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The U.S. Is Operating Secret Floating Prisons In Pacific Ocean: Report

If you are familiar with 9/11 and the “War on Terror” at all, you’re almost certainly familiar with the U.S. detention facility at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba –a U.S. prison that exists outside the realm of the U.S. justice system.

Now, according to a bombshell report by USA Today, there’s a secret U.S. detention system in the “War on Drugs,” too — and this one is aboard U.S. Coast Guard ships sailing in the Pacific Ocean.

According to the report:

U.S. Coast Guard cutters have been deployed farther and farther from the shore in the Pacific Ocean. When these cutters capture a boat carrying drugs, the smugglers are brought onto the ships and kept shackled to the deck, sometimes outside in the elements, until the Coast Guard makes arrangements for them to be transported back to the U.S. for trial.

But this isn’t a wait of just a few hours or days. Often, these waits last weeks or months, according to new reporting from The New York Times. Coast Guard officials say they can do this because the drug smugglers aren’t under arrest until they reach U.S. shores, but some of the worst cases are drawing criticism even from Coast Guard officials.

USA Today’s reporter Traci Tong highlights the story of three Ecuadorians who are out there transporting drugs and they end up shackled for many, many days on a Coast Guard boat.

One of the men, Jhonny Arcentales, is a fisherman from a coastal town in Ecuador and was having a particularly, economically, rough year and made a decision to take a job smuggling cocaine off of the coast of Ecuador. He really didn’t know all that much about what he was doing, he said.

As he was moving this cocaine on a boat with three other men, they were approaching Guatemala and the U.S. Navy and Coast Guard intercepted that boat and pulled these men off. For the next 70 days, Mr. Arcentales and the other man he was detained with were held — always chained by their ankle to the deck of a ship or to a cable running along one of these large Coast Guard or Navy ships — for 70 days exposed to the elements without getting much food. He was moved from ship to ship as these Coast Guard cutters went about their patrols, picking up cocaine in the Pacific Ocean.

How can the Coast Guard get away with keeping people under those conditions when the men haven’t even been charged?

When you talk to Coast Guard officials and ask them about these things that you’ve researched and found out, what do they say? Are they proud of this or are they a little bit wary of what’s going on?

Many of the Coast Guard officials that I talked to were really uncomfortable about the detention conditions and the amount of time that people were being held during their detention. I really felt that officials thought people need to be moved off the boats more quickly and, again, are uncomfortable about the conditions that they have to hold people in.

Many families, in fact, believe that their loved ones — husbands, fathers, sons — had disappeared. It’s not unheard of for fishermen to disappear in the sea.

And all of these men say “we understand that we’ve broken laws. We understand that we made these decisions. We understand that we’re going to be punished for this.” The question that they raise is “how are we in the United States right now?”

You can read the entire report here.

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