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.”

Free Image Hosting at www.ImageShack.usLast 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?

::: more below the fold :::
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:

Perhaps by coincidence, Feb. 18, 2003, was the day an Islamic preacher known as Abu Omar, who had been abducted in Italy the previous day and forced aboard a small plane, also arrived at the Cairo airport.

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.”

Between June 2002 and January of this year, the Gulfstream made 51 visits to Guantanamo, [and] the plane recorded 82 visits to Washington’s Dulles International Airport as well as landings at Andrews Air Force Base outside the capital and the U.S. air bases at Ramstein and Rhein-Main in Germany.

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.”

Less than two weeks after returning from Frankfurt, Germany, the plane was pressed into service after a Friday night game to fly Red Sox manager Terry Francona home to Yardley, Pa., in time for his son’s graduation, according to the Worcester Sunday Telegram.

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 Red Sox logo was visible, for example, in photos taken at an air show in Schenectady, N.Y., on Aug. 23, 2003, eight days after the Gulfstream returned to Washington from an around-the-world flight that included Anchorage; Osaka, Japan; Dubai; and Shannon.

Free Image Hosting at www.ImageShack.usThe 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:

Phillip H. Morse, a minority partner of the Boston Red Sox, confirmed yesterday that his private jet has been chartered to the CIA and said he was aware that it had been flown to Guantanamo. ..

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:

The Gulfstream … based in Schenectady, N.Y., rents for $5,365 an hour, which works out to $128,760 for a 24-hour day or a little more than $900,000 a week.

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.

Free Image Hosting at www.ImageShack.usCiaron O’Reilly, Deirdre Clancy, Damien Moran, Karen Fallon and Nuin Dunlop – were arrested on February 3rd of 2003. They were arrested and face charges stemming from an action at Shannon Airport in Clare County. Shannon airport is a civilian airport that has been transformed into a pit stop for the U.S military. An average of 13,000 U.S. troops stop at Shannon Airport each month. On February 3rd – the activists – known as the “Pit Stop Ploughshares” – broke into a hangar at the airport, and damaged a US Navy war plane that was on its way to Iraq. They built a shrine with rosary and Islamic beads, a Koran a bible and photographs of Iraqi children. The activists face maximum sentences of up to 10 years imprisonment. (Democracy Now!, March 7, 2005)

Free Image Hosting at www.ImageShack.usThe 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.

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