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Large parts of the CIA’s “extraordinary rendition” program — which sent terrorist suspects to countries and prisons where they would be tortured — could soon become public, thanks to a lawsuit in Britain on behalf of a person who claims he was a victim of the agency’s program.
Lawyers for Binyam Mohamed, who spent some seven years in US custody, five of them at Guantanamo, say that Jeppesen UK, a subsidiary of Boeing, has agreed to the presentation of evidence about the “ghost flights” it allegedly operated for the CIA — off-the-grid private jets that transferred terrorist suspects to sites where they would be tortured.
According to an article in the UK’s Guardian, Jeppesen’s decision not to block details of its alleged role in extraordinary rendition has “wide-ranging legal implications that could help expose which countries and governments knew the CIA was using their air bases to spirit terrorist suspects around the world.”
Jeppesen is also the target of a lawsuit in the United States, launched by the ACLU in order to — as the ACLU put it — stop corporations from profiting from the CIA’s rendition program.
The Ethiopian-born Binyam Mohamed claimed refugee status in the UK in 1994, and was arrested at the airport in Karachi, Pakistan, in 2002, after visiting Afghanistan. US and UK authorities contend that he admitted training at a terrorist camp in Afghanistan. Mohamed says the admission was extracted under torture.
In October, 2008, US authorities dropped the charges against Mohamed. He was released from detention at Guantanamo in February of this year. Lawyers for Mohamed have launched a series of legal actions relating to his detention, including the lawsuit against Jeppesen, and another against the US Department of Defense, to prevent it from destroying evidence of maltreatment during Mohamed’s time in US custody.
Police in the UK have launched an investigation into Mohamed’s claims of torture, following revelations that Britain’s security service, MI5, may have colluded in Mohamed’s torture and fed the CIA questions that would result in Mohamed confessing to the “right” crimes.
PRESSURE FROM THE CIA
The UK’s Daily Mail reports that the CIA has been pressuring UK authorities to keep as much of the evidence in the Mohamed case secret as possible.
The paper states:
The only piece of evidence [UK Foreign Secretary David] Miliband’s lawyers have produced is a letter, redacted, unsigned and undated, with its letterhead concealed, which, they say, summarises the views of US President Barack Obama’s administration.
It states: ‘Public disclosure of the information contained in the seven paragraphs could likely result in serious damage to UK and US national security.
‘If it is determined that HMG [Her Majesty's Government] is unable to protect information we provide to it, even if that inability is caused by your judicial system, we will necessarily have to review with the greatest care the sensitivity of information we can provide in future.’
After an order from the judges, Government lawyers were forced to admit the letter had been sent to an unnamed officer in MI6, and had been written by someone at the CIA.
An investigator for Reprieve, an activist group that is supporting Mohamed’s legal actions, told the Guardian that the really valuable information to be gleaned from Mohamed’s lawsuits would not be about which airlines flew the suspects, but which countries colluded with the United States to torture suspects.
The investigator said “the CIA could not have acted alone and the case would raise questions over which governments were complicit in extraordinary rendition,” the Guardian reports.
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