Saturday, October 13, 2007

Renditions or smuggling?

I admit it: I am indulging in speculation when I suggest that CIA rendition flights have been used to transport non-human contraband. But is such speculation groundless?

One of the best reports on the rendition flights comes to us by way of Amnesty International. If you read the piece with the "smuggling" thesis in mind, you'll note that the number of transported prisoners is suspiciously low, while the number of jets, flights and destinations is suspiciously high.

Let's look at just one journey:
What this means in practice is that large parts of a flight’s itinerary may not be shown by FAA flight records. In January 2004, for instance, the CIA’s Boeing 737, N313P, left from Washington DC and stopped off in Ireland, Cyprus, Morocco, Algeria, Spain, Macedonia, Iraq, Afghanistan, Romania and Spain before returning to Washington DC, apparently carrying out the rendition of Khaled el-Masri on the way. FAA records show the Washington to Ireland and Ireland to Cyprus flights, but do not record the landings in Morocco, Algeria, Spain, Macedonia, Iraq, Afghanistan or Romania. Amnesty International has obtained this information from another source.
(Emphasis added.) Amnesty gives these details in order to describe the difficulties faced by anyone trying to trace an aircraft's route. What I find remarkable is that we have only one transported prisoner linked to this epic journey.

El-Masri was captured in Macedonia and "rendered" to Afghanistan. So why did the plane hop on over to Romania?

While I'm no expert on the range of a 737, I suspect that the craft can make the trip from Ireland to Macedonia without stopping in Spain, Algeria and Morocco. Obviously, this aircraft transported other people or things.

Turns out I was not the first person to speculate along these lines. A Portugal-based writer nicknamed Brenda Stardom offered her thoughts on the subject back in 2005. First, she quotes this passage from a site devoted to CIA plane-spotting:
The Frequency Monitoring Centre in the Netherlands is now reporting on yet another CIA prisoner aircraft transiting Schipol East Airport in Amsterdam. The plane departed Schipol on November 18, 2005 enroute to Reykjavik, Iceland. The plane, a DeHavilland Dash 8-315B (registration N505LL) flew to Amsterdam from Sabiha Gökçen Airport in Istanbul, Turkey on November 16, 2005. The plane is registered to Path Corporation, a CIA front company.
Stardom's response:
Turkey? Afghanistan? Whoa. Where do the drugs come from? Where are they consumed? What is Amsterdam known for?
Let me repeat a point made in earlier posts: These aircraft can stop at military bases and unload cargo without anyone in the host country being the wiser.

We should also emphasize that -- as the Amnesty report makes clear -- the CIA is not the only entity involved with these flights.
It has been reported that the teams that actually carry out the rendition operations include members of military Special Forces units, as well as CIA personnel. Amnesty International has copies of police investigation reports into CIA flights in Spain that suggest that the pilots of the rendition planes were US military officers...
According to a former CIA officer interviewed by the Chicago Tribune, Gulfstream N379P/ N8068V/ N44982 was operated by "the Joint Special Operations Command, an inter-agency unit that organizes counter-terrorist operations in conjunction with the CIA and military special forces."(58) The Joint Special Operations Command is the coordinating agency for all military special operations forces and operations, and its headquarters are at Fort Bragg, North Carolina.
In the Vietnam era, a Saigon-based heroin exporter named Leslie Keith Atkinson shipped smack to Fort Bragg, North Carolina, in the bodies of fallen American soldiers. Back then, "word" had it that the Special Forces were in charge of the operation. (See Time Magazine, January 1, 1973.)


Anonymous said...

Now this is getting to be fun.

Are we trusting Wayne Madsen this week? If we are, he was saying in 2005:

There is increasing evidence that units of the Pentagon, operating under the authority of Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, Undersecretary for Intelligence Stephen Cambone, and Deputy Undersecretary of Intelligence Lt. Gen. William G. Boykin, are operating outside U.S. domestic law and routinely violating international treaties and laws ratified by the United States. ...

In an Iran-contra scandal redux, some TF 121 units operating in Latin America, particularly in Colombia, have been linked to the smuggling of cocaine to finance off-the-books operations being carried out by the covert Pentagon commandos. In April, five U.S. troops were arrested by Colombian authorities for attempting to smuggle cocaine on a military flight to Texas. A month later, two more U.S. troops were arrested in Colombia for attempting to smuggle 32,000 rounds of ammunition destined for the Colombian counter-narcotics units to the right-wing paramilitary terrorist and narcotics smuggling group, the United Self Defense Forces of Colombia.

