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SAN FRANCISCO – A federal appeals court on Tuesday ruled that a subsidiary of Chicago-based Boeing Co. can be sued for allegedly flying terrorism suspects to secret prisons around the world to be tortured as part of the CIA‘s “extraordinary rendition” program. A unanimous three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said that a lower court judge wrongly tossed out the lawsuit after the government asserted the case was a “state secret” that would harm national security if allowed to go forward. The trial court judge dismissed the case before the prisoners could present evidence allegedly showing that the company’s participation in the program was illegal. The Bush administration and then the Obama administration argued that the lawsuit should be thrown out before the government turns over any evidence because the nature of the legal action is itself a classified matter. The federal government inserted itself into the lawsuit on the company’s side because it said feared top-secret information would be disclosed. The appeals court, however, said the five prisoners suing San Jose-based Jeppesen Dataplan Inc. can try to prove their case without using top-secret information that legitimately needs protection from disclosure. “Only if privileged evidence is indispensable to either party should it dismiss the complaint,” Judge Michael Hawkins wrote for the appeals court. The prisoners’ attorney, Ben Wizner of the American Civil Liberties Union, said the ruling will give his clients a chance to prove their case, which was filed in 2007 and alleged torture in the months after the Sept. 11 attacks. “It is now 2009 and no torture victim has achieved justice or compensation,” Wizner said. “This finally puts us at the starting line.” The government or the company could appeal the decision to a bigger panel of the 9th Circuit or ask the Supreme Court to review the ruling. The Bush administration was widely criticized for its practice of extraordinary rendition — whereby the CIA transfers suspects overseas for interrogation. Human rights advocates said renditions were the agency’s way to outsource torture of prisoners to countries where it is permitted practice. Some of the prisoners allege they were tortured. The Bush White House had said the U.S. does not engage in torture. The Obama administration says it will continue to send foreign detainees to other countries for questioning but only if U.S. officials are confident the prisoners will not be tortured. The White House is reviewing the entire detention and rendition program.
By PAUL ELIAS | Associated Press Writer
SAN FRANCISCO – A federal appeals court on Tuesday ruled that a subsidiary of Chicago-based Boeing Co. can be sued for allegedly flying terrorism suspects to secret prisons around the world to be tortured as part of the CIA‘s “extraordinary rendition” program.
A unanimous three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said that a lower court judge wrongly tossed out the lawsuit after the government asserted the case was a “state secret” that would harm national security if allowed to go forward.
The trial court judge dismissed the case before the prisoners could present evidence allegedly showing that the company’s participation in the program was illegal. The Bush administration and then the Obama administration argued that the lawsuit should be thrown out before the government turns over any evidence because the nature of the legal action is itself a classified matter.
The federal government inserted itself into the lawsuit on the company’s side because it said feared top-secret information would be disclosed.
The appeals court, however, said the five prisoners suing San Jose-based Jeppesen Dataplan Inc. can try to prove their case without using top-secret information that legitimately needs protection from disclosure.
“Only if privileged evidence is indispensable to either party should it dismiss the complaint,” Judge Michael Hawkins wrote for the appeals court.
The prisoners’ attorney, Ben Wizner of the American Civil Liberties Union, said the ruling will give his clients a chance to prove their case, which was filed in 2007 and alleged torture in the months after the Sept. 11 attacks.
“It is now 2009 and no torture victim has achieved justice or compensation,” Wizner said. “This finally puts us at the starting line.”
The government or the company could appeal the decision to a bigger panel of the 9th Circuit or ask the Supreme Court to review the ruling.
The Bush administration was widely criticized for its practice of extraordinary rendition — whereby the CIA transfers suspects overseas for interrogation. Human rights advocates said renditions were the agency’s way to outsource torture of prisoners to countries where it is permitted practice. Some of the prisoners allege they were tortured.
The Bush White House had said the U.S. does not engage in torture.
The Obama administration says it will continue to send foreign detainees to other countries for questioning but only if U.S. officials are confident the prisoners will not be tortured. The White House is reviewing the entire detention and rendition program.
