The American Civil Liberties Union said it is suing Jeppesen Dataplan, Inc., a subsidiary of Boeing Co., claiming it provided secret CIA transportation services for three terrorism suspects who were tortured under the U.S. government's "extraordinary rendition" program.
The cases involve the alleged mistreatment of Binyam Mohamed, an Ethiopian citizen, in July 2002 and January 2004; Elkassim Britel, an Italian citizen, in May 2002; and Ahmed Agiza, an Egyptian citizen, in December 2001, ACLU officials said at a Manhattan news conference.
Mohamed is currently being held in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba; Britel in Morocco and Agiza in Egypt, the ACLU said in a statement.
The lawsuit, which the ACLU planned to file 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."
Boeing itself is not named in the lawsuit.
Mike Pound, a spokesman for Englewood, Colo.,-based Jeppesen, said company officials had not yet seen the lawsuit and had no immediate comment.
He said Jeppesen 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.
Boeing spokesman Tim Neale said company officials "typically don't comment on lawsuits" and had not seen this one, "nor are we confirming the reports" that Jeppesen provided services to the CIA because "there's a confidentiality clause with all its customers."
The lawsuit says the company "furnished essential flight and logistical support to aircraft used by the CIA to transfer terror suspects to secret detention and interrogation facilities in countries such as Morocco and Egypt where, according to the U.S. Department of State, the use of torture is 'routine,' as well as to U.S.-run detention facilities overseas, where the United States government maintains that the safeguards of U.S. law do not apply."
"American corporations should not be profiting from a CIA rendition program that is unlawful and contrary to core American values," said Anthony D. Romero, executive director of the ACLU. "Corporations that choose to participate in such activity can and should be held legally accountable."
The CIA is not named in the suit. Wizner said the executive branch has evoked a state secrets defense in similar lawsuits.
The Bush administration has insisted it receives guarantees from countries receiving terror suspects that prisoners will not be tortured.
The ACLU said its lawsuit was being filed under the Alien Tort Statute, which permits aliens to bring claims in the United States for violations of the law of nations or a United States treaty. It said the statute recognizes international norms accepted among civilized nations that are violated by acts such as enforced disappearance, torture and other inhuman treatment.