Rendition Circuit: 11-13 April 2004
Possible rendition of High-Value Detainees, Guantánamo Bay, Romania, and Morocco
Two weeks before this circuit took place, the same renditions-linked aircraft transferred several ‘High Value Detainees’ from a secret CIA detention facility in Guantanamo Bay, known as Strawberry Fields, and moved them to Morocco. These detainees had been kept in this secret prison for six months, and were moved out again once it became apparent that US courts were about to exercise greater authority over detention operations on the naval base. According to one US official speaking off the record, 'anything that could expose these detainees to individuals outside the government was a nonstarter', necessitating their removal from Guantanamo Bay.
In the light of this earlier transfer, the flight by the same aircraft - N85VM - from Guantanamo Bay to two further secret prison locations - Romania and Morocco - on 12-13 April 2004 stands out as a possible further rendition flight, carrying one or more ‘High Value Detainees’ away from the reaches of the US legal system. Indeed, according to the Council of Europe's investigations, published in a 2012 report titled Advancing Accountability in Respect of the CIA Black Site in Romania, Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri may have been onboard this flight, as he was transferred from Guantanamo to Romania. In addition, the aircraft may have been transferring detainees from secret detention in Romania to further secret detention in Morocco. Indeed, the invoice submitted for this trip by Richmor Aviation shows that there were six passengers on board for all the flights in this circuit, except for the flight between Romania and Morocco, where there were nine passengers.
- Click here for more on Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri's detentions and treatment
- Click here for more on N85VM
N85VM left its home base, Schenectady County Airport (KSCH), late in the evening of 11 April 2004, flying to Washington Dulles International Airport (KIAD), where it stopped over for an hour. In then flew, in the early hours of 12 April, to Guantanamo Bay (MUGM), landing just before 4am. After staying on the tarmac for around four hours, the aircraft flew to Tenerife North Airport (GCXO), landing in the afternoon. From Tenerife, it flew to two prison destinations: Bucharest, Romania (LRBS), and Rabat, Morocco (GMME). Flight plans were also filed to Constanta, Romania (LRCK), which may have been an attempt to hide the flight into Bucharest. The flights between Guantanamo Bay, Romania and Morocco were likely used to transfer detainees, US interrogators or other officials, or to service the black sites in other respects. The aircraft left Morocco at around 4am on 13 April 2004, flying back to Washington and then Schenectady, landing in the afternoon.
An invoice submitted on 14 April 2004 by Richmor Aviation, the operating company for N85VM, shows that it charged $165,957.96 for the circuit. These costs included 27 hours of flying time (at the agreed rate of $4,900 per hour), $2,443.68 for catering, and $4,800 for two extra crew members.