As part of its infamous “extraordinary rendition” programme, the Central Intelligence Agency of the United States kidnapped and covertly transported persons across various countries using luxury jets supplied with the connivance of major U.S. corporations, court documents in New York have revealed.
Although the case initially appeared to be an innocent billing dispute between the contractors involved in the transactions was revealed by a human-rights campaign group called Reprieve to be wrangling within a secret network of aviation companies over unsettled bills for flights that had carried CIA prisoners.
Among the CIA's victims, some of whom were said to have been subjected to torture techniques such as water-boarding, was Indonesian terror suspect Riduan Isamuddin. He was reportedly captured in Thailand around 2003 yet spent “the next three years being shuttled among secret prisons operated by the CIA.”
Court documents revealed that a series of “unusual flights” that occurred around the time of Isamuddin's capture included a Gulfstream IV aircraft carrying six passengers on August 12 2003, which flew from Washington DC's Dulles International Airport to Bangkok, “with fuelling stops in Cold Bay, Alaska, and Osaka, Japan.” Prior to its return to the U.S. the same aircraft made further stops in Afghanistan, Sri Lanka, the United Arab Emirates and Ireland, reports said.
Ironically the company that sponsored the supply of aircrafts for this and other flights that touched down in places like Islamabad, Pakistan, was reportedly a one-man aircraft brokerage business on Long Island, New York, called Sportsflight.
When Sportsflight was sued for breach of contract by another company from which it obtained the aircraft, Richmor Aviation of Columbia County, New York, heretofore secret costs and itineraries of a range of CIA rendition flights were entered into the court record before the U.S. government could block it.
The CIA did, however, succeed in a few other cases, where it was said to have invoked “state secrets” as a privilege to shut down litigation over its kidnap-and-transport programme, the Washington Post reported.
Bringing the details of the programme to public scrutiny Reprive said, over 1500 operational and legal documents were uncovered in the New York court case, which was fought from 2007 to 2011. The campaign group said that it had evidence that “a complicated billing chain obscured the ultimate end user of the flights – the CIA... [and] the U.S. government used the same aircraft – tail number N85VM, owned by Liverpool FC owner Philip Morse – for over 55 flights to Guantanamo Bay, Kabul, Bangkok, Dubai, Islamabad, Cairo, Baghdad, Djibouti, Rabat, Frankfurt, Ramstein, Rome, Tenerife, the Azores and Bucharest.”
In what might be a major setback for the U.S. federal government the documents also suggested that the U.S. State Department had been directly involved by supplying a “letter of convenience” to cover all rendition flights.
Reprieve's Legal Director Cori Crider said in a statement, “These documents give us an unprecedented insight into how the government outsourced renditions, right down to the complicated paper-trail the CIA used to cover their tracks.”