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North Carolina GOP Representative Walter Jones Calls for Torture Accountability.

Offers Lesssons in Integrity for President Obama and Senator Burr

On Jan. 26, the News & Observer reported on comments Rep. Walter Jones (NC - 3rd District) made to NC Stop Torture Now regarding the Senate torture report his colleague, Senator Burr, strives to erase from history.

Jones said he thinks there are "many crimes worthy of prosecution" detailed in the report, which catalogs the CIA's use of waterboarding, sleep-deprivation, beatings, stress positions and other cruel, inhumane and degrading abuses.

As the News & Observer reported, the Republican Congressman from Farmville: "agreed with Andrew Napolitano, a Fox News legal commentator and former state court judge in New Jersey, who said after the summary of the Senate report was released in December that there were many crimes detailed in the report that should be prosecuted."

Indeed, in a broadcast report on Fox, Napolitano called the report "the most compelling, detailed documented report of government intentional infliction of pain on non-combatants ever produced in American history since the time of the Civil War."

The ACLU and two human rights groups have called on the administration to investigate whether officials in the George W. Bush administration and CIA officials broke the law by having suspected terrorists tortured in prisons. Now, the ACLU is working in the federal courts to prevent Senator Burr from reclaiming the Senate report from the White House.

As reported by "ACLU lawyers (called) 'The FInal Full Report ... the most significant investigation into the most egregious CIA abuses in at least a generation. Public release of the ... Full Report is ... vital to the functioning of a democratic society, needed to check against corruption and to hold the governors accountable to the governed.""

In response to the ACLU motion, the Justice Department even declines to pledge that White House agencies will hold their copies of the report until the federal courts can weigh in on the matter.

Senator Burr: More Concerned About President George W. Bush's Legacy than National Security?


A letter from North Carolina Stop Torture Now coordinator Christina Cowger in the Jan. 23 edition of The Washington Post questions Senator Burr's respect for his own constituents. Other national media reporting casts doubt on his fitness to lead the committee charged with overseeing the CIA.

Even commentators with the unabashedly conservative Fox News outlet are openly critical of attempts to bury the findings of the Senate torture report and argue that: "In a free society in which the government works for us, we have a right to know what it is doing in our names, and we have a reasonable expectation that the laws the government enforces against us it will enforce against itself. "

Locally, The News & Observer, said that – even in the first days as chair of the oversight committee – Burr "... signals that his time in this important chairmanship will be stridently partisan."

Cowger's letter cites recent reports of Sen. Burr's contention that: "When terrorists attack ... we can interrogate Guantánamo captives to gain insight into the plot ... " as his rationale for backing legislation that aims to block closure of the prison camp.

The last captive arrived to Guantánamo in 2008. What information about current plots could any detainee offer today? Does Burr really hope to keep the camp open so it can be available to house more men and -- perhaps -- women and children scooped up by the United States' still misguided and unrepentant spy agency?

Fewer than two weeks after his dubious assertion about Guantánamo, Sen. Burr sought to reclaim copies of the Senate Select Intelligence Committee's torture report from the White House. Some analysts suggest the move is a thinly veiled effort to prevent Americans from ever coming to terms with what torture survivor Senator John McCain (R-AZ) called: " ... a right – indeed ... responsibility – to know what was done in their name; how these practices did or did not serve our interests; and how they comported with our most important values."

Both as a hub for the aircraft and flight crews that delivered innocent men to torture chambers and as Sen. Burr's constituents, North Carolinians have a special responsibility to confront these injustices and reach out to offer apology and restorative justice to victims, survivors and their families.

Is Sen. Burr also hoping to let the Obama White House off the hook for its failure to investigate the post-9/11 torture program? How does that serve our nation, let alone his party?

Please take a moment to write Senator Burr and ask a simple question: "If you don't trust your constituents, maybe you don't trust democracy?"

