NORTH CAROLINA STOP TORTURE NOWPO Box 12707
Raleigh, NC 27605
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Senate Torture Report Names At Least 16 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 16 of the CIA detainees named in the Senate report were secretly transported by Aero Contractors aircraft based in Smithfield or Kinston, NC.
However, 18 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 home base 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:
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 saw 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.”
North Carolina Stop Torture Now welcomes today’s 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.
The report has special significance in the Tar Heel state for two reasons. First, Senator Richard Burr is poised to become Chair of the committee in January. Sen. Burr voted to release the report, but at the same time signaled his intention to attack its conclusions. Second, North Carolina is deeply involved in the human rights abuses described in the report (details below).
“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 “Guantanamo 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, or were bombarded with blasting 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, 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
Since 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
Most 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.
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
Two Dozen Activists Renew Call on President Obama to Close Guantánamo!
Nearly two dozen activitsts and allies of North Carolina Stop Torture Now (NCSTN) gathered for a Global Day of Action to Close Guantánamo and End U.S. Torture on May 23, 2014 at the Terry Sanford Federal Building, 310 New Bern Ave., in Raleigh.
The vigil, covered by ABC-11 television and the Raleigh News & Observer, marked the one-year anniversary of President Obama's most recent promise to close the prison camp at Guantánamo. His pledge came in response to the mass hunger strike by men protesting their indefinite detention and to the renewed, global condemnation of the prison.
Recently, District of Columbia Federal District Court Judge Gladys Kessler suspended her order that the military to stop force-feeding a hunger-striking detainee at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, noting that " ... because of the Pentagon’s 'intransigence,' or refusal to compromise, 'Mr. Dhiab may well suffer unnecessary pain from certain enteral feeding practices and forcible cell extractions. However, the Court simply cannot let Mr. Dhiab die."
In an earlier order, Judge Kessler directed the military not to destroy videotapes showing previous force-feeding of the detainee, Jihad Ahmed Mujstafa Diyab, a Syrian held at Guantánamo for 11 years nine months.
Cori Crider, a defense attorney for a Syrian detainee, noted that:
President Obama “ ... could put my ... client on a plane today if he had the will to do it."
Since Obama’s speech, only 17 men have been released. 149 remain, nearly all of whom have never been charged with a crime. Seventy-six were cleared for release by the U.S. government years ago. Fifty-six men are from Yemen, the largest national group at Guantánamo, but they remain subject to what amounts to a moratorium on their release based on their nationality. No one from Yemen has been freed since the May speech.
“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
It is unknown how many prisoners continue to hunger-strike, but reports indicate many men may continue to be refusing food, and many are being subjected to forced feeding—a practice condemned by international human rights organizations, medical associations, and members of the U.S. Congress. New lawsuits in U.S. courts lay bare the extreme cruelty of the forced feeding at Guantánamo. To quell the public outcry against the prison, the U.S. military in December 2013 stopped reporting the numbers of hunger strikers. More recently, it has classified their protest, in Orwellian fashion, as “long-term non-religious fasting.”
Sadly, as we pass the anniversary of yet another broken promise, this is what the United States remains—a country that continues to indefinitely detain and brutalize the men at Guantánamo. Grassroots activists, human rights organizations, and advocates for the detained men call on people throughout the United States and the world to hold President Obama accountable to his promise.
Together, we must continue to say: “Not another broken promise. Not another day in Guantánamo!”
The action was coordinated by Witness Against Torture in collaboration with Amnesty International, the National Religious Campaign Against Torture, Veterans for Peace, World Can’t Wait, and the Torture Abolition and Survivor Support Coalition.
Close Guantánamo Billboard Debuts in Johnston County
Jan 6 – North Carolina Stop Torture Now partnered with Veterans for Peace, CloseGitmo.net, and PopularResistance.org to sponsor placement of a 28-ft by 12-ft billboard just 4 miles east of I-95 on Hwy 70 in Johnston County, NC, shown at left, depicting two kneeling black hooded prisoners and urging the United States to: "Close Guantánamo!"
The billboard is the inspiration of graphic designer Ellen Davidson and her partner Tarak Kauff, an ex-paratrooper and national board member of Veterans For Peace, who, along with artist Paul Keskey from New Paltz, NY, designed and are promoting the billboards. They hope to see the billboards appear at sites in cities and towns across the country. Kauff last year completed a 58-day hunger strike reflecting his desire to see Guantánamo closed, the force feeding and other forms of torture stopped, and the prisoners, most of whom have been cleared for release, actually released.
3-5 p.m., Sunday, December 14, 2014
Help Us Raise $10,000 to Continue our Work.
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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.
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 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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