Boeing’s Frequent (Kidnapping) Flyers


Ireland is not part of George W. Bush’s “Axis of Evil,” but the city of Derry’s publicly owned airport is seriously considering becoming the first in Europe to officially prohibit the landing of planes the CIA uses for “renditions,” the kidnapping of terrorism suspects in Europe and elsewhere and rendering them to countries known to our State Department for torturing prisoners.

Derry’s disrespect for the CIA’s most faithful protector, our president, is one of many signs of citizen outrage throughout Europe in the wake of revelations by the Council of Europe (overseeing human rights) and the European Parliament, which have uncovered collaboration with the CIA by the secret services of various EU countries—brazenly in violation of these nations’ sovereignty, laws, and international treaties.

Most Europeans, however—like most Americans—do not realize that the CIA often uses the planes and expertise of private U.S. airline corporations, “patriotically” serving in the “war on terror.” Like the CIA, these companies keep their involvement a deep secret.

But now, for the first time, a lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union is shining a harsh light on the world’s largest aerospace company, Boeing, for empowering its subsidiary, Jeppesen Dataplan, Inc., to be a major travel agent for all phases of these horror flights.

“Renditions” begin with CIA agents in black masks and clothes hauling shackled, hooded prisoners onto an aircraft. But the missions, authorized by Bush, have ultimately backfired, as they bolster the recruiting efforts of terrorist organizations that deride the image of America as the beacon of the rule of law and individual freedom for the world.

The ACLU charges, with specific evidence based on actual flight plans, that “since December, 2001, Boeing’s Jeppesen subsidiary “has provided flight and logistical support to at least 15 aircraft that have made a total of 70 rendition flights.”

On its website, Jeppesen, extolling its international flight operations, boasts: “Jeppesen has done it all.” Indeed it has. As described by the ACLU, it gives the CIA’s men in black “itinerary, route, weather, and fuel planning . . . landing permits . . . customs clearance . . . catering, and hotel accommodations [often in luxury hotels, paid for by taxpayers]” for the crew of the kidnappers.

Filed in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California in San Jose (the home of the CIA’s super-efficient travel agent, Jeppesen), the suit is titled: Binyam Mohamed, Abou Elkassim Britel, Ahmed Agiza v. Jeppesen Dataplan, Inc.

Before going into the legal bases for this suit—and how the president’s lawyers will surely try to prevent this case from ever being heard in our courts by invoking the “state secrets” privilege—the ACLU will introduce you to three clients:

“In May 2002, Italian citizen Abou Elkassim Britel, handcuffed, blindfolded, stripped, dressed in a diaper, chained [was] flown by the CIA from Pakistan to Morocco where he was tortured by Moroccan intelligence agents, and where he is now incarcerated.”

Egyptian citizen Ahmed Agiza, in December 2001, “was chained, shackled, and drugged by the CIA and flown from Sweden [also not part of Bush’s “Axis of Evil” but a willing helper] to Egypt where he was severely abused and tortured and where he still remains imprisoned.”

And Binyam Mohamed, an Ethiopian citizen, had two free CIA rides. In July 2002, “stripped, blindfolded, shackled [he was] flown to Morocco where he was secretly detained for 18 months and interrogated and tortured by Moroccan intelligence services.”

Two years later, strapped in a similar reserved seat, Mohammed was rendered not to a foreign prison but to a secret American site, known as the “Dark Prison” in Kabul, Afghanistan.

Before we join him in that “dark prison,” it’s worth keeping in mind that during the period of these renditions, George Tenet was the director of the CIA. His myth-peddling memoir,
At the Center of the Storm, is now a bestseller. For his service to the country, Bush awarded Tenet the Presidential Medal of Freedom in December 2004. Doesn’t honoring Mr. Tenet make you proud to be an American?

If either Tenet or Bush is ever accused by an American prosecutor of having violated our War Crimes Act and of also having committed “grave breaches” of the Geneva Conventions, their lawyers will claim that the Military Commissions Act of 2006, passed by the Republican-controlled Congress (and voted for by John McCain) prevents their being prosecuted for having been involved in such CIA practices as “renditions.”

Nonetheless, it’s instructive to know what happened, as facilitated by Tenet and Bush, to Binyam Mohamed in our “Dark Prison” in Afghanistan, as described in the ACLU lawsuit:

“At first, his cell was pitch black for twenty-three hours a day. There was a bucket in the corner for his toilet, but it was difficult to use in the dark without spilling the contents all over his only blanket . . .

“On his first day in the ‘Dark Prison,’ Mr. Mohammed was hung from a pole in his cell. On his second day, he was allowed only a few hours sleep and then hung up again. By the time he was taken down—two days after that—his legs were swollen and his wrists and hands had gone numb.

“Over the following weeks, loud music, the sounds of ‘ghost laughter,’ thunder, aircraft taking off, the screams of women and children . . . were piped into his cell twenty-four hours a day. To ensure that sleep was difficult, if not impossible, masked guards would visit the cells throughout the night and make loud noises.”

Lest you believe that Mr. Mohamed’s rendition was wholly without mercy; “In May 2004, Mr. Mohamed was allowed outside for five minutes. It was the first time he had seen the sun in two years.”

Next week: The evidence against Boeing and its Jeppesen subsidiary which will be heard in a court of law if—and it’s a big if—the sunlight of American justice will ever be allowed to shine on these enablers of torture. More likely, the Supreme Court will ultimately make that decision—on whether “state secrets” can be invoked—leaving it up to “swing” voter Anthony Kennedy after proceedings begin with: “God Bless This Honorable Court.”

Binyam Mohamed will never know the decision. Such information is not permitted to prisoners at Guantánamo.