The Envoy
  • US ambassador to Israel Dan Shapiro visits Israel's Sesame Street theme park with daughters, co-existence officials. (Lisa Goldman)• Where's Gadhafi? Rebels say he may be in the Libyan desert town of Bani Walid. (Reuters)

    • Libyan intelligence papers describe recent Gadhafi regime conversations with former U.S. diplomat, congressman. (Washington Times)

    • August becomes the first month since the war began in which no U.S. troops were killed in Iraq. (New York Times)

    • The New York Times scores an unreleased copy of the UN report on the May 2010 Gaza flotilla incident. (NYT)

    • Syrian official in Hama resigns over the treatment of protesters. (New York Times' The Lede)

    Read More »from Daily planet: Up to $60 billion in US wartime contracts lost to fraud, waste
  • (Alamy)

    The CIA's super-secret rendition program--to whisk terrorist suspects in the dark of night to CIA black sites for interrogation--has been further exposed to the light of day in rather humble fashion: a billing dispute in upstate New York.

    The flight logs for a Gulfstream IV plane hired by a one-man Long Island firm are among the 1,700 pages of documentation in court records filed in conjunction with a 2007 breach-of-contract suit filed in Columbia County, New York. The records show, among other things, a curious itinerary for the plane over a four-day period in August 2003--northern Virginia's Dulles airport, Bangkok, Afghanistan, Sri Lanka, the United Arab Emirates, Tripoli, Ireland.

    As the Washington Post's Peter Finn and Julie Tate report Wednesday: "The Gulfstream IV's itinerary, as well as the $339,228.05 price tag for the journey, are among the details about shadowy CIA flights that have emerged in a small Upstate New York courthouse in a billing dispute between contractors."

    The two contractors involved in the litigation are Richmor Aviation, a Hudson, NY-based aviation services firm which leases out private aircraft and flight crews; and Sportsflight, based in Long Island, NY, which hired Richmor to conduct dozens of flights between 2002 and 2007. Richmor, in turn, was reportedly hired by defense contractor DynCorp, working at the behest of the CIA, the Associated Press reports.

    Under the arrangement, one Richmor Gulfstream with the tail number N85VM "was identified publicly in 2005 after it was used in the rendition of Abu Omar," a Milan cleric kidnapped by the CIA and sent to Egypt in 2002, the Post report explains, leading to "negative publicity, hate mail and the loss of a management customer as a consequence," the company charged in a complaint. (You can see the tracking of other aircraft that may have been employed in the CIA rendition program here.)

    In addition, "Richmor accused SportsFlight in 2007 of failing to pay more than $1.15 million for at least 55 missions flown by planes and crews chartered by DynCorp for government use," the AP writes.

    So Richmor did what any company might do in the midst of a bitter billing dispute:  It sued Sportsflight. And to the surprise of some of the lawyers involved in the case, no men in trench coats appeared to shut the trial down.

    "I kept waiting for [the government] to contact me," an attorney for Richmor, William F. Ryan, told the Post's Finn and Tate. "I kept thinking, isn't someone going to come up here and talk to me?"  But no one ever did.

    Read More »from CIA rendition flights exposed in mundane billing lawsuit
  • Saadi Gadhafi, then president of Libya's soccer federation, dad Moammar Gadhafi, and Seif al-Islam Gadhafi. (AP)

    Saadi Gadhafi, the third of Moammar Gadhafi's eight biological sons and a former Libyan national team soccer player, has been in contact with Libyan rebels to negotiate his possible surrender, Al Jazeera reported Wednesday.

    According to Abdelhakim Belhaj, the Libyan rebel commander in Tripoli, "Saadi doesn't want to leave Libya, he wants to talk to the national council and negotiate his surrender," Al Jazeera's James Bays reported. Bays wrote that Belhaj "thinks he knows the whereabouts of Saadi Gaddafi from the phone call. Also says he believes some senior figures of the government are now ready to surrender, such as the former prime minister."

    Belhaj is the former commander of the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group, which had links with al Qaeda and the Taliban. (You can see a useful primer on the group here.)

    But in his exclusive interview with Al Jazeera Wednesday, Belhaj "made a point of saying that any of those who do surrender will be treated properly, and court cases will be held to international norms," Bays reported.

    Libya's rebels also claim to have gathered information that they hope will lead them to Gadhafi. "Gadhafi is now fleeing, and we have a good idea where he is," NTC minister Ali Tarhouni boasted to the network. "We don't have any doubt that we will catch him."

    The hunt for Gadhafi has led rebels and reporters to remaining Gadhafi regime strongholds in the north African nation, including his hometown of Sirte earlier this week, and most recently to Bani Walid and Sabha, in southern Libya. But sometimes it seems that the rebels and Gadhafi loyalists are engaged in a cat-and-mouse game in a country that spans the Mediterranean coast on its north, and shares borders with Chad, Sudan, Mali, and Egypt to its east and Algeria and Tunisia to the west.

    "Spoke to 2 guards who say the Col. [Gadhafi] was at [his son] Khamis's base in Salahedin," the Guardian's Martin Chulov reported on Twitter Wednesday. "Khamis tried to meet Mutassim in Bani Walid. Gadhafi went south."

    Read More »from Gadhafi son Saadi called to discuss surrender, Libyan rebel says


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