CIA Director Michael Hayden acknowledged Thursday that two rendition flights carrying terror suspects refueled on British territory, despite repeated U.S. assurances that none of the secret flights since the Sept. 11 attacks had used British airspace or soil.
Hayden told agency employees that information previously provided to the British "turned out to be wrong."
The spy agency reviewed rendition records late last year and discovered that in 2002 the CIA had in fact refueled two separate planes, each carrying a terror suspect, on Diego Garcia, a British island territory in the Indian Ocean.
"The refueling, conducted more than five years ago, lasted just a short time. But it happened. That we found this mistake ourselves, and that we brought it to the attention of the British government, in no way changes or excuses the reality that we were in the wrong. An important part of intelligence work, inherently urgent, complex, and uncertain, is to take responsibility for errors and to learn from them," Hayden stated in the message obtained by The Associated Press.
Hayden said neither man was tortured and denied there has ever been a holding facility for CIA prisoners on Diego Garcia. Both men remained on their respective planes during the brief stops, according to a U.S. intelligence official who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the matter.
Hayden delivered the news to the British government last weekend on a previously scheduled trip to London.