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The Washington Post finally breaks the story of CIA torture flights in the domestic press with
Jet Is an Open Secret In Terror War.  The story has been running internationally for a long time, but now Americans can proudly read about how their tax dollars are being used to finance the operation of a private Gulfstream V to illegally transport people not charged with a crime in any court to countries where the US can torture them by proxy, unseen and unheard.  

I put up a diary on torture flights six weeks ago, Bushco's Torture Flights - Proof!, using a story from The Sunday Times in London which had obtained copies of the confidential flight logs for the Gulfstream V.  I said then in a comment:

The Boeing 737 and Gulfstream 5 appear to be used as prisoner transports.  It is rumoured, however, that there are also helicopters at the disposal of the same secret teams which might have a more sinister purpose.  

Maybe the United States is the new Argentina:  nice beaches, good skiing, delicious steaks, friendly people and a hideous, torturing, corrupt ruling elite.

The WaPo article scrupulously avoids personalising the torture of individuals by quoting those few who have survived and been freed, or interviewing those who have been directly involved. The Sunday Times pulled fewer punches in its coverage, describing the heirarchy of choices open to the CIA:

Bob Baer, a former CIA operative in the Middle East, said: "If you want a serious interrogation you send a prisoner to Jordan.  If you want them to be tortured you send them to Syria.  If you want someone to disappear . . . you send them to Egypt."

Among the countries where prisoners have been sent by America is Uzbekistan, a close ally and a dictatorship whose secret police are notorious for their interrogation methods, including the alleged boiling of prisoners.  The Gulfstream made at least seven trips to the Uzbek capital.

The WaPo overlooks the Boeing 737 used for the same purpose and also owned by Premier Executive Transport, but the journalists have done a good job of backchecking the corporate registration details and establishing that all of the directors of Premier are false identities with recently issued Social Security numbers.

Since the story broke in the Times, the registration of the planes has been changed yet again to disguise them on their rounds.  Culver provided the following:

Further data.  Gulfstream N379P becomes N8068V: the price of carelessness with flight logs, or notoriety, or just business practice

Don't look for tail number N379P if you are seeking a clandestine transporter of enemy combatants to undisclosed locations for Extraordinary Rendition, i.e., delivery of detainees to foreign locations for advanced interrogation. A straightforward open source analysis reveals that N379P is now N8068V, same serial number (581), same owner (Premiere Executive Transport Services Inc.), and one might surmise, the same purpose, (And when someone awakes to the public recognition of this datum, expect it to change again, or change ownership, or contract provider, and possibly the aircraft.). . .

According to the WaPo, ownership of the recently reregistered plane has now changed from Premier Executive Transport to Bayard Foreign Marketing of Portland, Oregon.

Planespotters worldwide will be keeping their eyes peeled for these planes.  I've always thought of planespotting as an odd hobby (although very popular among the British), but now I am glad that such hobbyists are out there looking for the unusual in the skies.

Originally posted to LondonYank on Tue Dec 28, 2004 at 01:26 AM PST.


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Comment Preferences

  •  Your very excellent coverage (4.00)
    of this issue is a treasure. Thank you. This is so Dr. Strangelove it's easy for a lot of people to take it as fiction.

    Before long, the SCLM will figure out how many newspapers they can sell with similar stories. Or maybe I'm an optimist.

    (none / 0), (none / 0), it's off to Kos we go, with a...

    by doorguy on Tue Dec 28, 2004 at 02:25:37 AM PST

    •  Don't underestimate WaPo (4.00)
      I think one of their "lessons learned" from Watergate was that every story put out there that accuses the govt - and specifically the Exec Branch - of untoward or illegal activity must be thorough, fact-checked and removed from all semblance of attack or bias.  

      They're taking the "just the facts, ma'am" approach, which is very smart as Bush just got re-elected, and as there's still a mentality among many of our countrymen that torture is justified because strange, brown, tuban-wearing men might walk into the Mall of America any day now with chemical weapons obtained from Saddam's former gov't and gas teenagers hanging out in the food court.

      This article feels like they're slowing building their case.  I'll be interested to see what else they produce in the weeks to come.

