The L Files

I'm a plane-spotter

People with a curious hobby are becoming a valuable resource for reporters and activists seeking expose CIA activities.
People with this curious hobby are the secret weapon in the fight to expose the CIA's "rendition" activities:
Paul last saw the Gulfstream V about 18 months ago. He comes down to Glasgow airport's planespotters' club most days. He had not seen the plane before so he marked the serial number down in his book. At the time, he did not think there was anything unusual about the Gulfstream being ushered to a stand away from public view, one that could not be seen from the airport terminal or the club's prime view.
But that flight this week was at the centre of a transatlantic row that saw the prime minister being put on the spot on the floor of the House of Commons and the US secretary of state, Condoleezza Rice, forced on the defensive during a visit to Europe. The Gulfstream V has been identified as having been used by the CIA for "extraordinary renditions" - abducting terror suspects and taking them to secret prisons around the world where they may be tortured.
The recording of flights by spotters like Paul from places as far afield as Bournemouth and Karachi has unintentionally played a significant role in helping journalists and human rights groups expose the scale of the CIA's renditions system. But his impact on such international intrigue largely passes Paul by. "It's not the CIA bit that interests us. You don't even know who owns the plane when you take down the serial number," he said, already distracted as something comes in to land through the grey drizzle. "You keep accurate logs, for your own records." [Guardian via Boing Boing]
Plane-spotters also played an important role in verifying Khaled Masri's tale of abduction.

Here's to the many strange and splendored preoccupations that we call our hobbies.
Lakshmi Chaudhry is a senior editor at In These Times, and the former senior editor of AlterNet. You can write to her at [email protected].
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