Huge stash of rendition documents reveal how the CIA covered its tracks

August 31, 2011

A trove of new information about the international renditions business has today been unveiled by legal action charity Reprieve. Over 1500 operational and legal documents, originally disclosed as part of a New York court case fought from 2007 to 2011, now offer the first comprehensive overview of how the CIA’s unlawful programme of ‘extraordinary renditions’ – otherwise known as kidnap – was structured and managed.

Reprieve’s evidence shows how:

    A complicated billing chain obscured the ultimate end user of the flights — the CIA
    The US government used the same aircraft – tail number N85VM, owned by Liverpool FC owner Philip Morse
    For over 55 flights to Guantanamo Bay, Kabul, Bangkok, Dubai, Islamabad, Cairo, Baghdad, Djibouti, Rabat, Frankfurt, Ramstein, Rome, Tenerife, the Azores and Bucharest
    The plane, a Gulfstream jet, frequently passed through British and Irish airports en route, including Shannon, Glasgow, Edinburgh and London Luton
    Richmor executives used disturbing newspeak to describe the prisoners – in Richmor’s phrase, the ‘invitees’ – they were shuttling to torture sites
    All rendition flights were covered by a “letter of convenience” from the State Department
    The CIA continued to pay millions to cover its its tracks, well after its illegal rendition-to-torture programme was made public

The documents also add previously unseen detail to several notorious rendition cases, including that of Abu Omar, snatched in Milan in February 2003 and rendered to torture in Egypt – a case which culminated in the in absentia kidnapping conviction of 22 CIA operatives by an Italian judge. 

Reprieve’s Legal Director Cori Crider said:   “These documents give us an unprecedented insight into how the government outsourced renditions, right down to the complicated paper-trail the CIA used to cover their tracks.  “When you see all these details, litigated for years in the open, the question that comes to mind is: why were Binyam Mohamed, Bisher al-Rawi, and all the other rendition victims denied their day in court? This case proves, once and for all, that the reason the government blocked the rendition cases was not to protect sensitive material. It was to avoid embarrassment.”


Notes to editors: 

For further information please contact Donald Campbell or Katherine O’Shea in Reprieve’s press office: / +44 (0)20 7427 1082 / (0)77 91 755 415 or / +44 7931592674.

In an effort to diversify the planes available to it, the US Government sought, as early as 2002, private aircraft which could perform government-related operations under “certificates of convenience” issued by the State Department. The operations of one such plane – Gulfstream jet N85VM, managed by Richmor Aviation and owned by Philip Morse, also the owner of Liverpool football club – are copiously divulged in over 1500 pages of documents, which have seen the light of day after Richmor Aviation filed a lawsuit for breach of contract.

Astonishingly, whereas in the case brought in 2007 by the American Civil Liberties Union against flight planner Jeppesen for facilitating torture flights the government stepped in and used “state secrets privilege” to shut down proceedings, in this parallel instance no effort was made to cover up the incriminating stream of documentation which Richmor’s suit entailed.

Flights were arranged by a Virginia-based private military company, Dyncorp, which later merged with the technology company Computer Sciences Corporation (CSC). Employees at Dyncorp/CSC located brokers, who in turn located flight operators with available aircraft and crews. The government – the ultimate customer – paid a reduced hourly rate for exclusive rights to the services of Richmor’s N85VM, initially over a six-month period between June and November 2002. A working arrangement between the various parties continued through to 2005, however. Trial transcripts make clear that some of N85VM’s flights carried prisoners or – in the parlance of Richmor’s owner – “invitees”. Others took US government agents to Guantanamo Bay.

Bundles of invoices reveal previously unseen insights into flights which can be connected with the rendition of Abu Omar as well as those of “high value detainees” Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri and Hambali. High-value detainee Al-Nashiri was captured in Dubai in October 2002. He was then taken to a CIA prison in Afghanistan. Between 8 and 11 Nov. 2002, documents disclosed here show the N85VM flew from Washington DC to Shannon in Ireland, then to Dubai, on to Kabul, then back to Dubai, passing through London Luton and arriving finally back in Washington. Abu Omar, meanwhile, having been taken from Milan to a US military base in Ramstein in Germany, was flown on 18 February 2003 on N85VM from there to Cairo; the plane then returned to the US via Shannon.

Although some data concerning the movement of N85VM had already been compiled, the documents disclosed here include considerable extra detail and some previously unknown destinations. Reprieve investigators are working to identify other prisoners who might have been connected with other, previously unknown flights documented here. 

ReprievePO Box 52742London EC4P 4WSTel: 020 7353 4640Fax: 020 7353 4641


Reprieve is a charitable company limited by guarantee; Registered Charity No. 1114900 Registered Company No. 5777831 (England) Registered Office 2-6 Cannon Street London EC4M 6YH; Chair: Ken Macdonald QC; Patrons: Alan Bennett, Julie Christie, Martha Lane Fox, Gordon Roddick, Richard Rogers, Ruth Rogers, Jon Snow, Marina Warner, Vivienne Westwood