      "It is no longer a choice, my friends, between violence and nonviolence. It is either nonviolence or nonexistence." Martin Luther King, Jr.

      by grannyhelen on Tue Dec 28, 2004 at 07:18:40 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Abolish Torture (none)
    Thank you for posting this. I would have missed it. I'm still recovering from Christmas,and haven't been going to NYT of WAPO. It's one of the reasons I value dailykos so much, I can count on someone here to follow through. Where did that darn tip jar go to?
  •  Tailnumber out of date (4.00)
    N8086V now points to a deregistered helicopter.  The new tailnumber is N44982.

    Though given that they've had their old registration data expunged and changed, then it could simply be false.  

    For an example of the planespotter's data, try googling on "N379P movements".  They're basically watching various airports and reporting every takeoff and landing; the torture plane shows up on logs for Glasgow and Frankfurt, as well as one other site as well.

    No Right Turn - New Zealand's second-best liberal blog

    •  I'm glad you're tracking; if only (4.00)
      those on the flight could be arrested next time they land in Frankfurt under Germany's anti-war crimes laws!

      "Americans can always be counted on to do the right thing - after they have exhausted all other possibilities." Winston Churchill

      by LondonYank on Tue Dec 28, 2004 at 03:59:14 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  I'm not really (none)
        tracking it; I picked up the tailnumber from an IndyMedia site, and the planespotters from a googling.

        As for arrests (or at least being boarded and searched), I would very much like to see that happen.  But realistically I don't think the German government would want to cause a diplomatic incident with the hegemon over something as piffling as torture.  Unless Germans make them, that is.

        Also, I expect that given the publicity, they will have another plane by now.  We'll just have to wait for more reports of renditions, and hope the witnesses get the tailnumber.

        No Right Turn - New Zealand's second-best liberal blog

      •  Germany can't (none)
        If the US had to abandon all bases in the country, that might have a negative effect on an already-sluggish economy.
      •  Civil Suit in U.S.? (none)
        Never mind prosecution in Germany.  I have a feeling that is never going to happen.

        Would anybody have standing to bring a civil suit against these guys in the U.S.?

        •  Immunity? (none)
          I know that there is precedent from the President being sued for actions while in office due to Presidential immunity.

          However...I don't know if that necessarily extends past the President to the VP or other cabinet-level positions.

          Would be interested if there's any attorneys out there that could comment on this.

          "It is no longer a choice, my friends, between violence and nonviolence. It is either nonviolence or nonexistence." Martin Luther King, Jr.

          by grannyhelen on Tue Dec 28, 2004 at 07:45:05 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  Unlike Europe (4.00)
            which assumes the rule of law by government, the Americans follow the British tradition of "sovereign immunity".  As a general rule the government, per se, cannot be sued for money damage without its consent, and individuals can be sued only for, under color of law, intentionally depriving someone of a clearly defined constitutional right.  Moreover, some officials like judges and policy makers, have an even greater level of legal protection.  Even when, e.g. Rumsfield, is sued in an official capacity in the United States, this is just another way of suing the government, he isn't personally responsible for any damages awarded.

            In practice, the only remedy against an incumbent President for abhorent policy decisions is impeachment.

            President Clinton's legal troubles set the precedent that governmental immunity is limited to the official acts of the President, and not to suits arising out of the private life of the President unrelated to his official duties.

        •  I don't know for sure (none)
          But I don't think recent court rulings on Guantanamo issues have originated solely from US citizens.  I plan to research it as the issue is so huge and ugly that I need to be on top of the facts.
      •  If they're operating out of Germany (none)
        There's a good chance the German intelligence service is in on it.

        "These are the commanders who have deserted their troops. And there is no more serious crime in the laws of war"
        -John Kerry, 1971

        by Goldfish on Tue Dec 28, 2004 at 10:03:55 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

  •  They said they would do this (4.00)
    My memory blurs, but I pretty clearly remember U.S. officials warning in articles that ran around 2001 or 2002 that the United States would be sending prisoners to Syria and Egypt to be tortured.

    I think one obvious problem here is that the United States is torturing hundreds and hundreds of prisoners pretty much at random.

    If the United States were, say, seriously mistreating 20 prisoners who had very, very obvious informational value -- example, people who appeared to be senior aides to Osama bin Laden -- some folks here might be protesting, but no one else would really care. This would fall in the "war is hell" category.

