Every seat in the North Carolina General Assembly is being challenged in the upcoming election.
One issue that should be addressed by our elected officials is our state’s role in the CIA Rendition, Detention, and Interrogation program between 2002 and 2004. Forty-eight men and one woman were ferried from one torture site to another on aircraft based at public airports in Smithfield and Kinston.
The North Carolina Commission of Inquiry on Torture, in two days of hearings in November 2017, exposed the details related to these flights. According to the final report, released September 27, 2018,
“Within weeks of the RDI program’s authorization, Aero Contractors, Ltd. (Aero), based in Smithfield, NC, began operating the first of two aircraft for extraordinary, or violent and secret, renditions. Between September 2001 and March 2004, Aero-operated aircraft – a Gulfstream V turbojet and Boeing 737 business jet – were used in more than 80% of identified RDI renditions. Over the full length of the program, Aero transported 34 of the known 119 CIA prisoners, plus at least 15 of those sent by the CIA to foreign custody, on 69 identified rendition circuits. These flights, using North Carolina’s public infrastructure and flown by its citizens, implicate North Carolina directly in abduction, forced disappearance, and torture.”
The documented evidence points to the necessity of confronting these crimes. Even though county and state officials have been repeatedly asked to open a government inquiry into these activities, no one has yet responded.
We may think of this harm as a federal responsibility. Yes. We may think it belongs to Johnston County, which hosts Aero Contractors at its airport and directly benefits from the company’s activities. Yes. But we must not ignore the responsibility of every person in North Carolina.
We are called to be God’s people and to stand against injustice. As people of faith, we cannot accept the use of our tax dollars to accomplish illegal and immoral actions. As people of faith, we cannot endorse violence against others who also belong to God.
We need to elect officials who will seek the truth about North Carolina’s role in the CIA Rendition, Detention, and Interrogation program. We need to elect officials who will work for reconciliation on behalf of those who have been harmed. Ask the candidates who are seeking your support if they will move our state toward this place of truth-telling that leads to redressing the harm we have caused.