SpookAir, redux: No Secrets -- Eyes on the CIA

R.A. Hettinga rah at shipwright.com
Sun Feb 27 15:53:58 PST 2005


No Secrets: Eyes on the CIA

March 7 issue - Aviation obsessives with cameras and Internet connections
have become a threat to cover stories established by the CIA to mask its
undercover operations and personnel overseas. U.S. intel sources complain
that "plane spotters"-hobbyists who photograph airplanes landing or
departing local airports and post the pix on the Internet-made it possible
for CIA critics recently to assemble details of a clandestine transport
system the agency set up to secretly move cargo and people-including
terrorist suspects-around the world.

Google searches revealed that plane spotters Web-posted numerous photos of
two private aircraft-one a small Gulfstream jet and the other a midsize
Boeing 737-registered to obscure companies suspected of CIA connections.
Some of the pictures were taken at airports in foreign countries where CIA
activities could be controversial. When the 737 last year went through a
change of tail number and ownership-a suspicious company in suburban Boston
apparently transferred the plane to a similar company in Reno,
Nev.-Internet searches of aviation and public-record databases disclosed
details of the plane's new owners and registration number. One critical
database, accessible via Google, was a central aircraft registry maintained
by the government's own Federal Aviation Administration. A U.S. intel
source acknowledged that the instant availability of such data and photos
on the Internet is not helpful "if your object is clandestinity." (To see
how it works, check the Web for info on a business jet carrying the
Liechtenstein tail number HB-IES. The search should turn up pictures of
that plane at a European airport, as well as public records and news
stories describing how the plane, registered to a company called Aviatrans,
once belonged to Saddam Hussein.)

Intel sources say the CIA's own lawyers years ago decreed that under U.S.
law the agency must register its aircraft-including their tail numbers and
the front companies that own them-with public authorities like the FAA,
even though this could provide clues to clandestine activity. Agency
officials and lawyers have discussed the possibility of changing U.S. laws
and regulations to make it easier for the agency to hide its activities.
That may be difficult, so for now, plane spotters can keep their eyes on
the CIA.

R. A. Hettinga <mailto: rah at ibuc.com>
The Internet Bearer Underwriting Corporation <http://www.ibuc.com/>
44 Farquhar Street, Boston, MA 02131 USA
"... however it may deserve respect for its usefulness and antiquity,
[predicting the end of the world] has not been found agreeable to
experience." -- Edward Gibbon, 'Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire'

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