"Tracking the Torture Planes"
Trevor Paglen and The Institute for Applied Autonomy
www.paglen.com | www.appliedautonomy.com

A Proposal for a Rhizome Commision 2006 - 2007


Beginning in late 2004, shocking news reports of CIA operatives illegally kidnapping suspected terrorists and flying them to foreign countries for torture and interrogation began to enter the public conscience. However, lacking any visual image to connect with the allegations, public debate around the issue was quickly subsumed by more spectacular news events.   Trevor Paglen and the Institute for Applied Autonomy are working to fill this void through the production of a website that provides a way for the general public to track the movements of these CIA torture planes as they enter and exit American and European airspace.

Since at least the mid-1990s, the United States' Central Intelligence Agency has conducted this program known as "extraordinary rendition." The program involves illegally abducting suspected terrorists from overseas locations and transporting them either to a network of secret CIA-run prisons, known as "black sites," or to countries like Egypt, Jordan, and Syria.

In order to conduct these "renditions," the CIA uses a fleet of about 30 unmarked aircraft. Most of these aircraft are owned by front-companies with names like Premier Executive Transport Services, Braxton Management Services, the Path Corporation, Devon Holding and Leasing, etc. Other planes are chartered for specific actions by the CIA from companies like Phoenix Air, Centurion Aviation, and Assembly Point Aviation.

Trevor Paglen in an artist and investigative reporter who has been monitoring the various front companies who operate these planes. His articles and lectures on the subject have provided one of the few means by which the torture plane phenomenon has been made visible to the public.

"Tracking the Torture Planes" uses the combined resources of near real-time data supplied by the Federal Aviation Administration and the global network of hobbyist "plane spotters" to follow this secret operation during the periods when it passes through a network of privately held companies and publicly regulated airports. Information is provided to the public through a modified version of a successful IAA mapping project called iSee (see Work Samples).

Visitors to the site will see a regularly updated listing of the arrivals and departures of known torture planes, their known destinations and information known about the front company operating them. Registered users will be able to be notified via cellphone txt messageing 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. The system is designed to function in a regular web browser, as well as, serve as a multi-display installation. The projected release of the project will be timed to coincide with the release of related publications in the late autumn of 2006.


  1. $50/month for access to FAA flight-tracking data @ 24 months = $1,200
    (premium subscriptions to FBOWeb and to Redone Aviation)
  2. Hosting and Server Space $25/month @ 24 months = $600
  3. Travel 2 roundtrip tickets to SF $350 x 2 = $700
  4. Artist Fee = $500

Total = $3,000

Curriculum Vitae:

Trevor Paglen (.pdf)

Institute for Applied Autonomy (.pdf)

Work Samples :

Trevor Paglen

The CIA's Torture Taxi (2005)
By A.C. Thompson and Trevor Paglen
SF Guardian Vol. 40 No. 11

The Secret Bases: Limit-Telephotography (2005)

Institute for Applied Autonomy

iSee - Path of least surveillance (2001)
Current Version (best in FireFox)

Robotic Graffiti Writer (1999)

TXTmob (2004)