Ghost Plane: The True Story of the CIA Torture Program

For indispensable reporting on the coronavirus crisis, the election, and more, subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily newsletter.


Ghost Plane: The True Story of the CIA Torture Program
By Stephen Grey.
St. Martin’s Press. $25.95.

The flight to hell is upholstered with leather seats. The passengers get headphones, hoods, and shackles. “They put me on this private jet,” remembers one victim, Maher Arar, who was snatched from New York’s JFK Airport on orders from the CIA and flown to Syria for interrogation. “So I started thinking, ‘What’s going on here?'”

Investigative reporter Stephen Grey lays the answer bare in this comprehensive examination of the Bush administration’s secret program of kidnapping and torture known as “extraordinary rendition.” Under the program, which kicked into high gear after 9/11, CIA pilots with false names and new Social Security numbers use jets owned by fake companies to ferry terrorist suspects to the torture chambers of the Muslim world. The operation is so secret that the CIA officers often wear black masks when they board the planes. But as Grey discovered, the rules of commercial aviation are not designed to keep those secrets forever.

By mining airport logs, ownership records, and the astounding reporting of journalists and amateur planespotters around the world, Grey has documented 75 rendition flights, as well as the brutal torture that awaits the prisoners in Syria, Egypt, Afghanistan, and Morocco. He describes this shadowy world as fantastic and surreal. Above the clouds, Arar tells Grey, “They allowed me to move freely on the plane. They gave me a very nice dinner.” Once he arrived in Syria, Arar was beaten on his hands and feet with electric cables.

SIX TRUTHS

Reclaiming power from those who abuse it often starts with telling the truth. And in "This Is How Authoritarians Get Defeated," MoJo's Monika Bauerlein unpacks six truths to remember during the homestretch of an election where democracy, truth, and decency are on the line.

Truth #1: The chaos is the point.

Truth #2: Team Reality is bigger than it seems.

Truth #3: Facebook owns this.

Truth #4: When we go to work, we're in the fight.

Truth #5: It's about minority rule.

Truth #6: The only thing that can save us is…us.

Please take a moment to see how all these truths add up, because what happens in the weeks and months ahead will reverberate for at least a generation and we better be prepared.

And if you think journalism like Mother Jones'—that calls it like it is, that will never acquiesce to power, that looks where others don't—can help guide us through this historic, high-stakes moment, and you're able to right now, please help us reach our $350,000 goal by October 31 with a donation today. It's all hands on deck for democracy.

payment methods

SIX TRUTHS

Reclaiming power from those who abuse it often starts with telling the truth. And in "This Is How Authoritarians Get Defeated," MoJo's Monika Bauerlein unpacks six truths to remember during the homestretch of an election where democracy, truth, and decency are on the line.

Truth #1: The chaos is the point.

Truth #2: Team Reality is bigger than it seems.

Truth #3: Facebook owns this.

Truth #4: When we go to work, we're in the fight.

Truth #5: It's about minority rule.

Truth #6: The only thing that can save us is…us.

Please take a moment to see how all these truths add up, because what happens in the weeks and months ahead will reverberate for at least a generation and we better be prepared.

And if you think journalism like Mother Jones'—that calls it like it is, that will never acquiesce to power, that looks where others don't—can help guide us through this historic, high-stakes moment, and you're able to right now, please help us reach our $350,000 goal by October 31 with a donation today. It's all hands on deck for democracy.

payment methods

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our free newsletter

Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily to have our top stories delivered directly to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate