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November 30, 2006

Is Boeing helping the CIA fly terror suspects?

Posted by David Postman at 12:20 PM

I missed this in a recent edition of The New Yorker — until tipped to it by Rick Anderson in the Weekly today. But a few weeks back the magazine had a fascinating little story about Boeing's ties to the controversy over CIA flights of terrorism suspects.

The connection comes through a Boeing subsidiary, Jeppesen International Trip Planning, an aviation logistical support company.

Boeing does not mention, either on its Web site or in its annual report, that Jeppesen's clients include the CIA, 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 CIA 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.

...

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 flights — you know, the torture flights. Let's face it, some of these flights end up that way."

The New Yorker said it received an official "no comment" from Jeppesen officials.

The details of Boeing's involvement come from a new book by British journalist Stephen Grey. "Ghost Plane" includes what Grey says are details showing involvement of Jeppesen and other international flight planners in the secret moving of terror suspects.

Writes Anderson in the Weekly:

Since 2003, human-rights investigators and news media reports have described a Boeing Business Jet as one of the most-dreaded planes in the Central Intelligence Agency's clandestine air force. The modified 737 — a model rolled out in Renton in 2001 — was built for executive fun and comfort. But it is alleged to be the flagship of the CIA's "extreme rendition" squadron, ferrying suspected terrorists to secret agency prisons or countries where the U.S. is said to outsource torture. ...

Boeing won't confirm or deny the claim. But the Spanish documents, and an investigation by Amnesty International and the Council of Europe, indicate Boeing was making arrangements for as many as 1,000 rendition flights through 14 countries by four CIA planes, including that notorious Boeing Business Jet.

Anderson did get a response from spokesperson Tim Neale at Boeing headquarters in Chicago:

"Jeppesen's flight planning process is to provide the route that is going to be followed, how much fuel is needed on board, where they will stop, and how many people will be on board, for weight reasons.

"We don't necessarily know very much about the purpose of a flight because that information isn't necessary to create a flight plan. What somebody's going to do when they get off is not part of that plan."

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