With the 10 year anniversary of 9/11 just around the corner, except an orgy of self-delusion over the disastrous decade just over. So many wars and deaths and is the West safer? No chance. But a select few corporations have done very well, thanks very much. Disaster capitalism on steroids. The Guardian reports:
The scale of the CIA‘s rendition programme has been laid bare in court documents that illustrate in minute detail how the US contracted out the secret transportation of suspects to a network of private American companies.
The manner in which American firms flew terrorism suspects to locations around the world, where they were often tortured, has emerged after one of the companies sued another in a dispute over fees. As the 10th anniversary of 9/11 approaches, the mass of invoices, receipts, contracts and email correspondence – submitted as evidence to a court in upstate New York – provides a unique glimpse into a world in which the “war on terror” became just another charter opportunity for American businesses.
As a result of the case, the identities of some of the corporations involved in the rendition programme have been disclosed for the first time, along with the names of some of the executives who knew the purpose of the flights.
One unintended consequence may be that some of those corporations and individuals are now at risk of being sued in proceedings brought on behalf of the al-Qaida and Taliban suspects who were the victims of the programme.
The New York case concerns Sportsflight, an aircraft broker, and Richmor, an aircraft operator. Sportsflight entered into an arrangement to make a Gulfstream IV executive jet available at $4,900 an hour rather than the market rate of $5,450. A crew was available to fly at 12 hours’ notice. The government wanted “the cheapest aircraft to fulfil a mission”, Sportsflight’s owner, Don Moss, told the court. But it was the early days of the rendition programme, and business was booming: the court heard that Sportsflight told Richmor: “The client says we’re going to be very, very busy.”
Invoices submitted to the court as evidence tally with flights suspected of ferrying around individuals who were captured and delivered into the CIA’s network of secret jails around the world. Some of the invoices present in stark detail the expense claims that crew members were submitting on their secret journeys, down to £3 biscuits and £30 bottles of wine.
One Gulfstream jet has been identified as the aircraft that rendered an Egyptian cleric known as Abu Omar after CIA agents kidnapped him in broad daylight in Milan in February 2003 and took him to Cairo, where he says he was tortured.
The court documents make only passing reference to the human cargo being transported. Enough details of the rendition programme generally have now been disclosed to know that men on these flights were usually sedated through anal suppositories before being dressed in nappies and orange boiler suits, then hooded and muffled and trussed up in the back of the aircraft. The precise conditions in which suspects were transported on Richmor flights are not known.
Despite the attempts to keep costs down, the invoices submitted to the court as evidence show that some rendition operations were eye-wateringly expensive. In November 2002, for example, Gulfstream N85VM made a six-day round trip from Washington, taking in Guantánamo Bay, Shannon, Dubai, Kabul, and Edinburgh (pdf). Richmor’s bill was for $240,643 and 95 cents, including catering, landing fees and the cost of an additional crew member.
Another operation that month, which saw the Gulfstream fly from Washington to Kabul via Shannon and Dubai, (pdf) and return via Dubai and Luton, north of London, resulted in a bill from Richmor for $198,930 and 30 cents.
Bizarrely, given the purpose of the flights, Richmor was expected to meet US federal regulations, meaning rendition aircraft (pdf) were designated as drug-free workplaces, to be operated only by companies that took affirmative action to employ workers with disabilities.
The real value of the documents is the way they allow the most comprehensive and verifiable picture to date of the CIA’s so-called “ghost planes” to be mapped out. In the past, White House administrations under both George W Bush and Barack Obama have moved to ensure that details of the programme did not leak out from court proceedings.