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  • Who We Are

Urge Senator Burr to Vote for Release of the Senate Intelligence Report on Torture

Senator Burr sits on the Senate Intelligence Committee, which is weighing whether to publicly release a 6,000-page report on post-9/11 U.S. detainee treatment. The “torture report” is said to be deeply troubling. The committee is likely to vote in January or February 2014. Sen. Burr opposed adoption of the report, but has not said whether it should be made public.

Join retired CIA analyst, Ray McGovern, at a press conference and vigil to promote Full Release of the Senate Intelligence Committee Report on Torture:

Noon, Thursday, January 16, 2014
Outside the office of U.S. Senator Richard Burr
2000 West First Street,
Winston-Salem, NC

Locally, The News & Observer urged Senator Burr – in a Sept. 22, 2013 editorial – to heed a call from 190 clergy and faith leaders to support release of the report.

Read coverage of recent developments on release of the torture report in The New York Times here, and a December 19, 2013, New York Times editorial urging release of the report.

Report and Declarations Delivered to Top State and County Law Enforcement Officials

Photo of protester holding a sign reading "Crime Scene" in front of Johnston County AirportJANUARY 19, 2012, SMITHFIELD, NC – North Carolina Stop Torture Now delivered a University of North Carolina School of Law report Wednesday to representatives of Governor Perdue, Attorney General Roy Cooper, District Attorney Susan Doyle and Johnston County Sheriff Steve Bizzell.

As reported by ABC11-WTVD, the report documents evidence of state and local government complicity in the kidnapping, disappearance, secret detention and torture of dozens—if not hundreds— of men identified as terrorists and including many later cleared of any wrongdoing.

According to numerous and credible reports in national and international media and from legal experts with the United Nations and the Council of Europe, the Central Intelligence Agency relies on Smithfield-based Aero Contractors Ltd. to provide planes and pilots to transport prisoners overseas for secret interrogation using torture techniques.

At a press conference in front of the terminal at the Johnston County Airport shown at the top of the news on ABC11-WTVD, reported on the Web site of the CBS afiliate, WRAL-TV, and the News & Observer, UNC law professor Deborah Weissman told the nearly fifty people gathered: "We would like the state to enact a public policy that recognizes that there is no place for extraordinary rendition in the state or in any of its political subdivisions."

"We would like the state to take all actions to cease facilitating, in any way, shape or form, companies that are complicit in extraordinary rendition and torture," Weissman said.

The press conference followed a morning vigil at the NC Dept. of Administration in advance of a two-hour meeting among representatives of the governor and attorney general and Steven Watt, senior staff attorney for the ACLU's human rights program, and counsel for two men whose description of their torture was included in the report; Professor Weissman and her students; Christina Cowger, of NC Stop Torure Now; and David LaMotte, representing the NC Council of Churches. More than fifty people were on hand for the press conference, including close to 10 Johnston County residents.

Representatives of District Attorney Doyle and Aero Contractors declined to comment on the report.

In the days following the event, coverage also appeared in the Smithfield Herald and on NewsRadio680 WTF (where Christina Cowger was interviewed at ca. minute 38 on a show hosted by Rick and Donna Martinez.

800 North Carolinians Apologize to Victims and Survivors of Torture and Indefinite Detention

As a report on torture accountability was unveiled in Europe, an open letter to survivors of U.S.-directed torture signed by nearly 800 North Carolinians was being delivered.

In just three weeks during October 2010, North Carolina Stop Torture Now and volunteers at the the Peace Booth collected signatures from residents representing more than 80 communities across North Carolina.

Each individual pledged to work toward a day when the U.S. government will "acknowledge the crimest committed ... take responsibility, and offer an apology ..." to the victims and survivors.

November 2010 marked the fifth anniversary of the founding of North Carolina Stop Torture Now (NCSTN), the anti-torture coalition and rendition watchdog.  NCSTN has organized protests, petition drives, and legislative campaigns seeking investigation of “torture taxis,” the airplanes operated by the CIA affiliate Aero Contractors of Smithfield, NC. An overview of our activities and efforts is available here. To date, most elected officials in county, state, and federal positions have refused to back an investigation.

As citizens of North Carolina,” the letter to survivors states, “we express our deep regret for the suffering you have endured or are continuing to suffer either at the hands of our government or proxy states.” North Carolinians feel a special responsibility to reach out to torture survivors, the letter continues, because North Carolina’s taxpayer-funded airports have hosted the torture taxis, and the state is home to many who have served in the armed forces or in covert operations. These North Carolinians may themselves have suffered from witnessing or participating in human rights abuses.

