On Nov. 8, 2002, a Richmor Gulfstream, Tail No. N85VM, took off for Shannon Airport in Ireland, then to Dubai, in the United Arab Emirates, on a flight that paralleled the arrest that month of USS Cole bombing suspect Abd al-Nashiri.
It was the first of a run of secret long-distance flights by the Gulfstream between 2002 and 2005 that paralleled the suspected movements of captured al-Qaida and other terrorist leaders who vanished into CIA-run black prisons after their arrests following the Sept. 11 attacks.
Al-Nashiri was arrested sometime in November by United Arab Emirate authorities _ a capture announced by U.S. officials on Nov. 21. After landing in Dubai, the Gulfstream flew on to Kabul, Afghanistan. A 2010 Associated Press report revealed that al-Nashiri was taken to the "Salt Pit," a CIA-run prison northwest of the Afghan capital where another detainee died in U.S. custody that same month _ a case now under investigation by the Justice Department.
The jet then headed back to Dulles Airport, outside Washington, via Dubai and London. The flight cost $198,000, including $8,000 for extra crew members, $800 for ground transport, $250 for landing fees and $1,500 for catering.
The same Gulfstream was used in as many as 50 of the government flights. Richmor President Mahlon Richards testified in a court case that the plane was leased to the New York firm by its actual owner, Philip Morse, a minority partner and vice chairman of the Boston Red Sox. Morse could not be reached at his office or home in Jupiter, Fla. But he told the Boston Globe in 2005 that the Gulfstream was "chartered a lot. It just so happens one of our customers is the CIA."
The plane was busy again the following spring. According to Richmor invoices and an account provided by a European parliamentary inquiry, the jet was used during the botched rendition of Hassan Mustafa Osama Nasr, a radical Islamic cleric known as Abu Omar, who was abducted off a Milan street by CIA agents in February 2003.
Between Feb. 3 and Feb. 18, the Gulfstream flew to Ramstein Air Force Base in Germany. Invoices show it flew on to Cairo _ a flight leg that dovetails with reports that Abu Omar was flown to the Egyptian capital from Ramstein on the same date.
In Cairo, Abu Omar would later claim, the captive cleric Nasr was turned over to Egyptian security officials, interrogated and tortured before he was freed 14 months later to house arrest in Alexandria, Egypt. In November 2009, an Italian judge convicted 23 Americans, most of them known or suspected CIA officials, on kidnapping charges in the Nasr case. None of the Americans appeared for the trial and all were convicted in absentia.
From Cairo, the Gulfstream flew to Shannon and then back to Dulles. The flight cost taxpayers $138,000, including $280 for a satellite phone and $2,100 in data charges. In Cairo, there were separate charges, including $28 for a VIP bus, $25 for a car, $800 for the use of ramp equipment and more than $700 for various airport fees.
Two weeks after the Gulfstream made its Cairo flight, the plane was on the move again, leaving March 1 from Dulles, flying on to Rome and then Islamabad, Pakistan. The same day the luxury jet left the U.S., accused Sept. 11 attack mastermind KSM was arrested by a team of Pakistani and CIA agents in Rawalpindi, 12 miles south of Islamabad.
The plane flew on to Dubai, then Glasgow, Scotland, and back to Dulles on March 3. KSM disappeared into the CIA's prison network during the same period. It's unclear whether the Richmor plane transported him or merely brought U.S. officials to Islamabad. The flight cost nearly $200,000, including $4,800 for extra crew, $1,100 in landing fees, $815 in overnight hotel stays for the crew and $870 in catering.
The Gulfstream's most expensive flight was a mission carrying six passengers east from Dulles in August 2003. The jet stopped in Cold Bay, Alaska, and spent the night in Osaka, Japan, before landing in Bangkok. A day before the plane left, Thai police and American operatives had arrested accused Indonesian terrorist leader Riduan Isamuddin. also known as Hambali. He was the main suspect in the planning of a 2002 terrorist bombing of a Bali nightclub that killed 202 people.
U.S. officials have yet to identify where Hambali was sent immediately after his capture. But the Gulfstream flew on to Colombo, Sri Lanka, and then Kabul. The Afghan capital is within driving distance of both the "Salt Pit" prison and U.S. military detention facilities at Bagram Air Base. The plane then left for Dubai and Shannon before returning to Dulles on Aug. 15. The three-day flight cost $301,000, including $2,000 for overnight stays in Dubai and Osaka, $10,000 for extra crews, $36,000 in charter handling fees and $1,800 for catering.
Between March 27 and March 30, 2004, the Gulfstream flew from Dulles to the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, then to Rabat, Morocco, where the Moroccan government ran an interrogation facility used by the CIA, before returning to Washington.
That flight route, which carried at least four passengers, corresponds with a flight that carried accused 9/11 plotter bin Alshib along with several other high-value terror suspects. The detainees were moved out of Guantanamo by U.S. officials at the time, according to a 2010 AP report, because the Bush administration feared a pending a landmark U.S. Supreme Court ruling that ultimately granted captive terror suspects access to American courts.