NC Involvement in US Torture Program More Extensive Than Previously Known
(Nov. 30, 2017) The North Carolina Commission of Inquiry on Torture (NCCIT) uncovered new information concerning the depth of North Carolina’s involvement in US torture at a public hearing in Raleigh, NC, on Nov. 30, 2017.
The new findings, produced in partnership with The Rendition Project, reveal that nearly 30% of all acknowledged CIA black-site prisoners –34 individuals — rendered from 2001-2006 were transported on planes that originated in North Carolina. The Senate torture report has detailed the abuse detainees were subject to at these CIA sites.
Aero Contractors, founded in 1979 and headquartered at the Johnston County Airport in Smithfield, NC, operated a Gulfstream V jet nicknamed the “Guantanamo Express” to transport dozens of prisoners to black site prisons and proxy countries where many were subjected to torture, including waterboarding, painful stress positions and prolonged sleep deprivation, in their interrogations following 9/11. Aero also operated a Boeing business jet from a hangar it built at the Global TransPark, a state development project in Kinston, North Carolina.
The role of Aero Contractors and how North Carolina’s tax dollars, aviation infrastructure, and other public resources may have been used to directly or indirectly support the CIA’s rendition and torture program are the primary focus of NCCIT’s investigation. The public hearings held this week served as an opportunity for international experts, witnesses, and participants in the program to provide testimony to the Commission.
Mohamedou Ould Slahi, who was wrongfully accused of involvement in 9/11, appeared before the commission remotely by video and told the story of how he was transported on an Aero-operated flight which originated in North Carolina, brutally tortured, and detained at Guantanamo for more than 14 years. Slahi stated, “I am personally inspired to see citizens of North Carolina organize to demand accountability especially in an environment where the use of torture is still openly advocated.”
Although many of the details about the torture program remain classified, Dr. Sam Raphael, co-founder of The Rendition Project, has managed to uncover significant new findings regarding the role of North Carolina’s aviation infrastructure. Raphael says that “Aero Contractors, based in the state, operated two aircraft which played a central role in the CIA’s torture program, rendering at least 34 individuals to secret detention at CIA black sites, and at least 15 others to foreign custody, for interrogation and torture – including rape, genital mutilation, water torture, and electro-torture. Horrific details of the treatment of prisoners held by the CIA continue to emerge, and North Carolina’s public airports are now known to have been implicated in many more of these cases than previously understood. Now is the time for full accountability and justice.”
Catherine Read, Executive Director of the North Carolina Commission of Inquiry on Torture, stated, “No one has been held accountable for the heinous human rights violations committed in our country’s name and whose consequences continue to be felt. On the contrary, many of the key individuals involved in designing and executing the torture program continue to be given appointments within the federal government. NCCIT seeks to do the job our government has refused to do by investigating the links between the U.S. torture program and NC tax dollars and state resources that may have been used directly or indirectly to support the supply chain of torture and seek transparency and accountability.”David Crane, NCCIT Commissioner and international chief war crimes prosecutor, said, “The United States has yet to turn the page on the dark chapter in our history when illegal detention and torture was carried out on suspects. The work of NCCIT serves as a unique and innovative model of citizen-driven accountability. Only with transparency can the public engage in an informed discussion of how to keep abuses like these from occurring again using our soil and tax dollars.”
The North Carolina Commission of Inquiry on Torture is continuing to investigate following the public hearing and will issue a report in 2018 with findings and recommendations.
“CIA rendition flights from rustic North Carolina called to account by citizens” (The Guardian | Jan. 17, 2018) … Seven years later, Cowger sat in the front row of a makeshift hearing room in the Raleigh Convention Center as 11 volunteer commissioners of the North Carolina Commission of Inquiry on Torture “upped the ante”, as she put it, on that pledge. Over the course of two days, this “citizen-led truth seeking commission” called 20 witnesses to testify on the damage done by Aero’s rendition operations …
“Smithfield-based company accused of flying terror suspects across globe” (WNCN| Nov. 30, 2017)
“David Crane, a former intelligence officer and federal prosecutor, claims 9/11 pushed the U.S. into the dark, slippery shadows of interrogation. ‘The United States did not torture individuals until after 9/11. It was against policy, and it just wasn’t the way we did business,’ Crane said.”