Senate Torture Report Names At Least 18 CIA Detainees Transported by Aero Contractors for Torture

The recently released summary of the Senate torture report validates what North Carolina Stop Torture Now (NCSTN) and other Tar Heels have been saying since 2005:  North Carolina has long been deeply involved in clandestine CIA torture and rendition.  At least 18 of the CIA detainees named in the Senate report were secretly transported by Aero Contractors aircraft based in Smithfield or Kinston, NC.

However, 16 more named survivors and victims transported to torture by the CIA using Aero Contractors planes and pilots do not appear in the released portion of the Senate report.

“In fact, the words ‘North Carolina’ appear nowhere in what was released on Tuesday,” said Christina Cowger, NCSTN’s coordinator.  “Much survivor information remains secret.  But flight logs and other data show that many torture flights originated here, and we call for release of the full report to see if more information about survivors and flights is in it.”

“We also call on federal and North Carolina authorities to immediately launch vigorous investigations into the illegal torture-related activities and conspiracies now established as taking place in North Carolina,” Cowger said.

The CIA and perhaps other government entities maintained vital rendition infrastructure in our state for many years.  Two North Carolina public airports functioned as home bases for planes that brought detainees to secret prisons where they were held indefinitely and interrogated under often-brutal torture. 

Further, the firm Blackwater was headquartered in Moyock, NC, during the height of extraordinary rendition.  The New York Times quotes a former top CIA officer as saying, “It became a very brotherly relationship.  There was a feeling that Blackwater eventually became an extension of the agency.” Blackwater changed its name to Xe Services in 2009 and then to Academi in 2011.

The names of 119 CIA detainees appear in Appendix 2 (on p. 458) of the Senate’s summary, and we learned some of those names for the first time on Tuesday.  Yet other well-known survivors of CIA extraordinary rendition are not on the published list, including: 

  • Abou ElKassim Britel, an Italian citizen of Moroccan descent rendered by the CIA for torture in Morocco
  • Fatima Bouchar and Abdel Hakim Belhadj, held in the CIA’s Thai black site and one of two dissident Libyan families rendered to Libya by the CIA and MI6
  • Khadija al Saadi, daughter of Libyan dissident Sami al-Saadi, rendered with her family at age 12 by the CIA and MI6 from Hong Kong to Libya
  • Ahmed Agiza and Mohamed el-Zery, two Egyptian asylum-seekers rendered by the CIA from Sweden to torture in Egypt
  • Maher Arar, a Canadian engineer who was rendered by the U.S. for torture in his native Syria

As the international human rights organization Reprieve commented, “This is a good start, but it is far from the whole picture.  The names of many victims of rendition and torture are absent.”

Can we expect that incoming Senate Intelligence Chair Richard Burr (R-NC) will act for torture transparency?  When asked if he expected any kind of follow-up to the report, Sen. Burr told McClatchy, “No. Put this report down as a footnote in history.” 

Sen. Burr also called the report “a blatant attempt to smear the Bush administration” and “flawed, biased, and political in nature.”

Senate Intelligence Releases Portions of Landmark Torture Report; Will North Carolina’s Role in Torture Be Addressed?

North Carolina Stop Torture Now welcomes the December 9, 2014 release of the historic report on CIA torture by the U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee.  The report validates what human rights investigators and journalists have demonstrated for a decade: the CIA conducted a years-long, illegal, and immoral program of torture that has cost our nation terribly in lost credibility, the enmity of millions around the world, and the undermining of our democracy. 

“It is not only the obligation of the federal government to commit to transparency and accountability for torture, but our state and its political subdivisions  are also required to provide facts and details about torture and to accept responsibility for human rights violations,” said Prof. Deborah Weissman, UNC School of Law.  “The Convention Against Torture and other treaties oblige us to uncover and take responsibility for our state’s role in the systematic torture of human beings, now confirmed by the Senate report.”

In addition to grassroots activists, prominent North Carolinians have been calling for torture transparency.  More than 190 faith leaders wrote to Sen. Richard Burr in 2013, calling on him to support release of the Senate torture report.  In addition, over 1,200 North Carolinians have called for an inquiry on North Carolina’s role in torture. 

