The American Civil Liberties Union is suing a unit of Boeing Co. , charging that it assisted the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency in abducting suspect foreigners to overseas prisons where it says they were held and tortured.
The ACLU said it would file a lawsuit against Jeppesen Dataplan Inc. later on Wednesday, accusing the company of providing flight and logistical support to at least 15 aircraft on 70 so-called "rendition" flights.
The suit, to be filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, is being made on behalf of three people the ACLU said had been abducted by the CIA.
"American corporations should not be profiting from a CIA rendition program that is unlawful and contrary to core American values," Anthony Romero, executive director of the ACLU, said in a statement. "Corporations that choose to participate in such activity can and should be held legally accountable."
At least 1,245 CIA flights were made into or over Europe in the four years after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the United States, a European Parliament report said earlier this year.
Washington acknowledges the secret transfer of suspects to third countries but denies torturing them or handing them over to countries that did. A Jeppesen representative declined to comment on the suit, and would not say whether the CIA was a customer of the company.
According to the ACLU, Jeppesen played a key role in what it called the U.S. government's rendition program, providing aircraft crew with itineraries, preparing flight plans, procuring landing permits from foreign governments and helping with customs clearance and ground transportation.
"Without the participation of companies like Jeppesen, the program could not have gotten off the ground," Steven Watt, a staff attorney for the ACLU's Human Rights Program, said in a statement.
The suit is being brought on behalf of Binyam Mohamed, Abou Elkassim Britel and Ahmed Agiza, three foreign nationals whom the ACLU said were abducted and moved to secret overseas locations where they were tortured.
The suit claims Jeppesen knew the purpose of the rendition flights. It is to be filed under the Alien Tort Statute, which permits foreigners to bring claims in the United States for violations of the law of nations or a United States treaty.
The ACLU also said on Wednesday that it would ask the U.S. Supreme Court to review the dismissal of a lawsuit against former CIA Director George Tenet and 10 CIA employees by a
German who says he was kidnapped and tortured by the spy agency about three years ago.
In March, a U.S. appeals court upheld the dismissal of the suit, brought by Khaled el-Masri, a German of Lebanese origin, after agreeing with U.S. government arguments that moving forward with the case would pose a risk of exposing state secrets.
El-Masri was arrested in Macedonia in late 2003 and says he was handed over to the CIA, who flew him to Afghanistan and wrongly held him until his release in May 2004.