THE aircraft is a Gulfstream V turbojet of the sort favoured by tycoons and celebrities.
Since Sept 11, 2001, it has been seen at military airports from Pakistan to Indonesia to Jordan, sometimes being boarded by hooded and handcuffed passengers.
The plane’s owner of record, Premier Executive Transport Services Inc, lists directors and officers who appear to exist only on paper. Each one of those directors and officers has a recently issued US social security number and an address consisting only of a post office box.
They are “sterile identities” the CIA uses to conceal involvement in clandestine operations. In this case, the CIA is flying captured terrorist suspects from one country to another for detention and interrogation – an activity it calls “rendition”.
The Gulfstream helps make all this possible. Since Sept11, secret renditions have become a principal weapon in the CIA’s arsenal against suspected al-Qaeda terrorists.
Airport officials, documents and amateur plane spotters said the Gulfstream V has been used to whisk detainees in or out of Jakarta, Pakistan, Egypt and Sweden, usually at night.
Morton Sklar, of the World Organisation for Human Rights, said rights groups are working on legal challenges to renditions because one of their goals is to transfer captives to countries that use harsh interrogation methods banned in the United States.
The CIA has the authority to carry out renditions under a presidential directive dating back to the Clinton administration.
The story of the Gulfstream began to unravel less than six weeks after the Sept 11 attacks. On Oct 26 that year, Masood Anwar, a Pakistani journalist, broke a story that claimed Pakistani intelligence had handed over to US authorities a Yemeni microbiologist, Jamil Qasim Saeed Mohammed, who was wanted in connection with the October 2000 bombing of the warship USS Cole.
The report noted that an aircraft bearing the tail number N379P, and parked at Karachi airport, had whisked Mohammad away on Oct 23.
This month, 18 men with American accents, wearing hoods and working with special Swedish security police, brought two Egyptians onto a Gulfstream V that was parked at night at Stockholm’s Bromma airport, said Swedish officials and airport staff.
The account was confirmed independently by The Washington Post. The plane’s tail number: N379P. The men were flown to Cairo. Later, Ahmed Agiza was convicted by Egypt’s Supreme Military Court of terrorism-related charges. Muhammad Zery was set free. Both said they were tortured while in Egyptian custody.
In January 2002, a US-registered Gulfstream V landed in Jakarta. Indonesian officials said it carried away Muhammad Saad Iqbal Madni, an Egyptian travelling on a Pakistani passport who was suspected of being an al-Qaeda operative. Without a hearing, he was flown to Egypt. His status and whereabouts are unknown. – LAT-WP
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