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Boeing subsidiary accused of aiding CIA torture flights

LOS ANGELES -- The American Civil Liberties Union announced yesterday that it will sue a Boeing subsidiary, alleging that the company helped the Central Intelligence Agency with "the forced disappearance, torture, and inhumane treatment" of three men the government suspected of terrorist involvement.

"This is the first time we are accusing a blue-chip American company of profiting from torture," said ACLU lawyer Ben Wizner, who spoke about the case, filed in federal court in San Jose, Calif., at a news conference in New York.

Since at least 2001, Jeppesen Dataplan Inc., of San Jose, "has provided direct and substantial services to the United States for its so-called 'extraordinary rendition' program, enabling the clandestine and forcible transportation of suspects to secret overseas detention facilities where they are placed beyond the reach of the law and subjected to torture and other forms of cruel, inhumane, or degrading treatment," the suit alleges.

A spokesman for Jeppesen said: "There isn't really anything I can say with the exception that I am aware of the suit. We have not been served. I can't talk specifics about any customers that we might have or the services we might provide for them."

"Publicly available records demonstrate that Jeppesen facilitated more than 70 secret rendition flights over a four-year period to countries where it knew or reasonably should have known that detainees are routinely tortured or otherwise abused in contravention of universally accepted legal standards," the suit states.

Jeppesen provided flight and logistical support services to aircraft and crew used in the rendition program "to unlawfully render plaintiffs to detention and interrogation in Morocco, Egypt, and Afghanistan," adds the suit brought on behalf of three men.

They are Binyam Mohammed, a British resident who was taken into custody in Pakistan and is being held at the Guantanamo Bay Naval Station in Cuba; Abou Elkassim Britel, an Italian citizen, who was first apprehended in Pakistan and is being held in Morocco; and Ahmed Agiza, an Egyptian citizen, who while seeking asylum in Sweden was arrested by Swedish security police, handed over to CIA agents, shackled, drugged, and flown from Stockholm to Cairo, according to the suit.

ACLU lawyers, including the organization's executive director, Anthony Romero, said they had obtained information about the rendition program from a variety of sources, including investigations in Spain and Sweden and media reports, in particular an article by Jane Mayer in The New Yorker on Oct. 30. Mayer wrote that a former Jeppesen employee told her that at a company board meeting a senior Jeppesen official stated: "We do all of the extraordinary rendition flights -- you know, the torture flights."

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