When Boeing chose Chicago over Seattle, Dallas and Denver as its corporate headquarters, there was rejoicing in the city. The Boeing symbol on our West Loop Skyline is one sign that we have made it as a global city.
We regret Boeing losing key defense contracts as we do losses by the Cubs and Sox.
Boeing pretends to be a good corporate citizen supporting Chicago arts groups and community organizations with grants. The company is listed prominently in playbills and annual reports.
But Boeing also abets torture. It is, after all, a defense contractor as well as a provider of civilian passenger jets. It is locked at the hip and the bottom line with the U.S. government.
Despite our pride in Boeing as a global corporation, it is as amoral as the German corporations that aided Hitler. Only money and contracts count with Boeing.
Boeing’s subsidiary, Jeppesen Dataplan, since 2001 has provided flight and logistical support for at least 15 aircraft making 70 clandestine flights for the CIA. Jeppesen allows the CIA to transport prisoners such as ACLU plaintiffs Binyam Mohamed, Abou Elkassim Britel, and Ahmed Agiza to secret locations where they were tortured as part of our government’s “war on terror.”
The fact that kidnapping and torture is given the more benign name of “rendition” changes nothing. The CIA uses civilian planes and Boeing’s and Jeppesen’s planning and collaboration to avoid legal procedures in other countries. It is illegal to use European facilities such as airports to spirit prisoners away to be tortured without due process. U.S. taxpayer money is being paid to Jeppesen and Boeing for “travel services” to transport prisoners, some kidnapped and others turned over for bounty payments. All of the CIA prisoners were tortured in countries such as Jordan, Egypt, Afghanistan and Morocco.
Other American companies, such as phone companies, help the government monitor our “private” phone calls. These companies and Boeing, like German companies 70 years ago, help our government undermine human and civil rights.
On April 28, Boeing stockholders met at the Field Museum. They were greeted by a small band of protesters, including Chicago author Sara Paretsky. She wrote about the protest in her blog, “At the end of [a good] novel, justice somehow triumphs. At the end of the morning [protest] in Chicago, money won.”
For now, Boeing continues to aid in rendition and torture. And the stockholders, mostly unknowingly, go along.
A few days before the stockholder meeting, an American Civil Liberties Union lawsuit against Boeing was dismissed in federal court. The CIA claimed the need to protect “state secrets.” But the basic facts are disputed by neither Boeing nor the CIA. As ACLU attorney Ben Wizner argued in court, “No interrogation method . . . is secret. Every one of those has been disclosed and confirmed and in the public record.” And the record implicates Boeing. As Meg Satterwaite, an attorney for one of the tortured prisoners has said, “Corporate complicity is actually a crucial part of the CIA program.”
While management won the stockholder meeting and first court confrontations, the Coalition to Ground Boeing Torture Flights was born. The next steps in the anti-Boeing campaign will be teach-ins on college campuses and demands for the sale of Boeing stock by pension funds and universities. The coalition is calling on Congress investigate Boeing’s role and on the Chicago City Council to pass a resolution condemning Boeing.
Boeing is a giant global corporation, a Goliath. It is opposed by a handful of protesting Davids. I, for one, want to be counted among the Davids.
Like any other citizen, our Chicago corporate citizens should oppose, not abet, torture.
View a segment from Bill Moyers Journal on the new film “Taxi to the Dark Side.”
CIA director Michael Hayden, defending the practice of sending terrorism suspects to countries that interrogate by torture via secret “renditions,” told USA Today last month that this program is “lawful, in keeping with Western values.
“I’ve never managed a more sensitive, law-abiding workforce [than the CIA] in my life,” added the former head of the National Security Agency, which has long engaged in lawless spying on American phone calls and e-mails.
In its story, USA Today failed to note that a 1998 U.S. law, the Foreign Affairs and Restructuring Act, explicitly states: “It shall be the policy of the United States not to expel, extradite or otherwise effect the involuntary return of any person to a country in which there are substantial grounds for believing the person would be in danger of being subjected to torture.”
