NY State Court Case Reveals Sordid Details of Rendition
It looked like a dispute between an aviation company in upstate New York and a "flight brokerage" company which was sending that plane out on chartered flights. The papers were filed in a quiet courthouse. But when members of British human rights group nosed through the case, they had good reason: the plane in the dispute was part of the CIA's "rendition" program, illegally kidnapping terror suspects and flying them to secret sites around the world.
Now tons of details about those flights and passengers are on the public record. The Washington Post and other papers were was tipped off by the human rights group, Reprieve, and found the documents waiting for reporters.
The August 2003 flights — and dozens of others to locations such as Bucharest, Romania; Baku, Azerbaijan; Cairo; Djibouti; Islamabad, Pakistan; and Tripoli, Libya — were organized by Sportsflight, a one-man aircraft brokerage business on Long Island. It secured a plane from Richmor Aviation, based near the Columbia County Airport in Hudson, N.Y. Richmor eventually sued Sportsflight for breach of contract. In the process, the costs and itineraries of numerous CIA flights became part of the court record.
In other cases, the government has invoked the “state secrets” privilege to shut down litigation over the CIA program, but the case in Columbia County proceeded uninterrupted in an almost empty courtroom. There were only two witnesses at the bench trial: Richmor President Mahlon Richards and Sportsflight owner Donald Moss....
Indeed, they provide a window into the CIA's activity at the time (some of which has been officially eliminated, but some of which has continued in the Obama administration):
The more than 1,500 pages from the trial and appeals court files appear to include sensitive material, such as logs of air-to-ground phone calls made from the plane. These logs show multiple calls to CIA headquarters; to the cell- and home phones of a senior CIA official involved in the rendition program; and to a government contractor, Falls Church-based DynCorp, that worked for the CIA.
Attorneys for a London-based legal charity, Reprieve, which has been investigating the CIA program, discovered the Columbia County case and brought the court records to the attention of The Washington Post, the Associated Press and a British newspaper, the Guardian. “This new evidence tells a chilling story, from the CIA’s efforts to disguise its illegal activities to the price it paid to ferry prisoners to torture chambers across the world,” said Cori Crider, Reprieve’s legal director. “If we are to avoid repeating our mistakes, we must have a full accounting of how this system was allowed to flourish under our very noses.”