Butcher Crime Time
The Torture Express
“The two prisoners have their clothes cut from their bodies by scissors, without their hand and foot cuffs being loosened. The naked and chained prisoners have a suppository of unknown kind inserted into their anus, and diapers are put on them. They are forcibly dressed in dark overalls. Their hands and feet are chained to a specially designed harness. On the plane, both men are blindfolded and hooded…the plane takes off at 21.49 and sets course towards Egypt.”
Henk Ruyssenaars –
Foreign Press Foundation
– the Netherlands
A Butcher associate is at the center of a diplomatic row over whether CIA planes have been used to secretly transport Islamic terror suspects to countries that permit torture. Rather than purchase aircraft outright, the CIA uses shell companies whose names appear unremarkable in casual checks of FAA registrations. A CIA shell company, Stevens Express Leasing, Inc., of Memphis, owns at least four of these planes, a DC3 and three Beechcrafts. Like other CIA shell companies, Stevens Express has no employees, no business premises, and no website. In lieu of these, the company has a CIA-contracted lawyer who provides a mail drop, registers the company with the state and the planes with the FAA, and interfaces in other necessary ways with government agencies and the public. The lawyer provides many of the legal services needed by a normal company, including a place to serve legal papers and court documents on the company. The lawyer in this case is Butcher attorney Douglas R. Beaty, and Stevens Express Leasing operates out of his office at 8130 Country Village Drive, Suite 101, Cordova, Tennessee, along with several other entities belonging to Butcher associates Rusty and Kevin Hyneman. Before moving to this address Beaty had shared office space with Karl Schledwitz at his Rex Road address in Memphis, moving to the Country Village office after the death of C.H. Butcher, Jr. Beaty is listed in state records as both a “registered agent” and an “assistant secretary” for Stevens Express Leasing. He is also listed as a registered agent for numerous Butcher owned entities and was the incorporator and president of a small company, Tenn-Ford, Inc., that was at the center of legal troubles for former congressman Harold Ford, Sr.
At least 18 shared addresses at a handful of mailboxes in Virginia, close to the CIA’s headquarters, and many had Social Security numbers issued within the last five years. The name listed as a pilot has a listed address at the same mailbox in Vienna, Virginia, used by a senior executive of Stevens Express Leasing. Phillip P. Quincannon, listed in Tennessee records as the secretary of Stevens Express, was identified by The New York Times as one of several “seeming ghost executives” of companies linked to the CIA. Quincannon’s Social Security number was issued between 1993 and 1995 even though he was supposedly born in 1949, about the same time as 57-year-old Doug Beaty was born. Beaty also holds a pilots license.
Authorities in Spain are investigating reports that flights have made stopovers on Spanish territory as part of the CIA’s program of “extraordinary rendition,” in which suspected terrorists are taken without court approval to third countries for interrogation and possibly harsh treatment The flights, ten in all between January 2004 and January of this year, were brought to the attention of the Civil Guard by a group of citizens led by lawyer Ignasi Ribas. They claim that the CIA is guilty of illegal arrest, kidnapping, and torture during its use of the Son Sant Joan airport in Mallorca while transferring Islamic terrorist suspects to third countries in violation of Spanish law. Spain’s Interior Minister, Jose Antonio Alonso, said that if the reports are true “it would be serious and intolerable,” as it would break the rules, and “it might affect the level of relations between administrations.” The planes used are owned by Stevens Express Leasing, which the New York Times says is a front for the CIA.
One flight had arrived from Algiers on January 22, 2004 and took off the next day for Macedonia. There is allegedly picked up a Lebanese-born German man, Khaled Masri, and took him to Kabul where he was beaten and interrogated over alleged links with al-Qaeda. Other flights reportedly went to and from Libya and from Bucharest to Washington. Destinations included Ireland, Morocco and Sweden; countries of origin included Algeria, Romania and Egypt. Under the “extraordinary rendition” system, the United States has bypassed normal extradition procedures to secretly transfer at least 100 suspects to third countries where some of the suspects have been tortured, including some cases of mistaken identity where innocent citizens have been snatched from the streets and subjected to the same treatments as suspected terrorist.
