The lawsuit, which the ACLU planned to file later Wednesday in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, charges that flight services provided by Jeppesen enabled the clandestine transportation of the men to secret overseas locations, where they were tortured and subjected to other "forms of cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment."Oh, puh-lease.
Mike Pound, a spokesman for Englewood, Colorado-based Jeppesen, said company officials had not yet seen the lawsuit and had no immediate comment.
He said Jeppsen provides support services, rather than the flights themselves. "We create flight plans, what the fuel requirements might be, where they might refuel, the airports that they might use."
He said the company's customers include airlines, private pilots and companies.
"We don't know the purpose of the trip for which we do a flight plan," said Pound. "We don't need to know specific details. It's the customer's business, and we do the business that we are contracted for. It's not our practice to ever inquire about the purpose of a trip."
ACLU attorney Ben Wizner said after the news conference: "Either they knew or reasonably should have known that they were facilitating a torture program."
Companies "are not allowed to have their head in the sand, and take money from the CIA to fly people, hooded and shackled, to foreign countries to be tortured," said Wizner.
Meanwhile, CIA director General Michael Hayden had this to say about the rendition flights program:
The CIA, Hayden said, has run secret detention and rendition programs for targets in the war on terrorism that are lawful, in keeping with Western values, and far smaller than critics have claimed.
"I've never managed a more sensitive, law abiding workforce in my life," said Hayden, an Air Force lieutenant general who previously ran the National Security Agency and served as deputy director of national intelligence.
"Some things (that are written) are incredibly hurtful to people who are doing their lawful and patriotic duty. When I have a chance, I want to set the record straight," Hayden said.
He acknowledged that in March, he told a meeting of European Union ambassadors that a recent European Parliament report charging that the CIA has operated more than 1,200 secret flights through Europe is grossly exaggerated. The CIA has detained fewer than 100 suspects since March 2002, he said, and all have been treated according to the "values we have in common" with Europeans.
False statements about the program "take an honest debate … to the darkest corner of the room," Hayden said.