US court case reveals CIA rendition details

image captionKhalid Sheikh Mohammed was one of the 9/11 suspects captured and moved around the world

A US court case has brought to light details of alleged CIA "rendition flights" that transported terror suspects around the world for interrogation after 9/11.

Charter company Richmor Aviation and aviation broker SportsFlight have been engaged in a four-year legal dispute over the costs of the flights.

The suspects were taken to CIA-run secret prisons around the world and the US detention camp at Guantanamo Bay.

Many are alleged to have been tortured.

Details including the costs and itineraries of flights organised by US private aviation firms have been revealed as part of court proceedings.

Human rights group Reprieve, which drew attention to the court case in New York, has said the material provides "an unprecedented insight into how the government outsourced rendition".

A state judge ruled for Richmor last year, awarding the company $1.6m (£980,000). In May, an appeals court confirmed the decision, cutting the costs awarded to $874,000. But Richmor argues it still has not been paid in full.

During the trial, Richmor's president, Mahlon Richards, described flights as classified and said passengers were "government personnel and their invitees", in a court transcript published by the UK-based Guardian newspaper.

But he also said he was aware of allegations his planes flew "terrorists" and "bad guys".

A state department spokesman told the Associated Press news agency that the department has a policy of not commenting on "alleged intelligence activities".

Parallel pattern

The court files include contracts, flight invoices, mobile phone records and correspondence, but do not give details of who was on board the planes apart from a count of crew and passengers.

In many cases, the flights coincide with the arrests and transport of some prominent terrorism suspects captured in the months after the 9/11 attacks.

Some of the details revealed include:

  • Airport invoices and other commercial records provide a paper trail for the movements of some terrorism suspects allegedly held in secret CIA prisons, along with government operatives who flew to the scenes of their detention.
  • The records include flight itineraries coordinated with the arrest of accused 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheik Mohammed and the suspected transport of other detainees.
  • The private jets were given US state department transit letters providing diplomatic cover for their flights.
  • The private business jets sometimes landed several times during a single mission, and in at least one case cost the US government as much as $300,000 for one flight.
  • The crew of one of the jets involved made expenses claims for items such as $20 sandwiches and $40 wine bottles, court documents published by the Guardian show.

Details of the flight programme have leaked previously.

Aviation logs and other records were exposed by lawsuits and European parliamentary inquiries, and investigative accounts have traced patterns of some planes used in the flights.

In 2007, the Council of Europe estimated that more than 1,000 CIA-operated flights passed over the continent.

Several European nations have been accused of co-operating by hosting secret CIA prisons or allowing CIA flights carrying the prisoners to use airports on their way to other countries.

In 2008, the UK admitted that CIA rendition flights had refuelled on the British overseas territory of Diego Garcia in the Indian Ocean.

Two years later, Prime Minister David Cameron set up a "judge-led" inquiry to look at claims that UK security services were complicit in the torture of terror suspects.

The CIA has previously told the BBC: "The programme is over. This agency does not discuss publicly where detention facilities may or may not have been."

More on this story