Torture Plane: It Came From The Swamp

Elaine Chao’s selection for Transportation secretary is an curious one for those who are interested in the covert aviation scene. Obviously, it is curious for other reasons which are covered here and here. We think they’ve done a good job of raising relevant questions about the pick, so we’ll move on to her relationship to private businesses involved in covert operations including extraordinary rendition.

Most readers will be aware of her marriage to Mitch McConnell, the U.S. Senator from Kentucky. What they might not be aware of is that McConnell served as the Jefferson County Judge/Executive (the top political office in the county which includes the city of Louisville) from 1977 to 1984, the year that he was elected U.S. Senator. In that role, he oversaw the selection of Richard A. Frey Jr. for the executive director of the Metropolitan Correctional Services Department.

In 1996, Frey was convicted of extorting $198,000 in bribes from Clifford Todd, the chairman of U.S. Corrections Corporation. To serve his prison sentence, Frey had to take a break from his role as the registered agent for Lambda Aviation in Louisville which was headed by Dan C. Hardman. The main location of Lambda was Fayetteville, North Carolina. Frey and Hardman had another partnership called Rafdan Enterprises which has scrutinized when it was found that Frey was pursuing multiple business projects while he was supposedly running the jail.

In 2001, they owned two Cessna Citations with the tail numbers N241LA and N242LA. Both of these aircraft were dispatched by the FAA as “Special Operations Flights” on September 11, 2001 at 6:32 pm after the terrorist hijackings and attacks according to the FAA timeline (on page 197). By early 2004, both Cessnas had been “sold” to Braxton Management Services LLC and were flying for Centurion Aviation Services of Fayetteville, NC, but Hardman was still affiliated with that business while Lambda Aviation eventually stopped submitting their annual reports. This seems like a shell game intended to hide the actual ownership of the aircrafts. But that’s a rabbit trail we will leave for later.

Centurion Aviation Services went on to provide covert services for the U.S. military for the 15-year long “war on terror.” They have long been suspected of providing support for the extraordinary rendition program. Numerous news and human rights organizations have investigated these allegations.

We just thought it was odd that the (probable) new Transportation Secretary and a longtime Kentucky politician were close to businesses such as these. The nexus of policy, profits, pals and patronage might be looming in the background.

Mitch McConnell’s face has been compared to that of a turtle’s. That’s just rude. But hey, turtles live in swamps, right? Maybe even the swamps that have supposedly been drained…

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