North Carolina and CIA-Directed Torture

Although the report’s executive summary is coming out, North Carolina’s connections to torture may be buried in the body of the report itself.  A large volume of evidence has been compiled by journalists and human rights investigators:

North Carolina has been extensively involved in torture in contravention to state, federal, and international law, particularly by sustaining key aviation infrastructure for extraordinary rendition at our public airports.  The Johnston County Airport has hosted Aero Contractors since 1979, and Aero remains the airport’s largest tenant.  In 2005, the New York Times exposed Aero as “a major domestic hub of the Central Intelligence Agency’s secret air service.”  Aero-operated craft secretly flew detainees to torture chambers in Jordan, Egypt, Syria, Afghanistan, Morocco, and Libya.  They also repeatedly visited the CIA black sites in Poland and Romania where torture was performed directly by U.S. officials.  Documentation was supplied to public officials and the media in this 2012 report.

NC-based planes and crews played key roles in the CIA rendition program.  One of the planes operated by Aero (N379P) was a Gulfstream V jet nicknamed the “Guantánamo Express.”  For a critical period during the height of the rendition program, Aero also operated a Boeing business jet (N313P) from a hangar it built at the Global TransPark in Kinston.  Together, these two aircraft conducted dozens of missions in which incapacitated detainees were taken secretly to prisons where they were held indefinitely and without access to lawyers, family, or the Red Cross.  There, they were interrogated using torture.  Highly skilled pilots and crews operated and maintained these aircraft, likely with full knowledge they were working for the CIA.  The names of several of the pilots have been in the public record for many years.

Many of the detainees transported to torture by Aero were clearly innocent, were never given due process, and were profoundly damaged.  Those who survived still suffer deeply.  This includes Khaled el-Masri, a German citizen of Lebanese descent; Abou ElKassim Britel, an Italian citizen of Moroccan descent; Binyam Mohamed, a UK legal resident of Ethiopian descent; Khaled al-Maqtari, a Saudi national detained in Iraq; and many more.  These men were subjected to brutal treatment.  They were strung up in painful stress positions for long periods and endured vicious beatings, including to their genitals and torso.  They suffered prolonged detention in complete darkness, and/or were bombarded with deafening sounds.  So far, human rights investigators have documented that over 135 persons were subjected to extraordinary rendition.  Over 30 of these people – and probably many more – were rendered on flights originating at Smithfield or Kinston, NC, as documented by flight logs and other data here.

Since 2005, concerned citizens have repeatedly contacted North Carolina’s elected officials with information about the state’s role in torture.  With the release of the Senate Intelligence report on torture, there can be no excuse for public officials to refuse to address responsibility and accountability for North Carolina’s role in such serious human rights violations.

Nationally Noted Theologian, Dean of Duke Chapel, and Local Human Rights Advocate Speak on Torture Accountability

About 50 people gathered at Pullen Memorial Baptist Church, Tuesday, June 24, 2014, to hear noted theologian Dr. David P. Gushee offered a talk on "Coming to Terms with Torture: Truth, Accountability, and Reconciliation."

Gushee is the Distinguished University Professor of Christian Ethics and the Director of the Center for Theology and Public Life at Mercer University and previewed themes from his talk during an interview on the WUNC 91.5 FM program The State of Things. Gushee's position on the need for the U.S. to apologize to victims and survivors of the post-9/11 torture program was also featured in a story published June 26 by the News & Observer and also carrried by the Stars & Stripes, a news publication targeting an U.S. military audience.

During his talk, Gushee summarized some of the key findings of a bipartisan, blue-ribbon Task Force on Detainee Treatment convened by the Constitution Project on which he served.

It troubles Gushee, he said, that the issue of U.S. torture has "fallen off the national radar."

He emphasized his belief that it is "unworthy of a great democracy like the United States not to tell the truth about such issues."

To " ... acknowledge such shortcomings strengthens rather than weakens the United States," Gushee said.

Gushee particularly emphasized his belief that it is time for truth, accountability and renunciation.