The ACLU, in its lawsuit against Boeing’s subsidiary, Jeppesen DataPlan (which, among other things, operates an elite travel agency), is representing three victims of the CIA’s renditions—an Ethiopian, Italian, and Egyptian. In court papers, the ACLU reveals how this branch of the world’s largest aerospace company collaborates with Hayden’s “men in black” to ignore both our laws and international treaties:
“In providing its services to the CIA, Jeppesen knew or reasonably should have known that plaintiffs would be subjected to forced disappearances, detention, and torture in countries where such practices are routine. Indeed, according to published reports, Jeppesen had actual knowledge of its activities [violating the Alien Tort Statute of 1789].”
The ACLU then goes to the smoking gun in this case, as first reported by The New Yorker‘s Jane Mayer in “The CIA’s Travel Agent” (October 30, 2006):
“A former Jeppesen employee, who asked not to be identified, said recently that he had been startled to learn, during an internal corporate meeting, about the company’s involvement with the rendition flights. At the meeting, he recalled, Bob Overby, the managing director of Jeppesen International Trip Planning, said, ‘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.’”
Mayer also reported that Overby was heard to say that the CIA flights paid well because the agency had no worries about how it spent the taxpayers’ money.
After I saw Mayer’s story last October, I called Jeppesen’s San Jose, California, headquarters for a reaction. Nobody would talk to me. So I called Boeing’s Chicago headquarters. All I got was a round of “no comments.”
Once the ACLU lawsuit was filed in federal court in San Jose on May 30, 2007, Mike Pound, a spokesman for Jeppesen, told the Associated Press the next day:
“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.”
How interesting it would be to contrast that corporate alibi with what Overby might say in a courtroom, under oath, about Jeppesen’s frequent spare-no-expenses customer.
But before this case can get before a judge and jury, I predict—and I’ll be delighted to be wrong—that the Bush administration will intervene and argue that the case cannot be heard on national-security grounds, because the CIA’s “sources and methods” could be revealed to the enemy. This is the “state secrets” privilege that the Bush Justice Department has invoked more than any previous administration—with the result that an open-society judge in another important case said, “Democracy dies behind closed doors.”
That judge was the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals’ Damon Keith in 2002, when then–Attorney General John Ashcroft, tearing up the First Amendment, closed deportation hearings for alleged terrorism suspects to the press. Ruling against Ashcroft, Judge Keith emphasized: “The only safeguard against this extraordinary government power is the public.”
And that’s why the current ACLU lawsuit against Boeing’s Jeppesen travel agency is so vital. Neither the Congress nor the courts have yet directly probed the so-called legal basis on which George W. Bush gave the CIA “special powers” to conduct these renditions (the text of which order he will not release).
But at least in this case, the public may be able to hold up to scrutiny the practice of CIA agents, all in black, dragging their hooded, shackled prisoners onto Boeing 737s for journeys meticulously planned by the Jeppesen travel agency, on their way to other countries’ torture chambers.
Michael Hayden may then finally be called before a Congressional committee. There, he would be confronted and ordered to provide the specific laws that have permitted him to orchestrate this spider’s web of rendition flights.
Also, if there are indeed such laws that legitimize torture—the practice of which everyone in this administration indignantly denies—then why does the Justice Department need to invoke “state secrets” in these cases?
What will become clear to the public, if there is a trial, is that this administration’s pervasive “national security” secrecy and lawlessness have actually created a far-ranging conspiracy to obstruct justice. And in these “torture flight” cases, such private corporations as Boeing and its Jeppesen travel agency criminally become part of this conspiracy, which has twisted the rule of law out of any recognizable shape.
The ACLU distills the significance of this lawsuit in a key passage: “Jeppesen’s role as coordinator with virtually all public and private third parties [in these international kidnappings] permitted the CIA to conduct its illegal activities below the radar of public scrutiny—and beyond the reach of the rule of law.
“In short, without the assistance of Jeppesen and other corporations, the US . . . rendition program could not have gotten off the ground.”
With the Fourth of July coming up, I’d like to remind Michael Hayden why we had a revolution: to be free of arbitrary rulers and their secret prisons. But now, just in time for Independence Day, Amnesty International, the Center for Constitutional Rights, and Washington Square legal services have filed a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court of New York against the CIA and the Justice, Defense, and State departments to get all the secrets of these CIA “renditions.” I’ll keep you posted.
