New York Times
November 13, 2005
LONDON, Nov. 13 - On the Spanish island of Majorca, the police quietly opened a criminal investigation in March after a local newspaper reported a series of visits to the island's international airport by planes known to regularly operate for the Central Intelligence Agency.
Now, it has emerged that an investigative judge in Palma has ordered the police inquiry to be sent to Spain's national court, to consider whether the C.I.A. was routing planes carrying terrorism suspects through Majorca as part of its so-called rendition program.
Under that system, the United States has bypassed normal extradition procedures to secretly transfer at least 100 suspects to third countries where, according to allegations by human rights groups and former detainees themselves, some of the suspects have been tortured.
The program is the focus of a number of European investigations. Spain is the third country in Europe to open a judicial inquiry into potential criminal offenses committed by C.I.A. operatives related to renditions. The other two are Germany and Italy, which on Friday formally requested the extradition of 22 people said to be C.I.A. operatives linked to the suspected kidnapping of an Egyptian cleric in 2003.
Last week, related investigations were started by the European Union and the Council of Europe to look into reports of secret C.I.A. jails for terrorism suspects in Eastern Europe.
An inquiry seems likely by the United Nations' special rapporteur on torture, Manfred Nowak. Last week he said that if reports of the C.I.A.'s activities proved correct, then the agency was engaged in a "systematic practice of enforced disappearance."
Bartolomé Barceló, the chief prosecutor for the Majorca region, ordered the inquiry there after the newspaper Diario de Mallorca published its report.
In a 114-page police report dated April 14, the investigators said they obtained details of the planes' flight plans, passengers and crews by interviewing ground staff, consulting aviation documents and examining the registers of the two hotels where the men and women stayed.
Two of the planes examined have been widely identified as involved in rendition operations and as owned by the C.I.A.
The police report said the planes' operator was Stevens Express Leasing, a Tennessee-registered corporation that, according to inquiries by The New York Times, owns several planes operated for the C.I.A.
A third plane, privately owned and United States-registered, has been regularly hired by the C.I.A. The police identified up to 42 American operatives and crew members on the flights that landed in Spain. One crew of 11 flew on a route that matched exactly that described by Binyam Muhammad, a suspected accomplice of another suspect, Jose Padilla.
None of the 42 Americans named in the Spanish police report as passengers or crew aboard the three alleged C.I.A. planes are so far accused of any crime, and their identities have not been made public.
The New York Times has obtained the names and tried to trace the people involved.
At least 18 shared addresses at a handful of mailboxes in Virginia, close to the C.I.A.'s headquarters, and many had Social Security numbers issued within the last five years. The name listed as a pilot has a listed address at the same mailbox in Vienna, Va., used by a senior executive of Stevens Express Leasing.