    But it looks as if the United States is torturing so many prisoners of such low apparent informational value that, if the United States survives at all, eventually, a new administration is going to come in and put the CIA and other intelligence agencies under restrictions that probably will be unrealistically strict. So, the stuff the intelligence people are doing is self-destructive even from their creepy, amoral point of view.

    •  When they said they were going to do this, (4.00)
      it was in the context of 9/11 just having occurred, and most of us presumed that the tactic would only be used against clear terrorists.

      Now we know it has been used much more widely, and even spread to the quite conventional -- not terrorist -- war in Iraq.

      So, it may always have been illegal.  But now the consequences of tolerating this tactic are much clearer.

      •  I agree with you (none)
        I think torture falls into the "would you be willing to be executed for it" category.

        My guess is that ordinary torture doesn't work very well at uncovering reliable information. I think that hooked a person to a polygraph and an MRI machine, asking questions and studying the results would probably work a lot better.

        But, if someone thinks torture really is worth it -- i.e., the torturing will produce information that could keep a nuclear bomb from exploding in Times Square -- then s/he should be willing to turn him/herself over for criminal prosecution once the torturing is completed and the emergency has passed.

        If I used to torture to obtain information that saved a city from being nuked, I wouldn't be thrilled about being executed or imprisoned for life because of what I'd done, but I'd agree with the logic of the judges who sentenced me.

  •  finally the MSM in the U.S. notices! (none)
    Thanks for the update LondonYank. It's about time this issue gets a little attention over here.

    One thing about the WaPo article rankled me though:

    The News article ricocheted among spy-hunters and Web bloggers as a curiosity for those interested in divining the mechanics of the new U.S.-declared war on terrorism.

    Uh, as a curiosity? How about as a moral outrage! Sheesh, you'd think all of us who have turned to the blogosphere for our sensitive news were merely curious and not outraged at the fact that the MSM are too craven to report what is really going on in the world.

    Rant, rant, rant. Whew, feel better now. Thanks.

  •  London (4.00)
    Yank..thank you for bringing this to our attention.

    How ironic that the US not only "out-sources" jobs, it does the same for torture.

    Will someone please wake me up from this nightmare.

    GWB will pry my 19 year old son from my cold dead fingers.

    by Momagainstthedraft on Tue Dec 28, 2004 at 07:20:42 AM PST

  •  This is disgusting (none)

    To his virtues be very kind, to his vices, very blind.

    by Descrates on Tue Dec 28, 2004 at 07:30:45 AM PST

  •  WaPo article now on Yahoo -- rate it up! (none)
    The article is now on Yahoo's top stories list. Rate it up!
  •  It is hard to put into words (4.00)
    The outrage/fear: I say fear because make no mistake. . .I have no doubt that these soul-less bastards would torture dosmetic persons if it suited their needs.  Perhaps they feel a little less conflicted about torturing and killing "brown people"--after all our history is rife with examples--but I think they would do the same to any US citizen given the right motivation, like say voting the wrong way.  

    The outrage part is that slightly over half of us voted for these morally bankrupt individuals.  Sure you can say there was little coverage by the SCLM, and you would be right.  I contend that anyone paying at least as much attention as paid to Marth Stewart, Scott Peterson, etc. would have read about at least the suggestion that this was/is happening.

    Part of what I feel is embarassment, for lack of a better word.  My wife and I would love to travel in Europe.  How much longer will the rest of the world tolerate the arrogance and criminality of our government before painting us all with the same brush?

    Finally, there is the horror and disbelief.  Didn't we all grow up in the US being taught that we fought against tyranny and torture?  That our fathers and grandfathers went to war to prevent this from happening?  It was either all a big lie or we have made a very wrong turn somewhere in the last generation.  I just cannot get my head around what it must take (or lack) for an individual to torture another human being.

    "It's been headed this way since the World began, when a vicious creature made the jump from Monkey to Man."--Elvis Costello

    by BigOkie on Tue Dec 28, 2004 at 08:20:33 AM PST

    •  Well (none)
      Didn't we all grow up in the US being taught that we fought against tyranny and torture?  That our fathers and grandfathers went to war to prevent this from happening?  It was either all a big lie or we have made a very wrong turn somewhere in the last generation.  I just cannot get my head around what it must take (or lack) for an individual to torture another human being.

