RALEIGH (AP) — An advocacy group seeking to stir action over former U.S. policy has demanded that state and local officials prosecute participants in a CIA program that ferried terrorism suspects to secret sites to be tortured,
Prosecution is one of dozens of recommendations to be released Thursday by the private, 11-member N.C. Commission of Inquiry on Torture. The academics, lawyers, retired military officers and clergy who make up the self-appointed group held a public teach-in in Raleigh last year.
Such nongovernmental inquiry commissions have no official power, though others have succeeded in bringing attention to American military atrocities in Vietnam and war crimes in Bangladesh during that country’s 1971 civil war.
The anti-torture activists say they want government admissions and compensation for those tortured. State and county legal authorities also should prosecute the pilots and others involved in transporting prisoners since Washington won’t under “laws that criminalize kidnapping, aggravated assault, false imprisonment and conspiracies to commit such unlawful acts,” the group said.
In the years after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks by al-Qaeda terrorists on the United States, CIA interrogators employed tactics such as simulated drownings and mock executions now widely viewed as torture. A 2014 report from the Senate Intelligence Committee concluded that the agency understated the brutality of the techniques, while overstating the value of information obtained by using them.
The group’s focus on North Carolina springs from the reported involvement in the CIA program of Aero Contractors Limited. The private air carrier, whose website says it originated as the result of a “market need for dependable and discreet airlift,” operates out of a county airport about 30 miles south of Raleigh and 50 miles east of Fort Bragg, home to the Army’s anti-terrorist Delta Force and other Special Operations units.
Flights operated by Aero Contractors delivered at least 49 people to secret CIA sites from Thailand to Poland, or to foreign intelligence services for interrogation and possible torture, said the group’s report, which relied on the work of an academic at London’s University of Westminster who studies the CIA program.
“Instead of holding Aero accountable, the State of North Carolina and Johnston County until now have effectively endorsed its activities. This support has taken the form of hosting the company’s headquarters at the Johnston County Airport and providing it with various airport and other county services,” the report said.
The CIA, Aero Contractors president Dolph Overton IV and other company officials did not return phone calls or emails seeking comment on the commission’s statements.