Each month for over a year, I've been visiting the meetings of the Johnston County NC Commission. This body has oversight of the Johnston County Airport, home to Aero Contractors, the notorious "torture taxi" company.
I've been urging the County Commission to investigate the allegations of involvement in torture, kidnapping and other war crimes.
Needless to say, they have been refusing. But I'm not giving up.
In recent months, I've prepared a printed update for the Commissioners, highlighting the important developments on the accountability front during the previous weeks.
This month, I'm putting this update here as well, with links to the full articles excerpted in it.
The work of accountability is moving slow. That's as we expected. But even so, much is happening. This summary is by no means comprehensive.
Here we go:
Torture and rendition:
Inquiry expected to expose officials who colluded
Disclosures made by press about the way British facilities used
during US programme of extraordinary rendition
guardian.co.uk, Thursday 20 May 2010
The judicial inquiry announced by the foreign secretary into Britain's role in torture and rendition since September 2001 is poised to shed extraordinary light on one of the darkest episodes in the country's recent history.
It is expected to expose not only details of the activities of the security and intelligence officials alleged to have colluded in torture since 9/11, but also the identities of the senior figures in government who authorised those activities.
William Hague's decision follows a series of reports in the Guardian and other media over the last five years about the manner in which British intelligence officers were told they could interrogate terrorism suspects they knew were being tortured, and the way in which that secret policy was used in effect to subcontract torture to overseas intelligence agencies.
There has also been a steady drip of disclosures about the way in which British territory, airspace and facilities have been used during America's programme of extraordinary rendition and about orders that led to British special forces in Iraq handing over detainees to US forces, despite fears they were to be tortured.
Finally, the British army has been forced to admit that at least eight people died in its custody in Iraq, including a number who were being interrogated using illegal techniques including hooding.
Those who have been most bitterly resisting an inquiry – including a number of senior figures in the last government – may have been dismayed to see the Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition formed, as this maximised the chances of a judicial inquiry being established.
'Second jail' at Afghan air base
By Hilary Andersson
BBC News – May 11, 2010
The US airbase at Bagram in Afghanistan contains a facility for detainees that is distinct from its main prison, the Red Cross has confirmed to the BBC.
Nine former prisoners have told the BBC that they were held in a separate building, and subjected to abuse.
The US military says the main prison, now called the Detention Facility in Parwan, is the only detention facility on the base.
However, it has said it will look into the abuse allegations made to the BBC.
The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) said that since August 2009 US authorities have been notifying it of names of detained people in a separate structure at Bagram.
More on Afghanistan:
From The Atlantic Online:
What We Know About Now-Confirmed 'Black Site' Prison at Bagram
By Max Fisher on May 11, 2010
In November, the New York Times and Washington Post reported the existence of a secret "black site" prison at Bagram Air Force Base in Afghanistan. The site, unconfirmed by the military and separate from the main prison at Bagram, was reported based on interviews with human-rights workers and people who claimed to be former detainees.
Now the BBC reports that the International Committee of the Red Cross has confirmed the site's existence with the military. The U.S. official in charge of Afghanistan detention, Vice Admiral Robert Harward has denied that the prison, reportedly called the Tor Jail after the Urdu word for "black," exists. What do we know?
Tor Jail Conditions BBC's Hilary Andersson reports, "In recent weeks the BBC has logged the testimonies of nine prisoners who say they had been held in the so-called 'Tor Jail'. They told consistent stories of being held in isolation in cold cells where a light is on all day and night. The men said they had been deprived of sleep by US military personnel there." The cells are filled with a constant noise and guards regularly wake prisoners to prevent them from sleeping.
Tor Jail Detainee Speaks Andersson records an account from one detainee. "Mirwais was watering his plants one night when American soldiers came to get him. He is still missing half a row of teeth from the beating he says he got that night and he says he cannot hear properly in one ear. US troops accused him of making bombs and giving the Taliban money."
From the “No Comment” blog
By Scott Horton
May 12, 12:39 PM
Arrest of 13 CIA Agents Sought in Spain
Prosecutors attached to the Audiencia Nacional in Madrid are reportedly requesting that Judge Ismael Moreno issue an order for the arrest of thirteen CIA agents involved in an extraordinary rendition operation from 2004, the newspaper El País reports this afternoon, citing sources within the court.
The case relates to Khaled El-Masri, a greengrocer from Neu-Ulm, Germany, seized by the United States as a result of mistaken identity while he was on vacation in the former Yugoslavia. El-Masri was placed on a CIA-chartered jet that arrived in Macedonia from Palma de Majorca in January 2004, en route ultimately to Afghanistan. It appears that Majorca was used regularly as a refueling and temporary sheltering point for the CIA, with the knowledge of the prior conservative government. While held in the notorious CIA prison known as the Salt Pit, El-Masri was apparently tortured during extensive interrogations before intelligence officers realized that they had seized the wrong man.
Washington Post SpyTalk Blog May 14, 2010
How will the CIA deal with 'rendition' supervisor?
The CIA is apparently standing by the counterterrorism official who supervised the “extraordinary rendition” and harsh treatment of an innocent man six years ago, even as Spanish prosecutors stir up new interest in the case with their request for the arrest of 13 of her underlings.
The woman, whose identity is being withheld at the CIA’s request, has been promoted twice since the abduction of Khaled el-Masri, a Muslim of Lebanese descent who had become a German citizen in 2003, according to intelligence sources.
Masri was picked up at her urging in 2004, when she was the CIA’s “hard-charging” al-Qaeda unit chief, and bundled off to a secret prison in Afghanistan, according to published accounts in The Washington Post and elsewhere.
But right away, the CIA rendition team “had a strange feeling about Masri,” according to an account by New Yorker reporter Jane Mayer in her book, “The Dark Side.”
“He wasn’t acting like a terrorist.”
The CIA’s Kabul station chief “was incensed” that he’d been handed “an innocent person” and protested to the Counterterrorism Center, Mayer wrote in an account that echoed earlier reporting by The New York Times and others.
“But the CTC officials sent back word that the head of the Al Qaeda Unit wanted Masri held and interrogated. She thought he seemed suspicious.”
“She always did these cases based on her gut,” a CIA counterterrorism veteran told SpyTalk, with disdain. "She'd say, 'this guy's bad, that guy's dirty,' because she had a 'feeling' about them."
Check back for more Accountability updates.