Sunday, January 21, 2007

The CIA's airlines: What's in the baggage compartment?

The CIA's "rendition" flights have given rise to a hobbyist subculture of plane-spotters. But how many of them have wondered if those flights also carried a non-human cargo?

The controversies surrounding these "torture flights" have found a human focus: A lawyer in Portland, Oregon named Scott Caplan. Caplan represents a man named Leonard Bayard, the alleged CEO of Bayard Foreign Marketing, the ostensible owner of one of the torture planes.

Trouble is, no evidence proves the existence of Bayard. This story from the Columbia Daily Tribune offers an amusing account of the attempts to track the man down. "Bayard" kept an address in a rundown section of Portland, where neither he nor anyone else was never seen. Telephone inquiries were backstopped to CIA headquarters.

The "Bayard" jet is known informally as the Guantanamo Bay Express. It changes N-numbers more rapidly than some men change their pants.
Originally N581GA, it became N379P in 2000 when it was acquired by Premier Executive Transport Services. In December 2003, it became N8068V. On 1 December 2004 it was renamed N44982, and ownership was transferred to Bayard Foreign Marketing, an apparent shell company registered in Portland, Oregon. It was renamed once more on January 20, 2006 to N126CH, and registered to XXXXX, 2930 Biscayne Blvd, Miami, FL 33137-4122. It was sold and reregistered to Wilmington Trust Company, 1100 N Market St, Wilmington, Delaware on August 18, 2006
Sometime in late 2006, the records for N44982 seem to have disappeared from the FAA's resgistration database.
This page suggests that the plane is now owned by a firm called Keeler & Tate Management, which is probably another dummy front. Premier Executive Transport Services was another apparent on-paper-only company.

This report from Amnesty has the most extensive listing I could find of the front companies used by the CIA's air transport division. I noted the presence of our old favorite, Evergreen Aviation -- aptly named, since they've been doing work for the CIA for decades. (I've heard some ultra-odd stories about the Evergreen facility in Arizona, although I was never able to verify them.)

I hope some of you will recall the Skyway drug jet series (here and here and here), in which a "spooky' jet was found on the tarmac in Mexico with 5.5 tons of coke on board. Tracking the jet's ownership proved difficult. For the longest time, the owner of record was a known con artist, but just before the bust, ownership had transferred to a mysterious entity out here in California.

That operation may be linked to the CIA rendition flights.

(To read the rest, click "Permalink" below)

Before proceeding, you must realize is that the Skyway bust was hardly the first one. Also understand that, for whatever reasons, five tons (or thereabouts) seems to be the standard coke payload on these flights.

With those facts in mind, let me re-quote the earlier piece:
Hopsicker scores a breakthrough, however, when he identifies a major stockholder in Skyway (which, you will recall, was a scam operation designed to bilk investors): Argyll Equities of Boerne, Texas, a subsidiary of the the Argyll group of La Jolla.

Argyll previously arranged for a $17 million loan to a Mexican businessman, who in turn provided "significant capital" to a
“Chilean narcotics trafficker" named Manuel Vicente Losada, arrested in the Chilean capital of Santiago after being “linked to a shipment of five tons of cocaine which U.S. drug enforcement officials in Miami intercepted over six years ago on the vessel Harbour, as it headed toward Guantanamo Bay.”
"Guantanamo Bay"? asks Hopsicker. The implications hang in the air.
Some readers may now suspect that Gitmo is used not just as a prisoner "interrogation" center but also as a drug transshipment point. If that's true (and I've yet to see hard evidence), then we may fairly presume that this activity is probably known to whomever holds, in real life, the position held by Jack Nicholson in A Few Good Men.

Has the Guantanamo Bay Express been carrying just prisoners? Is prisoner rendition a cover story, at least for some of the flights?

I'm not alleging that prisoner transport to places of torture does not occur. We have harrowing tales by the prisoners themselves; see the accounts here and here.)

Still, I would like you to note this passage from the Amnesty report:
The Gulfstream IV plane that took Abu Omar to Egypt from Germany after his kidnapping in Italy. Its owners have admitted leasing the plane to the CIA, but have said it is not used exclusively by the agency. There are 488 relevant recorded landings or takeoffs between February 2001 and July 2005.
The aircraft is configured to hold between ten and twenty-two prisoners. 488 flights times ten prisoners equals -- well, the calculation is simple. Keep in mind that this is not the only plane doing this sort of service, and that the prisoners in Gitmo were largely brought there (I believe) in military craft.

