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Torture Flight Profits

2011 December 19

Companies Responsible for Carrying Out Torture
Flights Squabble in Court Over the Profits

Voluminous documents, establishing once and for all the complicity of American private corporations in the “rendering” of “war on terror” suspects for torture, have been revealed in an unlikely forum. Though both the Bush and Obama administrations have done their sloppy best to keep details of the rendition program hidden from U.S. voters, they turned out to be powerless to keep their private sector contractors from publicly haggling over the spoils.
            As Ian Cobain and Ben Quinn reported in the Guardian in early September, previously unreleased details of the torture flights – including the names of some of the private carriers involved (along with their executives) – have come to light in a New York court case involving two private airlines, Sportsflight and Richmor, over who did or didn’t get paid how much and by whom. One potential consequence, according to the Guardian article, “may be that some of those corporations and individuals are now at risk of being sued in proceedings brought on behalf of the al-Qaida and Taliban suspects who were the victims of the programme.”

“The documents were discovered by staff at the legal charity Reprieve. Its legal director, Cori Crider, said: ‘These documents reveal how the CIA’s secret network of torture sites was able to operate unchecked for so many years. They also reveal what a farce it was that the CIA managed to get the prisoners’ torture claims kicked out as secret, while all of the details of its sinister business were hiding in plain site.’”

The Red Sox Connection

The story wasn’t widely reported in the U.S. press (though note Amy Davidson’s piece for The New Yorker) and I kind of dropped the ball on it at the time. However, I was struck by today’s expanded story by Sharon Churcher and Christ Hastings in Britain’s Daily Mail. Their piece includes considerably more detail on one of the aircraft owners who has special significance for us here in the United States – and in the Boston area in particular. Phillip Morse, the “ultimate owner” of one of the planes, according to both newspapers, is the vice-chairman of the Fenway Sports Group, which owns the Red Sox. According to Cobain and Quinn, the same plane was used to fly the team “in between rendition flights.” Fenway Sports Group also recently acquired Britain’s Liverpool Football (soccer) Club, at which point the Daily Mail took notice:

“The disclosure that such a senior figure in New England Sports Ventures (NESV) has been paid millions by the CIA is likely to alarm football fans already concerned that one of the country’s most prestigious clubs is still in American hands.
            “A European Parliament report linked the jet directly to the abduction of Abu Omar, an Islamic preacher, who was snatched from a Milan street by the CIA in 2003 before being taken to Cairo…despite having been granted political asylum by the Italian government…
            “The European Parliament report reproduced flight documents for Mr Morse’s jet, which carries the logo of the Boston Red Sox baseball team, also owned by NESV, on its tail fin.” 

(Photo above: Phillip Morse during a White House visit with George Bush Senior.)




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