Local News

Officials discuss NC's role in war on terror, torture interrogations

Posted November 30, 2017 6:05 p.m. EST
Updated November 30, 2017 7:27 p.m. EST

— Academics, military officers and human rights advocates are tackling the sensitive topic of the war on terror and North Carolina's role in the controversial interrogations at a conference this week in Raleigh.

Years ago, flights took off from publicly funded airports in Smithfield and Kinston to transport dozens of suspects in the War on Terror. A group now wants to shine a light on what happened and keep it from happening again.

After the Sept. 11 attacks, the United States retaliated with military action, intelligence, and, in some cases, torture.

The North Carolina Commission of Inquiry on Torture, a non-profit group, launched these hearings to revive a dimming light on the issue.

Various investigations, including a 60 Minutes report, tied North Carolina based Aero Contractors to CIA leased flights, so-called torture taxis, that transported suspects to secret prisons overseas in the early 2000s.

Commission member Larry Wilkerson served as chief of staff for then Secretary of State Colin Powell. He said he knows of no instances of torture now.

"I've been very dismayed by the general attitude in Washington towards torture. Also, by the attitude of the current administration, which seems to be willing to resurrect it at any moment," he said.

Among the speakers was University of North Carolina Law School professor Deborah Weissman, who recounted terror suspect interrogations.

"What we are doing is working completely outside the law and contributing to some of the most egregious human rights violations you can imagine," Weissman said.

The commission's goal is to help the public see the truth.

"My real concern here is that we keep the issue alive in front of the American people even if it's only one state," Wilkerson said.

The commission has another full day of testimony scheduled for Friday. Commission members plan to issue a report to elected leaders next year.