I like the fact that Trever Paglen and A.C.Thompson write in such a clear forthright style in their book “Torture Taxi: On the trail of the CIA’s rendition flights” (2006 Melville House New Jersey). Classified as ‘current affairs/military history’, I think this is compulsory reading for so many reasons. Not least of all the way a much maligned nerdy pastime – planespotting, noting registration numbers of aircraft at airports – is itself rendered a powerful research strategy and builds a dossier (another loaded word, as indeed is ‘loaded’) on CIA flights, crimes and deceit. The tone throughout is carefully modulated, and all the more effective for that. It is the best book I have read in a while, and not only for gems like this, where our authors talk of:
“dozens of cases in which the CIA had kidnapped the ‘wrong’ person, or had kidnapped someone under distressingly low standards of evidence: One of those ‘erroneous renditions’ turned out to be a college professor who had given an Al-Qaeda member a bad grade (the professor’s name was presumably given to the CIA by the disgruntled former student [fn ref to Chicago Tribune of July 31, 2006]). About a dozen of these men have ended up in Guantanamo Bay” (Paglen/Thompson 2006:169)
Though the standards of evidence for the above are equally thin – how do we check if this student was an Al-Qaeda ‘member’ (as opposed to say, a member of Facebook or some other dodgy spectral org?), how do we know the grading was not indeed biased, what happened to both student and Prof? – the anecdote is nonetheless not unbelievable given our own local security errors(!) in regard of cases like the ‘Lyrical Terrorist’, Forest Gate and Stockwell tube.
There is much good info in the book: on Air America, other covert CIA ops worldwide, and the banality of evil that are front companies, homeland security and international surveillance/kidnapping/assassination. As an example of people’s inquiry, the book is impressive, and all the more necessary in the face of approved fascism. To not engage such investigation and intervention is complicity. Who’d have thought this could be a revolutionary slogan: ‘Planespotters of the world Unite!”
Up up and away… and now a word from our sponsors:
“According to The Washington Post, ‘extraordinary rendition’, or the US’s practice of kidnapping suspects, flying them to an undisclosed location in a third-world country, and torturing them to force a confession about their role in terrorism, is ‘the largest CIA covert action program since the height of the Cold War.’ In a daring first-person investigation, AC Thompson and Trevor Paglen expose the torture apparatus of the CIA, revealing both the workings of its top-secret-and officially-denied extraordinary rendition transport system and the clandestine ‘black sites’ where terror suspects are held. It is a story that takes them around the country and around the world: by following CIA planes from the Nevada desert to Ireland, Afghanistan, and elsewhere, and by using FAA data, corporate records, and Army aircraft documents, they uncover an international program involving corrupt domestic politicos, civilian aircraft operators, and the highest levels of government. Torture Taxi is the first in-depth look into a startling and disturbing new truth about the role of torture in the ‘war on terror’.”