Italian prosecutors have requested the extradition of 22 purported CIA operatives in the alleged kidnapping of an Egyptian cleric in 2003. The cleric, Osama Moustafa Hassan Nasr, also known as Abu Omar, was allegedly abducted on a Milan street before being flown to Egypt, where he was reportedly tortured. Most of the alleged CIA operatives named in the warrants and extradition request appear to have used false identities. Legal experts said it would be virtually impossible for the Italian government to win extradition of suspects without confirming their true identities. But Italian investigators believe that five of the 22 suspects used their real names, including a man personally known by Italian counterterroism officials as the former head of the CIA operation in Milan, and a diplomat assigned to the US Embassy in Rome. Prosecutors claimed Nasr’s abduction was a violation of Italian sovereignty and hindered Italian terrorism investigations. The extradition request threatens a new jolt to relations between Italy and the United States, which were severally strained by the March killing of an Italian intelligence agent by US troops in Baghdad.
If the Italian Justice Ministry does approve the extradition request, the matter would be referred to the US federal courts. US officials would then be required to file a response, either agreeing to hand over the suspects or explaining why not.
The United States has faced questions from other European countries, including Germany and Sweden, over its transfers of militant suspects abroad. Egypt’s prime minister said in May the United States had transferred as many as 70 militant suspects to his country. The European Commission says it will investigate published reports that the CIA set up secret jails in Eastern Europe to detain high-profile terrorism suspects. The commission says the governments of the EU’s 25 member nations will be informally questioned about possible human rights violations.
The rendition project belongs to what is called a “specialized program” co-coordinated secretly with the US defense department. Extraordinary Rendition bears more than a passing resemblance to operation Condor, the “multinational of terror” organized by six US-backed Latin American dictatorships in the 1970s. Named after the legendary Latin American vulture this state terror program soared above national borders as regimes swapped suspects and facilitated death squads and kidnap teams. Suspects disappeared without a trace, held without due process and monitored by physicians during torture sessions.
Three years ago, on October 1, 2001, President Bush made a reference to the arrests in foreign countries, in a speech at the headquarters of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) in Washington. He was quoted as saying “that the American people aren’t going to see exactly what’s taking place on their TV screens,” but that “slowly, but surely,” progress was being made in this reference to the ‘unseen’ war on terror.
Seymour Hersh has warned in his recent talks at Berkley about this secret CIA operation: “My government has a secret unit that has been ‘disappearing’ people since December 2001. Rumsfeld decided after 9/11 that he could not wait. The president signed a secret document. There’s a team of people, they fly in unmarked planes, they fly in Gulfstreams, they have their own choppers, they don’t carry American passports, and they just grab people.”
Senator John McCain, who was tortured during the Vietnam War, has argued that America’s image abroad could be ruined if Congress doesn’t ban the torture of prisoners in US custody. He’s the leading supporter of a provision banning such inhumane treatment.
“If we are viewed as a country that engages in torture…any possible information we might be able to gain is far counterbalanced by (the negative) effect of public opinion.” Terrorist, McCain said, are “the quintessence of evil. But it’s not about them; it’s about us. This battle we’re in is about the things we stand for and believe in and practice. Ant that is an observance of human rights, no matter how terrible our adversaries may be.”
The Republican-led senate has approved McCain’s provision in a rare instance of defiance of President Bush’s wartime authority. But the prospects of the bill clearing the House of Representative are uncertain. Vice President Dick Cheney has vigorously lobbied Congress to drop or modify the detainee provisions and wants to exempt the Central Intelligence Agency from the proposed torture ban.
This hidden global network of planes and prison camps is a central element in the CIA’s unconventional war on terrorism. It depends on the cooperation of foreign intelligence services, and on keeping even basic information about the system secret from the public, foreign officials and nearly all members of Congress charged with overseeing covert actions.
With men like Doug Beaty, who’ve worked their entire adult lives for people like the Butchers and their associates, the Fords of Memphis, the Hyneman brothers, Bill Tanner and Karl Schledwitz, the prospect of the CIA connection is intriguing and quite chilling.
Could this CIA connection have anything to do with the acquittals of Harold Ford, Sr., Karl Schledwitz, and Doug Beaty, all of whom where big players in the Butcher banks before they crashed? Could this CIA connection have embolden these men to continue their business interests with the Butchers even while the Butcher brothers were serving time in federal prison, and they themselves were under indictment?
That the secret ranks of the Central Intelligence Agency are made up of men like these, this shadow government is most chilling, indeed, and that too, is terror.