2005 June 01 Wednesday
Aero Contractors Fills The Shoes Of Air America

A New York Times article reports that a company called Aero Contractors now provides the air transport services for the US Central Intelligence Agency that the legendary Air America provided until 1976. Since 9/11 Aero Contractors has expanded.

Behind a surprisingly thin cover of rural hideaways, front companies and shell corporations that share officers who appear to exist only on paper, the C.I.A. has rapidly expanded its air operations since 2001 as it has pursued and questioned terrorism suspects around the world.

An analysis of thousands of flight records, aircraft registrations and corporate documents, as well as interviews with former C.I.A. officers and pilots, show that the agency owns at least 26 planes, 10 of them purchased since 2001. The agency has concealed its ownership behind a web of seven shell corporations that appear to have no employees and no function apart from owning the aircraft.

"When the C.I.A. is given a task, it's usually because national policy makers don't want 'U.S. government' written all over it," said Jim Glerum, a retired C.I.A. officer who spent 18 years with the agency's Air America but says he has no knowledge of current operations. "If you're flying an executive jet into somewhere where there are plenty of executive jets, you can look like any other company."

Some of the C.I.A. planes have been used for carrying out renditions, the legal term for the agency's practice of seizing terrorism suspects in one foreign country and delivering them to be detained in another, including countries that routinely engage in torture. The resulting controversy has breached the secrecy of the agency's flights in the last two years, as plane-spotting hobbyists, activists and journalists in a dozen countries have tracked the mysterious planes' movements.

A jet also arrived in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, from Dulles on May 31, 2003, after the killing in Saudi Arabia of Yusuf Bin-Salih al-Ayiri, a propagandist and former close associate of Mr. bin Laden, and the capture of Mr. Ayiri's deputy, Abdullah al-Shabrani.

Flight records sometimes lend support to otherwise unsubstantiated reports. Omar Deghayes, a Libyan-born prisoner in the American detention center at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, has said through his lawyer that four Libyan intelligence service officers appeared in September in an interrogation cell.

Aviation records cannot corroborate his claim that the men questioned him and threatened his life. But they do show that a Gulfstream V registered to one of the C.I.A. shell companies flew from Tripoli, Libya, to Guantánamo on Sept. 8, the day before Mr. Deghayes reported first meeting the Libyan agents. The plane stopped in Jamaica and at Dulles before returning to the Johnston County Airport, flight records show.

The same Gulfstream has been linked - through witness accounts, government inquiries and news reports - to prisoner renditions from Sweden, Pakistan, Indonesia and Gambia.

The NY Times article several of the front companies associated with Aero Contractors: Pegasus Technologies, Tepper Aviation, Premier Executive Transport Services, Crowell Aviation Technologies, and Stevens Express Leasing (and most or all of these companies do not appear to have web sites - unless a reader can find one?). Well guess what? Tepper Aviation needs C-130 pilots.

Comments: Tepper Aviation, Inc is an air cargo company operating 3 L-382G-30 (civilian C-130) aircraft worldwide out of our home base in the panhandle of Florida. We are looking for pilots with C-130 experience for full time employment. Since we recently acquired the third aircraft we are increasing our crew complement. We presently have sufficient Flight Engineers and loadmasters but are looking for pilots and mechanics. Mechanics are required to have C-130 experience and an A&P license. All positions require relocation to the Florida panhandle area. Any interested parties should submit a resume to Tepper Aviation, Inc ATTN: Bobby Owens P.O. Box 100 Crestview, FL 32536.

As the article mentions, just as there are train spotters who watch for various models of trains so there are aircraft spotters. Check out this page of Tepper Aviation aircraft spotted at various commercial and military airports in Europe.

Share |      By Randall Parker at 2005 June 01 04:05 PM  Terrorists Western Response

Fuller said at June 2, 2005 4:09 AM:

Sounds a lot like Detroit or South Central LA. Damn those LA neocons!!!

seybernetx said at July 13, 2005 10:33 AM:

I'm wondering when the New York Times is going to run an editorial criticizing the New York Times over 'outing' these CIA agents?

Odds are the people in this operation are in significantly more danger than Valerie Plame ever was.

Stephanie Eriksen said at February 22, 2006 5:44 PM:

You still do not who the agents are. Further they are in a lot less danger than the people they abduct. It is a sad day when we are reducing ourselves to the torture of others.

Tayacan said at September 16, 2006 6:31 AM:

It would be fascinating to have Anne Garrels, NPR's heralded foreign correspondent, cover this story. A great angle would be to have her interview her husband, J. Vinton Lawrence, one of two CIA agents stationed in Laos in the early 1960s, who worked with the CIA-owned airline Air America, a precursor to Aero Contractors.

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