Boeing, "CIA's Travel Agent," Can Be Sued

Court ruling blow to Obama administration

By Steve Rhodes
|  Wednesday, Apr 29, 2009  |  Updated 10:15 AM CDT
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Boeing, "CIA's Travel Agent," Can Be Sued

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The Chicago-based company has been called the CIA's travel agency.

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"A federal appeals court rebuffed the Obama administration's assertion of secrecy Tuesday and reinstated a lawsuit by five men who say a Bay Area subsidiary of Boeing Co. helped the CIA fly them to foreign countries to be tortured," the San Francisco Chronicle reports.

The ruling is a blow to both the Obama administration and the Chicago-based company.

"The ruling reinstates allegations by five men who claim that U.S. operatives - with support from Jeppesen Dataplan Inc., a Boeing unit - abducted them and sent them to other countries where they were tortured," Dow Jones reports. "They allege that Jeppesen provided critical flight planning and logistical support to the CIA's 'extraordinary rendition' program. The men are seeking unspecified monetary damages from the company."

The court said that the five men can "try to prove their case without top-secret information that legitimately needs protection from disclosure," according to AP.

The ACLU first filed the suit on behalf of the five men in 2007, alleging that the Boeing unit filed false flight plans to European air traffic authorities.

But in 2006, Jane Mayer was already calling Jeppesen Dataplan "The CIA's Travel Agent" in a New Yorker article that name.

"On the official Web site of Boeing, the world’s largest aerospace company, there is a section devoted to a subsidiary called Jeppesen International Trip Planning, based in San Jose, California," Mayer wrote. "The write-up mentions that the division 'offers everything needed for efficient, hassle-free, international flight operations,' spanning the globe 'from Aachen to Zhengzhou.' The paragraph concludes, 'Jeppesen has done it all.'

"Boeing does not mention, either on its Web site or in its annual report, that Jeppesen’s clients include the C.I.A., and that among the international trips that the company plans for the agency are secret 'extraordinary rendition' flights for terrorism suspects. Most of the planes used in rendition flights are owned and operated by tiny charter airlines that function as C.I.A. front companies, but it is not widely known that the agency has turned to a division of Boeing, the publicly traded blue-chip behemoth, to handle many of the logistical and navigational details for these trips, including flight plans, clearance to fly over other countries, hotel reservations, and ground-crew arrangements."

Steve Rhodes is the proprietor of The Beachwood Reporter, a Chicago-centric news and culture review.

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