Extraordinary rendition lawsuit also window into low point for American experiment

A fight between subcontractors leads to the publication of details of the CIA's secret kidnapping program

Published September 2, 2011 9:30PM (EDT)

  (© Larry Downing / Reuters)
(© Larry Downing / Reuters)

A lawsuit between two aviation companies concerning a couple hundred thousand dollars in unpaid expenses has inadvertently led to the publicizing of a great deal of information about the CIA's extraordinary rendition program. (The program involved the illegal transport of thousands of terrorism suspects to secret CIA prisons in foreign nations and then to countries where suspects could be tortured. It is basically "kidnapping" followed by "torture" but the CIA did it so no one went to jail for it.)

The records from this lawsuit between two sub-contractors involved in the renditions will eventually be taught in an undergrad history course titled "America: Where It All Went Wrong." Detainees were transported by the same companies that fly billionaires on private jets to their resort vacations. (The CIA doesn't have an air force, so they relied on massive government contractor DynCorp, which... just rented some private planes.)

We learn that the CIA provided the flights with letters from a fictional State Department official (the State Department was almost certainly not involved in the rendition program) providing diplomatic cover.

We learn that one the planes used to transport a suspect (Abu Omar, captured in Italy and tortured in Egypt) was owned by the co-owner of the Boston Red Sox. The plane sported a Red Sox logo on the tail. I mean a Yankees plane might've been more poetically apt but either way it seems like such a pat symbol of America's behavior in the wretched first decade of the 21st century that I'd roll my eyes at it if it turned up in a piece of fiction. An executive's private plane, sporting the logo of a rich baseball team and carrying an Imam captured overseas by the CIA, touches down in Egypt, a nation led by an American-backed strongman, where the Imam is to be tortured. What preachy liberal hack dreamed up that one? (The executive also owns part of Liverpool FC, because we can't forget Great Britain's help in all this.)

Then the hedge funds took an interest in privatized torture:

DynCorp was purchased in 2003 by Computer Sciences Corp., another leading federal contractor, in a $940 million merger. Computer Sciences Corp. then took on a supervising role in the rendition flights through 2006, according to invoices and emails in the court files. CSC sold three DynCorp units in 2005 to Veritas Capital Fund, a private equity firm, for $850 million, but retained ownership of other parts of the old company. Veritas in turn sold the restructured DynCorp — now known as DynCorp International — for about $1 billion in 2010 to Cerebrus Capital Management, another private equity fund.

So at least a couple rich people got even richer off of our national shame. There's an upside to everything.

By Alex Pareene

Alex Pareene writes about politics for Salon and is the author of "The Rude Guide to Mitt." Email him at apareene@salon.com and follow him on Twitter @pareene

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