As a result of a court case in New York, the identities of some of the corporations involved in the Bush administration’s rendition program have been disclosed for the first time, along with the names of some of the executives who knew the purpose of the flights.
Sportsflight, an aircraft broker, and Richmor, an aircraft operator entered into an arrangement to make a Gulfstream IV executive jet available on the cheap for the US government to use in renditions, a means of kidnapping terrorism suspects and shipping them around the world to CIA blacksites and through countries such as Egypt, Jordan, Afghanistan and Morocco to be tortured.
Unpaid expense claims that crew members on the Gulfstream IV were submitting on their secret journeys – deli sandwiches at $19.95, bottles of wine at $39.95 each, and stay in expensive hotels – are the focus of the case. But revelations about rendition programs are becoming a consequential byproduct.
One flight has been identified as the aircraft that rendered an Egyptian cleric known as Abu Omar after CIA agents kidnapped him in broad daylight in Milan in February 2003 and took him to Cairo, where he says he was tortured. Another flight appears to have been involved in the rendition of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the man said to have masterminded the 9/11 attacks and who was water boarded 183 times after disappearing into the CIA network of secret prisons.
The documents were discovered by staff at the legal charity Reprieve. Its legal director, Cori Crider, said: “These documents reveal how the CIA’s secret network of torture sites was able to operate unchecked for so many years. They also reveal what a farce it was that the CIA managed to get the prisoners’ torture claims kicked out as secret, while all of the details of its sinister business were hiding in plain sight.”
In the past, the Obama administration has invoked state secrets privileges in cases where airline corporations involved in the rendition program might be outed. In Mohamed et al. v Jeppesen, a Boeing subsidiary was charged with knowingly participating in renditions where the five plaintiffs were abducted and tortured and sent to Guantanamo. The Obama administration had it dismissed in order for Boeing relevant parties in the Bush administration to avoid judicial scrutiny.