Madsen's was the only specific drug reference I found in my files, but even without that, there's still plenty to tie JSOC to the more cowboyish (and occasionally full-on nutso) end of military operations. Here, for example, is something from Foreign Affairs in 2004 that describes its central role in Rumsfeld's effort to create an unaccountable secret army:

Operationally, unconventional warfare is conducted by the military's Special Operations Command (SOCOM), which comprises a number of specialized units such as the Army Rangers and Green Berets, the Navy SEALs, and the Air Force Special Operations Command. In addition, the smaller Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) specializes in "black" direct-action operations such as hunting terrorists and rescuing hostages. JSOC is made up of three shadowy units, the existence of which the Pentagon does not officially acknowledge: the Army's 1st Special Forces Operational Detachment-Delta (Delta Force), the Naval Special Warfare Development Group (DEVGRU, formerly known as SEAL Team 6), and the Air Force's 24th Special Tactics Squadron. Finally, there is also a highly classified Intelligence Support Activity team (known as ISA, or, more recently, as Gray Fox, although its name is changed so often that it is probably something else by now), which was recently transferred from the intelligence command to SOCOM. It is the JSOC units and Gray Fox that are to play the key role in Rumsfeld's plans for "hunter-killer" teams that will pursue "high-value targets" (terrorists) around the world. ...

Another key part of Rumsfeld's campaign to bolster special forces has been a concerted effort to reinvigorate and strengthen the bureaucracy that governs them. His most notable move has been to replace the commander of SOCOM, General Charles Holland (whom Rumsfeld perceived as too cautious) with Lieutenant General Bryan Brown, who had been the deputy in command of special forces. Rumsfeld also recalled General Peter Schoomaker, a former SOCOM commander, from retirement to become the Army's chief of staff, and made Rear Admiral John Stufflebeam, who had been spokesperson for the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the commander of JSOC. In addition, Rumsfeld installed Thomas O'Connell, a former commander of Gray Fox, as the new principal deputy assistant secretary of defense for special operations and low-intensity conflict (SOLIC). Taken together, these moves reveal Rumsfeld's intention to make special forces more prominent within the military and to make their leadership more proactive -- and more loyal to Rumsfeld himself.

JSOC people have also been at the center of detainee abuse in Iraq -- and they make the CIA look sober and restrained by comparison. If there really is a drug component to the rendition flights, these are the people you'd most expect to be involved in it.

Anonymous said...

Given the subject at hand, does anyone have any thoughts on the recent arrest of Monzer al Kassar by the DEA in NYC?

Anonymous said...

Could the convoluted routes be used to obscure the planes' usage in rendition flights? Does the map on top show what a typical smuggling route looks like?

Anonymous said...

Are you just now realizing that we're in a drug turf war against the Taliban who burned all the opium fields because it's against their religion?

Anonymous said...

Use of US military bases here is the key. There's a fantastic article out by Peter Dale Scott tracking the drug-trafficking links between the Russia mafia, Islamic terrorists and US interests that include Haliburton, Khashoggi and Neil Bush. This is a key article, if people can get the chance to read it, on the political powers that are controlling the international drug trade. (link)

Briefly, there is a Russian transport company, Far West, that:

"specializes in consulting work on questions of security in conducting business in regions of the world with unstable environments and hiring personnel for foreign private military companies."

"...connected with the secured transport of commercial shipments from Afghanistan, where we have an office, to ports on the Black Sea. In Afghanistan there is a well-known U.S. air base in Bagram. It is connected by an aerial bridge with a number of other US air bases. For example, with the largest base in Frankfurt-on-Main, that's in Germany, with an intermediary landing in Chkalovsk, in the Moscow area. But the most commercially attractive route seems to be that from Bagram to the US air base in Magas, in Kyrgyzstan."

Far West is connected to these companies: Meteoric Tactical Solutions (in Angola); KBR Halliburton(in Colombia, Afghanistan, Kosovo, Georgia, and Iraq); Diligence Iraq LLC (in Iraq). Far West's cooperation with these companies began in the end of 1994 in Angola on the initiative of Russian arms trafficker Victor Bout. Bout, you may recall, is the one Condoleeza Rice advised the CIA about: "You can look, but don't touch." Protected species. Drugs and arms trafficking. You get the idea. Notice, however, the use of US airbases by these private companies and the officially sanctioned co-option of the US Defense Dept in organized crime. Even if Bush goes, these guys will remain.

Anonymous said...

Gulfstream N379P was documented in last nights FRONTLINE®