Shannon still used by rendition planes

  • 12 April 2006
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A shell company recently exposed by Amnesty International as a company linked to rendition flights on behalf of the CIA, bringing people to be tortured, continues to use Shannon as a stop-over. Colin Murphy reports

Aircraft associated with the American Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) are continuing to use Shannon airport as a stop-over.

On the night of 31 March, a private jet operated by a shell company linked to the CIA landed at Shannon, and was seen there by anti-war plane-spotters.

The jet had flown from Fayetteville airport in North Carolina, one of the local airports to the Fort Bragg US army base. It is registered in the US to a company called Braxton Management Services Inc. An investigation by the Chicago Tribune newspaper into the company concluded it was a shelf company set up by the CIA to facilitate operations using "civilian" aircraft. Reporters for the Chicago Tribune found the company offered no management services, was registered to a lawyer's office in Montana (who would not return calls), and operated aircraft which had landed at the CIA's training facility at Camp Peary, Virginia and at numerous airports in the Middle East.

The jet was a Gulfstream Aerospace GIV, with registration N475LC. It has landed at Shannon five times since January, according to industry flight logs. It also landed at Shannon on at least ten occasions in 2005, according to flight logs published by plane spotters.

Braxton was named in the recent Amnesty International report on rendition, Below the radar: Secret flights to torture and 'disappearance', as a company linked to rendition flights.

Further details have emerged of stops at Shannon by other aircraft identified as having been used by the CIA in renditions. The Boeing 737 with registration N313P made numerous stops in Shannon during 2004. Some of its itineraries were:

•from 17 to 28 January 2004, it flew from Shannon to Cyprus, and on from Cyprus to Rabat, Morrocco, to Kabul, Afghanistan, to Algiers, Algeria and then to Palma de Mallorca, Spain. From Palma it flew on an itinerary that took it to Skopje in Macedonia, Baghdad in Iraq, Kabul, Timisoara and Bucharest in Romania, and back to Dulles, Washington DC, via Palma;

•on 27 April 2004, it flew from Amman, Jordan to Shannon, and then on to Dulles, Washington DC;

•on 29 October 2004, it flew from Mitiga, Libya to the Royal Air Force (RAF) base at Northolt, England, and then on to Shannon.

An Taoiseach Bertie Ahern told reporters at the White House, Washington, on 17 March, that he and the US president, George Bush, had agreed to "bring more transparency" to the process of CIA flights landing in Ireland.

"I explained that while we facilitate a large number of American troops and we are happy to do that... there is concern about extraordinary renditions and concern about CIA flights", he said.

"We are going to look at how we might bring more transparency to that process, if it is possible."

"We have CIA flights that land. I'm sure they are all on totally legitimate business... If at times we were able to say what some of these flights were about, then it would make the position easier for us and it would make public opinion happier if people understand." (His comments were reported in the Irish Times on 18 March.)

Bertie Ahern said he and George Bush had "agreed to touch base" on the issue "over the next couple of weeks".

The following day, the White House spokesman, Scott McClellan, was asked by a reporter if George Bush had "made some sort of an assurance" to the Taoiseach on the issue of renditions. Scott McClellan said: "No, I think you're reading too much into whatever you heard".

"Renditions are a valuable tool in our efforts to save lives, and to protect the American people. And we previously have talked about how we respect the sovereignty of other nations", Scott McClellan said.