Multiple failures revealed in Romania’s ‘whitewash’ Rendition Inquiry

New flight data unearthed and analysed by Reprieve has revealed glaring holes in the Romanian Parliament’s so-called ‘Inquiry’ into CIA secret detention and rendition flights on Romanian soil.  

The Inquiry concluded in 2008 with a flat denial of Romanian involvement in or knowledge of the black site network.

Reprieve investigators have now discovered multiple failures by the Inquiry, conducted by a Romanian Parliamentary Commission led by MEP Norica Nicolai, and have labelled its seven-page report a ‘whitewash’.

Despite reviewing 4000 documents over two years, the Inquiry mysteriously failed to notice key suspicious flights into and out of Romania. The flights have been identified by Reprieve in the course of its investigation into private renditions contractor Computer Sciences Corporation (CSC). Reprieve can today reveal the following flights ignored by the Inquiry:

    Gulfstream IV with tailnumber N288KA flew from Kabul to Bucharest via Amman on 31 July 2004. It stayed less than 90 minutes in Bucharest before returning to Washington DC via Prague and Gander. CSC budgeted $248,000 for this trip, including $60,000 of “mission specific costs”. Gulfstream IV with tailnumber N308AB flew from Romania to Morocco and then on to Kabul and Algeria between 23 Aug. 2004 and 28 Aug. 2004. CSC budgeted $437,000 for this trip, including over $143,000 of “mission specific costs”. Gulfstream IV with tailnumber N789DK flew from Romania to Kabul via Amman on 20 Oct. 2004. CSC budgeted a total of $337,000 for this trip. Boeing 737 with tailnumber N787WH flew from Morocco to Romania and onwards to Lithuania on 18 Feb. 2005. Leaving Romania, the plane filed a false flight plan giving its destination as Gothenburg, Sweden, but the Lithuanian parliamentary inquiry confirmed its arrival in Lithuania from Romania. CSC paid almost $400,000 for the round trip. Gulfstream IV with tailnumber N308AB flew from Romania to Tirana, Albania, arriving at 22:38 on 5 Oct. 2005, where its pilot was instructed to “drop all PAX [passengers]”. N787WH, also contracted by CSC, was already waiting for them and left Tirana soon after, heading to Lithuania, although it had filed a flight plan to Tallinn in nearby Estonia. Gulfstream IV with tailnumber N1HC flew from Romania to Amman, arriving just after midnight on 6 Nov. 2005. In Amman, another Gulfstream, N248AB, was waiting for it. This plane then departed for Kabul approximately 30 minutes later.

In December 2011, Associated Press and ARD Panorama revealed that former US intelligence officials had identified a secret CIA prison location in central Bucharest, “hiding in plain sight”. According to their report, the Romanian Inquiry had looked only for detention facilities “at or near” airports – another sign of its restricted and insufficient scope. Reprieve investigator Crofton Black said: “As more and more data on renditions contracting comes to light, it’s clear that the Romanian inquiry was anything but comprehensive. It’s now evident that many of the probable rendition flights passing through Romania were never even noticed by the Parliamentary Inquiry. CSC’s involvement in Romania in 2004 and 2005 demonstrates a consistent pattern of behaviour which the Romanian Inquiry did not even begin to explore, let alone explain.” ENDS Notes to editors 1. The Romanian commission presented the results of limited inquiries into N379P, N313P and Richmor Aviation’s N85VM but made no mention of N248AB, N288KA, N308AB, N789DK or N787WH. Nor did it mention CSC’s role in flights into and out of Romania.  CSC’s contractors had concealed the itineraries of flights between prison locations, including in Romania, by filing false flight plans and using two planes to complete a trip so that no single plane’s flight plan records the whole journey. Earlier this year, CSC refused to sign the Zero Tolerance for Torture Pledge. The company is now the subject of investigation by several of its major investors for failing to repudiate involvement in secret prisons. For further information see http://www.reprieve.org.uk/articles/csc/. 2. On 5 December 2005, ABC News reported that prisoners were moved from identified European black sites prior to Secretary of State Condolezza Rice’s visit to Romania on that day [http://abcnews.go.com/WNT/Investigation/story?id=1375123]. Flight data analysed by Reprieve indicates that planes linked to rendition missions flew from Romania to Lithuania and Afghanistan in October and November 2005.

3. Reprieve, a legal action charity, uses the law to enforce the human rights of prisoners, from death row to Guantánamo Bay. Reprieve investigates, litigates and educates, working on the frontline, to provide legal support to prisoners unable to pay for it themselves. Reprieve promotes the rule of law around the world, securing each person’s right to a fair trial and saving lives.  Clive Stafford Smith is the founder of Reprieve and has spent 25 years working on behalf of people facing the death penalty in the USA.Reprieve’s current casework involves representing 15 prisoners in the US prison at Guantánamo Bay, assisting over 70 prisoners facing the death penalty around the world, and conducting ongoing investigations into the rendition and the secret detention of ‘ghost prisoners’ in the so-called ‘war on terror.’ Follow Reprieve on twitter: @ReprieveUK; if you were forwarded this release, sign up to join our press mailing list.