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Rendition Circuit: 20-25 September 2003

 

Rendition of 'High-Value Detainees' between Afghanistan, Poland, Romania, Morocco and Guantánamo Bay

Between 20-25 September 2003, the CIA-owned Boeing 737 with registration number N313P completed a global circuit which included stopovers in Afghanistan, Poland, Romania, Morocco and Guantánamo Bay. According to a range of evidence, this circuit was designed to collect several ‘High Value Detainees’ (HVDs) from their detention locations around the world, and move them to further secret CIA detention facilities in Romania and Guantánamo Bay. Some in the CIA, speaking off the record, have labelled this circuit as a ‘five-card straight revealing the program to outsiders: five stops, five secret facilities, all documented’. Khaled Sheikh Mohammed and Walid bin Attash were moved from Poland to Romania on this circuit, while Mustafa al-Hawsawi, Abu Zubaydah, Ramzi bin al-Shibh, and Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri were transferred from various sites to a secret CIA prison in Guantánamo Bay. The HVDs were kept in this secret prison for six months, before being moved out again in March and April 2004 as it became apparent that US courts were about to exercise greater authority over detention operations on the naval base.

N313P was registered at the time to Stevens Express Leasing, a CIA shell company. The aircraft was operated by the nominally independent company, Aerocontractors, which in fact worked exclusively for the CIA. Jeppesen Dataplan provided trip planning services for this circuit, including the filing of dummy flight plans to disguise the landing in Poland.

 

 

Analysis


N313P left its home base of Kinston Regional Airport (KISO) in the evening of 20 September 2003, flying to Washington Dulles International Airport (KIAD), where it stayed for around two hours. It then flew direct to Prague (LKPR), landing in the morning of 21 September. After 90 minutes on the ground, the aircraft flew direct to Tashkent, Uzbekistan (UTTT), landing around lunchtime. It then flew to Kabul (OAKB), where – according to CIA officials speaking to the AP’s Adam Goldman – it picked up Mustafa al-Hawsawi, who had been held in the Salt Pit.

Flight data strings released by PANSA confirm that Jeppesen Dataplan filed one flight plan from Kabul to Warsaw, before cancelling and re-filing for a flight from Kabul to Szymany, leaving Afghanistan in the early afternoon of 22 September and landing in the evening of the same day. The data strings identified the captain’s name, the aircraft’s owner as Stevens Express Leasing Inc, and listed 7 crew and 9 passengers. A letter from the Polish Border Guard Office confirms the landing in Szymany. The aircraft stayed on the ground for around an hour, on the same day that Khaled Sheikh Mohammed has testified he was transferred out of a Polish prison. Lawyers for Abu Zubaydah also claim that he was moved from Poland on 22 September 2003, and Walid bin Attash is also thought to have been onboard.

After an hour in Szymany, N313P departed, flying to Bucharest, Romania (LRBS) in about 90 minutes, where Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and Walid bin Attash were unloaded and sent to the secret prison in Bucharest, codenamed Britelite. Jeppesen Dataplan filed a dummy flight plan for this leg of the circuit, attempting to disguise the landing in Bucharest by filing a flight plan to the Romanian Black Sea city of Constanta.

N313P left Bucharest late in the evening of 22 September, flying to Rabat, Morocco (GMME). Again, Jeppesen filed a dummy flight plan, from Constanta to Rabat. Once in Morocco, according to former CIA officials interviewed by AP’s Adam Goldman (here and here), al-Nashiri and bin al-Shibh – both of whom had been transferred from Poland in June 2003 – were loaded onto the aircraft, before it made the cross-Atlantic trip to Guantánamo Bay (MUGM), landing in the evening of 23 September. Flight logs released by the Portuguese MEP Ana Gomes show that by the time the aircraft was flying into Guantanamo Bay, it was logged as being operated by Premier Executive Transport Services rather than Stevens Express Leasing Inc.

The aircraft stayed on the tarmac at Guantánamo overnight, leaving early in the morning of 24 September, and making the short journey to Providenciales, in the Turks and Caicos Islands (MBPV), where it stopped over for more than 24 hours (presumably for some ‘rest and relaxation’ for the crew). It then left the island at lunchtime on 25 September, heading to Washington and then back to Kinston, arriving back in the late afternoon.

Analysis of the relevant data strings by the Center for Human Rights and Global Justice, and by The Rendition Project, has revealed that Jeppesen filed the flight plans for all legs of this circuit, and that it used the key designators STS/STATE and STS/ATFM EXEMPT APPROVED throughout. These identify the flight as official US Government business, and would have facilitated ease of movement across multiple airspaces. Analysis also shows that, while the flight into Szymany was not disguised, the flight into and out of Romania was. Jeppesen filed dummy flight plans into and out of Constanta (LRCK), whereas Romanian officials listed the destination as Bucharest (where the CIA’s detention site was located).

 

Rendition Research Team - © University of Kent
University of Westminster University of Kent E.S.R.C