NORTH CAROLINA STOP TORTURE NOWPO Box 12707
Raleigh, NC 27605
(eveings and weekends, or messages during business hours)
FOR THE PRESS
Confronting Torture: Former Chief Prosecutor at Guantánamo to Speak at Four North Carolina Schools, January 31-February 1.
RALEIGH, NC — A major figure in the international debate over the U.S. policy of using torture on its “war-on-terror” detainees will speak publicly in four Triangle-area communities on January 31 and February 1. (Printable media advisory.)
Col. Morris “Moe” Davis, a 25-year Air Force veteran, served as chief prosecutor for the military commissions at Guantánamo Bay from 2005 to 2007. He resigned that position because he objected to the use of evidence obtained by torture, and in protest against political interference in the trials.
Col. Davis writes: “More than 4,000 American troops died and more than 30,000 were wounded after we invaded Iraq on the false claim that Saddam Hussein supported al Qaeda, a claim based on a lie a man told his torturers so they would stop torturing him. Condoning torture does not just sanction torturing American troops if they are captured, it can put their lives at risk for no good reason.”
He described his disillusionment at Guantánamo in this article in Der Spiegel.
Col. Davis has strong North Carolina ties: he received his B.S. in Criminal Justice from Appalachian State University in Boone, NC, and his Juris Doctor (JD) from N.C. Central University School of Law in Durham, NC. He is a member of the North Carolina and Washington, DC, bars, and is now a professor at the Howard University School of Law.
“The United States cannot stand up for justice and the rule of law when it sits idly on its own record of torture,” Col. Davis wrote in March 2011. “It diminishes the weight of its moral authority to influence others around the world when it treats its binding legal obligations as options it can choose to exercise or ignore.”
Col. Davis argues here that it is time to make Guantánamo testimony public and to declassify the new Congressional report on Bush-era interrogation methods: <>
Col. Davis’ North Carolina tour comes amid increasing controversy over harsh U.S. interrogations. The film “Zero Dark Thirty” is playing nationwide, and the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence is considering whether to release a massive and allegedly shocking report on detainee treatment. The report is said to conclude that the torture program has damaged the U.S. in multiple ways.
COL. DAVIS’ NORTH CAROLINA SPEAKING SCHEDULE:
Thursday, Jan. 31, noon: UNC School of Law, 160 Ridge Road, Chapel Hill, Room 5042. “Confronting Torture: How It Makes America Less Safe.” Sponsor: Prof. Deborah Weissman, UNC School of Law, 919-962-3564.
Thursday, Jan. 31, 4 p.m.: Duke University, East Duke Parlor, 210 East Duke Building. Sponsor: Prof. Robin Kirk, The Duke Human Rights Center at the Franklin Humanities Institute, 919-660-4374.
Thursday, Jan. 31, 7:30 p.m.: “Torture Puts U.S. Service Members at Risk,” Johnston Community College, Graphic Arts Building, 245 College Road, Smithfield. Sponsor: NC Stop Torture Now, 919-637-7678.
Friday, Feb. 1, noon: NCSU, Caldwell Hall G-107. Sponsors: NCSU Political Science Dept., NCSTN. 919-637-7678.
Johnston County Clean Up a Success
News & Observer features effort
Nearly two dozen volunteers worked to clean up 2.5 miles of Swift Creek Road, adjacent to the Johnston County Airport and in front of Aero Contractors, a transportation hub of the CIA's extraordinary rendition program.
The clean up effort is part of a program operated by the North Carolina Department of Transportation.
In coverage by the News & Observer, North Carolina Stop Torture Now leader and Johnston County resident, Allyson Caison said: "I care about the county, I care about the rule of law, and I care about the environment. This was a perfect match."
JULY 1 – The Smithfield Herald, the weekly newspaper distributed free throughout Smithfield and Selma, reported on a June 26 protest and vigil at the Johnston County Courthouse in Smithfield, NC.
According to the Herald, actvists "lined East Market Street" ... "holding blown-up photos of Muslim men and banners condemning torture."
(Photo: Copyright Smithfield Herald, C. Campbell)
At the Charles R. Jonas federal building in Charlotte to demand accountability for North Carolina's role in the U.S. torture program.
The vigils coincided with similar gatherings across the U.S. and internationally in recognition of the United Nations' International Day in Support of Victims of Torture, organized by Amnesty International - USA's Security With Human Rights campaign and the National Religious Campaign Against Torure.
In Smithfield, 17 activists asked the legal community when the county's top law enforcement officials -- District Attorney Susan Doyle and Sheriff Steve Bizzell would investigate local support for a CIA-front operating with impunity from the south end of the county airport.
County officials are yet to respond to formal inquiries on how the airport authority decided to spend state and local tax-payer funds to place a fortifying fence near Aero Contractors' headquarters while other corners of the facility are neglected.
In Charlotte, blustery winds frustrated more than 25 activists' attempt to shackle the federal building with a 500-foot chain forged from 2,100 links of orange paper representing men secretly detained at Bagram Airfield and Guantánamo Bay. The coalition included members of the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Raleigh, Amesty International, and members of area Friends' Meetings. The group distributed educational materials provied by Amnesty International - USA's Security With Human Rights campaign and the American Friends Service Committee.
Report and Declarations Delivered to Top State and County Law Enforcement Officials
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.
Accompanying a November 17, 2010 report on the British government's agreement to provide unspecified settlement payments to several former Guantánamo Bay detainees, for that nation's alleged complicity in their torture, the News & Observer included the following item:
"At least five of the British detainees named as receiving compensation are among those thought to have been transported on aircraft operated by Johnston County-based Aero Contractors, Ltd., said Christina Cowger of NC Stop Torture Now.
Her group has worked to publicize reports of the company's involvement in "extraordinary rendition" cases, in which people, typically terrorism suspects, are taken prisoner and flown to prisons in other countries.
Critics of the practice and former detainees say the United States does this so that the detainees can be tortured during interrogation in places where they are out of reach of U.S. law.
Federal officials have said the United States doesn't move prisoners to locations where it's known that they will be tortured.
Aero Contractors is widely reported to be a front company that provides aviation support for the Central Intelligence Agency. Two jets it operates, one based in Smithfield and the other at the Global Trans Park in Kinston, were used to fly these particular prisoners, Cowger said.
Her group plans to send a letter of apology today bearing about 800 signatures of North Carolinians to former detainees."
The British settlement opens the way for an investigation into British complicity in enforced disappearance and torture, earlier promised by Prime Minister David Cameron.
A retired appeals court judge, Sir Peter Gibson, will lead a three-member panel to review actions by the security services in which former detainees have charged that the British agencies knew — or should have known — that the detainees were being mistreated.
Although details of the compensation packages are confidential, estimates put the total disbursement at near several million pounds.
"The alternative to any payments made would have been protracted and extremely expensive litigation in an uncertain legal environment in which the government could not be certain that it would be able to defend departments and the security and intelligence agencies without compromising national security," British Justice Minister Kenneth Clarke told parliament.
The heads of British intelligence agencies, MI5 and MI6 issued a joint statement welcoming the settlement, which said it would "allow the agencies to concentrate on protecting national security."
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:
(Reprinted from The Clayton News-Star)
New ideas about Johnston County’s involvement in torture emerged from an April 8-10 conference at Duke University.
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.
At the conference, we learned that 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 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.
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