Aviation Company Accused of CIA 'Torture Flights' Documents filed in a lawsuit being brought against aviation company Jeppesen Data Plan say it operated so-called "torture flights." The company allegedly arranged for the flights of CIA detainees to secret overseas prisons. A former employee of the company submitted the sworn court declaration.
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Aviation Company Accused of CIA 'Torture Flights'

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Aviation Company Accused of CIA 'Torture Flights'

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Aviation Company Accused of CIA 'Torture Flights'

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ROBERT SIEGEL, host:

This is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Robert Siegel.

There is now a sworn court declaration lending way to the allegation that the CIA flew terror suspects to secret locations for interrogation. A former employee of an aviation company has submitted a statement that his company operated what a company director called torture flights. The declaration is part of court papers in a lawsuit against the company. The company that allegedly helped the CIA fly detainees to secret overseas prisons.

NPR's Ari Shapiro has read some briefs filed in this case and he joins us now. Ari, what's the lawsuit about?

ARI SHAPIRO: Well, these five former CIA detainees sued this company called Jeppesen that allegedly helped the CIA arrange the flights. The CIA has claimed that this suit cannot continue because it contains state secrets. And this latest filing is the detainees' lawyers' attempts to show that a lot of this is not secret at all, but rather part of a public record.

SIEGEL: And what does the former employee say?

SHAPIRO: Well, this declaration is for a man named Sean Belcher who worked for Jeppesen for about a month. And he describes a breakfast club. And he describes a breakfast club meeting for new employees where the director of Jeppesen International Trip Planning Service, a guy named Mr. Overby - Bob Overby - said, we do all the extraordinary rendition flights. Then he clarified that those were the torture flights. He said, let's face it, some of these flights end up this way.

He said some employees weren't comfortable with that aspect of Jeppesen's business, but said - and this is a quote from the declaration, "that's just the way it is, we are doing them." And according to Mr. Belcher, Mr. Overby said the government paid very highly for these services, spared no expense and said, what the government had to get done, it got done. Mr. Belcher later described an instructor of his saying, "we do spook flights," and this is a quote. I specifically asked him whether he had said spoof flights or spook flights. And he replied, spook flights.

(Soundbite of laughter)

SIEGEL: Now, I understand that the brief also contains firsthand accounts from people who were actually in the prisons.

SHAPIRO: Right. There's one very detailed 60-page account from a Yemeni detainee named Mohammed Bashmilah. And he talks about being in the CIA prison in Afghanistan from October of 2003 until April of 2004. There're some familiar details here - sleep deprivation, loud music. He says he tried to commit suicide three times: once by trying to hang himself, once through pills, once through slashing his wrists. He says there was a camera on a tripod that appear to be filming him at all times, which is interesting in light of the recent reports that the CIA destroyed some videos showing CIA detainee interrogations. He describes going on hunger strike. There's a very, very graphic description of how he was force-fed by the prison guards there.

SIEGEL: According to his deposition, did he know that in fact the CIA was in charge of the prison?

SHAPIRO: He didn't know for a fact that but he had many clues. For example, quoting here from his declaration, he says, "the English spoken by the interrogators was with an American accent." Also, he says, they constantly referred to Washington and discussed reports from Washington that made it clear that all of my interrogators were Americans working for the U.S. government.

For example, he says, when I would respond to the interrogators' questions by telling them that I had no connections to the groups they were asking me about, they would say they were going to forward my information to Washington to see what people in Washington had to say about it or to see if Washington had contrary information.

SIEGEL: Oh, that would seem to be a tip-off.

SHAPIRO: Yeah.

SIEGEL: Wouldn't it? Aside from his specific treatment, any other details from Mr. Bashmilah about the prison?

SHAPIRO: You know, there are a lot of sort of mundane-sounding details that illuminate what this place was like in ways that we didn't know before. He has a diagram that he has drawn of what the prison layout was. He describes the dress of the guards in black from head to toe with black masks covering their face and necks. So he almost couldn't tell their gender. He says towards the end, when his treatment improved, he was given a Rubik's cube, and he was so bored that he solved it in two days. And he even describes a movie library that include European soccer films and Jackie Chan movies.

SIGEL: And where is he now?

SHAPIRO: He is free in Yemen. He was charged with using a false identity but given probation. And now, that's where he remains in Yemen.

SIEGEL: Okay. NPR's Ari Shapiro. Thank you very much, Ari.

SHAPIRO: You're welcome.

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