Siska: There was knowledge in the police-accountability community. We knew exactly where it was, but we couldn’t get the press in Chicago to cover the story. We think it started during [former Chicago Police Department Superintendent] Phil Cline’s time around 2006 or 2007 until about 2011 when the city had roving special units [that worked out of Homan Square.]
Basu: Why wasn't the press covering it?
Siska: I think that many crime reporters in Chicago have political views that are right in line with the police. They tend to agree about the tactics needed by the police. They tend to have by one extent or the other the same racist views of the police—a lot of urban police (not all of them by any stretch, but a lot of them) embody racism.
Basu: Why did The Guardian cover it then?
Siska: I think The Guardian, especially Spencer Ackerman, comes at it from a civil-rights perspective. When he sees government doing something wrong, he goes after it. He came in looking for the Zuley story and ended up following up with this one.
Basu: Is there a possibility of other Homan Square-type locations around the city?
Siska: There’s always that possibility. It’s hard to keep up with CPD [Chicago Police Department] facilities. However, the Chicago Justice Project is part of a coalition of organizations that about two years ago got the general order [CPD’s governing rules] changed, so lawyers could be able to access their clients in any facility maintained by the CPD.
Basu: What about Homan Square-like locations around the country?
Siska: I don’t know, but I would say that the creation of the fusion centers on a federal level gives me pause about how widespread Homan Square places are around the country.
Basu: What is the area around Homan Square like?
Siska: If you’re able to find the location, there are CPD cars there. The evidence-retrieval unit is there. It’s a multi-use facility. People in the department know it exists, but outside people don’t. Maybe not beat officers, but many supervisors know it exists, since they have to work their way through their special units all the time.
Basu: Going back to the Guantanamo interrogation techniques associated with Homan Square, and just to be clear: These warehouses aren’t interrogating suspected terrorists, correct?
Siska: No, no, no, no, no, no, no. 99 percent of the people from this site are involved in some form of street crime: gang activities, drugs—urban violent crime. That’s what makes the site even worse. It takes Guantanamo-style tactics on urban street criminals and shreds the Bill of Rights.
Basu: To clarify: What do “Guantanamo-style” tactics entail?
Siska: Isolation, deprivation of food, other outside contact. It’s meant to be a lot of touchless torture. So they’re not touching you, which in the human-rights field is more powerful and scary because it doesn’t leave marks but leaves huge internal wounds. Most of the time, people aren't physically abused. They’re cut off from society, not allowed phone calls, not fed as much. These are just tactics that are more sophisticated in urban-policing tactics.