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» » Torture Taxi: On the Trail of the CIA's Rendition Flights
Torture Taxi: On the Trail of the CIA's Rendition Flights

Torture Taxi: On the Trail of the CIA's Rendition Flights

AC Thompson,Trevor Paglen
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4.1 of 5
Melville House; First Edition edition (September 24, 2006)
Politics and Government

"We don't kick the shit out of them. We send them to other countries so that they can kick the shit out of them."-A U.S. official involved in CIA renditions

It's no longer a secret: Since 9/11, the CIA has quietly kidnapped more than a hundred people and detained them at prisons throughout the world. It is called "extraordinary rendition," and it is part of the largest U.S. clandestine operation since the end of the Cold War. Some detainees have been taken to Egypt and Morocco to be tortured and interrogated. Others have been transported to secret CIA-run facilities in Eastern Europe and Afghanistan, where they, too, have been tortured. Many of the kidnapped detainees have ended up at the U.S. detention camp at Guantánamo, but others have been disappeared entirely.In this first book to systematically investigate extraordinary rendition, an award-winning investigative journalist and a "military geographer" explore the CIA program in a series of journeys that takes them around the world. They travel to suburban Massachusetts to profile a CIA front company that supplies the agency with airplanes; to Smithfield, North Carolina, to meet pilots who fly CIA aircraft; to the San Francisco suburbs to study with a "planespotter" who tracks the CIA's movements; and to Afghanistan, where the authors visit the notorious "Salt Pit" prison and meet released Afghan detainees.They find that nearly five years after 9/11, the kidnappings have not stopped. On the contrary, the rendition program has been formalized, colluding with the military when necessary, and constantly changing its cover to remain hidden from sight.Trevor Paglen is an expert on clandestine military installations. A widely exhibited artist and photographer, he is the author of the two-volume study Secret Bases, Secret Wars.A.C. Thompson, winner of a 2005 George Polk Award, is a staff writer at the S.F. Weekly. He is a two-time winner of the National Council on Crime and Delinquency's PASS Award for crime reporting, and twice the recipient of the Western Publication Association's Maggie Award.
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7 Reviews
  • Paglen and Thompson have written an excellent exposition of the "extraordinary rendition" program currently extant in the US. While there are many other articles and books that deal with this new and perverse twist in American Executive Branch authority, this one is unique in it's detailed exposition of the grassroots international network of "plane spotters". These dedicated amateurs initially identified the involved aircraft (the "torture taxis") and their efforts ultimately lead to the public exposure of the program.

    A brief historical note places the program in context: it was begun during the Reagan Administration, continued and amplified under Clinton and reached it's zenith during the current Bush Administration. All evidence, the authors assert, suggests it is permanently with us. The litany of terrorist actions that lead to it's creation is briefly summarized.

    The argument of the book is as follows: The Executive Branch, under whose aegis this program falls, does not trouble to deny the existance of the program. Rather, it asserts that it's war making authority encompasses "necessary defensive measures" such as this one; these claims are simply preposterous infringements on the accepted legal standard. The mendacious justifications offered by John Yoo and his colleagues at the US Justice Department for this gross and self-evident breach of human rights and de facto abrogation of a plethora of applicable treaties renders the position of the US vis-a-vis our Western Allies and our role as a "model" for the "benighted" Second (former USSR) and Third World risible. Further, Justice's claims are so all-encompassing that they create for the Executive Branch the legal pretext for a variety of encroachments on civil liberties and our established system of governance which genuinely threaten the basis for our current Constitutional form of republican government.

    It would be reasonable to conclude that, as a result of precedents such as this program, when US civilians and military personnel are captured and tortured by our enemies, only a perverse, paralogical and cynical objection to their treatment can be proffered by Americans, given the standard successive US governments have set for their own official behavior. Complicity of a variety of "enlightened" EU governments exposes their own hypocritical stances on human rights. Their involvement further undermines Western moral credibility and promotes the "moral equivalence"/post-modernist arguments that frequently derail any attempt to establish standards for individual and nation-state behavior.