      Only part of the U.S. believes this.  Others believe that the descriptions of war in the Bible set the standards for today.

    •  Do you think (none)
      that this kind of thing has been going on for years and under different administrations?  

      I'm not promoting this idea (because I don't know), but I wonder if anyone knows if outsourcing torture has been a longtime practice?  

    •  We are all torturers. (none)
      Ever read "Hitler's Willing Executioners"? We are all murderers and torturers. But very few of us have had that switch thrown inside of us. Torturers say that they are trained to do it by being tortured themselves.
    •  Well put! Thank you, Big (n/t) (none)

      Nunc pede libero puisanda tellus... (Now is the time to beat the earth with unfettered foot...)

      by a2jean on Tue Dec 28, 2004 at 08:43:16 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  They did it throughout the 80s (4.00)
      That is, the US armed and supported "irregular" forces such as the contras fighting against the populist government of Nicaragua. These people were trained (yes, trained by the CIA) to torture and kill educators and health workers in the countryside so as to destroy the benefits the Sandinistas were bringing to the peasants. A friend of mine found the "comic book" described here used to train the proxy US forces.

      And yes, this makes me afraid. What they will do through proxies, they will do here if they feel their hold on power slipping. I have actually been impressed and heartened by the number of brave professionals in the military, the JAG offices, various policy departments, who have been willing to expose the ongoing destruction of the rule of law under our current leaders.

      America is a broken promise, and we are called to do what we can to fix it. -- Bill Moyers

      by janinsanfran on Tue Dec 28, 2004 at 08:47:44 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  KUBARK (none)
      is the name of the CIA program from the 60s, 70s, 80s - we've always had this double standard, one nice lovely set of "ideals" that we use to make ourselves feel smugly better than all those third world dictators and people in the old days, and then the real set of ideals that we lived by, the Good Germans among us (which is most of us) turning a blind eye to the fact that we were training and paying for those torturing dictators, so long as they claimed to be "supporting democracy."

      Do you know about the CIA's involvement in Greece? In Indonesia? In Iran? Read, also, about SAVIK - the Shah's secret police were just as bad as the KGB. Why do you think we were hated and there was a revolution there? Because they're irrational Arabs?

      Google and read up on what we have been tolerating all these years. Also, read about Emma Goldman being beaten and molested in jail, after McKinley was assassinated and this was used as a crackdown on US dissidents, a hundred years ago - this is nothing new.  Negroponte is now turning a blind eye to evils committed by our puppets in Baghdad just as he did in Central America. We made Oliver North a national hero, and demonized the Senators who tried to make an accounting for Iran-Contra.

      We reap what we have sown. And nobody wants to hear it - you'd all still rather believe that we were always the noble, generous, altruistic saints of the world, and all those people around the world who resent America are just jealous or evil.

      "Don't be a janitor on the Death Star!" - Grey Lady Bast (change @ for AT to email)

      by bellatrys on Wed Dec 29, 2004 at 03:17:04 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  I guess this takes (none)
    Syria off the countries to invade list.  Let's see, that leaves Iran as North Korea has nukes and China on its side.  Oh wait...hmmm, nukes....well maybe Iran is off the list as well?
  •  I can only think one thing... (4.00)
    I tremble for my country when I reflect that god is just.
  •  I want this issue ... (4.00)
    ... dug up into full view.

    Astounding that these practices are sanctioned after the global humiliation of Abu Graib.

    Our true test as a nation will be whether the media and public turn a blind eye to this injustice or demands an end to sanctioned torture.

    If the former, I may have to retract my numerous no secession, no emigration posts.

    •  The public already *has* turned a blind eye (none)
      Where were you in the 80s when it came out about Central America? That was a dry run for this. We made Oliver North a hero, and put the architects of Iran Contra back in power, and now John Negroponte is once again doing what he does best in a client state of ours.

      Countries get the leaders they deserve. This is the essence of Greek tragedy, and the theme of the Antigone: the Chorus stands around lamenting the bad behavior of Creon but hey, he rescued them when the government fell apart, he's always had the best interests of Athens in mind, so what if he can't tell his own best interests from Athens apart and so what if he's doing all kinds of awful things now in overreation and personal pride? At least it's better than civil war, or having nobody in charge at all and no future ahead of them...

