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"Inside: Secret America" is a reality series on National Geographic Channel that infiltrates the nation's most controversial subcultures with investigative journalists Mariana van Zeller and Darren Foster.

Nick will sell you an assault rifle in the parking lot of a fast food restaurant in Arizona. In a Southern town, Steve has what law enforcement believes to be synthetic marijuana for purchase at his smoke shop. For around $100 in cash, Karen in North Carolina will sell you sex however you like it. All three are seemingly everyday Americans, but their lives and livelihoods fuel national headlines and regularly stir impassioned political debate.

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 hit the streets with experts in the field — members of local law enforcement, criminals willing to cooperate and victims with firsthand experience — to gather intelligence, plot out their covert strategy and assess the obstacles that lie ahead of them.

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."

Van Zeller and Foster obtain exclusive access to the people who drive these clandestine industries. In Louisiana, they track 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 antitrafficking 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.

Van Zeller and Foster travel the globe together, going to extraordinary lengths in search of the next great story. For this series, they go deeper than ever for an inside look at an America you've never seen before.

"Inside: Secret America" is produced by National Geographic Television in association with Muck Media for National Geographic Channel. For Muck Media, series producers are Mariana van Zeller, Darren Foster and Alex Simmons. For National Geographic Television, executive producer is Jerry Decker. For National Geographic Channel, executive producer is Kathleen Cromley, vice president of production and development is Charlie Parsons, senior vice president of production and development is Noel Siegel and executive in charge of production is Michael Cascio.


Network: National Geographic Channel
Genre: Reality
Runtime: 60 mins.
Premiere Date: July 10, 2013
Seasons: 1
Production Companies:
National Geographic Television
Muck Media

Mariana van Zeller (left) 'Inside: Secret America' Investigates Unlicensed Guns, Synthetic Drugs and Sex Slavery — Premiering Wednesday, July 10, the new National Geographic Channel series infiltrates the nation's most controversial subcultures using advanced surveillance techniques and hidden cameras. Read more...

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