This is the first of a two-part investigative report I wrote and which was originally published in the Daily Sparks Tribune.
The American Civil Liberties Union filed a lawsuit accusing the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency and three companies of illegally abducting a Muslim German citizen and subjecting him to torture in a secret prison overseas.
The suit, filed Tuesday in federal court in Alexandria, Va., claims that Khaled El-Masri, 42, was abducted by the CIA, ACLU Executive Director Anthony Romero said at a press conference in Washington.
The suit charges that former CIA Director George Tenet and other agency officials violated U.S. and international laws when they authorized agents to snatch El-Masri on New Years Eve day, 2003.
The suit also holds Reno, Nevada-based Keeler & Tate Management LLC legally responsible for assisting in the violation of El-Masri’s civil and human rights. The company allegedly supplied one of the aircraft and provided the personnel to abduct El-Masri.
The Boeing 737-7BC, whose tail number reads N4476S (it originally read N313P until outted by media reports in December 2004) is reportedly a flagship of the CIA Airline, is not really leased by the CIA. It is owned by a shell company, Keeler & Tate Management Group, LLC. Like other CIA shell companies, it has no full-time employees, no real business premise, and no website.
In lieu of this, Keeler & Tate has an attorney who provides a mail place, registers the company with the state and the plane with the Federal Aviation Administration, and responds in other necessary ways with government agencies and the public. This attorney provides many of the legal services needed by a normal company, including a place to serve legal papers and court documents on the company.
The address of Keeler & Tate is 245 E. Liberty St., Suite 510, Reno. The corporate information provided to the Nevada Secretary of State Dean Heller’s office lists the resident agent as Steven F. Petersen, an attorney whose address are the same as Keeler & Tate’s. The only company officer listed is Tyler Edward Tate of the same address.
The address of Keeler & Tate and of the lawyer Petersen is shared by Laxalt Group West, the law firm of Paul D. Laxalt and Peter D. Laxalt. Paul D. Laxalt is a former Republican senator from Nevada. His law firm specializes in “political public relations services.” So does Petersen’s, which has the same address and phone number.
Laxalt, the former U.S. senator whose address and phone number are used by the owners of the CIA’s 737, was a close friend of President Ronald Reagan. When Reagan was president, Laxalt was referred to as the “First Friend.”
When phoned, the receptionist answered “attorneys office” She could not tell the Sparks Tribune which attorney worked at the offices other than there was one who is retired and comes in every once in a while. She did confirm that the office was used by Laxalt Group West. She claimed having no knowledge of Keeler & Tate Management Group.
According to the suit, El-Masri was taken while on vacation in Macedonia on Dec, 31, 2003. He was then transported to a secret location somewhere in Afghanistan where he was subjected to “inhuman” conditions and interrogations.
The civil liberties organization said that soon after El-Masri was flown to Afghanistan, CIA officers realized they had a case of mistaken identity. Tenet was notified about the error. El-Masri remained in custody for two more months.
The suit contends that El-Masri was forbidden to contact a lawyer or any member of his family and after several months of confinement, he was abandoned in Albania in May, 2004.
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