The relaunched Guardian has a big feature about the UK’s role in “extraordinary renditions” — CIA flights that take terror suspects for interrogation in friendly third countries with dubious human rights records.
Precise numbers are impossible to determine. A report on renditions published by New York University school of law and the New York City Bar Association (PDF) suggests that around 150 people have been “rendered” in the last four years, but that is only an estimate. A handful have emerged from what has been labelled a secret gulag, and have given deeply disturbing accounts of horrific mistreatment.
Previous media reports have uncovered sketchy details of a British link to CIA abduction operations, but the full extent of the UK’s support can now be revealed. Drawing on publicly available information from the US Federal Aviation Administration, the Guardian has compiled a database of flight records which shows the extent of British logistical support.
Aircraft involved in the operations have flown into the UK at least 210 times since 9/11, an average of one flight a week. The 26-strong fleet run by the CIA have used 19 British airports and RAF bases, including Heathrow, Gatwick, Birmingham, Luton, Bournemouth and Belfast. The favourite destination is Prestwick, which CIA aircraft have flown into and out from more than 75 times. Glasgow has seen 74 flights, and RAF Northolt 33.
Denmark recently banned CIA rendition flights from its airspace.
The Guardian illustrates its feature with pictures of a U.S. military transport plane of a type thought to be used for renditions. But chartered private jets are also thought to be used in the practice, including one owned by the owner of the Boston Red Sox baseball team and a Gulfstream V with the fuselage number N379P.