

  4. michael says:

    Eh? There is almost nothing to blog about on that issue because the issues are quite simple:

    1. Gitmo should be closed.

    2. All the prisoners should either be released or brought to the US for trial.

    3. Trials can be civilian or military depending on the status of the prisoner (civilian or military). In principle I have nothing against properly constituted military commissions trying military defendants according to rules consistent with Due Process and our international obligations. [Note that these trials are different from the status determination hearings, that are a different and more preliminary process.] However, the US government has in the main taken the view, sometimes as a result of status determination hearings, that the prisoners now held at Gitmo are not military, and the Geneva conventions did therefore not apply to them. For that group, I think the only available choice now is likely a trial in a federal civilian court. In short, if the US government said the person was a civilian — not a member of a foreign army or an irregular, but some nebulous sort of ‘combatant’ entitled to no more rights than a civilian — it is estopped from claiming otherwise now.

    4. Ordinary US Constitutional rights apply in all civilian trials. Without exception. That is what it means to have a Constitution. If you have a Constitution a la carte you do not have a Constitution.

    5. “Evidence” acquired via torture is not admissible in a US court for the purpose of proving the guilt of a defendant. Indeed, evidence of torture may be evidence of governmental misconduct which can (at the judge’s discretion) affect the course of the trial.

    6. To the extent this means some very bad people may walk, this is a great problem and tragedy, and a further example of the evils of the Bush/Cheney decision to ignore the Constitution. But if it is what the Constitution requires, it is what me must have.

    7. POWs can in principle be held “for the duration of the conflict” even if found not guilty of violating the laws of war, although how long for an endless “war on terror” is a hard question I don’t have an easy answer to. (Fortunately, I don’t need one this week, since I don’t see any cases where military commissions are appropriate. To repeat, military commissions are for the class of persons to whom the full panoply of Geneva Convention rights apply.) Civilians should not be held if no charges are pending against them. (There are in fact two exceptions to this principle in US law, both of which disturb me, but I which I acknowledge are currently part of our law: (1) when people convicted an of offense are judged insane and dangerous to others they can be held past the end of their sentences; (2) Innocent people who are deportable but whose country of origin will not take them are held in custody for long periods of time; challenges to this practice have tended to fail.) If civilians have charges pending against them, they are entitled to a trial (and a defense).

    See. Not even worth a post of its own, is it?

  5. Vic says:

    You haven’t even remotely thought this through. There are very serious issues that come up in holding civilian trials for these people that can’t just be dismissed when you know the law involved.

    But even as solely as a political issue, do you REALLY think that ANY Justice department will allow an aquitted defendant like KSM to just go at any point? Would you want to be the president that says “well, we can’t admit any of the evidence, so KSM must go free.” Do you SERIOUSLY think this will happen? This isn’t some double murderer set free to maybe kill again, this is an admitted terrorist, PROUD of killing 3000 Americans. Even if he is legally aquitted, no politician would EVER set him free again. It would be party suicide, not just some October surprise. You thought Willy Horton was a bomb… But if he’s aquitted, he CAN’T be held by your black-letter – so what happens? And if he’s not let go after aquittal, what precedent does that set in CIVILIAN courts for the next person we all agree is a bad man, but who gets aquitted through some technical mistake (happens all the time in our criminal courts)? These are serious questions, which you surprisingly think can just be dismissed by a sentence of black-letter on how it works. Well, welcome to the real world: KSM and others will be tried and almost certainly will be either aquitted and held indeffinately as a political football (each administration leaving it for the next), or be convicted under evidentiary exceptions which should make your skin crawl. You might be surprised to know that many very liberal criminal defense lawyers I know who are very much against any of this precisely for how it will mess up precedent, no matter which way it goes.

    You can just ignore the problems and keep citing useless black-letter, while blaming Bush for everything, if that works for you, but real criminal lawyers will have to deal these problems. It’s too bad you don’t find any of this interesting enough.

  6. michael says:

    If you can’t make a constitutional argument — and you haven’t even tried, have you? — then your argument is (like the times) fundamentally Schmittian I reject that. Schmittians, however much they seek to clothe themselves in “realism” are in fact the enemies of the rule of law, and thus of freedom.

    The whole point of a constitution is to force the government to sometimes do stuff it doesn’t want to. (Or to forbid stuff it would find oh-so-convenient.)