As Gushee told the News & Observer: "Individuals right now can ask the White House to get the Intelligence Committee report released as soon as possible ... "

The Constitution Project's Task Force on Detainee treatment issued a 600-page report in April 2013, which called upon Americans of all political ideologies to recognize that the U.S. has engaged in systematic torture, that its use was ordered by our highest elected officials, and that as Gushee noted, this "half-hidden liturgy of torture ... and ritualized destruction of minds and bodies ... " produced no actionable intelligence.

And, Gushee said, even if the goal was to gather intelligence, " ... good intentions do not relieve our leaders of the obligation to respect the rule of law."

In anticipation of the United Nations' International Day in Support of Victims of Torture, June 26, North Carolina Stop Torture Now Coordinator Christina Cowger spoke primarily about our group's campaign to urge the highest officials in 4 nations to apologize and offer meaningful restitution to one victim of the extraordinary rendition, secret detention and torture.

Cowger also echoed Gushee's concern for the most prompt and fullest release of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence report on detainee treatment, which reliable sources say will contain extensive and damning details of the U.S. torture program and considerable detail on North Carolina's support of the extraordinary rendtion program.

The Rev. Luke Powery, Dean of the Duke Chapel, opened with a powerful, acapella performance of a spiritual song that raised a few voices from the audience and moved others to sway gently. Afterwards, he offered reflections on the links between the post-9/11 torture program and the long history of the torture of slaves in the United States. Powery concluded by emphasizing the immorality of disregarding the sanctity and value of human life and particularly the human body, drawing powerful imagery from the story of Jesus' crucifixion.

The event was hosted by Pullen Memorial Baptist Church and co-sponsored by the North Carolina Council of Churches, The Constitution Project, National Religious Campaign Against Torture, KARAMAH: Muslim Women Lawyers for Human Rights, and NC Stop Torture Now.

Taking Responsibility for Extraordinary Rendition and Torture: The Case Of Abou ElKassim Britel

Portrait of Abou Elkassim Britel in 1997Since September 11, 2001, more than 135 people have been seized, abducted and tortured as part of the U.S. extraordinary rendition program. Abou ElKassim Britel is one of them.

"The wrong has been done, sadly. What I can ask now is some form of reparation, so that I can have a fresh start and try to forget, even if it won’t be easy ... I want an apology; it is only fair to say that someone who has done something wrong must apologize." – Abou ElKassim Britel

Mr. Britel Portrait taken 2011Most recently, as reported in early October editions of the Raleigh News & Observer and Charlotte Observer, Britel wrote to reporter Renee Schoof with the Washington bureau of McClatchy newspapers:

"I would like recognition of the injustice I went through ... (m)y honor and my dignity have been violated. I was deprived of family and freedom, or a future and career. I returned home after a 10-year exile with my health and mental state ruined, with no work and with much suffering."

Brital also said that the governments of Pakistan, Italy and the United States should be pressed as well, "(I)n the hopes that it would bring an end to the abuse and torture."

North Carolina Stop Torture Now and a team of law students led by Professor Deborah Weissman in the Human Rights Policy Seminar at the University of North Carolina School of Law in Chapel Hill seek official acknowledgement, apologies, and restitution for Mr. Britel for three reasons: (1) Simple humanity requires it; (2) Americans do not condone the terrible human rights abuses perpetrated in our names; and (3) these actions are essential to ensure that such wrongs never happen again.

Mr. Britel has published a powerful reminiscence of just a small part of his experience as a captive, learning to view the cockroaches who shared his food as friends.

A summary of his and his family's ordeal is available here and an electronic/online petition is available here. His wife maintains a blog with an English transaltion available here.

Or, you can print this version. and circulate it among your friends, faith or activist community and return it to:

Britel Apology ♦ NC Stop Torture Now ♦ P.O. Box 12707 ♦ Raleigh, NC 27605
Or, scan and e-mail to:

“Look at the current situation, where we are force-feeding detainees who are being held on a hunger strike . . . Is this who we are?”

–President Barack Obama, May 2013

Help Us Raise Funds to Continue our Work.

Ours is an entirely grassroots effort. We have no office and no paid staff.

