How planespotters turned into the scourge of the CIA

Interesting article / look at the plane spotting culture that has exposed the Extraordinary Rendition flights in the Guradina.

“How planespotters turned into the scourge of the CIA
Gerard Seenan and Giles Tremlett
Saturday December 10, 2005

Following is an excerpt, however the whole article is worth reading.

Despite the particular eccentricity of planespotting – and the obvious capacity for fun-poking – it is not a pastime limited to Britain. In Spain town planner Josep Manchado is part of a small group who gather with their long lenses and foil-wrapped sandwiches at Majorca’s Son Sant Joan airport.

In January last year Mr Manchado saw a Boeing 737 on the airport tarmac. He pressed his camera shutter button while speculating idly that some US millionaire was in town. Then he put the picture of the Boeing (tail fin number N313P) on, and forgot about it.

Within a few days Mr Manchado starting getting strange calls and emails. They came from the US and from Sweden. “People were asking me questions about the plane. They obviously weren’t all planespotters because they were asking questions that people who know about planes don’t ask,” he said.

Activists and journalists had become interested in the rendition flights. There were also, however, strange calls. “One man wanted to buy up all the photos. He eventually sent me a form in which he asked for everything, including my home address. I didn’t give it to him and I never heard from him again,” he said.

Months later, he got a call from Germany’s ZDF television. A man called Khalid El-Masri had come to them claiming he had been kidnapped by the CIA from Macedonia, bundled onto a plane and taken off to a prison many hours away. Several months later, after allegedly being tortured, he was flown back and dropped in Albania.

One of the planes thought to be involved was one Mr Manchado had photographed. It was believed that it had flown on to Macedonia that very same day. With the photo in their hand, ZDF reporters were able to persuade Skopje flight control to give them a printout of the flight plan. The aircraft had gone from Palma to Skopje and from there to Baghdad and Kabul. Mr El-Masri’s story, convincingly told but difficult to believe, fitted.”

· The planespotters have been given first names only, as they asked not to be identified.”,12271,1664149,00.html


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