Alex Constantine - June 18, 2014
US sent secret spy plane to kidnap Edward Snowden, report says
This is the plane sent to "extraordinarily render" Edward Snowden (jetphotos.net imagej) The Register has revealed that a CIA-owned aircraft was dispatched to Europe last June in a last ditch effort to seize NSA whistle-blower Edward Snowden.
On June 23, 2013, Snowden landed in Moscow from Hong Kong. As per the Register, he planned to fly to Cuba, and then ultimately to Latin America. But the State Department promptly canceled his passport.
All of this followed Snowden's earlier revelations via The Guardian, principally, that the US and other governments conducted clandestine mass surveillance of virtually the entire world’s population.
The Register article, “CIA rendition jet was waiting in Europe to snatch Snowden,” details the plane's movements: On June 24, 2013, after Snowden arrived in Moscow, “an unmarked Gulfstream V business jet—tail number N977GA—took off from a quiet commercial airport 30 miles from Washington DC.
“Early next morning,” the report reads, “N977GA was detected heading east over Scotland at the unusually high altitude of 45,000 feet. It had not filed a flight plan, and was flying above the level at which air traffic control reporting is mandatory.”
Air traffic controllers may not have been interested, but amateur flight trackers certainly were.
“[E]ven if pilots have turned off automated location data feeds, ordinary enthusiasts equipped with nothing more than suitable radio receivers connected to the Internet can measure differences in the time at which an aircraft’s radar transponder signal reaches locations on the ground...‘The plane showed up on our system at 5:20 on 25 June,’ according to our source, a member of an Internet aircraft-tracking network run by enthusiasts in the UK. ‘We knew the reputation of this aircraft and what it had done in the past,’” says the Register.
For years, this plane has played a vital role in the illegal “extraordinary rendition” system run by the US. According to the Register, it “was originally ordered by the US Air Force for use as a general’s flying gin-palace. But then, shortly after 9/11, it lost its military livery and acquired civilian registration as N596GA. Under that designation it was employed in CIA ‘renditions’—or kidnappings. In 2011, the ‘black’ jet’s role was switched again, having been transferred from the CIA’s contractor to use by the US Department of Justice.
“With its new tail number N977GA the plane became part of the Justice Prisoner and Alien Transportation Systems, operated by US Marshals. On perhaps its best-known mission, the jet flew a team of marshals into the UK on 5 October 2012 to collect radical cleric Abu Hamza [Unlink] after the USA won an extradition order against him.”
N977GA “did not make it all the way to Moscow, but set down and waited at Copenhagen Airport.”
It landed with orders to carry out a rendition. The Danish government has long been in cahoots with the US on these super-secret flights. Beginning as far back as 2003, the Danes have allowed the US to cross its airspace to kidnap and return folk the US has deemed “fugitives.”
But Denmark is only one of many such countries. The Open Society Foundation released a report, “Globalising Torture—CIA Secret Detention and Extraordinary Rendition,” documenting that at least 52 other nations have assisted the US in its “rendition” operations.
Interestingly, the Danes have not denied the validity of the Register's report. And, of course, the Register states, “US Department of Justice did not respond to our requests for information regarding N977GA and its purpose in heading to Europe on 24 June last year.”
Recall that on June 5 last year, the Obama administration kicked itself into high gear with a massive international manhunt for Edward Snowden. This included the actual forcing down on July 2, 2013, of the jet carrying Bolivian president Evo Morales because he was suspected of ferrying Snowden to asylum in Bolivia.
Then (and now) the US official position is that it simply wants Snowden to come home and face a “fair trial.” That the US would go to such extremes to “render” him into its custody belies that statement on its face.
The Washington Post also has reported on US efforts to “get Snowden.” The Postexplains, “For weeks, senior officials from the FBI, the CIA, State and other agencies assembled nearly every day in a desperate search for a way to apprehend the former intelligence contractor who had exposed the inner workings of American espionage then fled to Hong Kong before ending up in Moscow.”
The Post refers to an anonymous US official who said these meetings were “Convened by White House homeland security adviser Lisa Monaco.”
Monaco is quoted by the Post as saying, “The best play for us is him landing in a third country. We were hoping he was going to be stupid enough to get on some kind of airplane, and then have an ally say: ‘You’re in our airspace. Land.’”
Just how “high level” were these meetings? According to the Post, the meetings occurred at the White House and were attended by the CIA’s head of counterintelligence, FBI deputy director Sean Joyce and Michael McFaul, then-US ambassador to Russia. According to Joyce, the discussions “were not just about Edward Snowden the fugitive,” but also dealt with the embarassing and devastating impact Snowden’s revelations had on the heretofore "holier-than-thou" intelligence services particularly, and the US government generally. The Post states, “[T]here was a constant search for ideas to recover him.”
Obama, you will recall, made an innocuous statement at the time about the Snowden affair. He seemed to downplay Snowden and his purloined and published information as not all that important. The World Socialist Web Site quotes Obama thusly: “I’m not going to be scrambling jets to get a 29-year-old hacker.”
But, au contraire, Mr. President. Looks like at least one jet was scrambled – but failed -- to “get Snowden.”