Cross-posted at DailyKos.
It’s time for spring training, Red Sox fans are clamoring to see the World Series Trophy chauffeured around in its own “trophy mobile,” and the other day five members of the Red Sox got makeovers from the “Fab Five” of Bravo’s “Queer Eye for the Straight Guy.”
Last June, while Irish activists held a vigil for imprisoned and indicted anti-war activists who protest the flight of CIA “extraordinary rendition” jets to and from Ireland’s Shannon Airport, the Boston Red Sox chartered an executive jet owned by a Red Sox partner to “help their manager make a quick visit home in the midst of the team’s championship season.”
But, breaking stories — from Knight-Ridder and confirmed today by the Boston Globe — ask “what was the very same Gulfstream – owned by one of the Red Sox’s partners, but presumably without the team’s logo on its fuselage – doing in Cairo on Feb. 18, 2003?“
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The Knight-Ridder report in the Kansas City Star tells the part that the Red Sox jet played in the story of the Islamic preacher abducted by U.S. agents, reportedly with the help of chemical spray, off the streets of Milan:
Omar … was imprisoned by the Egyptians and, he claims, brutally tortured. The public prosecutor in Milan, Armando Spataro, who is investigating Omar’s apparent kidnapping, expects to file charges within a few days, according to an Italian official who spoke on condition of anonymity.
Spataro made headlines last month when, attempting to identify the plane that transported Omar from Italy to Egypt, he served a warrant on the Italian commander of the air base at Aviano, Italy, which is home to the U.S. Air Force’s 31st Fighter Wing.
Spataro declines to say whether the Gulfstream that landed in Cairo, which bore the tail number N85VM, departed from Aviano around the time of Omar’s disappearance.
The Knight-Ridder reporters accessed copies of “Federal Aviation Administration records obtained by the Chicago Tribune [that] show that Gulfstream N85VM has been many places around the world that the Red Sox have almost certainly never gone.”
The plane’s flight log also shows visits to Afghanistan, Morocco, Dubai, Jordan, Italy, Japan, Switzerland, Azerbaijan and the Czech Republic.
Egypt, Afghanistan, Jordan and Morocco are among the countries to which the United States is known to have “rendered” terrorism suspects. …
The Knight-Ridder reporters wryly note that the jet’s “itinerary has bordered at times on schizophrenic.”
A week later the Gulfstream was back in Washington, D.C., headed for Shannon, Ireland.
Thanks to “planespotters” — a “worldwide cadre of [apolitical] aviation aficionados” — the Gulfstream has also been “tracked, and sometimes photographed.”
The logo was not visible when the Gulfstream was photographed during a fuel stop in Shannon on June 12, 2004. But when the plane turned up at Denver’s Centennial Airport in February of this year, a photo showed it was sporting not only the Sox logo but a new registration number, N227SV.
Mahlon Richards, a co-owner of Richmor Aviation in Hudson, N.Y., and the Gulfstream’s charter agent, confirmed that N85VM and N227SV, which share the same manufacturer’s serial number, 1172, were in fact the same aircraft.
According to FAA records, the Gulfstream’s owner is not Richmor but Assembly Point Aviation, a company with an address in Albany, N.Y., but no telephone number. Dun & Bradstreet describes Assembly Point as a “religious organization” that is somehow involved with “churches, temples and shrines.”
Although the Red Sox office wouldn’t return Knight-Ridder’s calls, the Boston Globe got confirmation:
It’s chartered a lot,” Morse [who made his fortune developing cardiac catheters] said by phone from his winter home in Jupiter, Fla. ”It just so happens one of our customers is the CIA.
”I was glad to have the business, actually. I hope it was all for a real good purpose.” …
But Morse said he was ”stunned” by a published report suggesting that the plane might have been used for special renditions. …
“I don’t know how you would confirm it,” Morse said. ”To me, it’s stunning that they would link that stuff together. I called [Red Sox CEO] Larry [Lucchino] to let him know. I didn’t want him to get broadsided. I’m a little bit embarrassed the Red Sox are linked to this, for no reason whatsoever.”
Your tax dollars are hard at work:
Meanwhile, back in Ireland, the trial of five peace activists in Dublin, which began on March 7, was declared a mistrial, and the five will be retried in October 2005.
The five, you’ll be glad to know, have received a presidential pardon from “West Wing” president Martin Sheen.
(NOTE: CLICK photo to see an enlargement of Martin Sheen with the Irish activists.)
Follow the trial and protests of the Pitstop Ploughshares.