Tuesday, July 01, 2008

More on CIA extraordinary rendition flights

I just figured out that Trevor Paglen, the co-author of Torture Taxi, a book about how planespotting was used to track information about the CIA's extraordinary rendition flights, is also the author of I Could Tell You but Then You Would Have to Be Destroyed by Me: Emblems from the Pentagon's Black World, for which he appeared on the Colbert Report. At his blog, I've learned that the pilots of the CIA rendition flights associated with Khalid El-Masri have been identified at Sourcewatch, where you can also find extensive information about the planes and the fictional owners of the companies that operate them (in particular see the companies Premier Executive Transport Services and Bayard Foreign Marketing, which have both owned the same Gulfstream V (PDF), nicknamed the "Guantanamo Bay Express").

El-Masri, a German citizen, was kidnapped in Macedonia and taken to a CIA black site called the "Salt Pit" in Afghanistan, where he was tortured, then later released in Albania after a second order to do so by National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice (the first was ignored). He was taken because his name resembled that of suspected al Qaeda operative Khalid al-Masri.

El-Masri's lawsuit against the CIA and three private companies that operated planes involved with his transport was dismissed in 2006 on grounds of state secrets privilege, and the U.S. Supreme Court denied cert in 2007. He has also sued in Germany, where there are outstanding warrants for pilots Eric Robert Hume, James Kovalesky, and Harry Kirk Ellarbee. All three of these pilots work or worked for alleged CIA front company Aero Contractors Ltd., live in Johnston County, North Carolina and have been visited by the German press in unsuccessful attempts to interview them.

The German warrants were passed to Interpol, but the German government declined to ask the U.S. for extradition after an informal request was given a negative reply.

El-Masri was sent to a mental institution in 2007 after being arrested for arson and an assault on a truck-driving instructor.

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