If you weren’t paranoid about what your neighbors were up to already, “Inside: Secret America” promises to do the trick. National Geographic Channel teams with investigative journalists Mariana van Zeller and Darren Foster to take viewers along as they infiltrate the nation”s most controversial subcultures. “Inside: Secret America” premieres Wednesday, July 10, at 10:00 PM ET.
‘Inside: Secret America’ tackles bath salts, sex slaves and guns
Using advanced surveillance techniques and hidden camera technology, van Zeller and Foster go undercover, assuming different identities and diving deeper into these often dangerous worlds. They also hit the streets with experts in the field; members of local law enforcement, criminals willing to cooperate and victims with firsthand experience.
A Peabody Award-winning journalist and correspondent for National Geographic”s “Explorer” series, van Zeller slowly integrates into the underground worlds she is examining. Along with her husband and professional partner Foster, also a Peabody Award-winning producer and director, the pair approaches covert work with caution. “It’s always really tense when you”re going undercover,” says van Zeller. “Just the fact that I know I”m recording my subjects and they don’t. No matter how many times you do it, it’s just really nerve wracking.”
In Louisiana, the couple tracks down a chemist who agrees to talk as long as his identity is kept secret. He makes synthetic marijuana out of his house, and gives them a full demonstration of how he manufactures his own special blend. In Arizona, they enlist the help of a private investigator and former police officer to purchase an AK-47 assault rifle and a .50 caliber sniper rifle – two of the most powerful firearms available – from private sellers who placed ads on the Internet. After the transaction, one of the sellers comments, “You have a lot of firepower to start your own war.”
Outside of Charlotte, N.C., van Zeller and Foster witness the very real presence of sex slavery in the United States and join anti-trafficking activists who are attempting to assist an often-hidden population. Pimps are the driving force behind sex trafficking, and while they make all of the profits they face little of the risk. The women, often coerced into the sex trade at an early age, must face the risks and dangers alone.
Van Zeller and Foster also meet with undercover animal activists who lead hidden camera exposés that have resulted in increased scrutiny of slaughterhouses, farms and research labs. They also interview an executive who feels that the industry is being unfairly portrayed by animal rights groups and discusses the mounting legal counterattacks to have covert activism criminalized.
Premiere episodes include:
Inside: Secret America: Bath Salts
Premieres Wednesday, July 10, at 10:00 PM ET
Investigative journalists Mariana van Zeller and Darren Foster explore the synthetic drug craze in America. They travel to the South, where local law enforcement is trying to shut down manufacturers and distributors – a difficult task, because the chemicals used are constantly changing and the law cannot keep up. They also visit former and currently active Marines in San Diego, who share their stories of synthetic drug abuse and explain that these types of drugs do not show up on standard drug tests. They go undercover with the Marines to local smoke shops to see how easy it is for someone to buy synthetic marijuana and bath salts.
Inside: Secret America: Armed and Undercover
Premieres Wednesday, July 17, at 10:00 PM ET
One year after the Newtown, Conn. and Aurora, Colo. mass shootings, the gun control debate has dominated national headlines. Van Zeller and Foster visit a gun enthusiast community in Arizona, a state with some of the most permissive gun laws in America and home of former congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, who herself was a victim of a mass shooting in 2011. They visit local gun ranges and stores that seem knowledgeable of the state”s gun laws and protocols. But they successfully purchase weapons at gun shows and through online sellers without any proof of identification – both of which are legal in the state. In dramatic hidden camera footage, van Zeller and a private investigator purchase an AK-47 assault rifle in a fast food parking within an hour of making contact with the seller.
Inside: Secret America: American Sex Slave
Premieres Wednesday, July 24, at 10:00 PM ET
Many people think sex trafficking only happens on foreign shores. But in America, sex slavery is thriving. Van Zeller and Foster set out to uncover the truth behind the salacious trade, focusing on the men who buy and sell women in order to work them on the streets. For someone on the outside looking in, a few questions arise. How does a young girl come into this lifestyle? And why don”t they just leave? Van Zeller and Foster reveal how pimps entangle vulnerable women in a trap from which they feel helpless to free themselves.
Inside: Secret America: Animal Undercover
Premieres Wednesday, July 31, at 10:00 PM ET
The images are disturbing; animal cruelty and abuse at the hands of food industry workers and research technicians. Van Zeller and Foster first meet with covert animal activists who lead hidden camera exposés that have resulted in increased scrutiny of slaughterhouses, farms and research labs. While activists push for stricter enforcement of animal cruelty laws and increased criminal prosecutions against offenders, industry executives and lawmakers are mounting their own counterattack, pushing for tougher laws to criminalize covert activism. Van Zeller and Foster meet with people on both sides to examine the story.