ACLU Sues Boeing Subsidiary For Complicity in CIA's "Extraordinary Rendition"

By Kenneth J. Theisen, 5/30/07

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) is attempting to hold Jeppesen Dataplan, Inc., a subsidiary of Boeing Co., accountable for its complicity with the CIA's "extraordinary rendition" program.  The ACLU held a New York news conference on May 30th announcing that it is suing the company for allegedly providing support services in at least three rendition cases where alleged "terrorism suspects" were tortured.

According to the ACLU lawsuit, the cases involve Ethiopian citizen Binyam Mohamed; Italian citizen Elkassim Britel; and Egyptian citizen Ahmed Agiza. Mohamed is now held in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba; Britel in Morocco and Agiza in Egypt. All were abused.

A spokesman for Jeppesen claimed the Sgt. Shultz" "I know nothing" defense. Mike Pound stated that the company only provides support services, "We create flight plans, what the fuel requirements might be, where they might refuel, the airports that they might use. We don't know the purpose of the trip for which we do a flight plan. We don't need to know specific details. It's the customer's business, and we do the business that we are contracted for. It's not our practice to ever inquire about the purpose of a trip." This sounds like the defense of many German companies who enabled Nazi Germany to so efficiently destroy over six million lives in its concentration camps.  Gee all we did was make the gas canisters, construct the ovens, furnish the barbed wire, and supply the cattle cars. We didn't know what they were using these for.

But an article in The New Yorker on October 30, 2006 exposes this "know nothing" defense.  According to the article, a former Jeppesen employee told the magazine that a senior Jeppesen employee stated at a board meeting, "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."

And Ben Wizner, an ACLU attorney claimed, "Either they knew or reasonably should have known that they were facilitating a torture program. [They] are not allowed to have their head in the sand, and take money from the CIA to fly people, hooded and shackled, to foreign countries to be tortured."

The lawsuit was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California.  It alleges that Jeppesen knowingly provided direct flight services to the CIA that enabled the clandestine transportation of Mohamed, Britel and Agiza to secret overseas locations where they were subjected to torture and other forms of cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment. The legal complaint further alleges "that Jeppesen, through its travel service known as Jeppesen International Trip Planning, has been a main provider of flight and logistical support services for aircraft used by the CIA in the U.S. government's extraordinary rendition program. The CIA rendition flights transfer terror suspects to countries where the U.S. government knows detainees are routinely tortured or otherwise abused in contravention of universally accepted legal standards."

The ACLU states that Jeppesen has facilitated flights to U.S.-run detention facilities overseas. The Bush regime maintains that legal safeguards do not apply outside the U.S. in such cases. According to the lawsuit, since December 2001, Jeppesen has provided flight and logistical support to at least 15 aircraft that have made a total of 70 rendition flights.

The lawsuit further claims that "Jeppesen's participation in the rendition flights has included furnishing aircraft crew with flight planning services including itinerary, route, weather, and fuel planning; responsibility for the preparation of pre-departure flight plans with air traffic control authorities; procurement of over-flight and landing permits from foreign governments; facilitation of customs clearance and arrangements for ground transportation, catering, and hotel accommodation for aircraft crew upon landing; and provision of physical security for aircraft and crew."

Anthony D. Romero, the ACLU Executive Director emphasized that, "American corporations should not be profiting from a CIA rendition program that is unlawful and contrary to core American values. Corporations that choose to participate in such activity can and should be held legally accountable." The lawsuit will attempt to do so.

The lawsuit was filed under the Alien Tort Statute, which permits aliens to bring claims in the United States for violations of the law of nations or a U.S. treaty. The statute recognizes international standards accepted among civilized nations that are violated by acts such as enforced disappearance, torture and other inhuman treatment described in the lawsuit.

Even though the Bush regime is not a party to the lawsuit, it should be interesting to see what action the administration takes.  In lawsuits against telecommunication companies that assisted the NSA surveillance program the Bush regime has done everything it can to get such suits dismissed to avoid embarrassing disclosures.  Litigation in this case may also reveal much more that the Bush regime wants the public to know about the rendition program which "out sources" torture and death to other nations.

More information on the Jeppesen lawsuit can be found online at www.aclu.org/rendition.