Reprinted from NewsMax.com
Exclusive:U.S. Acknowledges Secret CIA Flights, EU Says
Kenneth R. Timmerman
Friday, May 12,2006
The U.S. government acknowledged yesterday that the CIAoperated "a very high number" of secret flights that stopped inEurope en route to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba according to members of theEuropean Parliament visiting Washington, DC.
A special commission has been investigating allegations thatthe CIA kidnapped and flew al-Qaida terror suspects to secretdetention centers.
A report preparer for the commission, Claudio Fava, said inWashington yesterday that State Department legal advisor JohnBellinger acknowledged that some of the secret flights could haveinvolved renditions.
"Bellinger didn't deny there were a large number of CIAflights," Fava said. "That is a positive development and a sign ofincreased cooperation," he added.
The European Parliament commission says it has received "ad hocinformation" from Eurocontrol, a private organization that tracksflight information for 36-member states, documenting 1,000 flights ofCIA-operated aircraft.
These included a Boeing 737, with registration number N313P, thathuman rights groups claim was chartered by a CIA front company tocarry prisoners from Afghanistan to secret prisons in Egypt, Syria,Uzbekistan and Eastern Europe.
The Boeing 737 was chartered by Premier Executive TransportServices, a private company in Massachusetts that disappeared once itwas identified in European newspaper accounts in 2004.
The aircraft made "several flights from Kabul, stopping inPoland, Romania, and Morocco along the way to Guantanamo," Fava said."We don't think they were making refueling stops."
Upon their arrival in the U.S. on Tuesday, the commissionmembers said they were primarily investigating allegations thatprospective EU members, such as Poland and Romania, were involved inhelping the CIA interrogate prisoners in "secret prisons."
After the meeting with State Department legal advisor JohnBellinger on Thursday, Fava said his investigators were "somewhatuncomfortable with what we've learned," and planned to issue awritten report on the trip in Brussels next week.
The European team also had "an extremely useful meeting" withRep. Ed Markey, D, Mass., who told them he planned to criticizepublicly the Bush administration "for the rendition of hisconstituent, Mr. Arar," Fava said.
Maher Arar, a Canadian engineer born in Syria, was arrested inNew York on Sept. 26, 2002, and sent back to Syria, where he claimshe was tortured for several months before being released. Bellingertold the commissioners that Arar's expulsion was not a rendition butwas a decision taken by a U.S. immigration court.
Members of the European delegation were perplexed when toldthat Arar was a Canadian citizen, and could not explain why Markeywould have called him a "constituent."
Information on the secret flights remains sketchy, Fava said."There are hundreds of flights for which we have been unable to findthe names of the pilot, the crew or the passengers, or even whichairport they originated."
Asked by NewsMax whether the team had met with current CIAofficers, the president of the investigating commission, CarlosCoelho, would only acknowledge that commission members "have theirown contacts with former agents" of several European intelligenceagencies. "Just as you won't share your sources, I won't share mine,"he said.
He noted that they had requested to meet with CIA DirectorPorter Goss, but that he had been replaced before they arrived. "Atany rate, we never received a reply" from the CIA on the meeting, headded.
During their three-day fact-finding visit, the EuropeanParliament team also met with lawyers from the American CivilLiberties Union, Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, and HumanRights First.
NewsMax has learned that the commission also met with a U.S.reporter who claimed to be in touch with "active-duty CIA officers"who were providing information on the extraordinary renditions andthe secret prisons because they felt the practice was wrong.
The highly-classified CIA program to kidnap and detain al-Qaedasuspects and send them to other countries for interrogation was firstrevealed by media in Sweden and Britain in May 2004. Most U.S. pressaccounts claim the story was first broken by Washington Post reporterDana Priest, who first wrote about the secret prisons last Novemberand was awarded a Pulitzer prize for her reporting.
The commission received "flight logs and a list of 26-28 peoplethat the United States admits it is holding" from Human Rights Watch,sources told NewsMax. "No one knows where those 26-28 people arecurrently being held," the sources said.
The European commission believes that secret prisons once usedin Poland and Romania have been shut down, and is currentlyinvestigating a new prison it believes the CIA is using in an unnamedNorth African country.