CIA Correction: Rendition Flights in U.K. Territory

CIA director Michael Hayden says past information given to Brits was "wrong."

ByJason Ryan and Kirit Radia

Feb. 21, 2008 — -- CIA director Michael Hayden acknowledged today that two separate flights carrying terror suspects stopped to refuel in U.K. territory in 2002, contrary to previous information the United States had given to the British.

"Our government had told the British that there had been no rendition flights involving their soil or airspace since 9/11. That information, supplied in good faith, turned out to be wrong," Hayden said in an e-mail to agency employees obtained by ABC News.

Hayden's message states that the rendition flights refueled at Diego Garcia, a U.K. territory in the Indian Ocean where the United States has a sizable military base.

The message asserts that the flights were not conducted in conjunction with the high-value terrorist interrogation program. As for the detainees, "One was ultimately transferred to Guantanamo, and the other was returned to his home country. These were rendition operations, nothing more," Hayden said.

The director also denied claims that the CIA maintains a holding facility on the island, and that the detainees were transported so they could be tortured.

Officials say the CIA had conducted an independent review of its rendition records in late 2007, which was reportedly independent from the review of the agency's destruction of interrogation tapes, as well as additional interrogation tapes found in connection to case of convicted terrorist Zacarias Moussaoui.

Hayden said the probe identified the two stops in Diego Garcia.

"The refueling, conducted more than five years ago, lasted just a short time, but it happened," Hayden said. "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."

"It's unfortunate mistakes were made in the reporting of the information," National Security Council spokesman Gordon Johndroe said today. "We continue to have good counterterrorism cooperation between the United States and the United Kingdom."

State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said today that the United States "regrets" the error, which it deems an "administrative error."

"There was initially inaccurate information provided to the British government that we generated at the end of last year," he said.

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice spoke with British Foreign Secretary David Miliband about the newly uncovered information today, McCormack said.

ABC News' Jon Garcia contributed to this report.

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