I’ve mentioned that Namibia beckons in the past, but I should also mention that I’m quite fascinated by The Gambia as well. It’s a very small country (the smallest in Africa) which may be part of the fascination, along with the fact that one of its main exports is peanuts. Also, I’m always intrigued by countries that are in the middle of or bisect other countries as The Gambia does to Senegal. I even found out that the airport in the capital, Banjul, happens to be an emergency shuttle landing site. All very interesting, but amazingly not the most interesting tidbits I’ve now heard to date.
The opening plenary address for the Berkeley HRC New Machine conference was by Trevor Paglen author of Blank Spots on the Map: The Dark Geography of the Pentagon’s Secret World (side note: why are all the book titles from this conference damn near longer than a Twitter twit?) It was a great opening talk. I learned a great deal about the science and research that was behind discovering and uncovering the CIA’s secret flights that they used for rendition of suspected terrorists in the days after 9/11. The really cool thing was that Paglen and his cohorts made use of information that was all publicly available at the time from flight schedules, to finding out that there is an actual airport code for Guantanamo Bay, to showing a CIA black ops site on Google Maps.
The talk was especially beautiful to me in showing data in visualized formats. I always love this as I love data and I love seeing what it’s doing if applied to a physical space or time. Somewhere along there, Paglen put up a rendition flight map. A lot of the sites were ones that people probably knew about if they had followed the press coverage of all this nasty rendition business. But there, in the lower part of one of the maps I saw a flight path to… yup, The Gambia. It appears that on some level (and I don’t know to what level) these cover flights had passed through the airport of this small nation. It’s a decently odd choice, but then again, looking at these flight paths in general it shows that all the flights were done in such a way to really cover what they were doing; not to be direct and efficient.
While on some level, I’m bound to be let down, I really need to make a trip down to Banjul whenever I get to Dakar someday soon and see what all is happening there. Of course, I should probably keep it to a purely touristic inquisitiveness lest I end up in some really dumb trouble
The Gambia intrique continues.  CIA rendition flights exposed.