European Investigation Reports Undeclared CIA Flights

According to investigators for the European Parliament, there is evidence that the CIA has conducted more than 1,000 undeclared flights over Europe since 2001. The flights may have been used to transport terrorist suspects to countries where they might have been tortured.


Now here's news of an investigation that started with one of the leaks that Brian mentioned. Investigators for the European Parliament have released a preliminary report. It documents allegations that the CIA has conducted illegal operations in Europe. Those operations include kidnapping terrorist suspects and transporting them through European airports.

The European report comes after three months of hearings and witness testimony, as NPR's Rachel Martin reports from Berlin.

RACHEL MARTIN reporting:

Investigator Claudio Fava said there's evidence the CIA has conducted more than 1,000 undeclared flights over Europe since 2001, flights that could have been used to transport terror suspects to countries where they may have been tortured, a practice known as renditions. While the CIA would not comment on the report, an agency spokesman told NPR that renditions are an anti-terror tool that the United States has used for years and is consistent with international law, and that the CIA does not condone torture or the transport of individuals to other countries for the purposes of torture. The E.U. report was issued following testimony from a detainee, human rights advocates and a lawyer for six Algerians who were transferred from Bosnia to Guantanamo via Germany by U.S. authorities in 2002. Claudio Fava criticized European diplomats for turning a blind eye to an illegal prisoner transfer.

Mr. CLAUDIO FAVA (European Parliament Committee): (Through Translator) Almost all the embassies knew perfectly well what was going to happen, that the six will be set free by Bosnia's Supreme Court, which had said there was no evidence against them. But then they were handed over to the CIA and transferred to Guantanamo.

MARTIN: The European Parliament is investigating allegations that surfaced last year in a report in the Washington Post that said the CIA had been running rendition flights through European airspace and operating secret prisons. According to Fava, the European Parliament's report supports earlier findings by the human rights group, The Council of Europe, saying the CIA has, on several occasions, clearly been responsible for kidnapping and illegally detaining alleged terror suspects on the territory of E.U. member states.

Like the case of Khalid al-Masri, a German national who says the CIA kidnapped him while he was vacationing in Macedonia and flew him to Afghanistan, where he says he was detained for five months, interrogated by Americans and a German, and then released. Al-Masri has filed suit against the CIA. His lawyer, Manfred Gnjidic, says it's still not clear what the German government knew about the kidnapping, if anything.

Mr. MANFRED GNJIDIC (Attorney): Khalid al-Masri says that he was investigated by Germans. So we don't know which state is working with the CIA in which way, yeah, in this kind of politics, in this kind of investigations.

MARTIN: Sarah Ludford is a Liberal Democratic member of the European Parliament from Britain. She says the report establishes a pattern of flights and practices by the CIA that could not have taken place without high-level government acknowledgement.

Ms. SARAH LUDFORD (European Parliament): And I have to say that I think also the silence of European governments and the apparent tolerance that they had for these operations also seems to have been subject to some agreement and collusion among European governments.

MARTIN: European countries, from Sweden to Spain, have conducted their own investigations into the reports of illegal CIA flights and renditions since the allegations surfaced late last year. But Peter Neumann, a security expert at King's College in London, says governments have not wanted to dig too deeply.

Dr. PETER NEUMANN (Security Expert, King's College): In the fight against terrorism, there are some dirty aspects that probably governments are not very keen to talk about; namely that sometimes when you're fighting terrorism, you do sometimes need to engage in tactics that are probably beyond the sort of pure interpretation of the rule of law.

MARTIN: European investigators are heading to Macedonia to interview officials there about the case of Khalid al-Masri. Another group of E.U. lawmakers will travel to Washington in a few weeks in hopes of meeting with U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and CIA chief Porter Goss. The final E.U. parliamentary report is expected early next year.

Rachel Martin, NPR News, Berlin.

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