Dec 26, 2014 | Military Section, Popular Mechanics Magazine
Below are details regarding some of the most prevalent claims, and facts uncovered through PM's independent investigation.
1. North Korea/Wyoming detention center
CLAIM: "There is a minimum of one confirmed concentration camp built on American soil in rural Wyoming. " The (Department of Homeland Security) accidentally placed these photos on a publicly accessible portion of their website " (but) they were pulled within one hour." The images are not gone forever though."
FACT: These actually are legitimate images of "forced-labor colonies, camps, and prisons"--in North Korea. The images were taken from "The Hidden Gulag: Exposing North Korea's Prison Camps," a report prepared by the Washington D.C.-based Committee for Human Rights in North Korea.
Then someone manipulated the headers, photo dates and annotations. The original five images, showing a dorm for prisoners, forced-labor shops and guard towers, are here. "When we first got the photos, we had no idea they were prison camps," said Matthew McKinzie, one of the men responsible for collecting the imagery. "The North Korean gulags are work gulags; the prisoners are forced to work and live in what look like North Korean villages. It wasn't until we began interviewing former prisoners that we knew what we were looking at." In the fakes, original maps and geographic coordinates have been covered by poorly pasted DHS logos. The whole thing may have been a hoax--the name of the made-up facility, "Swift Luck Greens," is an anagram for "Left Wing Suckers"--but it's evidence that once things get passed around the Internet, they can lose context and the wildest theory wins.
CLAIM: "More (evidence of) Concentration Camps in America for Americans. Yes, they are real. More (photographic) proof " read it and weep, it's coming!"
FACT: Camp Grayling, located in northern central Michigan, is the largest National Guard training center in the U.S. The National Guard, active and reserve components of the Army, Navy, Marines, Air Force and Coast Guard all train there, practicing everything from helicopter gunnery to processing and care for prisoners of war. "The 'camps' you are referring to are used by our military police for training," said Maj. Dawn Dancer, a public information officer for the Michigan National Guard. "In fact, one of our MP units just returned from a 12-month deployment where they oversaw the operations of a POW facility in Iraq. We are fortunate to have such a great training facility here." This is also evidence of the life span of these theories: Far from being new, or even inspired by post-9/11 government buildup, Dancer first began responding to these photos in 1999. "I cannot believe this rumor about Camp Grayling is still alive," she said.
A) "The Amtrak Railcar Repair Facility at Beech Grove, Ind., contains high security NSA-style people turnstiles, and high intensity/security lighting for 24-hour operation. These buildings have been sealed airtight and constructed to allow gas to be blown into all the buildings via the newly installed, two-story, hot air heating furnaces. [T]he (jobs) of Americans who were laid off there will be filled with foreigners, who will have no qualms about gassing Americans in the newly renovated gas chambers, in the Dachau and Auschwitz of America."
-2:03-2:15 / 2:30-2:50: "This small building is the only way into a particular fenced area. Inside this building, we see more of the motion-activated detectors, electronic turnstiles, and prison bars. " All of the renovations to this property have involved putting in new fencing, electronic turnstiles, concrete flooring in unused warehouse buildings, and putting in large gas furnaces in buildings that were never heated anytime in the past 20 years."
-4:10-4:40: "In yet another fenced area, we see a large warehouse building at the end with the electronic turnstiles in front of it. The building is one that has a new concrete floor--and its doors and windows have all been blocked. Outside there are new gas pipes."
-4:57-5:17: "The gas lines and gas pipes at the facility run the length of the buildings--and come out at some very, very large brand-new furnaces that have been installed at the buildings throughout the facility."
A) This footage, which appears in multiple videos on YouTube, is from a "documentary" filmed 15 years ago—yet today, it's been viewed nearly 1.5 million times online. The woman who made the video, Linda Thompson, was one of the pioneers of the militia movement in the United States--except that she was so extreme, the Southern Poverty Law Center says she embarrassed even her fellow milita members. (Most famously, she called for an armed march on Washington, D.C., to "take U.S. senators and congressmen into custody, hold them for trial, and, if necessary, execute them."). Far from a death camp, Beech Grove is the primary maintenance facility for Amtrak's long-distance trains, overhauling and repairing approximately 700 passenger cars a year. Company officials, who've heard these theories for years, welcomed our film crew, and John Grey, the superintendent of the facility, showed us anything we wanted to see.
