The CIA's Travel Agent
- The C.I.A.'s Travel Agent
by Jane Mayer
Central Intelligence Agency (C.I.A.); Jeppesen International Trip
Planning; Travel Agents; Boeing; Extraordinary Rendition Flights;
Terrorists (Terrorism Suspects); Overby, Bob On the official Web
site of Boeing, the world's largest aerospace company, there is a
section devoted to a subsidiary called Jeppesen International Trip
Planning, based in San Jose, California. The write-up mentions that
the division "offers everything needed for efficient, hassle-free,
international flight operations," spanning the globe "from Aachen to
Zhengzhou." The paragraph concludes, "Jeppesen has done it all."
Boeing does not mention, either on its Web site or in its annual
report, that Jeppesen's clients include the C.I.A., and that among
the international trips that the company plans for the agency are
secret "extraordinary rendition" flights for terrorism suspects.
Most of the planes used in rendition flights are owned and operated
by tiny charter airlines that function as C.I.A. front companies,
but it is not widely known that the agency has turned to a division
of Boeing, the publicly traded blue-chip behemoth, to handle many of
the logistical and navigational details for these trips, including
flight plans, clearance to fly over other countries, hotel
reservations, and ground-crew arrangements.
The Bush Administration has defended the clandestine rendition
program, which began during the Clinton years, as an effective
method of transporting terrorists to countries where they can be
questioned or held. Human-rights activists and others have said the
program's primary intent is to send suspects to detention centers
where they can be interrogated harshly, and have criticized it as an
illegal means of "outsourcing torture."
A former Jeppesen employee, who asked not to be identified, said
recently that he had been startled to learn, during an internal
corporate meeting, about the company's involvement with the
rendition flights. At the meeting, he recalled, Bob Overby, the
managing director of Jeppesen International Trip Planning, said, "We
do all of the extraordinary rendition flightsyou know, the torture
flights. Let's face it, some of these flights end up that way." The
former employee said that another executive told him, "We do the
spook flights." He was told that two of the company's trip planners
were specially designated to handle renditions. He was deeply
troubled by the rendition program, he said, and eventually quit his
job. He recalled Overby saying, "It certainly pays well. They"the
C.I.A."spare no expense. They have absolutely no worry about costs.
What they have to get done, they get done."
Overby, who was travelling last week, did not return several phone
calls. Mike Pound, the head of corporate communications for
Jeppesen, said that he would have no comment, and he added, "Bob
Overby will have no comment as well." Tim Neale, the director of
media relations for Boeing's corporate office in Chicago, said, "The
flight-planning services we provide our customers are confidential,
and we do not comment publicly on any work done for any customer
without their consent." The C.I.A. had no comment.
The British journalist Stephen Grey, in a new book, "Ghost Plane,"
refers to documents obtained by Spanish law-enforcement officials,
along with flight logs, which indicate that international flight
planners provided essential logistical support for many of the
C.I.A.'s renditions, including that of Khaled el-Masri, a German car
salesman who was apparently mistaken for an Al Qaeda suspect with a
similar name, in January of 2004. (Although documents show that
Jeppesen provided this support, Grey's book does not mention the
company.) Masri, who is a Muslim, was arrested at the border while
crossing from Serbia into Macedonia by bus. He has alleged in court
papers that Macedonian authorities turned him over to a C.I.A.
rendition team. Then, he said, masked figures stripped him naked,
shackled him, and led him onto a Boeing 737 business jet. Flight
plans prepared by Jeppesen show that from Skopje, Macedonia, the 737
flew to Baghdad, where it had military clearance to land, and then
on to Kabul. On board, Masri has said, he was chained to the floor
and injected with sedatives. After landing, he was put in the trunk
of a car and driven to a building where he was placed in a dank
cell. He spent the next four months there, under interrogation.
Masri was released in May, 2004, on the orders of Condoleezza Rice,
then the national-security adviser, after she learned that he had
mistakenly been identified as a terrorism suspect.
Ben Wizner, an A.C.L.U. attorney who is representing Masri in his
lawsuit against the former C.I.A. director George Tenet and private
aviation companies, says that if Boeing can be proved to have played
a role in Masri's rendition the A.C.L.U. may amend the lawsuit to
name the company as a defendant.
The American flight crew fared better than their passenger.
Documents show that after the 737 delivered Masri to the Afghan
prison it flew to the resort island of Majorca, where, for two
nights, crew members stayed at a luxury hotel, at taxpayers'
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