ACLU: Boeing Offshoot Helped CIA

A Boeing Co. subsidiary accused by the American Civil Liberties Union of facilitating torture by providing services to the CIA for secret overseas flights said it does not, as a rule, inquire about its customers' business.

The ACLU filed a lawsuit Wednesday claiming Jeppesen Dataplan, Inc., enabled the clandestine transportation of three terrorism suspects to secret overseas locations where they were tortured and subjected to other "forms of cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment."

"We don't know the purpose of the trip for which we do a flight plan," said Mike Pound, a spokesman for Englewood, Colo.-based Jeppesen.

"We don't need to know specific details. It's the customer's business, and we do the business that we are contracted for," he said. "It's not our practice to ever inquire about the purpose of a trip." The company had no immediate comment on specifics of the lawsuit.

Jeppesen Dataplan provides flight plans, fuel, airport data and other services to its clients.

The ACLU said Jeppesen Dataplan "either knew or reasonably should have known" that it was facilitating the torture of terrorism suspects by providing flight services to the CIA.

Companies "are not allowed to have their heads in the sand and take money from the CIA to fly people, hooded and shackled, to foreign countries to be tortured," ACLU attorney Ben Wizner said.

Boeing itself is not named in the lawsuit and would not confirm a Jeppesen-CIA link, spokesman Tim Neale said. He said customers have a confidentiality clause.

The lawsuit was filed Wednesday in U.S. District Court in Northern California but announced in New York City.

The three detainees have claimed through their family and lawyers that they have been tortured and abused against universally accepted legal standards. One claimed to have been routinely tortured under interrogation about al-Qaida and Osama bin Laden. The detainees' attorneys appealed to the ACLU for assistance.

The cases involve the treatment of Binyam Mohamed, an Ethiopian citizen, in July 2002 and January 2004; Elkassim Britel, an Italian citizen, in May 2002; and Ahmed Agiza, an Egyptian citizen, in December 2001, ACLU officials said at a Manhattan news conference.

Mohamed is currently being held in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba; Britel in Morocco and Agiza in Egypt, the ACLU said.

The ACLU said the suspects were apprehended under the U.S. government's "extraordinary rendition program."

Extraordinary rendition is the clandestine capture and transfer of suspects to be detained and interrogated in countries where the protections of U.S. laws do not apply, according to Wizner.

"American corporations should not be profiting from a CIA rendition program that is unlawful and contrary to core American values," said Anthony D. Romero, the ACLU's executive director. "Corporations that choose to participate in such activity can and should be held legally accountable."

Neither the CIA nor the U.S. government is named in the lawsuit. Wizner said the executive branch has invoked a state secrets defense in similar lawsuits.

The Bush administration has insisted it receives guarantees from countries receiving terror suspects that prisoners will not be tortured.

[Source: By Pay Milton AP, Chicago Tribune, 31May07]

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