Fri, Sep 02, 2011 - Page 7 News List

Billing dispute reveals rendition flights

AFP, Washington

A billing dispute in New York has revealed details of secret CIA rendition flights that transported terror suspects around the world following the Sept. 11, 2001 terror attacks, newspapers reported.

The Washington Post, one of a handful of media outlets alerted to the public court documents by a London-based rights group, said they include flight logs and logs of telephone calls to CIA headquarters and officials.

The Post said on its Web site late on Wednesday that dozens of rendition flights — to locations including Bucharest, Baku, Cairo, Djibouti, Islamabad and Tripoli — were organized by Sportsflight, a one-man aircraft business on Long Island, which secured a plane from Richmor Aviation, which is now suing Sportsflight for breach of contract.

Details including the costs and itineraries of numerous CIA flights have therefore become part of the court record in a proceeding held in an almost empty courtroom, the Post said.

Richmor billed at a rate of US$4,900 an hour for the use of the plane and earned at least US$6 million over three years, according to the invoices and other court records, the Post said.

It accounted for a small percentage of the total flights, the Post said, suggesting that the CIA spent tens of millions of US dollars to use private planes to transport suspects for interrogation.

Britain’s Guardian newspaper, also tipped off to the case, cited court documents late on Wednesday as saying that Sportsflight agreed to make the Gulfstream IV executive jet available to fly at 12 hours’ notice.

“The client says we’re going to be very, very busy,” it quoted Sportsflight as telling Richmor, according to court documents.

The same documents quote Richmor President Mahlon Richards as saying: “We were transporting government personnel and their invitees.”

The Post said the papers were brought to its attention by the -London-based group Reprieve, which advocates for prisoners’ rights and focuses on Guantanamo Bay, where the US has held “high-profile terror suspects” since 2001.

The Post described one such rendition flight that took place on Aug. 12, 2003, when a Gulfstream IV aircraft carrying six passengers took off from Dulles International Airport near Washington and flew to Bangkok.

Before returning four days later, it touched down in Afghanistan, Sri Lanka, the United Arab Emirates and Ireland and appears to have coincided with the capture of Indonesian Riduan Isamuddin, a suspected terrorist.

The entire journey cost US$339,228.05, the Post said.

Isamuddin, the alleged planner of the 2002 terror attacks in Bali, Indonesia, was captured in Thailand and would spend the next three years being flown between secret prisons, the Post reported.

The Gulfstream IV was identified publicly in 2005 after it was used in the capture and rendition of a cleric in Milan who was flown to his native Egypt, where he says he was tortured.

It may have also been used in the rendition of senior al-Qaeda militant Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the alleged mastermind of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, who was later waterboarded 183 times in a single month, the Guardian said.

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