As many of you know, the CIA has gone to extraordinary, dubious lengths to keep its illegal rendition program secret by invoking the “state secrets” privilege to shut down litigation about it. Unfortunately for them, they apparently forgot the “don’t hire squabbling sub-contractors who will sue each other and make everything public anyway” bit of that plan.
Apparently, the CIA subcontracted with Dyncorp for the rendition flights, which in turn hired and Richmor, both “small aviation companies whose previous experience involved flying sports teams across the country,” to provide planes and crews. The latter two subcontractors are now embroiled in a billing dispute with each other in upstate New York, and have introduced substantial details of the program as part of the court record there.
Their sports-team experience apparently meant that they were a little slow on the uptake initially:
At first, the subcontractors thought they were working for the State Department, which gave Richmor official letters saying it was providing “global support to U.S. embassies worldwide.” The letters also authorized Richmor to deviate from stated flight plans.
They caught on pretty quick, though:
One letter is dated March 1, 2003, the date of the capture of Khalid Sheik Mohammed, the self-proclaimed mastermind of the Sept. 11 attacks. That suggests that the Richmor plane was used to transport him out of Pakistan, but there is no invoice for the relevant flight in the court record.
Ryan, Richmor’s attorney, said the company president became aware of what the planes were actually being used for shortly after the flights began.
“It was obvious,” he said. “They flew to Guantanamo and Germany and the Middle East with regularity.”
Or, as Richards put it while on the stand: “We were transporting government personnel and their invitees.”
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.
Well, sure. As anyone who has ever come to my apartment for dinner knows, forcibly administering anal suppositories is just a standard part of being a gracious hostess.
Although Richmor reportedly earned more than $6 million over three years from its participation in the CIA program, they were apparently none too happy once their involvement became public.
The Richmor plane — tail number N85VM — was identified publicly in 2005 after it was used in the rendition of Abu Omar, a Muslim cleric who was snatched off the streets of Milan and flown to Egypt. The company was managing the plane for its owner, Phillip Morse, vice chairman of Fenway Sports Group, parent company of the Boston Red Sox.
Richmor changed the tail number of the Gulfstream and complained in a letter to Sportsflight that it became the subject of “negative publicity, hate mail and the loss of a management customer as a consequence of the association of the N85VM with rendition flights.”
It’s true, the worst part of finding oneself involved in an illegal rendition program is that damned negative publicity. It’s like the public doesn’t even understand how much private jet owners suffer when they get paid $6 million to help kidnap people.