We have been extremely fortunate to have a regular stream of mostly unsolicited donations. We extend our gratitude to every donor and every organization that has organized an effort to combine their funds in support of our work.

Volunteers coordinate our efforts, maintain this Web site, develop and maintain contacts with allies, and respond to phone calls and e-mail inquiries.

We welcome your financial support via checks payable to:

North Carolina Stop Torture Now
sent to:
P.O. Box 12707
Raleigh, NC 27605

What will these funds help us do?

• We are part of a national campaign to gain public release of a still-secret – and by all accounts devastating – report on the CIA torture program by the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence. Our own U.S. Senator Richard Burr sits on this committee.

• We’re also supporting an historic first: a non-governmental North Carolina Commission of Inquiry on Torture. An independent team is laying the groundwork for this non-partisan, blue-ribbon panel to subject our state to sober, public scrutiny for its role in torture. NC Stop Torture Now helps by collecting endorsements from hundreds of North Carolinians.

• Our "Cleaning Up Johnston County" campaign inspires human rights activists far and wide! The NC Department of Transportation approved us to adopt the highway in front of the Johnston County Airport, home of the torture flights. Our quarterly litter clean-ups educate the public and beautify the environment.

In addition, we are in regular contact with survivors who were secretly rendered to torture in NC-based aircraft and have never received a word of acknowledgement, apology, or restitution from the U.S. government. Their lives were shattered. This national shame cannot be swept under the rug.

Retired Colonel Morris Davis Says U.S. Torture Policy Puts the Lives of Captured American Troops at Risk and May Have Created Terrorists

Retired U.S. Air Force Colonel Morris Davis, a former prosecutor at Guantánamo Bay spoke at four venues in the Triangle and Johnston County. His talks, which highlighted the injustice of holding prisoners indefinitely and without charge was covered by The Smithfield Herald, The News & Observer and The Fayetteville Observer and Davis was interviewed on The State of Things a public-interest program on WUNC-FM 91.5.

As the Fayetteville Observer reported, Davis argued that torture does not elicit information that can be used in the court of law and said the practice has damaged the nation's image.

"We are not the shining city on the hill," he said. "If we're the country we claim to be, we've got to get back to the values we claim to represent. Regardless of whether it's illegal, it's immoral.

"War is hell. But the rule of law makes it a little less hellish," he added. Morris said the United States helped write the international rules that bar torture, but opened the door to "exceptions" during the George W. Bush presidency.

At every talk, Davis made the point that the military considers the Geneva Conventions its “bible,” and the U.S.’ abandonment of the rule of law has been opposed along the way by many in the Armed Forces and the JAG corps.

The Fayetteville Observer also noted that "Morris was critical of both the Bush and Obama presidencies, speaking against the use of drones to kill suspected terrorists and the failure to close the prison at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba."

There is also a short video of Col. Davis reviewing the topics of his talk available.


Who We Are ...

North Carolina Stop Torture Now is a grassroots coalition of individuals representing themselves and—through their involvement and witness to neighbors—a diversity of faith, human rights, peace, veteran, and student groups across the state.

We aim to stop torture everywhere, and have worked since 2005 to expose and end North Carolina's central role in the ongoing U.S. torture program.

Our special focus has been on the "torture taxis" of Aero Contractors, Ltd. of Smithfield. Both are nominally private companies linked to the operation of aircraft in clandestine support of the CIA’s extraordinary rendition program. Extraordinary rendition is a phrase that disguises the kidnap, detention and torture of individuals alleged to be enemies of the United States, including those guilty of nothing other than being misidentified.

Aero Contractors' headquarters is located at the Johnston County Airport near Smithfield, NC, and you can view a partial list of detainees who were disappeared and subsequently tortured at the Aero Flew Them page, or directly on this PDF document.

We are particularly concerned that state and local government officials and individual citizens recognize their own complicity in the extraordinary rendition program and take steps to provide restorative justice to victims and survivors, to air a full account of human rights violations, and to demand top-down accountability for the authors and perpetrators of these crimes.



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