THE JOHNSTON COUNTY AIRPORT sits just off Route 70 in Smithfield, a town of about 13,000 in the centre of North Carolina. The airport is so small that it doesn’t even have a control tower—just a brick office, which bears some resemblance to a small roadside bar, albeit one bristling with all manner of antennae. The small planes that land there—201 per day, on average—do so on just one runway, and cars take their pick from a mere 24 parking spots.
And so it felt a little like an invasion when, early on the sunny afternoon of 19 January, more than 50 North Carolinians drove in and set up on the grass in front of the office with chairs, protest signs and an oversized strip of yellow crime scene tape. It was an older group, with very few members under 50, and they were angry that an airport in their state had served as a node in the global network of secret detention and interrogation operations that the US government has established after 2001.
In the US, discussions of this network—even among liberals—tend to emphasise locations that are not on US soil, whether jailhouse basements in Egypt or Morocco, or makeshift CIA prisons in places like Afghanistan or Romania. But the network also consisted of a substantial infrastructure on American soil.