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N.Y. billing dispute reveals details of secret CIA rendition flights

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CIA rendition flightsOn Aug. 12, 2003, a Gulfstream IV aircraft carrying six passengers took off from Dulles International Airport and flew to Bangkok with fueling stops in Cold Bay, Alaska, and Osaka, Japan.

Before it returned four days later, the plane also touched down in Afghanistan, Sri Lanka, the United Arab Emirates and Ireland. As these unusual flights happened, U.S. officials took custody of an Indonesian terrorist, Riduan Isamuddin, who had been captured in Thailand and would spend the next three years being shuttled among secret prisons operated by the CIA.

The Gulfstream IV’s itinerary, as well as the $339,228.05 price tag for the journey, are among the details of shadowy CIA flights that have emerged in a small Upstate New York courthouse in a billing dispute between contractors. The court documents offer a rare glimpse of the costs and operations of the controversial rendition program.

For all the secrecy that once surrounded the CIA program, a significant part of its operation was entrusted to very small aviation companies whose previous experience involved flying sports teams across the country.

The August 2003 flights — and dozens of others to locations such as Bucharest, Romania; Baku, Azerbaijan; Cairo; Djibouti; Islamabad, Pakistan; and Tripoli, Libya — were organized by Sportsflight, a one-man aircraft brokerage business on Long Island. It secured a plane from Richmor Aviation, based near the Columbia County Airport in Hudson, N.Y. Richmor eventually sued Sportsflight for breach of contract. In the process, the costs and itineraries of numerous CIA flights became part of the court record.

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