Everyone is now waking up to the fact that most of those detainees in Cuba were innocents, fingered by local Afghans to collect the reward offered by Americans. Are we to believe that the United States has really captured thousands of genuine Al Qaeda terrorists? We know from 9/11: Press for Truth (and other sources) that the American military deliberately allowed Al Qaeda fighters to escape -- by plane! -- from Afghanistan to the wilder areas of Pakistan.

CIA rendition flights have taken off and landed in Spain, the U.K., Switzerland, Norway, Portugal, France, the Czech Republic, Ireland, Belgium, Germany, Greece, Thailand, Uzbekistan and other nations. Although officially civilian, the jets are allowed to land at American military bases. Virtually anything could be shipped without detection on those flights.

Look at the destinations. Look at the transport capacities. Look at America's apparent unwillingness to deal with the real Al Qaeda fighters.

Then ask yourself: Do you think prisoner rendition is the only reason for all those flights?


Anonymous said...

interesting that the CIA still uses tail numbers.... many white aircraft without letters and numbers fly in my area.... low enough for everyone to notice and see... and frequently enough to be frightened about.

Anonymous said...

Where one finds drugs, one also often finds guns. Your idea is an interesting one. I am particulary interested in the Cuban angle. It fits rather nicely with my interest in Miami corruption.

Anonymous said...

My previous comment should read: "Where one finds drugs, one also often finds weapons." And weapons can be of the biological kind.

Interesting that Robert Vesco spent so much time in Cuba supposedly working on pharmaceutical related projects.

Anonymous said...

Could it be the trade is prisoners like Canadian Arar to countries like Syria to be tortured and the plane carries back narcotics? However, I don't quite understand why there would be a desire in Syria to accept dissident prisoners like Arar for torturing, or in other ME countries either. What do they get except sadistic "enjoyment"?

For a deservedly brutal treatment of AG Gonzales by Sen. Leahy last Thursday, I recommend readers go to this As It Happens website and listen to the first part's audio.

"FTR LEAHY ON ARAR Duration: 00:03:18
The name is the same -- only the faces have changed.
Canadian politicians have been bickering back and forth over the treatment of Maher Arar since 2002. That's when U-S officials detained the Ottawa man and flew him to Syria, where he was tortured. But today, it was politicians south of the border who were on the hot seat regarding Mr. Arar.
At a meeting of the Senate Judiciary Committee in Washington, D.C., the new committee chair, Senator Patrick Leahy, asked American Attorney General Alberto Gonzales for information on the case. Here is a part of that exchange, for the record."

Maybe if Sen. Leahy shares with the public what information the AG stubbornly releases next week (if he keeps his dubious promise), some of these questions will be answered.

Anonymous said...

"why there would be a desire in Syria to accept dissident prisoners like Arar for torturing"

Perhaps Syria's interest is less concerned with the prisoners being delivered than with the commercial value of the other transaction?

Rendition and torture become a convenient cover story...

Anonymous said...

Interesting thought, Anon. 2:40 PM. However, that still seems to beg the question why innocent people should become a commodity involved in the narcotics trade? What value would torture of these unfortunate people have to anyone? I realize I am challenging my own previous speculation here with this question.

Anonymous said...

Imagine this fairy tale.

A country and its governing bodies is so intricately involved with the top global businesses that the businesses run the presidency by its rules and by employing mild thinking puppets as presidents.
Even to the point for billion dollar greed, they will and do kill and murder and maim with long term illness, their very own people. This also create an enemy that was always there albeit in a small but convenient way, that they are able to magnify by extraordinary events and create out of all proportion with propaganda (a strong but true word propaganda, you delusioned people) and so is their power, these small nations and so called vile instigaters being guilty, but small players, when infact they are puppets too. Who made the bullets (or planes) to be fired? They (global
businesses and government) had the money influence and power to pull the strings and make 9/11 happen. and they did.
9/11 then.... open pandoras box up.........all she had left was hope. dont loose it
otherwise you have none...........
foxina UK