Developing a State and Local Strategy to Address Rendition and Torture

Read Scott Horton's new book Fool's Errand: Time to End the War in Afghanistan

Testimony offered before the N.C. Commission of Inquiry on Torture (NCCIT) earlier this month revealed the culpability of state and local officials in a program of extraordinary rendition and torture. Knowing how states helped facilitate torture opens the door to take steps to keep it from happening again.

On Nov. 30 and Dec. 1, the 11-member panel heard testimony from victims, former interrogators, religious leaders, and others on the North Carolina’s role in the CIA’s post-9/11 rendition, detention, and interrogation program.
It’s hard to fathom that the federal government needed state or local support to run a worldwide detention and torture program. But as Just Security reported, state and local support was vital.

Testimony from The Rendition Project before the NCCIT revealed that North Carolina-based Aero Contractors, Ltd. operated two aircraft N379P and N313P which conducted more than 80 percent of the government’s renditions between September 2001 and March 2004. It reportedly transported 34 — nearly one-third — of the at least 119 individuals in CIA custody. Local and state officials are also implicated. They provided North Carolina’s public airports for rendition flights, built a hangar for rendition aircraft, and refused to investigate these allegations.

Just Security says there has been a glaring “truth deficit” in the U.S. when it comes to rendition and torture. It called the truth-telling before the NCCIT a catch-up exercise.

Outside of the United States, the role of North Carolina and private entities in the rendition and torture program — and the illegality of their actions — have been in the public eye. High-profile inquiries in the Council of Europe and European Parliament have exposed North Carolina-based rendition aircraft.”

This “truth-deficit” has resulted in a “justice-deficit.

Individuals disappeared to CIA “black sites” on board North Carolina flights have yet to have their day in US courts, including where Aero Contractors has been a named defendant. And despite the CIA’s program being shut down in 2009, no-one involved has been prosecuted.

As we reported recently, support from the state of North Carolina and several of its political subdivisions made Areo’s work for the CIA possible.

“For its business, Aero relies on and benefits from North Carolina state and local resources. Its officeholders and employees are real-life residents of Johnston County or North Carolina. North Carolina and its political subdivisions have supported Aero in a number of ways, including by providing county resources to operate its business. North Carolina extended credit to Aero for the construction of a hangar at the Global TransPark Authority in Kinston. Johnston County facilitated Aero’s operations by providing permits for construction work and by conducting site safety inspections of Aero’s premises. Aero was intricately involved in the extraordinary rendition of individuals to overseas facilities and black sites, and as a North Carolina-based corporation, could not have carried out these functions without the support and resources of the state of North Carolina and its political subdivisions.” [emphasis added]

Knowing state and local resources played a part in rendition and torture opens the door to take steps to keep it from happening again. Withdrawing state support may not prevent the CIA from operating such a program in the future, but if enough states refused to cooperate, it would at least throw up serious impediments. It would also send a strong signal that the American people reject torture as a justifiable policy.
The TAC is currently working to develop additional strategies that would prohibit material support for torture and deny necessary state personnel and resources to any federal agency engaging in rendition. We hope to engage with legislators in North Carolina and other states to get this legislation introduced and passed in the next two years.

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Read Scott Horton's new book Fool's Errand: Time to End the War in Afghanistan

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