"60 MINUTES" FINDS THE SECRET JET BELIEVED TO BE USED BY THE CIA
TO FERRY SUSPECTS TO OVERSEAS INTERROGATORS KNOWN
TO USE TORTURE AND TALKS TO A MAN WHO SAYS HE
WAS A PASSENGER -- SUNDAY ON CBS
Khaled El-Masri Says in His First U.S. Interview That He was Mistakenly Taken on the Jet To a U.S.-Run Jail in Afghanistan, Brutalized and Released Five Months Later
60 MINUTES has videotaped a secret jet the Central Intelligence Agency is said to be using to deliver terror suspects to countries known for torturing people. The four-month investigation of the CIA's "rendition" program -- the practice of sending suspects to foreign governments for interrogation -- also found a man who says he was mistakenly taken on the plane to a jail in Afghanistan where he was mistreated for months. Scott Pelley's report, including the first American interview with Khaled El-Masri, will be broadcast on 60 MINUTES, Sunday March 6 (7:00-8:00 PM, ET/PT) on the CBS Television Network.
Tracing the jet through a series of companies and executives that apparently only exist on paper, 60 MINUTES was able to videotape the 737 three weeks ago on the runway of Glasgow Airport in Scotland. The investigation also reveals the plane made at least 600 flights to 40 countries -- all of which came after 9/11 -- including 30 trips to Jordan, 19 to Afghanistan, 17 to Morocco, and 16 to Iraq. The plane also went to Egypt, Libya and Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
El-Masri, a German citizen, says he was on vacation in Macedonia when he was arrested by police and held in Macedonia for three weeks and then brought to the airport, beaten by masked men, drugged and put aboard the 737. 60 MINUTES confirmed that the plane left Skopje, Macedonia, and went to Baghdad and then Kabul on the day in question. El-Masri says he awoke in a jail cell where his captors said, "You're in a country without laws and no one knows where you are." He says, "It was very clear to me that he meant I could stay in my cell for 20 years or be buried somewhere," he tells Pelley. "[They asked me] whether I had contacts with Islamic parties like al-Qaeda or the Muslim Brotherhood or aid organizations, lots of questions." El-Masri added that his fellow prisoners in the American-run jail were Saudi Arabians, Tanzanians, a Yemeni and a Pakistani who had lived in the U.S.
El-Masri says he was in solitary confinement for five months and then released without an explanation as to why he was imprisoned. He may have been one of the lucky ones because some suspects are "rendered" to their home countries where torture is practiced. The jet made 10 trips to Uzbekistan, where the former British ambassador to the country, Craig Murray, says the jet and its then-owner, Premier Executive Transport Services, kept a small staff at the airport in Tashkent. Murray says Uzbek interrogators use unusually cruel methods. "Techniques of drowning and suffocation, rape was used ...and also the insertion of limbs in boiling liquid....It's quite common," says Murray. He says he knew for sure of two Uzbeks captured in Afghanistan and brought back for questioning, "I believe it was happening on a regular basis," he tells Pelley. Murray says he complained to his superiors that information was being obtained by torture and sent his deputy to the CIA station chief to inquire about the practice.
"The CIA definitely knows," he tells Pelley. He says his deputy confirmed that "this material probably was obtained under torture but the CIA didn't see that [as] a problem," recalls Murray. He was ordered to return to London four months ago and has since left the government.
Mike Scheuer, the former head of the CIA's Osama bin-Laden unit and one of the agents who helped set up the rendition program, thinks protecting Americans from terrorism is of paramount importance. "I'm responsible for protecting Americans," he tells Pelley. "The information that we have received as a result of these programs has been very useful." Scheuer won't comment on its legality, but allows that the practice is a convenience. "It's finding someone else to do your dirty work," he tells Pelley.
El-Masri believes his abduction and imprisonment was a case of mistaken identity. When asked what he tells his seven-year-old son about his five-month imprisonment and who did this to him, El-Masri says, "I tell him it was the Americans."