    The book could benefit from an index and a somewhat more thorough reference section. The occasional use of the "present historical" tense is annoying, as this adds a sensationalist tinge to the otherwise excellent reporting. However, these are truly minor quibbles.

    The book really soars in the "conclusion" section. The authors' condemnation of the program is best encapsulated in this paragraph: "Nonetheless, when one is talking about disappearing people, about torturing people, about holding people incommunicado at secret locations throughout the world, one cannot make sensible distinctions between innocence and guilt. Those are legal terms...Indeed, in the absence of law, guilt and innocence become meaningless, even misleading." In short, as Bob Dylan wrote, "To live outside the law you must be honest": our government is not.

    Successive US Administrations have undermined the concept of law,, but the Bush Administration, by virtue of this program, has effectively abrogated the American system of jurisprudence. Take, for example, the McCain anti-torture ammendment, overwhelmingly passed by the Congress: it was rendered meaningless, as the Bush Administration "exempted" itself from the law.

    The renditions program embodies the very worst and most arbitrary standards of human rights abuse previously thought to be the "exclusive" pervue of various despotic regimes; it is the very same system of extrajudicial retributive policies that our own government has cynically inveighed against over many, many decades. It is, in summary, a disgrace and a shameful episode in American history.

    It should be noted that important, new details have been and are being added to the public knowledge-base of the renditions program since this book was written in 2006. Despite the lapse of two years time, Paglen and Thompson have done a fine job in exposing the program in this short and important book. It deserves attention.

  • Trevor Paglen & A.C. Thompson have written a dangerous book, shining a light on the CIA process of killing and torturing supposed terrorists without giving them legal representation.

    Since its publication in 2006, the book's content has been further refined by the Obama killing machine: in one case of kidnapping and assassination, Obama watched on close circuit TV as bin Laden was kidnapped and murdered. How monstrous this rendition program has become.

    Since 2006, whistle-blowers and journalists in the USA have been targeted by the new President. Even Bush Junior kept a scorecard on the disappearances of un-indicted evil-doers. Obama has expanded the Bush killing methods by attacking and assassinating with drones.

    The title TORTURE TAXI seems too cutesy for such a horrific book. These CIA airplanes that picked up kidnap victims and transported them to other countries for torture are not cute. They are pure evil, and I am very upset that some of them used North Carolina as their home base.

    The photos in the book remind me of the USA white plane that flew over Washington DC on 9/11; it had a huge communication system and would have seen all of the "attack planes" as they went to their targets. Who flew these attack planes, Arabs or CIA drone pilots? When will the real killers in the USA and in the CIA be brought to justice? When will Obama slough off the influence of our right-wing military and stop the assassinations?

  • Not as good as Blank Spots on the Map, but still 5 stars.

  • Just one more chapter on the corruption of power

  • seems to lean left.

  • This book is dated already but it is a well written resource.
    The author had become skilled at tracking flights.
    Private front companies like the famous Air America that operated out of southeast Asia during the Vietnam war but it has all gotten way more sophisticated.
    A whole privet airline network of snatch and grab black bag type of dudes. Efficient money making and very "black".
    Some politicians state that waterboarding does not constitute torture.
    And that may be true however the agency can fly you someplace no one cares and dip you in a vat of acid.
    They can fly a guy any place including places where they want to torture guys for cash.
    The dark side of the war on terror. If you think the War on Terror is real and necessary then this is a brilliant capitalists secret response to jihad. Neat and tidy and we do not see anything bad.
    Apparently they sometimes pick up the wrong guy on the torture taxi.
    Use of front companies and even if I remember right the Boston Red Sox's plane to aid in torture is all recounted in this book.
    According to wikipida "Within days of his inauguration, President Obama signed an Executive Order opposing rendition torture and establishing a task force to provide recommendations about processes to prevent rendition torture."

    FYI it is 3/1/2010 as of the writing of this review Obama administration appears to have determined that the rendition program is still needed.