From its base at the Johnston County Airport and a hangar at the Kinston Global TransPark, Aero Contractors has operated two airplanes in particular (N379P and N313P) on so-called “rendition circuits.” In these circuits, prisoners were handed over to the CIA by European or other foreign governments, Afhgan warlords, or Pakistani bounty hunters, and then secretly shuttled among foreign jails and secret CIA torture facilities.

Despite exposés in such high-profile publications as The New York Times, and calls from North Carolina state legislators for investigation, former Governor Easley, Governor Perdue and state Attorney General Roy Cooper have consistently refused to act.

The letter to survivors was sent to some of the dozens of detainees who have been released after secret detention and torture without charges or apology.

Among the former detainees listed below who received the letter all—except Maher Arar—were rendered on North Carolina-based planes. You can read more about each man by following the link associated with his name:

Maher Arar, Abou El-Kassim Britel, Mohamed Bashmilah, Khaled el-Masri, Binyam Mohamed, Bisher al-Rawi.

Torture program scarred many people

(Reprinted from The Clayton News-Star)

Over the past decade, we North Carolinians have experienced war, counterterror and trauma in many forms. Our sons and daughters have fought on the frontlines in Afghanistan and Iraq, and often returned home bearing painful burdens.

Other North Carolinians have taken part in sensitive national security operations, including Special Forces deployments and “extraordinary rendition” flights. And many of us feel outraged at the now-disavowed policies of secret detention and torture.

In Johnston County, interactions over torture have often been adversarial – understandable when so much is at stake. But at the recent conference, it became apparent to us that while North Carolina has played a critical role in the implementation of torture, perhaps there is more to unite us than to divide us.

... a European investigation uncovered chilling details of a secret program based on bilateral agreements between the United States and most European nations.

After leaving their base at the Johnston County Airport or the Kinston JetPort, Aero Contractors jets would stop in Washington, D.C., to pick up CIA “snatch teams.” Around the globe, detainees were handed over to those teams in secret to be stripped, beaten, hooded, diapered, shackled, handcuffed and rectally sedated – all in the presence of Aero crews.

Aero Contractors personnel operated aircraft on “rendition circuits,” in which prisoners were secretly shuttled among pickup points, foreign jails and secret CIA secret torture facilities. Joining in a systematic coverup, Aero pilots disguised flight plans to help the CIA avoid detection.

Binyam Mohamed, a United Kingdom resident transported to Morocco by Aero Contractors for the CIA, was reportedly held in secret for 18 months and subjected to brutal beatings and slicing of the genitals and torso. He was “rendered” again by Aero Contractors pilots to the “Dark Prison” in Afghanistan, held for many months in complete darkness and kept awake for days at a time by continuous loud sounds.

After years at Guantanamo, Binyam was released without charges – and without acknowledgment or apology from our government.

Some “rendered” detainees disappeared and may have died as a result of torture. Others remain at Guantanamo indefinitely, without a trial. Those eventually released without charges have never received an apology, restitution or any support in trying to make new lives.

Although this history is appalling, the employees of Aero Contractors were not the authors of the “extraordinary rendition” program. They were the pilots, the mechanics and the crew, some of whom themselves may be affected by their involvement with torture.

It is the officials who planned, authorized and justified such unlawful conduct in our names – in contradiction to our proud history of protecting civil and human rights – who should be held accountable.

To do that, we need transparency at all levels.

There must be both justice and healing for all those scarred by extraordinary rendition, and we hope that employees at Aero Contractors can join us on this path.

We at N.C. Stop Torture Now have played our part in adversarial relations with the employees of Aero. While extraordinary rendition has caused serious damage to those who were kidnapped and tortured, as a state and a nation we are all harmed. The United States’ walk on the “dark side” of torture and secret detention has robbed us all of our most precious birthrights: the rule of law and our basic value of respect for human life.

Across our differences, what unites us is our desire to be proud of our communities and our country. We all want safety and peace for our children. We all value human life and are ready to stand up for democracy.

Together, we can acknowledge what went wrong and bring it to the light of day. We can seek out those who were harmed, learn what they need, offer apologies and begin to make amends.

–Christina Cowger, Coordinator, NC Stop Torture Now


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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Updated 1 January 2014, JMcI