Who’s Inside Midwest Mystery Prisons?

Friday, July 31, 2009
Federal Penitentiary, Terre Haute

Federal prison officials during the Bush administration began a secretive program to segregate inmates, most of whom are Muslims, and limit their ability to communicate with the outside world. Known as Communications Management Units (CMUs), these “prisons within a prison” were set up at two Midwestern federal penitentiaries, one in Terre Haute, IN, and the other in Marion, IL.

 
Based on testimony from a former CMU inmate, these special prisons may house up to 40 prisoners—of whom 70% are adherents of Islam. None of the CMU inmates are categorized as a high-security threat, and yet they cannot send or receive written communications without it first being reviewed by prison officials.
 
Some critics of CMUs contend there is growing evidence the federal government created the secret prisons to extract information from inmates for the war on terrorism.
 
Officially, the Federal Bureau of Prisons says the CMUs are used to “house inmates who, due to their current offense of conviction, offense conduct or other verified information, require increased monitoring of communication between inmates and persons in the community in order to protect the safety, security, and orderly operations of Bureau facilities and protect the public.”

Although the government refuses to disclose the names of those held in CMUs, inmate advocates have determined the following are currently held at either of the secret facilities: Enaam Arnaout, founder of Islamic charity Benevolence International Foundation; Dr. Rafil Dhafir, physician and founder of Iraqi charity Help the Needy; Ghassan Elashi, founder of Holy Land Foundation and Islamic Society of North America (ISNA); Randall Royer, Muslim civil rights activist; Yassin Aref, Imam and Kurdish refugee; Sabri Benkahla, an American abducted in Saudi Arabia, and John Walker Lindh, an American convert to Islam who was captured in Afghanistan.
 
The American Civil Liberties Union has filed lawsuits challenging the legality of the CMUs, claiming they violate federal laws requiring public scrutiny and constitutional protections guaranteeing the right of religious practice to conduct Islamic group prayer.
-Noel Brinkerhoff
 
Secret Bush-era Prisons Continue (by John C. Trang, New America Media)
Prisoners of a Special Kind (by Karin Friedemann, Khaleej Times)

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