LONDON: An executive jet is being used by US intelligence agencies to fly terrorist suspects to countries that use torture in their prisons.
The movements of the Gulfstream 5, leased by agents from the US Defence Department and the CIA, are detailed in confidential logs obtained by The Sunday Times which cover more than 300 flights.
Countries with poor human rights records to which the Americans have delivered prisoners include Egypt, Syria and Uzbekistan, according to the files. The logs have prompted allegations from critics that the agency is using such regimes to carry out "torture by proxy" - a charge denied by the US Government.
The Gulfstream and a similarly anonymous-looking Boeing 737 are hired by US agents from Premier Executive Transport Services, a private company in Massachusetts.
The white 737 is a frequent visitor to US military bases, although its exact role has not been revealed.
More is known about the Gulfstream, which can carry 14 passengers. Movements detailed in the logs can be matched with several sightings of the Gulfstream at airports when terrorist suspects have been bundled away by US counter-terrorist agents.
Analysis of the plane's flight plans, covering more than two years, shows that it always departs from Washington DC. It has flown to 49 destinations outside the US, including the Guantanamo Bay prison camp in Cuba and other US military bases, as well as Egypt, Jordan, Iraq, Morocco, Afghanistan, Libya and Uzbekistan.
Its prisoner transfer missions were first reported in May by the Swedish television program Cold Facts. It described how US agents had arrived in Stockholm in the Gulfstream in December 2001 to take two suspected terrorists from Sweden to Egypt.
At the time of what was presented as an "extradition" to Egypt, Swedish ministers made no public mention of American involvement in the detention of Ahmed Agiza, 42, and Muhammed Zery, 35, who was later cleared.
Witnesses described seeing the prisoners handed to US agents whose faces were masked by hoods. The clothes of the handcuffed prisoners were cut off and they were dressed in nappies covered by orange overalls before being forcibly given sedatives by suppository.
The Gulfstream flew them to Egypt, where both prisoners claimed they were beaten and tortured with electric shocks to their genitals.
A month before the Swedish extradition, the same Gulfstream was identified by Masood Anwar, a Pakistani newspaper reporter in Karachi. Airport staff told Anwar they had seen Jamil Gasim, a Yemeni student who was suspected of links to al-Qa'ida, being bundled aboard the jet by a group of white men wearing masks.
The jet took Gasim to Jordan, after which he has disappeared.
"The entire operation was so mysterious that all persons involved in the operation, including US troops, were wearing masks," a source at the airport told Anwar.
On another mission, in January 2002, a Gulfstream was seen at Jakarta airport to deport Muhammad Saad Iqbal, 24, an al-Qa'ida suspect who was said by US officials to be an acquaintance of Richard Reid, the British "shoe-bomber" jailed in the US for trying to blow up a flight from Paris to Miami.
An Indonesian official told an American newspaper that Iqbal was "hustled aboard an unmarked, US-registered Gulfstream . . . and flown to Egypt", where almost nothing has been heard of him since.
The CIA Gulfstream's flight logs show it flew from Washington to Cairo, where it picked up Egyptian security agents, before apparently going on to Jakarta to take Iqbal to Egypt.
Some former CIA operatives and human rights campaigners claim the agency and the Pentagon use a process called "rendition" to send suspects to countries such as Egypt and Jordan. They are then tortured largely to gain information for the Americans who, it is alleged, encourage these countries to use aggressive methods banned under US law.