A lawsuit is providing a rare glimpse into a secretive program, known as rendition, in which the Central Intelligence Agency transported terrorism suspects to covert overseas prisons for interrogations that are free of American legal constraints.
Charter company Richmor Aviation sued Sportsflight, a tiny aviation company that transported sports teams before the CIA contracted it, for breach of contract. The contract in question allowed Sportsflight to rent planes from Richmor to fly suspects across the world, to places that included Cairo, Tripoli and Bucharest.
Now some of the details of those journeys are part of the court record. The government hasn't yet invoked the state secrets privilege, which compels a court to bar evidence that the government deems too sensitive to be made public.
I kept waiting for [the government] to contact me. I kept thinking, 'Isn't someone going to come up here and talk to me?' William F. Ryan, the attorney for Richmor, told The Washington Post. No one ever did.
One flight illustrates where suspects might have been taken -- stopovers in Afghanistan, Sri Lanka, the United Arab Emirates and Ireland -- and the cost, which registered at $339,228.05. The lawsuit includes logs of phone calls between the pilots and to CIA headquarters or the cell phones of CIA operatives who were prominent in the rendition program.
The Richmor plane earned some $6 million over the course of three years, flying at least 1,258 hours for the CIA. Since records indicate that Richmor constituted only a sliver of the CIA's contracts with aviation companies, those numbers suggest that the total amount of money spent to clandestinely transport suspects for questioning was in at least the tens of millions.