The agency ran a secret charter service, shuttling detainees to
interrogation facilities worldwide. Was it legal? What’s next?

Like many detainees with tales of abuse, Khaled el-Masri had a hard time
getting people to believe him. Even his wife didn’t know what to make of
his abrupt, five-month disappearance last year. Masri, a German citizen of
Lebanese descent, says he was taken off a bus in Macedonia in south-central
Europe while on holiday on Dec. 31, 2003, then whisked in handcuffs to a
motel outside the capital city of Skopje. Three weeks later, on the evening
of Jan. 23, 2004, he was brought blindfolded aboard a jet with engines
noisily revving, according to his lawyer, Manfred Gnjidic. Masri says he
climbed high stairs “like onto a regular passenger airplane” and was
chained to clamps on the bare metal floor and wall of the jet.

Masri says he was then flown to Afghanistan, where at a U.S. prison
facility he was shackled, repeatedly punched and questioned about
extremists at his mosque in Ulm, Germany. Finally released months later,
the still-mystified Masri was deposited on a deserted road leading into
Macedonia, where he brokenly tried to describe his nightmarish odyssey to a
border guard. “The man was laughing at me,” Masri told The New York Times,
which disclosed his story last month. “He said: ‘Don’t tell that story to
anyone because no one will believe it. Everyone will laugh.’ “

No one’s laughing these days, least of all the CIA. NEWSWEEK has obtained
previously unpublished flight plans indicating the agency has been
operating a Boeing 737 as part of a top-secret global charter servicing
clandestine interrogation facilities used in the war on terror”¦

U.S. officials insist the CIA has stopped rendering suspects to countries
where they believe torture occurs. NEWSWEEK has learned that shortly after
a Canadian jihadi suspect of Syrian origin, Maher Arar, was shipped back to
Syria in September 2002, officials began having grave second thoughts about
rendering suspects to that nation. As a result, the administration made a
secret decision to stop sending suspects to Syria. But officials
acknowledge that such scruples are being ignored when it comes to rendering
suspects to allies like Egypt and Jordan, even though some officials do not
believe “assurances” from these nations that they were not mistreating
prisoners. Now the CIA may have to supply many more assurances – and Khaled
el-Masri, among others, is waiting for them


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