      And so, as they wring their hands over the blasphemous mutilation of the rebellious prince's body, and then over the equally-blasphemous kinslaying (formally exonerated because, after all, Creon isn't going to execute his niece, he's just going to lock the princess up and let her starve) but do nothing when the Oracle tries to warn them of this and is mocked by their leader - they end up with no future ahead of them and nobody to keep order in the city-state again...

      "Don't be a janitor on the Death Star!" - Grey Lady Bast (change @ for AT to email)

      by bellatrys on Wed Dec 29, 2004 at 03:11:09 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Pictures at Cryptogon... (3.66)
    See photos of each successive version of the exec jet tail numbers as aggregated by Kevin at Cryptogon:

    Excerpted here:

    The Torture Express: CIA Cut Out Operation Busted

    When Cryptogon reader RS sent in an Agence France-Presse story about CIA cutout aircraft flying U.S. detainees around the world for interrogation and torture, I didn't expect to personally find proof of the CIA with its pants around its ankles.... but I it looks like I did.

    Let's take it from the top:

    The article RS sent me fails to mention that, almost certainly A) there is a fleet of aircraft with tail number N379P, or B) the aircraft in question has had arbitrary tail number changes applied over a period of time. (It turned out to be B, but we'll get to that.)

    Fast and loose doesn't begin to describe the manner in which the CIA uses aircraft tail numbers and the FAA Aircraft Registration database. It's almost as if they think nobody is watching. If the authors of the AFP piece had read, Compromised: Clinton, Bush and the CIA by Terry Reed, they might have considered these possibilities. Compromised provides an excellent account of CIA air transport proprietaries and the associated tail number antics. See Chapter 7, Tail Numbers Game.

    •  One more thing... (none)
      This below from the WaPo article is the root of our problem--don't want to face our own evil, "do whatever you have to do, just don't tell me about it...:"

          "Our policymakers would never confront the issue," said Michael Scheuer, a former C.I.A. counterterrorism officer who has been involved with renditions and supports the practice. "We would say, 'Where do you want us to take these people?' The mind-set of the bureaucracy was, 'Let someone else do the dirty work.' "

  •  Bayard Foreign Marketing (none)
    I'm in Portland. I can't find a public phone number for "Bayard Foreign Marketing" here.

    Isn't it a violation of FAA regulations to operate aircraft with fraudulent registration? Isn't it pretty much a violation of regulations everywhere?

    Maybe the next time this plane is spotted in the US or Europe, some attentive local could alert the local authorities (and civil rights groups) to a blatant violation of aviation regulations?

    •  Not if you're the U.S. government. (none)
      Then it is a covert operation, not a crime.
    •  Pittock Block (none)
      The address given in the registration is 921 SW Washington Street in Portland, OR. This is the building known as the Pittock Block. Portlanders may know it as the building that houses the Martinotti's deli. Apparently that address is given because it is the address of Bayard's agent, the lawyer Scott D. Caplan.

      Human history becomes more and more a race between education and catastrophe. --H. G. Wells

      by realitybased on Tue Dec 28, 2004 at 12:03:09 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Pittock Block (none)
        The Pittock Block is also one of the largest "bandwidth hotels" in the region, with several Internet backbone links running through it. (The Tyco Building, a few blocks away, is one of the others.) If I were the CIA, this would be a great place to maintain a discreet presence to monitor a substantial portion of the internet traffic on the west coast.

        The bytes in this message, for example, will probably pass within a few meters of Scott D. Caplan's desk when I press the "post" button.

  •  Torture in flight is nothing new - (none)
    anyone old enough to have flown TWA to Europe knows that.
    •  The 25 nations of Europe have (none)
      the European Human Rights Convention to ensure that you cannot be tortured once your flight lands, and that you and others will have recourse to courts to seek your release.  

      This is the difference between the European Union and the current US Bush Administration or the old days of TWA (and European airlines charge extra for hoods, handcuffs and drugged sleep).

      "Americans can always be counted on to do the right thing - after they have exhausted all other possibilities." Winston Churchill

      by LondonYank on Tue Dec 28, 2004 at 11:07:06 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  The law firm... (none)
    ...that represents Bayard Foreign Marketing is named 'Jordan, Paul, Caplan & Etter.'  One of the partners, Richard Paul, is an evangelical Christian (right wing).

    More here

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