B) The turnstiles and "prison bars": According to Grey, that system was the company's initial attempt at an electronic system to log in and out its 500 employees. They're similar to a pair of subway turnstiles. As the technology evolved, so too did the Amtrak infrastructure: There are no more bars to funnel employees through one set of gates; now there are electronic kiosks across the property where workers can clock in and out. "That system was short-lived," Grey says. "Now there are kiosks everywhere."
-The "large warehouse" with windows and doors that are blocked: When the original footage was filmed, the "Coach 3" building, one of three original repair facilities on the property, was in the process of being emptied and consolidated into the other two massive warehouses on the property. That's why it was boarded up. The building was demolished about seven years ago.
4. Hundreds of thousands of plastic coffins
CLAIM: "500,000 plastic air-tight coffins in the middle of Atlanta Georgia. Apparently the Government is expecting a Half Million people to die relatively soon, and the Atlanta Airport is a major airline traffic hub, probably the biggest in the country, which means Georgia is a prime base to conduct military operations and coordination. It is also the home of the CDC, the Center for Disease Control. I don't want to alarm anyone, but usually you don't buy 500,000 plastic coffins 'just in case something happens,' you buy them because you know something is going to happen. These air tight seal containers would be perfect to bury victims of plague or biological warfare in, wouldn't they?"
FACT: The black polypropylene products purported to be coffins are grave liners, or burial vaults, manufactured by Convington, Ga.-based Vantage Products. (In this case, they are examples of the company's Standard Air Seal model.) The use of a burial vault, which prevents the collapse of cemetery ground and protects the casket, is a common requirement when a body is interred.
The filmed lot in Madison, Ga., is a Vantage storage facility. Of the 900,000 or so in-ground burials in the U.S. each year, a small percentage of those people prearranged their own caskets and vaults--which Vanguard holds at the storage facility until the appropriate time. According to company Vice President of Operations Michael Lacey, there are approximately 50,000 vaults in storage in Madison. "It's nowhere near the quantity they talk about on the Internet," he told the local Morgan County Citizen newspaper. Furthermore, Lacey has said the company maintains detailed records of product ownership and is audited annually, to insure all vaults are accounted for.
5. Executive orders
CLAIM: "FEMA is the executive arm of the coming police state and thus will head up all operations. The Presidential Executive Orders already listed on the Federal Register also are part of the legal framework for this operation." (The site then lists 14 executive orders as examples.)
FACTS: In 1962, while juggling conflicts in Cuba and Vietnam, and the potential for nuclear war with the Soviets, President John F. Kennedy signed a series of executive orders that outlined the basic framework for agency responsibilities during a national emergency. Most of those have since been revoked, or rolled into a single, more comprehensive executive order signed by President Reagan. Safeguards were written into the current framework of responsibilities, declaring that any emergency preparation or actions "shall be consistent with the Constitution and laws of the United States."
According to Bruce Ackerman, Sterling Professor of Law and Political Science at Yale Law School, "The question of whether executive power could be abused so as to act inconsistently with the law has been a central constitutional concern for years. But the question in this case is whether it's right to look at 47-year-old executive orders without studying what came after them. And the answer there is obviously no."
The idea of the government seizing all the nation's farmland or forcing Americans into labor camps is without basis--except in Hollywood. In the first X-Files movie, the character Dr. Alvin Kurtzweil meets agent Mulder in a dark alley. "Are you familiar with what the Federal Emergency Management Agency's real power is?" Kurtzweil asks. "FEMA allows the White House to suspend Constitutional government on declaration of a national emergency. Think about that!"
Speculation about the agency was rampant after the film came out, leading a FEMA spokesman to tell The Washington Post in an article published on June 24, 1998: "You may emphatically state that FEMA does not have, never has had, nor will ever seek, the authority to suspend the Constitution." In fact, it led to an internal FEMA memo, reading: "While entertaining and somewhat humorous to the employees of FEMA, some moviegoers may not understand that they are watching a fictional portrayal of the agency. " Most people know us as the agency that responds to natural disasters, others believe we have a somewhat sinister role. For the latter, it is not realistic to think that we can convince them otherwise and it is advisable not to enter into debate on the subject."