Tracking the Torture Taxis

In late 2004, reports began to surface of CIA operatives using modified commercial aircraft for extraordinary rendition, the practice of illegally kidnapping suspected terrorists and flying them to secret bases in foreign countries for torture and interrogation.


To heighten public awareness and to facilitate public participation in monitoring this illicit practice, Trevor Paglen and the Institute for Applied Autonomy propose Terminal Air, a dynamic information artwork that aggregates and visualizes torture taxi data.

Combining data supplied by the Federal Aviation Administration with information harvested from the network of "planespotters" --who collect photos, flight plans, and other aircraft ephemera to track CIA torture planes, Terminal Air will enable users to track CIA-operated flights between commercial airports and military bases around the world; and to trace the history of individual aircraft through the shadow networks of front companies and nonexistent individuals that the government uses to obscure the planes' identities and purposes. Visitors to the project website will see a regularly updated map showing the arrivals and departures of known torture taxis, their destinations and information about the front company operating them. Registered users will be able to be notified via SMS when a CIA torture plan is arriving at an airport near them and will be encouraged to post photographs of the planes to the site. In addition, a large-scale, multi-display installation will be developed to bring the project to audiences at various venues.

The work is another awarded commissions by Rhizome to assist artists in creating original works of Internet-based art.