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

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Item description for Torture Taxi: On the Trail of the CIA's Rendition Flights by Trevor Paglen & A. C. Thompson...

“A report on clandestine Central Intelligence Agency activities, including the maintenance of secret military bases with detention facilities, known as black sites, in Afghanistan and elsewhere…. We're so used to being fed politics as fantasy entertainment, by art and the media, that we end up never being sure when we're looking at the real thing...”

The New York Times


SEPTEMBER 6, 2006—In a surprise admission, President Bush today confirmed widespread suspicion that the U.S. has maintained a network of secret prisons since 9/11—the first time the administration has acknowledged a secret CIA program despite worldwide criticism for the treatment of detainees, including accusations of torture and international kidnapping.

The announcement confirms charges made in a new book, Torture Taxi:On the Trail of the CIA's Rendition Flights, the first book on the secret U.S. program.

The “extraordinary rendition” program the president spoke of is part of what has become the largest single U.S. clandestine operation since the end of the Cold War. However, the President said that he would not divulge specifics of the CIA program, because “Doing so would provide our enemies with information they could use to take retribution against our allies and harm our country.”

But investigative journalist A.C. Thompson—winner of a 2005 Polk Award for investigative reporting—and “military geographer” Trevor Paglen have systematically investigated the CIA program for more than two years, learning much about the specifics of the CIA's operations. In a series of journeys investigating the agency, they have uncovered all of the major elements of the CIA's rendition and detention operations.

In Torture Taxi, 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; study with a “planespotter” who tracks CIA planes in the Nevada desert; and go to Afghanistan to visit the notorious “Salt Pit” prison and interview released Afghan detainees.

Contradicting the President's depiction of the CIA program as a legal and useful tool for bringing terrorists to justice, Torture Taxi proves that the CIA's operations since 9/11 have been tainted by torture and a long series of intelligence failures.
“The book shows just how far two guys without any high-placed government contacts can go in blowing open a story of global import.”
The San Francisco Chronicle

“What Paglen and Thompson offer here is a glimpse at the logistics of torture, and the public's role in the brutal business of the CIA…. the book excels at filling in blanks, painting a mysterious and frightening picture of our ‘wartime' actions.”
TIME OUT Chicago

“The cool, almost dispassionate tone taken by Trevor Paglen and A.C. Thompson makes their book all the more disturbing…. Their conclusion is that the end of this story is not yet written.”
The Washington Examiner

“Torture Taxi describes something a lot like the creation of a CIA airline…. Paglen and Thompson do an admirable job of synthesizing it and decoding it… terrifically fascinating.”
The Pittsburg Post Gazette

"The first book documenting the US government practice of extraordinary rendition."
—Amy Goodman, Democracy Now
Trevor Paglen is an expert on clandestine military installations. A widely exhibited artist and photographer, he is the author of I Could Tell You... and Blank Spots on a Map. A.C. Thompson has been a reporter for 12 years, mostly in the San Francisco Bay area. In 2006-2007, he was an investigative reporter for SF Weekly. For eight years before that he worked in a similar role for the San Francisco Bay Guardian. His work has also appeared in a number of national magazines. His work received the George Polk Award for local reporting in 2005.

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Item Specifications...

Pages   205
Est. Packaging Dimensions:   Length: 0.75" Width: 6" Height: 7.75"
Weight:   0.8 lbs.
Binding  Hardcover
Release Date   Oct 1, 2006
Publisher   Melville House
ISBN  1933633093  
ISBN13  9781933633091  

Availability  0 units.

More About Trevor Paglen & A. C. Thompson

Register your artisan biography and upload your photo! Trevor Paglen is an internationally recognized artist, writer, and scholar working across multiple disciplines in a variety of media. Among his books are "Blank Spots on the Map", "Torture Taxi", and "I Could Tell You But Then You Would Have to Be Destroyed by Me". His art is in the permanent collections of numerous museums including the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, and the Smithsonian Museum of American Art.

