Scotland: CIA torture flights have landed at Prestwick at least 19 times


PlaneTwo planes linked with CIA torture flights have landed at the airport


The revelation will prove embarrassing for the SNP, which last year called for a full judicial inquiry into Britain’s role in the extraordinary rendition of suspected terrorists.Police Scotland are also pursuing a lengthy investigation into claims that rendition flights made refuelling stops in Scotland during the early years of the war on terror.Glasgow Prestwick was bought by the Scottish Government for £1 in November 2013, in a move that safeguarded hundreds of jobs in and around the struggling airport.

Since that date, two planes owned by L-3 Communications – a multi-billion dollar American military contractor – have made regular stopovers on the Ayrshire coast.

The Gulfstream IV jets – N475LC and N478GS – are both identified by the European Parliament, the Council of Europe and Amnesty International as having been involved in the extraordinary rendition programme under the Bush administration.

According to airport movement logs, N478GS visited Prestwick seven times in 2014 and three so far in 2015; N475LC visited Prestwick seven times in 2014 and twice so far in 2015.

Most were brief refuelling stops and saw the jets take off within a couple of hours, although on a number of occasions they stayed overnight.

The jets are blocked from public flight tracking websites, although last December an aviation enthusiast was able to track N475LC on a flight from Malta to Prestwick.

They have also been caught on camera by planespotters at the publicly-owned airport.

The records show the aircraft have visited Prestwick on at least a further 175 occasions since 2008.

In addition, over the two years since Prestwick was taken into public hands, N475LC and N478GS have also made 22 visits to Glasgow Airport.

L-3 Communications has interests all over the world and there is no evidence to suggest the private jets were not on legitimate business.

However, the company is reputed to have close ties to the CIA and carries out private intelligence work for the US Government.

After a US Senate report into the rendition and torture programme was published on December 10 last year, the Scottish Government said the revelations were “deeply troubling”.

Three days later, Westminster leader Angus Robertson said: “A full judicial inquiry must now be established to determine what the UK government knew about the flights that passed through airports in the UK, including Scotland.”

However, at the same time as the SNP was ramping up the pressure, a user of the Reddit website was tracking Gulfstream N475LC on a flight from Malta to Prestwick Airport.

The enthusiast – under the name PuffyHerb – was able to get around the various blocks to report the jet landing in Scotland at 4.40pm on Friday, December 12.

PuffyHerb wrote: “A CIA Rendition plane just landed at Prestwick.”

President Obama has never halted the controversial policy of rendition for trial, although terrorism suspects are no longer interrogated – or tortured – in other countries.

However the numbers involved are believed to have fallen in recent years, in part because it is easier and more effective to kill key targets using drone strikes.

Prestwick airportPrestwick airport

The public have been kept in the dark over rendition flights for far too long

Tavish Scott, Liberal Democrat MSP

Liberal Democrat MSP Tavish Scott said: “While the London SNP were calling for an inquiry, it seems the Edinburgh SNP were allowing rendition planes to land at SNP owned Prestwick. Questions need answering in Edinburgh, not just in London.

“The public have been kept in the dark over rendition flights for far too long. This whole affair is murky in the extreme and we need assurances that these planes are not breaking international law.”

Donald Campbell, of human rights organisation Reprieve, added: “We need to be sure that airports in the UK, including Scotland, are never again allowed to become complicit in abuses such as the CIA renditions programme – which saw prisoners flown around the world to face torture. We know that CIA jets previously landed at Scottish airports en route to carrying out their gruesome work.

“What isn’t clear is what steps are being taken to get to the bottom of this. Police Scotland’s investigation is welcome, but it does not appear that their request to the US for the full Senate torture report – which could hold key evidence – has been granted.

“The Scottish and UK Governments need to get behind this request if they’re serious about their desire to get to the truth about British involvement in rendition flights.”

But a spokesman for Glasgow Prestwick Airport said hosting private charter aircraft was one of a number of revenue streams at the airport and it was up to the UK Department for Transport and the Civil Aviation Authority to determine which airline or country is allowed to operate flights into the UK.

The Scottish Government operates the airport on a commercial basis and at arm’s length from the Holyrood cabinet.

A spokesman added: “The senior management team at the airport has been tasked with all aspects of taking the airport forward, including building on existing revenue streams. To be clear, there is no evidence to suggest these aircraft are involved in rendition flights.

“Ultimately, the UK Government’s Department for Transport and the Civil Aviation Authority are responsible for determining which airline or country is allowed to operate flights into the UK.”

Although the Sunday Express contacted L-3 Communications’ head office in New York they did not respond to our request for a comment.


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