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New Details About Secret Flights To 'Black Sites' Revealed In Court Case

Robyn Beck
AFP/Getty Images

A business dispute that's now in court has brought to light some more details about the secret flights that took terrorism suspects and U.S. officials to CIA-operated "black sites" and prisons around the world in recent years.

As The Associated Press reports:

"The secret airlift of terrorism suspects and American intelligence officials to CIA-operated overseas prisons via luxury jets was mounted by a hidden network of U.S. companies and coordinated by a prominent defense contractor, newly disclosed documents show."

The legal dispute sounds like a fairly standard disagreement between contractors. According to the AP, "a New York-based charter company, Richmor Aviation Inc., which supplied corporate jets and crews to the government, and a private aviation broker, SportsFlight Air, which organized flights for DynCorp ... are fighting over $874,000 awarded to Richmor by a New York state appeals court to cover unpaid costs for the secret flights."

As the case has proceeded, documents have revealed:

-- "Airport invoices and other commercial records [that] provide a new paper trail for the movements of some high-value terrorism suspects who vanished into the CIA 'black site' prisons, along with government operatives who rushed to the scenes of their capture. The records include flight itineraries closely coordinated with the arrest of accused 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheik Mohammed and the suspected transport of other captives." (The AP)

-- That "many of the flights carried U.S. officials between Washington Dulles International Airport and the Guantanamo Bay detention compound, where the U.S. was housing a growing population of terror detainees. Other flights landed at a dizzying array of international airports. Jets were dispatched to Islamabad; Rome; Djibouti; Frankfurt, Germany; Dubai, United Arab Emirates; Shannon, Ireland; Glasgow, Scotland; Tenerife, Spain; Sharm el Sheik, Egypt; and even Tripoli. Some flights landed at airports near where CIA black sites operated: Kabul, Bangkok and Bucharest." (The AP)

-- The "documents show references in court to 'invitees' of the U.S., a term meant to indicate prisoners being transported to secret prisons." ( Time's Battleland blog)

-- "The Gulfstream IV executive jet was made available at a cut-rate $4,900 an hour. Crew members were paid $800 a day, according to invoices submitted to the hearing. They would submit expenses claims for meals(pdf) –-- deli sandwiches at $19.95 a time, bottles of wine at $39.95 each — and stay in expensive hotels: $391 a head for one night's stay in Barcelona in January 2004, for example; $277 each for accommodation at Shannon on the west coast of Ireland the following August." ( The Guardian)

As The Guardian adds, "the documents were discovered by staff at the legal charity Reprieve."

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Mark Memmott is NPR's supervising senior editor for Standards & Practices. In that role, he's a resource for NPR's journalists – helping them raise the right questions as they do their work and uphold the organization's standards.