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Product Categories

1Books > Special Features > New & Used Textbooks > Humanities > History > United States
2Books > Subjects > History > Americas > United States > 20th Century > General
3Books > Subjects > History > Americas > United States > General
4Books > Subjects > History > Military > General
5Books > Subjects > Nonfiction > Current Events > Conspiracy Theories
6Books > Subjects > Nonfiction > Current Events > Terrorism
7Books > Subjects > Nonfiction > Politics > Freedom & Security > Intelligence

Reviews - What do customers think about Torture Taxi: On the Trail of the CIA's Rendition Flights?

Stunning.  Aug 19, 2008
Trevor Paglen and A. C. Thompson, Torture Taxi: On the Trail of the CIA's Rendition Flights (Melville House, 2006)

I can't remember the last time I read a general nonfiction book in the space of twenty-four hours; I'm not sure it's ever happened before. But I did it with this one (while at the same time blazing through a novel that was almost as good). And it's not because I know (if tangentially) one of the authors; it doesn't matter if you're my mom, if your book's unreadable, I'm not going to be able to read it. It's because Torture Taxi is a fast-paced, exceptionally well-written book.

I'm something of an egalitarian when it comes to reading; I can read about subjects that I know nothing or care nothing about-- or even actively dislike (cf. review of Richard Bak's Yankees Baseball, a sport I loathe)-- as long as the information is presented in an interesting way. I knew Paglen was capable of this long before he put pen to paper, as I was a big fan of his musical project Noisegate back in the day. One often wonders whether artists are capable of crossing media. In this case, it worked like a charm.

Torture Taxi, as the subtitle tells you, is a book about the CIA's Extraordinary Rendition program, a previously-secret initiative that was brought out into the open by regular folks around the globe who started wondering about the odd flight patterns of a certain group of planes. Using these, they tracked down ghost corporations, secret prisons, survivors of the program, and a host of scary, scary documents. This book, to be blunt, is a conspiracy theorist's most beautiful dream. I've never been a conspiracy theorist, but I've got to say that Paglen and his co-author, investigative journalist A. C. Thompson, make a very compelling-- and damning-- case that Guantanamo Bay and Abu Ghraib are only the tip of this polluted iceberg. They interview the survivors. They visit the sites. They quote, and sometimes show pictures of, the documents. The picture that emerges is not pretty.

This is a book that seems to have gotten very little notice. (Noisegate's music didn't, either, and that's equally criminal.) I guess I shouldn't be surprised at this, but I'm now going to attempt to change that, Torture Taxi is going to be one of the books I start recommending to everyone within earshot. Will likely find its way onto my ten best reads of the year list. **** ½

To Live Outside the Law You Must be Honest  Apr 28, 2008
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.
A good overview (and nothing more)  Jan 19, 2008
The book is an easy read (though not very enjoyable given its subject matter) of how the current situation of numerous unlawful kidnappings of different countries citizens in the names of the US war on terror has come to pass and the potential consequences.

The overall style is investigative reporting but this is no Woodward/Bernstein style opus because the writers have no important inside sources spilling the beans. Instead what you get is a good trail of all the historical evidence, how the position grew under prior US presidents but always with the ability to disclaim knowledge until "Dubya" proved to be the post 9/11 president who wanted to show hands on involvement, and a post 9/11 turf war which the FBI lost and the CIA under George Tenet has probably taken too far in the adverse consequences for that organisation and the US government.

The book is heavy on facts (especially how the global hobby of plane spotting and flight tracking proved the undoing of and publicising of the CIA's secret programme) but poor on analysis. There is for example minimal understanding conveyed of how many governments (such as Sweden and Germany) that had been against the US war on Iraq proved such willing accomplices and without which the US rendition programme would never have worked.

What is clear is that the programme has had minimal success with a great number of irrelevant or innocent operatives having been subject to different forms of imprisonment and torture and in turn the way the programme has been operated making it impossible to bring any proven cases to trial. The end victim is US credibility in many countries though the current US policy hold of not being weak on terrorism has probably obfuscated that immediate impact.
Superb book, Gripping read  Mar 19, 2007
This is a must read for anyone who cares what our government is doing with people they don't like--which soon might be you and me. Concisely written, part decective story and part horror story, this book is an unforgettable account of torture of men who, curiously, are rarely of any danger to the country. This should be on the evening news, but isn't, as the newspaper reviews say.
A great history of the CIA's rendition flights.  Jan 9, 2007
Great book introduction the reader to the Agency's rendetion flights.

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