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In the days of the Cold War, secret prisons were places where Communist dictators dispatched their political dissidents on trumped up charges, often never to be heard from again.
Back then, Americans would shake their heads in disapproval at those reports and say, "That can't happen here."
But it can – and has.
The U.S. Federal Bureau of Prisons opened its first "secret prison" in 2007 in Terre Haute, Ind., and a second in Marion, Ill., in 2008. Both are special units inside larger federal prisons – a prison within a prison.
The U.S. government doesn't call them "secret prisons," though. Instead they devised the far more Orwellian "Communications Management Units," since people held in them face much greater restrictions on their contact with the outside world than other prisoners.
"The CMUs were opened secretly, and in many people's opinion, illegally. They didn't go through any administrative oversight. And only until years later did we start seeing some language describing what these prison units are supposed to do," investigative reporter and TED senior fellow Will Potter told The Real News Network in an October interview.
It's mostly because of Potter's investigative work into these secret prisons that the public has any idea they exist.
The idea for the secret prisons grew out of Bush administration concerns that under ordinary rules, imprisoned terrorists could communicate with terrorists overseas.
They fit a pattern of other troubling facilities created as part of the war on terror, including "black sites" such as the notorious Abu Ghraib in Iraq and Stare Kiejkuty in Poland.
The black sites, and in particular the harsh treatment of the prisoners, created a lot of international legal headaches for the United States.
About the Author
David Zeiler, Associate Editor for Money Morning at Money Map Press, has been a journalist for more than 35 years, including 18 spent at The Baltimore Sun. He has worked as a writer, editor, and page designer at different times in his career. He's interviewed a number of well-known personalities - ranging from punk rock icon Joey Ramone to Apple Inc. co-founder Steve Wozniak.
Over the course of his journalistic career, Dave has covered many diverse subjects. Since arriving at Money Morning in 2011, he has focused primarily on technology. He's an expert on both Apple and cryptocurrencies. He started writing about Apple for The Sun in the mid-1990s, and had an Apple blog on The Sun's web site from 2007-2009. Dave's been writing about Bitcoin since 2011 - long before most people had even heard of it. He even mined it for a short time.
Dave has a BA in English and Mass Communications from Loyola University Maryland.