Reprinted from NewsMax.com
U.S. Acknowledges Secret CIA Flights, EU Says
Kenneth R. Timmerman
Friday, May 12,
The U.S. government acknowledged yesterday that the CIA
operated "a very high number" of secret flights that stopped in
Europe en route to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba according to members of the
European Parliament visiting Washington, DC.
A special commission has been investigating allegations that
the CIA kidnapped and flew al-Qaida terror suspects to secret
A report preparer for the commission, Claudio Fava, said in
Washington yesterday that State Department legal advisor John
Bellinger acknowledged that some of the secret flights could have
"Bellinger didn't deny there were a large number of CIA
flights," Fava said. "That is a positive development and a sign of
increased cooperation," he added.
The European Parliament commission says it has received "ad hoc
information" from Eurocontrol, a private organization that tracks
flight information for 36-member states, documenting 1,000 flights of
These included a Boeing 737, with registration number N313P, that
human rights groups claim was chartered by a CIA front company to
carry prisoners from Afghanistan to secret prisons in Egypt, Syria,
Uzbekistan and Eastern Europe.
The Boeing 737 was chartered by Premier Executive Transport
Services, a private company in Massachusetts that disappeared once it
was identified in European newspaper accounts in 2004.
The aircraft made "several flights from Kabul, stopping in
Poland, 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 commission
members said they were primarily investigating allegations that
prospective EU members, such as Poland and Romania, were involved in
helping the CIA interrogate prisoners in "secret prisons."
After the meeting with State Department legal advisor John
Bellinger on Thursday, Fava said his investigators were "somewhat
uncomfortable with what we've learned," and planned to issue a
written report on the trip in Brussels next week.
The European team also had "an extremely useful meeting" with
Rep. Ed Markey, D, Mass., who told them he planned to criticize
publicly the Bush administration "for the rendition of his
constituent, Mr. Arar," Fava said.
Maher Arar, a Canadian engineer born in Syria, was arrested in
New York on Sept. 26, 2002, and sent back to Syria, where he claims
he was tortured for several months before being released. Bellinger
told the commissioners that Arar's expulsion was not a rendition but
was a decision taken by a U.S. immigration court.
Members of the European delegation were perplexed when told
that Arar was a Canadian citizen, and could not explain why Markey
would 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 find
the names of the pilot, the crew or the passengers, or even which
airport they originated."
Asked by NewsMax whether the team had met with current CIA
officers, the president of the investigating commission, Carlos
Coelho, would only acknowledge that commission members "have their
own contacts with former agents" of several European intelligence
agencies. "Just as you won't share your sources, I won't share mine,"
He noted that they had requested to meet with CIA Director
Porter Goss, but that he had been replaced before they arrived. "At
any rate, we never received a reply" from the CIA on the meeting, he
During their three-day fact-finding visit, the European
Parliament team also met with lawyers from the American Civil
Liberties Union, Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, and Human
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 and
the secret prisons because they felt the practice was wrong.
The highly-classified CIA program to kidnap and detain al-Qaeda
suspects and send them to other countries for interrogation was first
revealed by media in Sweden and Britain in May 2004. Most U.S. press
accounts claim the story was first broken by Washington Post reporter
Dana Priest, who first wrote about the secret prisons last November
and was awarded a Pulitzer prize for her reporting.
The commission received "flight logs and a list of 26-28 people
that the United States admits it is holding" from Human Rights Watch,
sources told NewsMax. "No one knows where those 26-28 people are
currently being held," the sources said.
The European commission believes that secret prisons once used
in Poland and Romania have been shut down, and is currently
investigating a new prison it believes the CIA is using in an unnamed
North African country.