This blog post is about extraordinary rendition and AERO Contractors – which is located in North Carolina. If you are unaware of the connection to North Carolina, please read on and follow the links. If you are aware of the issues, please follow the action suggestions below. There are less than 300 people who have signed the petition asking for Aero Contractors to be investigated by Governor Easley’s office. We can do better than that! We need to speak up and stand up and STOP EXTRAORDINARY RENDITION by a North Carolina firm.
2/8/07 - ACLU Forum on Challenging Torture Flights & Other Abuses of Power
First DVD shown was “Stop the Abuse of Power” and this addressed corporate flights, secret prisons, and detention and kidnapping of citizens of other countries. It addressed the illegality of Guantanamo. It talked about the 400+ people kept there, and how the rule of law is totally absent – it is a legal black hole. Then they went on to discuss illegal spying here in the USA, and how the police and FBI and CIA are infiltrating peace groups and interfering in legal first amendment activities. A report was given on the 30,000 national security letters sent to librarians.
They then showed a DVD called “Outlawed: Extraordinary Rendition, Torture, and Disappearances in the War on Terror” which was made by ACLU and Amnesty International. This DVD covered how torture was approved by Bush and Gonzalez, and how due process was removed with the Military Commission Act in 2006. This second video talked extensively about rendition and torture of Mr. El-Masri. He was detained by the CIA in Macedonia and kept inside his hotel room (he was on vacation) and interrogated. He was drugged and stripped and then sent (via Aero Contractors) to Afghanistan where he was tortured and threatened. He was released after five months, with no charges filed. He was released by the CIA on a deserted road in Algeria. He was given nothing, no money at all, to help him get home. When he got back to his house in Germany, he found his family gone. They did not know what had happened to him, so they moved to their original home country of Lebanon. Mr. El-Masri could not talk about a lot of the torture he was subjected to. It was too difficult for him. This DVD also gave the details of Mr. Arar’s abduction and shipment by the CIA to Syria to be tortured.
First speaker was Mr. Goldsmith of the ACLU. He said that the rendition program by the CIA started in 1995. Today, Mr. El-Masri’s case is being appealed. He filed for compensation for his illegal kidnapping and deportation in US courts, and it was denied by the US government with the excuse “state secrets”. The ACLU is filing an appeal. This is still being processed. This kidnapping was apparently a case of mistaken identity.
He also spoke about Aero Contractors, which flies out of Johnston County Airport near Raleigh. The ACLU in North Carolina has filed a suit against them. There is a grassroots campaign to shut down AERO Contractors here in North Carolina. Mr. Goldsmith said our laws require that we treat people humanly via treaties we have signed. We are required to follow these via our constitution. The ‘state secrets doctrine’ is in effect if the release of information would be “imprudent” to the welfare of the state – then the information is suppressed. The speaker gave some examples of this from US history, and some of these examples were totally ridiculous.
Mr. Roth, attorney and member of ACLU, said that civil rights situation is the worst in the USA that he has ever seen. Also, the US reputation in the world is the worst ever seen.
Mark Gibney, professor at UNCA, spoke about International Law and the cases of Nicaragua verses the USA. This resulted in two findings: the US had committed atrocities and the courts said the US was responsible; and the US had supported and armed the contras, which the US should have been held responsible but the courts said they were not responsible. The US is making the claims that since the US is not committing the torture, therefore they are not responsible under international law. He said the states write their laws so that international human rights laws ONLY apply domestically. So, people held outside the USA are treated differently because of this idea that there is a difference in the application of the laws internationally vs. domestically. This is a large failure of international law.
Ms. Shahshahani, outreach coordinator for ACLU, has been working on these issues for quite awhile – both the NC issues with AERO contractors and the international issues. She asked that we put pressure on the Senate Judiciary Committee (Senator Leahy is the head of this committee) and ask for OPEN hearings on extraordinary rendition. We should also ask: “Why is Guantanamo still open? Why not hold hearings at Guantanamo?” She also recommended that we put pressure on Governor Easley to investigate AERO Contractors. About 16 members of the NC House have asked for an investigation in this area. (You can see which ones have signed HERE.)
Three panel members felt that the Democrats were doing nothing to correct our deficiencies – they voted down habeas corpus just weeks before the last election. This Military Commissions Act passed with lots of Democrat votes. This group of panelists were not approving of how the Democrats have acted in this area.
In summary, there is an on-line petition to sign about investigating AERO Contractors.
The link to the petition is HERE:
More information on this issue and Aero Contractors, HERE:
Information nationwide to work on torture issues is HERE:
If you live in North Carolina, we were asked to call Governor Easley’s office about Aero Contractors and ask for them to be investigated. You can contact the Governor's Office by e-mailing firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling the Governor's Office at: 1-800-662-7952 (valid in North Carolina only). Other contact information for Governor Easley is HERE:
And we were asked to call Senator Leahy’s office (202-224-4242) to ask for open hearings on extraordinary rendition and to investigate and close Guantanamo Bay.
[Ed: link html added by gf]