NEW YORK --- The American Civil Liberties Union today filed a federal lawsuit against Jeppesen Dataplan, Inc., a subsidiary of Boeing Company, on behalf of three victims of the United States government's unlawful "extraordinary rendition" program. The lawsuit charges that Jeppesen knowingly provided direct flight services to the CIA that enabled the clandestine transportation of Binyam Mohamed, Abou Elkassim Britel and Ahmed Agiza to secret overseas locations where they were subjected to torture and other forms of cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment.
"American corporations should not be profiting from a CIA rendition program that is unlawful and contrary to core American values," said Anthony D. Romero, Executive Director of the ACLU. "Corporations that choose to participate in such activity can and should be held legally accountable."
The complaint, to be filed today in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, alleges that Jeppesen, through its travel service known as Jeppesen International Trip Planning, has been a main provider of flight and logistical support services for aircraft used by the CIA in the U.S. government's extraordinary rendition program. The CIA rendition flights transfer terror suspects to countries where the U.S. government knows detainees are routinely tortured or otherwise abused in contravention of universally accepted legal standards. The complaint also alleges that Jeppesen has facilitated flights to U.S.-run detention facilities overseas where the U.S. government maintains that the safeguards of its laws do not apply. According to the lawsuit, since December 2001, Jeppesen has provided flight and logistical support to at least 15 aircraft that have made a total of 70 rendition flights.
As described in the complaint, Jeppesen's participation in the rendition flights has included furnishing aircraft crew with flight planning services including itinerary, route, weather, and fuel planning; responsibility for the preparation of pre-departure flight plans with air traffic control authorities; procurement of over-flight and landing permits from foreign governments; facilitation of customs clearance and arrangements for ground transportation, catering, and hotel accommodation for aircraft crew upon landing; and provision of physical security for aircraft and crew.
"Jeppesen's services have been crucial to the functioning of the government's extraordinary rendition program," said Steven Watt, a staff attorney for the ACLU's Human Rights Program. "Without the participation of companies like Jeppesen, the program could not have gotten off the ground."
Specifically, the complaint alleges that Jeppesen provided crucial support services to the CIA for the following flights involving the three plaintiffs in the lawsuit:
- In July 2002, Ethiopian citizen Binyam Mohamed, while in CIA custody, was stripped, blindfolded, shackled, dressed in a tracksuit, strapped to the seat of a plane and flown to Morocco where he was secretly detained for 18 months and interrogated and tortured by Moroccan intelligence services.
- In January 2004, Mohamed was once again blindfolded, stripped, and shackled by CIA agents and flown to the secret U.S. detention facility known as the "Dark Prison" in Kabul, Afghanistan where he was again tortured and eventually transferred to another facility and then to the U.S. Naval Station at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, where he still remains.
- In May 2002, Italian citizen Abou Elkassim Britel was handcuffed, blindfolded, stripped, dressed in a diaper, chained, and flown by the CIA from Pakistan to Morocco where he was tortured by Moroccan intelligence agents and where he is now incarcerated.
- In December 2001, Egyptian citizen Ahmed Agiza was chained, shackled, and drugged by the CIA and flown from Sweden to Egypt where he was severely abused and tortured and where he still remains imprisoned.
According to published reports, Jeppesen had actual knowledge of the consequences of its activities. A former Jeppesen employee informed The New Yorker magazine that, at an internal board meeting, a senior Jeppesen official stated, "We do all of the extraordinary rendition flights - you know, the torture flights. Let's face it, some of these flights end up that way." (Jane Mayer, The New Yorker, Oct. 30, 2006.)
The lawsuit was filed under the Alien Tort Statute, which permits aliens to bring claims in the United States for violations of the law of nations or a United States treaty. The statute recognizes international norms accepted among civilized nations that are violated by acts such as enforced disappearance, torture and other inhuman treatment described in the lawsuit.
In furtherance of efforts to hold Jeppesen accountable, the ACLU of Northern California and other advocacy groups will hold a rally at noon today (Pacific Time) outside Jeppesen's offices in San Jose to protest the company's participation in immoral and illegal renditions. For further information, please contact the ACLU of Northern California.
The ACLU today also petitioned the United States Supreme Court to review the case of Khaled El-Masri, an innocent German citizen who was also a victim of the government's unlawful rendition program. Although the story of El-Masri's mistaken kidnapping and detention at the hands of the CIA is known throughout the world, his lawsuit was dismissed by the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia after the government invoked the so-called "state secrets" privilege. That decision was upheld by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit in March 2007.
"This administration has invoked the state secrets privilege not to protect national security, but to protect itself from embarrassment and accountability," said ACLU attorney Ben Wizner, who argued El-Masri's case before the Fourth Circuit last November. "Mr. El-Masri's case should be a powerful reminder that when our government abandons the rule of law, innocent victims suffer the consequences."
More information on the Jeppesen lawsuit, including a copy of the complaint, as well as information on El-Masri's case and a copy of the ACLU's brief to the United States Supreme Court, can be found online at www.aclu.org/rendition
In addition to Watt and Wizner, attorneys on the Jeppesen lawsuit are national ACLU Legal Director Steven Shapiro, Alexa Kolbi-Molinas and Jameel Jaffer of the national ACLU, Ann Brick of the ACLU of Northern California, Paul Hoffman of Schonbrun DeSimone Seplow Harris & Hoffman LLP, and Hope Metcalf of the Yale Law School Lowenstein Clinic. Clive Stafford-Smith and Zachary Katznelson also represent Binyam Mohamed.
Khaled El-Masri is represented by Watt, Wizner, Shapiro, Jaffer and Melissa Goodman of the national ACLU, Rebecca Glenberg of the ACLU of Virginia and Victor Glasberg of Victor M. Glasberg & Associates.
ACLU Sues Boeing Subsidiary for Participation in CIA Kidnapping and Torture Flights