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Rendition Circuit: 3-6 December 2002

 

Rendition of Abu Zubaydah and Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri from Thailand to Poland

 

Between 4-6 December 2002, Abu Zubaydah and Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri were rendered from Thailand, where they had been detained in a secret prison, to Poland, where they continued to be detained and tortured by the CIA in a secret prison near the village Stare Kiejkuty.

Abu Zubaydah and al-Nashiri were flown in an unmarked Gulfstream IV jet with registration N63MU. Their rendition into Poland was disguised through the filing of dummy flight plans to Eurocontrol, the organisation overseeing European airspace. These dummy flight plans showed N63MU to have flown from Dubai to Vienna, and then onto Luton. In fact, flight data released by the Polish Border Guard, confirmed by corporate invoices published by Reprieve, demonstrate that the aircraft flew Thailand-Dubai-Szymany-Warsaw-Luton. Szymany was the airport which serviced the CIA site in Poland.

N63MU is a privately owned jet, chartered by International Group LLC. However, there were numerous companies involved in the CIA's contracting system, in an intricate network of corporate complicity.

 

 

 

Analysis

 

N63MU left its home base of Elmira Corning Regional Airport (KELM) in the evening of 3 December 2002, flying to Washington Dulles International Airport (KIAD), where it stayed for an hour. It then departed, flying north and west to Anchorage, Alaska (KANC), and then over the Pacific to Kansai International Airport, Japan (RJBB). It then flew to Bangkok, Thailand, landing at Don Mueang International Airport (VTBD).

According to two partially declassified, but heavily redacted US Government reports into the CIA’s use of 'enhanced interrogation techniques' – one by the CIA’s Office of Inspector General and one by the Department of Justice’s Office of Professional Responsibility – Abu Zubaydah and al-Nashiri were held together in a detention facility until 4 December 2002, whereupon they were 'moved to another CIA black site'. Multiple reports document this first site as located in Thailand, ensuring that the timing and route of the N63MU circuit can be linked to the rendition of the two detainees.

Leaving Bangkok, the aircraft few to Dubai (OMDB). From there, dummy flight plans analysed by The Rendition Project have the aircraft flying to Vienna and then Luton, thus disguising the true flight path. However, documents released by the Polish Border Guard Office show that N63MU landed at Szymany (EPSY) on 5 December 2002, carrying 8 passengers and 4 crew. The owner of N63MU's registered company International Group LLC, Steve Marchionda, has also admitted in the press that the aircraft landed at Szymany, although he said that 'the probable reason was to take on fuel'. Multiple invoices released by Reprieve – discussed below – also demonstrate the true route clearly, including the landing at Szymany. Szymany is close to the location of the CIA site in Stare Kiejkuty, and was the airport used to transfer detainees in and out of Poland.

The aircraft departed Szymany on the same day with no passengers on board, heading to Warsaw (EPWA). The additional six passengers dropped off at Szymany were probably intelligence personnel, although conceivably they could have been further detainees. From Warsaw, the aircraft flew to Luton, UK (EGGW). Invoices submitted by Universal Weather and Aviation (UWA), the trip planners for this circuit, include hotel reservations made on 5 December for 4 people to stay in both Warsaw and in a Holiday Inn outside Luton airport. It seems as though only the Warsaw reservations were used in the end, as flight plans were filed from Warsaw to Luton on 6 December, and Luton airport handling fees and custom charges were also paid on 6 December. Flight data shows that N63MU left Luton on the same day, flying back to Elmira via Washington, landing just after midnight on 7 December 2002.

The rendition of Abu Zubaydah and al-Nashiri from Thailand to Poland was organised as part of the overall contract between DynCorp – the prime contractor for one of the outsourced elements of the CIA rendition programme – and the broker Capital Aviation, whereby Capital agreed to provide aircraft for use by the CIA. In turn, Capital contracted another brokering company, SportsFlight Air, which in turn contracted a third broker: Air Marketing International.

Air Marketing chartered N63MU from an operating company, First Flight/Airborne Inc., who for this circuit operated the aircraft on behalf of International Group. In turn, the operator contracted Universal Weather and Aviation, Inc., to provide trip planning services.

A set of invoices released by Reprieve shed some light on the involvement of each of these companies in the rendition of Abu Zubaydah and al-Nashiri from Thailand to Poland. Multiple invoices from Universal Weather and Aviation, Inc (UWA), to Airborne, Inc, dated January and February 2003, describe the range of services that the company provided, or organised for other companies to provide, to facilitate this rendition circuit. Services invoiced – for UWA trip number 102111876 – include the provision of 'diplomatic/special permits' for easing travel through multiple airspaces. They also include the provision of weather services, the filing of flight plans, hotel reservations in Warsaw and London, catering, lavatory services, fuel, over-flight and landing fees, and airport fees. According to flight data-strings analysed by The Rendition Project, UWA was also responsible for filing the dummy flight plans across European airspace, in an attempt to disguise the landing at Szymany.

In turn, First Flight Management/Airborne Inc. charged the overall costs of the circuit to Air Marketing. These included a bill for 47.5 hours of flying time (at a rate of $4900 per hour) – which was due to the owner of the aircraft, International Group. It also included a 2.5% commission for the operators, and costs for crew services and expenses. The overall costs invoiced to Air Marketing for this circuit was $260,355.90, and these were passed on directly to Don Moss at SportsFlight Airway, in an Air Marketing invoice dated 10 December 2002 (invoice number 22731). A further invoice from Air Marketing to SportsFlight Airway, dated 16 January 2003 (number 23109) charged ‘international fees to date on Government trip’ for this circuit, for a total of $17,255.48.

These costs were then passed up the corporate chain again, from SportsFlight to Capital Aviation, and from Capital to the prime contractor, DynCorp. An invoice from Capital Aviation to DynCorp Systems and Solutions, LLC, dated 7 January 2003, charged for 52.3 hours of flying time (more than the original flying time invoiced), plus $54,773.83 for a range of other costs, including additional crew time, crew expenses, handling fees and landing fees. This invoice, numbered 1203, referenced Subcontract K2-5-008, which was part of the overall contract between Capital and DynCorp (LT050602). Indeed, the rendition of Abu Zubaydah and al-Nashiri constituted Trip No. 24 in the overall Capital-DynCorp contract.

As a payment information sheet from Fred Credno at Capital Aviation to Don Moss at Sportsflight makes clear, DynCorp settled the invoice submitted by Capital. The full payment amount was for 52.3 hours flying time, at the agreed rate of $5450 per hour (total $285,035) plus the expenses claimed ($54,773.83) – overall fee: $339,808.83. Given that First Flight/Airborne Inc.’s invoice was for $260,335.90, and that this figure included their commission, the difference of $79,452.93 represented the profit margin for earned by the brokers. This profit was largely derived from a higher hourly rate for the flying time of the aircraft charged to DynCorp ($5450 per hour) than charged by the operators to the brokers ($4900 per hour). Capital Aviation kept 50% of the profit, and paid the remaining $39,726.47 to SportsFlight on 24 January 2003. In turn, SportsFlight passed on a portion of the profit to Air Marketing.

 

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