  7. Vic says:

    I think I WAS making a constitutional argument – one that suggests that trying these men as civilian law-breakers would be a bad idea constitutionally. But to simplify:

    -In a civilian court, it would be unconstitutional to admit much of the evidence against KSM (most, maybe virtually all), using him as the poster child of the bunch.

    If that’s true, then it might be unconsitutional to convict him, in that convicting him on scant evidence might require a conviction based on feelings about him, rather than evidence, or certainly be appeallable on that ground.

    So, if he is convicted, it might well be unconstitutional in a civilian Federal court, and/or it might well be overturned.

    If he’s aquitted (for whatever reason), the Administration has said he won’t be released. That raises another obvious constitutional issue as he was civilian enough to try as one, but military enough to hold like a POW? Can it then be shown that the Fed court had no standing if he’s given the status of Military Combatant/POW before and after the fact. (That might well overturn his conviction as well)

    So now that he’s aquitted, what to do with him? He can’t be constitutionally held, but it’s pretty clear that for various reasons he will not be released. This is a constitutional issue if I’ve ever seen one, and I can tell you this is not happy precedent in the criminal court system, whatever law professors might think of it all.

    So in the end, these trials turn into show trials, where the acceptable outcome will be pre-determined by political necessity, and will be ignored if need be. What’s more unconstitutional than that?

    Or do you, seriously, in your heart of hearts, see our Government letting KSM go with an apology for holding him in three years after his trial ends in aquittal?

  8. michael says:

    There are thre scenarios in which our courts ultimately would not order the release of a civilian acquited of criminal charges.

    1. The one I mentioned above: the civilian is a deportable alien whom no other coutry will take. I think this is a bad legal result, but it’s currently our law. Wikipedia says KSM has Bosnian citizenship, but I don’t know if that is accurate, and it doesn’t say if that’s instead of or in addition to his birth citizenship which I think is Kuwait.

    2. Congress (or arguably, and by historical precedent, the President) suspends the writ of habeus corpus as regards the class of persons to whom the defendant belongs. The Military Commissions Act of 2006 (MCA) purported to do this for “unlawful enemy combatant[s]”; the problem is that under the statute the decision as to who is such a person falls in the unreviewable discretion of the executive branch, and the Supreme Court said habeus survived the MCA in Boumendiene v. Bush. But it could be done properly. Then again, President Obama took a strong stand in favor of habeus rights in his post-inaugural executive order on Gitmo.

    3. We ignore the Constitution.

    Needless to say, I think #3 is the worst result, and I oppose it.

  9. Vic says:

    Well we largely agree. What “bothers” me is that you so easily gloss over the inherent political problem for (currently) Obama, when I doubt you would be so charitable to Bush.

    What this comes down to under BOTH our analyses is three possible bad results:
    -KSM will be convicted in a civilian court under quite probably unconstitutional circumstances.
    -KSM will be aquitted in a civilian court, but will not be released under some tortured and potentially unconstitutional logic.
    -KSM will be aquitted and constitutionally released to some friendly (to him) government and will be thus free to do it all again (and he will, given the chance).

    I’m just not sure I buy that there will be some legal and constitutional way to just keep holding them indeffinately because of whom they are – if there were such a way, the Bush DOJ would have figured it out and the matter would be settled. There is only bad law here. Much like the men in your neck of the woods that must live on the causeway or whatever because of the sexual offender proximity laws. (I hope that’s not still going on)

    This is all ultimately a political question, rather than a legal one, since for ANY desired result, the legal system will need to be circumvented in some way (unconstitutional evidence admitted, convicted unconstitutionally on basis of “bad man” theory, habeas suspended for him, etc.), or political suicide, committed when he is released (against all public desire and common sense – I wouldn’t want to be the president deciding to do THAT!).

    So in my opinion, this is EXACTLY the political-type issue that you should be tossing around on a blog like this. Should these trials take place? What is DOJ and Obama thinking? Would Bush ever get away with this? Is this any better than what we criticised Bush for doing for his tenure? Is it even different? Are these trials real, or just something to satisfy a segment of the population that demanded them of Bush. Will they really solve anything, or just leave us right back where we are now, with folks in jail indeffinately.

    There is a lot of Blog mileage there if you want it, but I am becoming increasingly disheartened with your blog that you don’t want it. That’s your business for sure, but this blog will remain in the backwaters of the Interwebs for that reason. You have to take the bull by the horns sometimes. Just my critique, for what it’s worth – which is little.

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