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Mon, Feb 21, 2005

Report: Jet Documents Back Story Of US Government 'Abductions'

Newsweek Finds Jet's Manifest Conforms to Account of Abduction in Afghanistan

Newsweek has obtained previously unpublished flight plans indicating the CIA has been operating a Boeing 737 as part of a top-secret global charter servicing clandestine interrogation facilities used in the war on terror. And the 737's flight information, detailed to the day, seem to confirm the claims of Khaled el-Masri, a German citizen of Lebanese descent, who says he was abducted by American operatives and in early 2004 flown to Afghanistan.

Together with previously disclosed flight plans of a smaller Gulfstream V jet, the Boeing 737's travels are further evidence that a global "ghost" prison system, where terror suspects are secretly interrogated, is being operated by the CIA, report Senior Editor Michael Hirsh, Investigative Correspondent Mark Hosenball and National Security Correspondent John Barry in the February 28 issue of Newsweek (on newsstands Monday, February 21).

Masri says he was taken off a bus in Macedonia while on holiday on Dec. 31, 2003, then whisked in handcuffs to a motel outside the capital city of Skopje. Three weeks later, on the evening of Jan. 23, 2004, he was brought blindfolded aboard a jet with engines noisily revving, according to his lawyer, Manfred Gnjidic.

Masri says he climbed high stairs "like onto a regular passenger airplane" and was chained to clamps on the bare metal floor and wall of the jet. He says he was then flown to Afghanistan, where at a US prison facility he was shackled, repeatedly punched and questioned about extremists at his mosque in Ulm, Germany. Finally released months later, the still-mystified Masri was deposited on a deserted road leading into Macedonia.

German Interior Minister Otto Schily recently visited CIA Director Porter Goss to discuss the case, which is being investigated as a kidnapping by a Munich prosecutor, and German sources tell Newsweek that Schily was seeking an apology. CIA officials declined to comment on that meeting or any aspect of Masri's story.

Hirsh, Hosenball and Barry report that several of the Gulfstream flights allegedly correlate with other "renditions," the controversial practice of secretly spiriting suspects to other countries without due process. And according to data filed with European aviation authorities, the Boeing 737's flight plans -- part of a detailed two-year itinerary for the Boeing obtained by Newsweek -- conform to Masri's account. Federal Aviation Administration records indicate that the jet was owned at the time by Premier Executive Transport Services, a now-defunct Massachusetts-based company that US intelligence sources acknowledge to Newsweek fits the profile of a suspected CIA front. The jet's record dates to December 2002 and shows flights up until Feb. 7 of this year, and may have served as a general CIA transport plane for equipment and supplies as well.



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