A Real Outing of CIA Operatives Fighting Terrorists: 'Where's the Outrage?'
Taranto ruminated: “Remember all the outrage when Robert Novak 'outed' Valerie Plame, who apparently worked a desk job at CIA headquarters in Langley, Va.? Here the L.A. Times is publishing extensive personal details on three men who have actually done dangerous work defending the country. Where's the outrage?” Good question.
An excerpt from the February 18 Los Angeles Times story by Bob Drogin and John Goetz:
....The names they used were all aliases, but The Times confirmed their real identities from government databases and visited their homes this month after a German court in January ordered the arrest of the three "ghost pilots" and 10 other alleged members of the CIA's special renditions unit on charges of kidnapping and causing serious bodily harm to Khaled Masri, a German citizen of Lebanese descent, three years ago.
None of the pilots responded to repeated requests for comment left with family members and on their home telephones. The Times is not publishing their real names because they have been charged only under their aliases....
According to Masri's account, he was detained by local authorities while crossing from Serbia into Macedonia on Dec. 31, 2003. Three weeks later, seven or eight men in masks stripped him naked, put him in a diaper and jumpsuit, drugged him and then chained him, spread-eagle and blindfolded, to the floor of a Boeing 737 that flew to Afghanistan on Jan. 24, 2004. German prosecutors say the men in masks were with the CIA rendition team.
At the time, U.S. intelligence authorities believed Masri was involved with radical Islamic groups in Ulm, a city in southern Germany. Masri was released five months later after undergoing what he described as repeated beatings and other physical abuse in a now-closed CIA-run prison called the Salt Pit in Kabul, the Afghan capital. U.S. officials have told German authorities that Masri was seized and imprisoned in error because his name is similar to that of a suspected terrorist linked to Al Qaeda.
Flight records show that Aero Contractors, based in Smithfield, N.C., operated the plane that carried Masri from Macedonia to Afghanistan. The charter aircraft company has flown scores of sensitive missions for the CIA and has played a key support role in counter-terrorism operations since the Sept. 11 attacks, according to former agency officials.
The three pilots in the Masri rendition case live within a 30-minute drive of the guarded Aero hangar and offices at the rural Johnston County airport. Reached by telephone Saturday, Aero official Freddy Pearce declined to discuss any aspect of the company's business.
The chief pilot in the Masri case, who used the alias Fairing, called Pearce at his Clayton home during his layover in Spain.
In real life, the chief pilot is 52, drives a Toyota Previa minivan and keeps a collection of model trains in a glass display case near a large bubbling aquarium in his living room. Federal aviation records show he is rated to fly seven kinds of aircraft as long as he wears his glasses.
His wife, reached by phone at her office, said her husband had done no wrong. "He's just a pilot," she said.
His copilot, who used the alias Fain, is a bearded man of 35 who lives with his father and two dogs in a separate subdivision. He called home during a subsequent mission from the Royal Plaza Hotel on the Spanish resort island of Ibiza, according to records collected by Spanish investigators from the Guardia Civil.
The third pilot, who used the alias Bird, is 46, drives a Ford Explorer and has a 17-foot aluminum fishing boat. Certified as a flight instructor, he keeps plastic models of his favorite planes mounted by the fireplace in his living room in a house that backs onto a private golf course here. His wife declined to comment....