WASHINGTON – Two flights carrying terror suspects as part of the CIA's extraordinary rendition program refueled on British territory, contradicting earlier U.S. claims saying that was not the case, the spy agency acknowledged Thursday.
In a memo from CIA Director Michael Hayden to agency employees released Thursday, the CIA director said the agency reviewed rendition records late last year and discovered that in 2002 the CIA had refueled two separate planes carrying two alleged terrorists on Diego Garcia, a British island territory in the Indian Ocean.
"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 wrote.
Hayden's message says one of the prisoners was ultimately jailed at Guantanamo Bay Naval Base and the other was released to his home country.
The admission of the flights came first from British Foreign Minister David Miliband, who apologized to British parliamentarians for wrong information given by his predecessor Jack Straw and former Prime Minister Tony Blair.
Miliband said the government had recently received information from Washington that two flights — one to Guantanamo Bay and one to Morocco — stopped over at Diego Garcia.
"Contrary to earlier explicit assurances that Diego Garcia had not been used for rendition flights, recent U.S. investigations have now revealed two occasions, both in 2002, when this had in fact occurred," Miliband told parliamentarians.
He said he had discussed the issue with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.
"We both agree that the mistakes made in these two cases are not acceptable, and she shares my deep regret that this information has only just come to light," Miliband said.
Signaling its response to assuage concerns across the Atlantic over the miscommunication, U.S. officials issued apologies for the error.
"Mistakes were made in the reporting of the information," said Gordon Johndroe, National Security Council spokesman for President Bush. Johndroe insisted that cooperation between the U.S. and Britain would not be affected.
The State Department also sent its top lawyer, John Bellinger, to London on Thursday on a two-day mission. Bellinger will try to defuse what many expect will be widespread anger that the U.S., when asked in 2004, incorrectly assured its closest ally that neither British soil nor airspace had been used in moving suspected terrorists, officials said.
And State Department spokesman Sean McCormack on Thursday offered regrets for what he characterized as "an administrative error."
"We express regret that we initially provided inaccurate information to a good friend and ally," McCormack told reporters at the State Department, acknowledging that Rice and Miliband had spoken by phone. He referred further questions to the CIA.
This is another recent instance in which the CIA director appears to be cleaning house by culling through the post-9/11 period and in many cases acknowledging for the first time that errors were made by the agency.
This comes on the heels of the CIA's December admission that it destroyed tapes that showed detainees being interrogated under harsh interrogation methods. Following that revelation, Hayden in February said the CIA had used the interrogation method of waterboarding on three terror suspects.
In Hayden's memo obtained Thursday by FOX News, the CIA director continued, saying the CIA had to take responsibility for the error:
"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 wrote.
He added that neither of the suspects on the flights was "ever part of CIA's high-value terrorist interrogation program. ... These were rendition operations, nothing more.
"There has been speculation in the press over the years that CIA had a holding facility on Diego Garcia. That is false. There have also been allegations that we transport detainees for the purpose of torture. That, too, is false. Torture is against our laws and our values. And, given our mission, CIA could have no interest in a process destined to produce bad intelligence," he wrote.
FOX News' Catherine Herridge and The Associated Press contributed to this report.