Are US Coast Guard Ships the New ‘Black Site’ Prisons?

Although Obama failed to close Guantanamo Bay, his administration took critical steps to eliminate Bush-era black site prisons that illegally detained terror suspects.

Under the Trump administration, however, black sites have come roaring back in no small way. For instance, an unidentified U.S. citizen has been held in an Iraqi prison for more than ten weeks without charges.

And recently, it was revealed that U.S. Coast Guard ships are being used in a strikingly similar fashion. Individuals detained by the Coast Guard are allegedly taken aboard these vessels before moving out to international waters in the Pacific Ocean, where U.S. constitutional law — and thus, habeas corpus — does not have to be observed.

These detainees are often shackled to the ship’s deck, where they are left exposed to the elements. And this type of detention can last for weeks, months or, in one detainee’s case, 90 days. Prisoners are fed irregularly and, in many cases, given only a bucket to use as a bathroom. Given that Coast Guard ships aren’t designed to hold prisoners, especially for such a long duration, this is not a surprise.

Additionally, detainees are denied legal counsel or outside contact of any kind. The Coast Guard holds these individuals until they are able to transfer them, usually by aircraft, to Florida where they will face federal prosecution.

The detainees are often apprehended by the Coast Guard under suspicion of trafficking drugs from Central America to the United States. And this new tactic –primarily the brainchild of White House Chief of Staff John Kelly – comes as part of the revived War on Drugs. The former secretary of Homeland Security has not been at all ambiguous about his views on drug smuggling, calling it a fundamental threat to U.S. existence.

Aside from a blatant disregard for human and civil rights, Kelly’s campaign is troubling in that it essentially expands U.S. legal boundaries beyond the country’s physical borders.

Many of detainees who were interviewed explained that they are not drug traffickers by trade; rather, they are often fishermen who have fallen on hard times. These individuals admit that their actions are illegal, but they are baffled as to why they’ve been subjected to such harsh treatment.

Coast Guard authorities, too, have expressed dismay over this use of their vessels, acknowledging that they are ill-equipped to hold people for such long periods of time.

Some Coast Guard officials also allege that these ships have docked at naval bases near airfields — yet the detainees were temporarily confined on the base before returning to the ship, instead of being flown to Florida for prosecution.

While there may not be any logical reason for this practice, Kelly’s intent here is not terribly difficult to decipher: These harsh detentions are meant as pre-trial, pre-conviction punishments. And they serve as a deliberate form of humiliation and dehumanization intended to leave detainees and would-be drug smugglers terrorized.

Take Action!

Urge Secretary of Homeland Security Elaine Duke to prohibit the use of Coast Guard ships as black sites by signing this Care2 petition.

Photo Credit: Naval Surface Warriors/Flickr

42 comments

S M
S Mabout an hour ago

Trump repeating what GWBush allowed, - illegitimate imprisonment, ..... out of sight Guantanamos

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JT Smith
JT Smithyesterday

When are people going to finally stop trying to refer to America as a country rather than the empire it truly is?

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Winn Adams
Winn A1 days ago

Noted

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Winn Adams
Winn A1 days ago

:-(

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Lisa M
Lisa M1 days ago

Noted.

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Lisa M
Lisa M1 days ago

Noted.

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Lorraine Andersen
Lorraine A2 days ago

Thanks for sharing

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Danuta W
Danuta W2 days ago

Thanks for sharing.

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Rosslyn O
Rosslyn O2 days ago

Every person no matter how vile still has the right to a court hearing that is done in the correct order of the Laws set out by each country. I personally feel it is incredibly wrong to hold any perpetrator more than a few days before issuing prosecution charges on that person. They then should have the right to legal council as soon as. Countries that hold people for months and years without allowing them or their families any reason of why they are detained is so very inhumane and wrong.

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Anne M
Anne M2 days ago

It’s inhumane to shackle animals,, let alone people... - Not right..

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