Sunday, December 03, 2006

Stopping Rendition in North Carolina

No, this blog is not about rendering citizens of North Carolina into US custody – that is not happening, as far as I know. But there is a company in North Carolina that is participating in the CIA sponsored “rendition” program. And there is an ever-growing group of NC people who are trying to stop them.

The group that is trying to stop this company is called “STOP TORTURE NOW” and the company that they are going after is called Aero Contractors, Ltd. Here is what the ACLU had to say about Aero Contractors:

Aero Contractors, Ltd., headquartered at the Johnston County Airport in North Carolina. Aero was contracted by PETS to operate the Boeing jet; the company handled the transport of Khaled El-Masri from Skopje to Afghanistan. According to The New York Times, Aero Contractors is "a major domestic hub of the Central Intelligence Agency's secret air service. The company was founded in 1979 by a legendary CIA officer and chief pilot for Air America, the agency's Vietnam-era air company, and it appears to be controlled by the agency, according to former employees." ("CIA Expanding Terror Battle under Guise of Charter Flights," The New York Times, May 31, 2005).”

The Charlotte Observer had this to report about the Aero Contractors and their operations inside North Carolina:

“From the Johnston County airport in Smithfield and Global TransPark in Kinston, Aero Contractors has operated as a CIA front. Evidence exists that Aero flights have taken suspects to CIA-run hideaways, where the president now admits such techniques as waterboarding were used to extract confessions. Waterboarding, or pretending to drown a person, is one of the classic torture techniques that the president now says we won't use in our official Department of Defense prisons, like Guantanamo.”

I have only been in contact with the group STOP TORTURE NOW by email. Since I am on the far side of the state from Johnston County Airport, I have not gone to any of the protests. These protests are held at regular intervals, with the last one held just yesterday on December 2, 2006. Since I cannot join the protests without burning a lot of gasoline, I am writing this blog post to inform the world of the work they are doing.

As Barbar Zeiter further states in the Charlotte Observer:

“Several N.C. organizations have been asking Gov. Mike Easley, the N.C. General Assembly and Global TransPark leaders to have the state SBI examine the Aero situation. Evidence gathered by the N.C. chapters of Code Pink, Peace Action and Stop Torture Now reveals that our tax dollars are being used to provide sites where state and national laws and the Geneva Convention are being broken, through CIA flights from our soil.”

How the torture and rendition flights are organized is reported by Consortium News:

“Aero’s planes stop first at Dulles or at CIA facilities in Virginia to pick up flight plans, then fly to Ireland to refuel, and from there to countries such as Britain, Italy, Sweden, Pakistan, Germany, Bosnia, Macedonia, Morocco and Turkey to collect the suspects. On the final lap, they deliver the human cargo for interrogation to countries such as Egypt, Syria, Jordan, Afghanistan and until last year, Uzbekistan—all cited in U.S. State Department reports as having unclean hands when it comes to human rights.”

“the CIA uses civilian charter airlines because, under international law, private companies don’t need to reveal the nature of their trips to the countries where they refuel or fly over, while military planes must declare the names of their crews, flight plans, passengers and cargo. As a civilian charter, Aero is not asked for this information.”

Besides the group STOP TORTURE NOW, there are several other groups involved: Code Pink in NC, NC Peace Action, the NC Council of Churches. The spokesperson for NC Council of Churches, Barbar Zeiter, states this in the Charlotte Observer:

“We believe the people of North Carolina want no part of this travesty, no matter what our opinions about war and terrorism. As someone said, "If they were dealing drugs out of Global TransPark and Smithfield airports, we'd be on them in a minute. Torture taxis are against the law, too. Let's stop this mess."

I second that opinion!

The group tried at first to get Senator Dole to take action on Aero, but this produced no results. They then contacted Rep. Etheridge, but there was no interest from that office to take any actions. They then contacted Governor Easley to attempt to stop the torture flights by Aero Contractors, but that attempt did not produce results either. Currently, they are lobbying the NC House to attempt to address this issue through them, and now have over 12 legislators signed on to a letter to the Director of the State Bureau of Investigation. The letter reads in part:

“We write as concerned State Representatives to ask you to investigate the actions of Aero Contractors, a contract air carrier that uses the facilities of the state-funded Global TransPark (GTP).

Aero Contractors has been identified in the media as a participant in the CIA-sponsored "rendition" program, which has flown persons detained in various countries, including the United States, to other countries. There, the suspects were held incommunicado and tortured, using methods that would not have been legal in the United States. President Bush, on September 6, 2006, acknowledged that such "renditions" had occurred.

It appears that Aero Contractors, in flying suspects to overseas torture sites, violated North Carolina and federal laws concerning conspiracy to commit torture (See especially the New York Times article of May 31, 2005). If this is the case, Aero should no longer be permitted to be a client of the GTP Authority.”

I am very proud that NC legislators are stepping up to try to stop this hideous practice of “disappearing” people into a legal black hole that produces torture, murder, misinformation and a whole host of freedom-destroying activities. I am very proud that they are attempting to hold a company operating out of North Carolina to the standards of North Carolina’s laws and to the standards of human decency and human rights. And I am very proud of the work being done in the eastern part of our state to educate people on what is happening here, and I am very proud of their attempts to stop this ongoing human rights abuse by our federal government agencies and companies they contract with.

The STOP TORTURE NOW group have been working on this issue for well over a year, and have tried various approaches to various elected officials. They have held numerous protests and have had several arrests during the protests. I will continue to follow their work and wish them total success.

The website for contacting NC House Representatives is HERE.


Anonymous said...

I can just see my letter to Hayes now:

"Dear TweedleDum,

You just squeaked by on Nov. 7. Don't ever forget that. If you think we can't find those other 329 people by Nov. 2008 you are sorely mistaken. So, start acting like a decent American. Make a bipartisan effort to stop torture rendition flights on North Carolina soil -- and everywhere."

Anonymous said...

North Carolina to Shannon to ????
EU slams FF over "Guantanamo Express" flights

An EU report wants a Dáil investigation of CIA rendition flights through Shannon airport. It also criticizes Bertie Ahern for trusting President Bush's personal assurances that no torture suspects were aboard the "Guantanamo Express" planes that landed in Ireland.