Boeing – Profiting from Torture!!!
Jeppesen Dataplan, Inc. is a wholly owned subsidiary of Boeing Company. The ACLU has filed a lawsuit against Jeppesen for knowingly providing direct flight services to the CIA that enabled the clandestine transportation of Binyam Mohamed, Abou Elkassim Birtel, Ahmed Agiza, Bisher al-Rawi and Mohamed Farag Ahmad Bashmilah to secret oversees locations where they were subjected to torture and other forms of cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment.
• Since December 2001, Jeppesen has provided flight and logistical support to at least 15 aircraft that have made a total of 70 flights.
Jeppesen has provided the following services:
• flight planning services including itinerary, route, weather, and fuel planning.
• preparation of pre-departure flight plans with air traffic control authorities.
• procured 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
• provision of security for aircraft and crew.
According to Meg Satterwaite, attorney for Mr. Bashmilah, “ This is a program that could not exist without corporate complicity. Jeppesen is a crucial example here. The CIA used purportedly civilian planes to avoid certain procedures that they normally would need to use if they used, for example, military planes or official government planes. So the corporate complicity is actually a crucial part of the CIA program.”
The U.S. government is attempting to stop the lawsuit asserting “ state secrets.” That will not stop our efforts to call Boeing to accountability for PROFITING ON TORTURE.
Join us as we demonstrate at the Boeing shareholders meeting to show that TORTURE IS BAD BUSINESS. 9:30 a.m., Monday, April 28 at the Field Museum. Shareholders’ meeting begins at 10 a.m.
Mohamed Farag Ahmad Bashmilah, a Yemeni man who was kidnapped and tortured through the CIA’s extraordinary rendition program appeared on Democracy Now! on December 18, 2007. You can watch or listen to the show, or read the transcript at the Democracy Now website: Democracy Now! The War and Peace Report
In May of 2007, the American Civil Liberties Union filed a lawsuit on behalf of torture flight victims against Jeppesen for facilitating the CIA’s extraordinary rendition program.
The ACLU website has detailed information on the lawsuit: ACLU
Below is a May 31, 2007 article from the LA Times on the lawsuit
ACLU suit alleges firm is profiting from torture
The Boeing subsidiary is accused of helping facilitate mistreatment
of terrorism suspects.
By Henry Weinstein
Times Staff Writer
May 31, 2007
The American Civil Liberties Union filed a suit Wednesday that
accused a Boeing Co. subsidiary of helping the Central Intelligence
Agency facilitate “the forced disappearance, torture and inhumane
treatment” of three men the government suspected of terrorist
“This is the first time we are accusing a blue-chip American company
of profiting from torture,” ACLU lawyer Ben Wizner said at a news
conference in New York City.
Since at least 2001, Jeppesen Dataplan Inc. of San Jose “has provided
direct and substantial services to the United States for its so-
called ‘extraordinary rendition’ program,” the suit, filed in San
Jose federal court, alleges.
Extraordinary rendition is a highly secretive and extrajudicial
practice of transferring terrorist suspects to third-party countries
that routinely practice torture and other ill-treatment, according to
Human Rights Watch. After years of denial, the Bush administration
now acknowledges the tactic but denies sanctioning torture.
The suit was filed on behalf of Binyam Mohammed, a 28-year-old
Ethiopian citizen and British resident; Abou Elkassim Britel, a 40-
year-old of Moroccan descent naturalized in Italy; and Ahmed Agiza, a
45-year-old Egyptian. But the suit said that Jeppesen provided flight
and logistical support services for more than 70 extraordinary
renditions over a four-year period.
“Corporations should expect to get sued where they are making blood
money off the suffering of others,” said Clive Stafford Smith, a
British lawyer who has been representing Mohammed and is serving as
co-counsel on the ACLU suit.
Mike Pound, a Jeppesen spokesman, said the company had not been
served with the suit and consequently had no comment on its merits.
Tim Neale, a spokesman for Chicago-based Boeing, declined to confirm
whether Jeppesen worked for the CIA. “The services Jeppesen provides
are provided on a confidential basis for all its customers,” he said.
