Bearing witness to the torture committed at the U.S. Naval Base at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba; Abu Ghraib Prison in Baghdad, Iraq; and at secret prisons around the world, Peninsula peace and justice activists boarded the train to San José on Friday, June 20, 2008, then marched to the building housing the penthouse offices of Jeppesen Sanderson, Inc. to speak out against torture and extraordinary rendition (a CIA euphemism for kidnap and transport to secret prisons in third countries for torture).
They joined South Bay residents at San José’s Diridon Train Station carrying signs saying, “Stop torture” and “San Jose says no to torture.” Participants were taking part in a joint monthly action of the Iraq Moratorium (http://iraqmoratorium.org) that brings together peace and justice groups from San Mateo and Pacifica to San José and the South Bay. Marching past HP Pavilion and down busy Santa Clara Street, they shouted, “Hey Jeppesen, shame, shame. There’s blood on your hands and blood on your name!”
The activists were joined by Pete McHugh, Chairman of the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors, who recalled that the Santa Clara County Human Relations Commission had passed a resolution in December 2007 condemning torture and extraordinary rendition flights and supporting federal legislation (HR 1352) against the outsourcing of torture. Supervisor McHugh asserted, “Torture is contrary to American values.”
Protesters then marched to San Pedro Square to take their message to the popular Farmers’ Market and the midday restaurant crowds. They displayed their signs and handed out flyers demanding that Jeppesen sever its ties to the CIA.
Charlotte Casey, President of the San José Peace and Justice Center (http://www.sanjosepeace.org), which sponsors many peace initiatives in the South Bay, explained, “After General Taguba’s investigation of the dehumanizing treatment of prisoners at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq, there is no doubt that the Bush administration has committed war crimes. And we will all be held accountable for our actions. Torture is not what this nation is about.”
Jeppesen has a CIA contract for flight planning and logistics for what are, in the words of Jeppesen’s managing director for international trip planning, Bob Overby, “torture flights.” Headquartered in Englewood, Colorado, Jeppesen was acquired by Boeing in October 2000 and operates under its Commercial Aviation Services division. Formed by the merger in 1974 of Jeppesen & Company and Sanderson Films, Jeppesen Sanderson, Inc. is sometimes also referred to as Jeppesen DataPlan because of its acquisition in 1989 of the flight planning and weather services company.
Jeppesen’s own corporate documents indicate that the San José office handles trip planning for the western hemisphere, which would include rendition flights to and from Guantánamo, and those originating (without prisoners) in Washington, DC and those stopping over in Bangor, Maine. The eastern hemisphere is served by Jeppesen’s office in Crawley, U.K., near London Gatwick Airport. Corporate collaboration is considered a crucial element of the Bush administration’s so-called “Global War on Terror,” providing non-governmental cover for illegal CIA activities.
According to a 2006 report by Swiss Senator Dick Marty for the Council of Europe, the continent’s leading human rights body, the CIA violated European law by moving prisoners through numerous transfer points in Europe to secret prisons in Baghdad, Iraq; Kabul, Afghanistan; Islamabad, Pakistan; Amman, Jordan; Cairo, Egypt; Algiers, Algeria; Rabat, Morocco; and Tashkent, Uzbekistan where they were allegedly tortured. The report also accuses the CIA of illegally detaining prisoners within Europe at secret prisons in Szymany, Poland and in Bucharest and Timisoara, Romania.
The American Civil Liberties Union (http://www.aclu.org) has a lawsuit pending on appeal against Jeppesen’s collusion in the CIA’s illegal practices. Numerous organizations, including, Amnesty International (http://www.amnestyusa.org), Human Rights Watch (http://www.hrw.org), and the National Lawyers Guild (http://www.nlg.org), have warned that torture and extraordinary rendition constitute grave violations of human rights and threats to the rule of law.
Yet most office workers in the very same building as Jeppesen, the Opus Tower at 225 West Santa Clara Street in San José, are either unaware, uncaring, or -- like the “good citizens” of Nazi Germany -- consider that if government does it, it must be legal, ethical, and justified. So for Jeppesen, it is business as usual, even during Torture Awareness Month.
Protesters returned on Thursday, June 26, 2008 for an hour-long vigil at Jeppesen offices in San José. June 26 has been designated by the United Nations General Assembly as the International Day in Support of Victims of Torture, marking the anniversary of the implementation in 1987 of the Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment. The Convention states that “No State Party shall expel, return, or extradite a person to another State where there are substantial grounds for believing that he [or she] would be in danger of being subjected to torture.”
The renewed protests in San José come on the heels of a demonstration against Jeppesen on April 28, 2008 at the Boeing annual shareholders’ meeting at the Field Museum in Chicago, where parent-company Boeing is now headquartered. While most Boeing shareholders unknowingly go along with management, the recently-formed Coalition to Ground Boeing Torture Flights (http://groundtortureflights.wordpress.com) is planning teach-ins on college campuses and a divestment campaign to bring pressure on Jeppesen and Boeing. In San José, the South Bay Coalition Against Torture is likely to follow suit.
It is time that all Americans consider their actions or inactions to stop torture and illegal war in our name and with our tax dollars, not just during Torture Awareness Month, but every day until the U.S. government ceases all forms of torture, wilful human rights violations, and military occupations.