(CHICAGO TRIBUNE) By John Crewdson Tribune senior correspondent
The first question is: Where is Leonard T. Bayard? The next question is: Who is Leonard T. Bayard? But the most important question may be: Does Leonard T. Bayard even exist?
The questions arise because the signature of a Leonard Thomas Bayard appears on the annual report of a Portland-based company, Bayard Foreign Marketing LLC, that was filed in August with the Oregon secretary of state.
According to federal records, Bayard Foreign Marketing is the newest owner of a U.S.-registered Gulfstream V executive jet reportedly used since Sept. 11, 2001, to transport suspected Al Qaeda operatives to countries such as Egypt and Syria, where some of them claim to have later been tortured.
The Central Intelligence Agency (news – web sites) has declined to discuss the plane. But one retired CIA (news – web sites) officer said that he understood the Gulfstream had been operated by the Joint Special Operations Command, an interagency unit that organizes counterterrorist operations in conjunction with the CIA and military special forces.
A search of commercial databases turned up no information on Leonard Thomas Bayard: no residence address, no telephone number, no Social Security (news – web sites) number, no credit history, no automobile or property ownership records–in short, none of the information commonly associated with real people.
And yet, someone signed the name Leonard T. Bayard to Bayard Foreign Marketing’s annual report.
The report, which describes the company as an “international marketing firm,” lists Bayard’s principal place of business as a suite in a historic downtown Portland office building known as the Pittock Block. But a visitor to the suite who asked to see Bayard was told by a receptionist only that “Mr. Bayard doesn’t work here.”
The telephone number on Bayard’s annual report is listed to a private residence in a rundown section of northeast Portland whose doorbell went unanswered earlier this week. Calls to that number, however, appear to be answered by a bank of operators.
An initial call was answered as “Baynard Foreign Marketing” by an operator who insisted she never had heard of Leonard Bayard. A second call two minutes later was answered as “Bayard Foreign Marketing” by a different operator, who said that “Mr. Bayard is away from his desk.”
A message left by a reporter went unanswered. The CIA has long had a well-known practice of “backstopping” local telephone numbers for its proprietary companies around the world, whose calls are forwarded to operators at CIA headquarters in Langley, Va.
Scott Caplan, an attorney whose offices occupy the same Portland suite as the one listed by Bayard Foreign Marketing, identified Bayard as “a client” but declined to say more. Public documents show it was Caplan who filed the incorporation papers for Bayard Foreign Marketing when the company was created in August 2003.
Ann Martens, a spokeswoman for Oregon Secretary of State Bill Bradbury, said that knowingly filing a false corporate document in Oregon is punishable by up to 6 months in prison and a $1,000 fine.
Leonard T. Bayard–whoever he may or may not be–became the sole owner of the mysterious Gulfstream jet on Nov. 16, according to public records compiled by the Federal Aviation Administration (news – web sites).
The records show that Bayard Foreign Marketing purchased the plane, for an undisclosed sum, from Premier Executive Transport Services, whose address is the same as that of a Dedham, Mass., law firm that incorporated Premier Executive in January 1994.
The Massachusetts law firm’s address is shared by a second company, Crowell Aviation Technologies Inc., which according to Dun & Bradstreet claims to have only a single employee and $65,000 in annual revenue.
Government records show, however, that Crowell is one of only nine companies, along with Premier Executive, that has Pentagon (news – web sites) permission to land aircraft at military bases worldwide.
The same day it transferred ownership of the Gulfstream to Bayard, Premier Executive sold an unmarked, 3-year-old Boeing 737 to Keeler and Tate Management LLC of Reno. That company’s address is the same as that of the Reno law firm that incorporated it in October 2003, records show.
Like Leonard T. Bayard, the only named principal in Keeler and Tate, one Tyler Edward Tate, also appears not to exist in any public records accessible by the Tribune.
Premier Executive’s only listed executive is its president, Bryan P. Dyess. A person with that name does appear in commercial databases, but his only addresses are two post office boxes in Arlington, Va., not far from CIA headquarters.
Premier Executive purchased or leased the new Gulfstream V in 1999, FAA (news – web sites) records show. The plane’s original registration number, N581GA, would later be changed by the FAA to N379P, and again to 8068V.
The first public mention of the Gulfstream appeared six weeks after Sept. 11, 2001, when a Pakistani newspaper reported that Jamil Qasim Saeed Mohammed, a 27-year-old microbiology student at Karachi University, had been spirited aboard the plane at Karachi’s airport by Pakistani security officers in the early hours of Oct. 23, 2001.
There is no information about where Mohammed was taken. But Pakistani officials said later that Mohammed, a Yemeni national, was believed by the U.S. to belong to Al Qaeda and to have information about the October 2000 bombing of the USS Cole (news – web sites).
Since Sept. 11, unnamed U.S. officials have been quoted in several publications discussing the U.S. practice of “rendition,” which involves sending suspected terrorists or Al Qaeda supporters captured abroad for interrogation to countries where human rights are not traditionally respected.
One well-documented rendition occurred in December 2001, when two Egyptian nationals, Ahmed Agiza and Muhammed al-Zery, were flown aboard the Gulfstream from Sweden’s Bromma airport to Cairo. A Swedish television broadcaster, TV4, reported last year that a check of the plane’s registration number, N379P, showed it belonged to Premier Executive.
The Swedish ambassador to Cairo later said Agiza and al-Zery both told him they had been tortured by Egyptian police. Al-Zery was released in October 2003 without charges. Agiza was sentenced to 25 years in prison for his alleged membership in an Egyptian terrorist group.
The Swedish government has called on Egypt to agree to an international investigation into the torture charges. The government has said it had been assured by Egypt that the two men would not be mistreated.
Another widely reported rendition to Egypt occurred in January 2002, when the Gulfstream arrived in Jakarta, Indonesia, to pick up a 24-year-old Al Qaeda suspect and dual Egyptian-Pakistani citizen, Muhammad Saad Iqbal, and transport him to Cairo.
German intelligence sources later said Indonesia refused to permit subsequent renditions to Cairo after learning that Iqbal had been tortured.
An international network of “plane spotters,” hobbyists who log the comings and goings of specific aircraft around the world, have posted on the Internet photographs of the Gulfstream in various locations.
The Sunday Times of London, which claimed to have obtained the plane’s flight logs, reported in November that the plane was based at Dulles International Airport outside Washington. The newspaper said it had flown to at least 49 destinations outside the U.S., including Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, other U.S. military bases, as well as airports in Egypt, Jordan, Iraq (news – web sites), Morocco, Afghanistan (news – web sites), Libya and Uzbekistan.
Two days after the Sunday Times report, Premier Executive Transport sold the Gulfstream to Bayard Foreign Marketing. On Dec. 1, records show, the FAA assigned the plane yet another tail number, N44982.