And Who the Heck is "Terry A. Hogan"?
By ADAM ZAGORIN
Kidnapping is a crime. So when Italian authorities discovered that terrorism suspect Hassan Mustafa Osama Nasr, otherwise known as Abu Omar, had been snatched from the streets of Milan and flown away in a CIA-chartered jet to Egypt, they held a highly publicized trial.
That trial, replete with lurid testimony about the victim’s alleged torture after his abduction in broad daylight, grabbed headlines around the world, focusing attention on the agency’s so-called “extraordinary rendition program.” The trial resulted in the 2009 conviction in Italy of 23 Americans, all but one were CIA agents who had fled the country to avoid prosecution.
Now it turns out that a State Department officer supposedly named “Terry A. Hogan” wrote at least seventeen letters on official letterhead informing foreign authorities that the rendition flights and “accompanying personnel are under contract to the US government.” The letters describe the flights as “Global Support to US Embassies worldwide,” an apparent falsehood that gave plane crews cover in airports from Europe to the Middle East, also permitting greater latitude in their flight plans.
The letters were discovered in the file of a commercial dispute adjudicated in New York state court between 2007 and 2011, involving an aircraft broker and Richmor, a leasing company with planes used by the CIA.
Court testimony showed the letters were provided to Richmor by DynCorp, a defense contractor that apparently served as an agency intermediary in arranging the flights.
The Hogan letters pose intriguing, if unanswered questions. For one thing, there is no record of “Terry A. Hogan” in the State Department’s internal personnel database, according to an official, nor was there in a 2004 directory cited by the Associated Press.
The signatures on the letters—which cover flights stretching from 2002 through 2005–differ significantly, suggesting they were not signed by the same person.
This raises the issue of whether “Terry A. Hogan” actually existed and whether, like other State Dept. administrative officers, he/she reported to the Dept.’s Under Secretary for Management, Patrick Kennedy.
The State Dept. has long provided “diplomatic cover” to CIA agents who work in U.S. embassies abroad. The Dept. has presumably made available “letters of convenience” for the other rendition flights the U.S. has flown for several decades. Initially such flights might have airlifted a willing Soviet defector out of Africa, or repatriated a wanted U.S. criminal apprehended overseas.
But the appearance that a fictitious State Dept. manager was routinely facilitating flights carrying unwilling prisoners who may have been tortured takes the notion of diplomatic cover to a whole new level.
And in one case, of course, this facilitation ended in scandal and the criminal convictions of nearly two dozen Americans decided in the court of a close NATO ally with a democratically elected government. Is that what diplomacy is all about?
A State Department spokesman told POGO that the Department never comments on intelligence matters.
Adam Zagorin is POGO's Journalist-in-Residence.
Image: an assortment of Terry A. Hogan signatures from seventeen State Department letters of convenience.