The American Civil Liberties Union has filed a federal suit claiming Jeppesen Dataplan Inc. enabled the clandestine transportation of five terrorism suspects to overseas locations where they were subjected to “forms of cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment.”
The U.S. government has asked a federal judge to throw out the lawsuit on the basis that trying the case would result in the release of sensitive state secrets.
The ACLU countered in its filing Friday that the clandestine transfer of terrorism suspects to U.S.-run overseas prisons or foreign intelligence agencies, known as extraordinary rendition, is already a matter of public record “confirmed by documentary evidence and eyewitness testimony,” along with Federal Aviation Administration records.
The ACLU provided testimony of a former Jeppesen employee who said the company openly spoke of its role in extraordinary rendition.
According to the declaration of Sean Belcher, who worked briefly for Jeppesen as a technical writer in San Jose in 2006, the director of Jeppesen’s International Trip Planning Service, Bob Overby, told new employees during an introductory breakfast that “we do all the extraordinary rendition flights.”
When some employees looked puzzled at the statement, Overby added that he was referring to “torture flights,” according to Belcher’s declaration.
According to Belcher, Overby then said he understood some employees were not comfortable with that aspect of Jeppesen’s business but added “that’s just the way it is, we’re doing them,” and that the rendition flights paid very well.
The five detainees have claimed through their family and lawyers that they have been tortured and abused against universally accepted legal standards.
The cases were filed based on the alleged renditions 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; Bisher Al-Rawi, an Iraqi citizen in December 2002 and Mohamed Farag Ahmad Bashmilah, a Yemeni citizen, in October 2003 and April 2004.
A phone call by The Associated Press seeking comment from Jeppesen was not immediately returned late Friday.