Extraordinary Renditions Report Europe Knew about Secret CIA Flights

The European Parliament has issued a report on CIA secret flights and prisons in the European Union. It points the finger at 11 EU states, saying they knew all about the extraordinary renditions program.

The European Parliament claims many EU states knew a lot more about the CIA rendition program than they first let on.

The European Parliament claims many EU states knew a lot more about the CIA rendition program than they first let on.

When the existence of secret CIA flights ferrying terror suspects through Europe to third countries for interrogation -- so-called "extraordinary renditions" of terror suspects -- hit the headlines last year, Europeans were appalled. A number of European governments were likewise quick to voice their shock at such behavior.

Turns out, they faked it. A June report by the Council of Europe outlined the collusion of many EU states with the CIA's activities. And now, the European Parliament has issued its own draft report into the matter. It accuses 11 EU countries of having turned a blind eye to the questionable practices.

A European Parliament special committee, headed by Italian MEP Claudio Fava, has been investigating the issue of CIA secret flights and prisons in Europe since January. The US has already admitted that its intelligence agents detained and transported terrorist suspects. Despite initial outrage, it seems many EU governments not only knew about the practices but may even have helped.

The committee's report, released on Tuesday, puts 11 countries in the frame: Germany, Austria, Britain, Italy, Poland, Sweden, Ireland, Spain, Portugal, Greece and Cyprus. It recommends that the individual states now launch national enquiries into whether their own secret services were involved in actions that may contravene EU human rights legislation.

The MEPs also criticized the EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana and anti-terror coordinator Gijs de Vries for not coming clean about the CIA shenanigans. The report accuses both men of "omissions and denials" during their testimonies before the committee.

The investigators say they had access to secret documents and informants in the US and the 25 EU states. They say they obtained recordings of an informal meeting between EU and NATO foreign ministers on Dec. 7, 2005, attended by US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. "The temporary committee has obtained, from a confidential source, records of the informal trans-Atlantic meeting … confirming that member states had knowledge of the program of extraordinary rendition and secret prisons," it says. Further evidence was taken from records of other meetings between EU and US officials this year.

The report claims that "1,245 flights operated by the CIA have flown into European air space, or stopped over at European airports." It also claims to have serious evidence of a CIA prison in Poland.

The US has admitted the existence of CIA prisons abroad and has defended them but it has failed to give exact details of their locations. The existence of secret detention centers in Europe was first reported in November 2005. Human Rights Watch and the Council of Europe, both leading human rights organizations, have since identified Poland and Romania as possible sites for such facilities. Both countries have rejected these allegations. "We stand by our earlier stance that there were not secret CIA prisons in Poland," said a Polish government spokesman in response to the European Parliament report.

The German government has also rejected the report's findings, saying there was no proof of CIA prisoner flights over German airspace or from German airports.

The British Foreign Office played down the accusations. A spokesman said that there was nothing unusual about CIA flights using British airports as the country is "an international hub for refuelling to and from the United States." He said that British authorities can only investigate a flight if they believe a crime is being committed.

The committee criticized the lack of cooperation in its investigations from almost all the EU states mentioned. The committee will vote on the draft report in January. It will then go before the European Parliament in February.

The British MEP Sarah Ludford, a member of the committee, said: "There must now be a forceful EU response to this strong evidence that the CIA abducted, illegally imprisoned and transported alleged terrorists in Europe while European governments turned a blind eye."



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