ACLU attorney Steven Watt said his organization had obtained
information about Jeppesen’s role in the rendition program from a
variety of sources, including investigations in Spain, Sweden and
Italy; other court cases; and media reports, in particular a New
Yorker magazine article by Jane Mayer, portions of which were quoted
in the lawsuit.
Mayer wrote that a former Jeppesen employee told her that he had
heard a senior company official say 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.”
The suit describes the airplanes used to move the three men around,
and states that Jeppesen played a critical role by providing flight
planning services, including itinerary, route, weather and fuel
planning, as well as customs clearance assistance, ground
transportation, food, hotels and security, the suit states.
The suit goes into considerable detail on what allegedly happened to
each of the men. The accounts include:
Mohammed was taken into custody in Pakistan in April 2002, tortured
by Pakistani agents and interrogated by U.S. and British intelligence
agents about his alleged ties to Al Qaeda.
Subsequently, Mohammed was flown to Morocco, where he was detained,
interrogated and tortured at a series of detention facilities.
“He was routinely beaten, suffering broken bones and, on occasion,
loss of consciousness due to the beatings. His clothes were cut off
with a scalpel and the same scalpel was then used to make incisions
on his body, including his penis. A hot stinging liquid was then
poured into open wounds on his penis where he had been cut,” the suit
Mohammed eventually was flown to Afghanistan, then to Guantanamo Bay
Naval Station, where he remains.
Britel, an Italian Arabic translator, traveled from his home in Italy
to Pakistan in March 2002 on business. He was arrested by Pakistani
police on immigration charges, interrogated, beaten and subjected to
In April 2002, he “succumbed and confessed to what his interrogators
had been insisting from the outset, that he was a terrorist,” the
suits says. Subsequently, U.S. officials in Pakistan told Britel that
the Pakistani interrogators would kill him if he did not cooperate.
In late May 2002, Britel “was handcuffed, blindfolded and taken by
car” to an airport on the outskirts of Lahore and flown to Rabat,
In October 2003, Britel was convicted and sentenced to 15 years for
involvement in terrorist activities. An observer from the Italian
Embassy said “the procedures followed failed to comport with
universally accepted fair trial standards.” Britel remains imprisoned
The third plaintiff, Agiza, was first arrested in 1982 in connection
with the assassination of Egyptian President Anwar Sadat. He moved to
Iran, and in 1999 was tried in absentia in Egypt for being a member
of a banned organization and sentenced to 25 years in prison.
In 2000, Agiza sought asylum in Sweden, where he was arrested by
Swedish security police, handed over to CIA agents, shackled, drugged
and flown from Stockholm to Cairo. In Egypt, he was repeatedly
subjected to torture, which included the use of electric shocks, the
In April 2004, after a military trial, Agiza was sentenced again to
25 years imprisonment, later reduced to 15 years. He remains in
prison in Egypt.
The ACLU suit was filed under the Alien Tort Claims Act of 1789,
which authorizes foreigners to sue in U.S. courts for human rights
violations. The CIA was not named as a defendant but may ask to have
the case dismissed under the “state secrets” doctrine.
First recognized by the Supreme Court 54 years ago, the states secret
privilege bars disclosure in court proceedings of information whose
release threatens national security.
Last March, a federal appeals court in Richmond, Va., citing the
state secrets doctrine, dismissed a suit brought against the CIA by
Khaled El Masri, a German citizen who said he was abducted, flown to
Afghanistan and tortured.
ACLU lawyers said Wednesday that they had filed a petition that asked
the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn the El Masri decision.
Romero said the Bush administration had invoked the state secrets
privilege in an attempt to “avoid accountability and embarrassment”
for torture and other government misdeeds in its war on terrorism.
In response to a request for comment, CIA spokesman Paul Gimigliano
said, “The CIA does not, as a matter of course, publicly discuss
contractual relationships it may or may not have with firms or
The renditions, he said, “are a key, lawful tool in the fight against
terror … subject to close review and have been employed far less
frequently than some press accounts suggest.”
Gimigliano also said the United States does not conduct or condone
torture, or transport anyone to other countries to be tortured.