Saturday, February 16, 2008

A Valentine's Day Gift for Boeing

Forget chocolate hearts and cute cards, on February 14, the Bush regime handed aerospace giant, The Boeing Company, an even better gift when U.S. District Judge James Ware in San Jose, California dismissed a lawsuit brought by victims of the CIA's "extraordinary rendition" torture program against Boeing subsidiary Jeppesen International Trip Planning.

Citing public and confidential statements filed by CIA Director Michael Hayden alleging that "proceeding with this case would jeopardize national security and foreign relations," Ware dismissed the lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU).

Ware claimed that "at the core of plaintiffs' case against defendant Jeppesen are 'allegations' of covert U.S. military or CIA operations in foreign countries against foreign nationals -- clearly a subject matter which is a state secret," the San Francisco Chronicle tells us.

Despite massive documentary evidence, and the CIA's own admission of the program's existence in public testimony before Congress, once again, Bush consigliere's have resorted to the so-called "state secrets privilege" to deny victims of a U.S. Government program to "disappear" and torture alleged "terrorists" recourse to compensation under U.S. law.

Ben Wizner, the ACLU attorney representing the plaintiffs said he expects to appeal Ware's ruling. In a press release Wizner declared:

The court's decision allows the government to engage in torture, declare it a state secret, and thereby escape any legal scrutiny for its actions. Government officials are quite willing to discuss the CIA's detention and interrogation of other prisoners, most notably the six Guantánamo detainees charged this week with capital murder. Apparently, the government believes such activities are state secrets only when that claim will help the administration avoid accountability for illegal programs, but not when it will help seek the death penalty for alleged terrorists. Depriving torture victims of their day in court to prevent disclosure of information that the entire world already knows only compounds the brutal treatment our clients endured.

The ruling is more extraordinary, if you'll pardon the pun, given the fact that top managers of Jeppesen, a dodgy outfit headquartered in the San Jose Silicon Valley, boasted of the company's role in CIA black operations. According to the San Francisco Chronicle, Sean Belcher, a technical writer newly hired by the firm in 2006 said,

...he attended a breakfast for new employees on Aug. 11, 2006, and heard a welcoming speech from Bob Overby, a company director. While describing Jeppesen's work, Belcher said, Overby told the employees, "We do all the extraordinary rendition flights." Later, he said, Overby added that these were "the torture flights," and explained, "Let's face it, some of these flights end up this way."

Belcher also quoted Overby as saying that the flights paid well and that the government spared no expense. Belcher said he quit his job five days later.

"The government spared no expense," words that should be carved in stone. Given the nature of the firm's criminal activities, its involvement in organizing CIA "ghost flights" -- kidnapping, illegal detention, torture -- a damning admission such as this by a company director should land Mr. Overby and the rest of Jeppesen's corporate pirates in a federal penitentiary if America were a normal country, which of course it isn't.

As the CIA's booking agent, Jeppesen, working with tiny charter airlines that are no more than Company cut-outs handle the logistical and navigational details for the torture flights, designing flight plans, obtaining flight clearance to fly over other countries, ground-crew arrangements, even hotel reservations for the pilots and the other facilitators of human rights abuse. As Boeing says on its website, "From Aachen to Zhengzhou, King Airs to 747s, Jeppesen has done it all."

On its website, Jeppesen International, in an Orwellian burst of chutzpah, declares:

Trust. The key ingredient in any International Trip Planning relationship. Just like the trust pilots place in Jeppesen's Worldwide Instrument Charting, you can count on caring, professional people who work with you personally to ensure your needs are met.

How were Khaled al-Masri's "needs met" by such "caring, professional people"?

Writing in The New Yorker, Jane Mayer tells us:

Masri, who is a Muslim, was arrested at the border while crossing from Serbia into Macedonia by bus. He has alleged in court papers that Macedonian authorities turned him over to a C.I.A. rendition team. Then, he said, masked figures stripped him naked, shackled him, and led him onto a Boeing 737 business jet. Flight plans prepared by Jeppesen show that from Skopje, Macedonia, the 737 flew to Baghdad, where it had military clearance to land, and then on to Kabul. On board, Masri has said, he was chained to the floor and injected with sedatives. After landing, he was put in the trunk of a car and driven to a building where he was placed in a dank cell. He spent the next four months there, under interrogation.

Jeppesen International Trip Planning: a "full-service" company for our post-9/11 world where neither laws nor human rights pose any obstacle to the naked exercise of state power.

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