Published on Thursday, December 1, 2005 by the Agence France Presse
Flight Logs Reveal Hundreds of CIA Flights to Europe: Report
More than 300 CIA flights have landed at European airports, a British newspaper said, adding a new element to claims that Washington has been transporting terrorist suspects to secret prisons in Europe.
The Guardian daily said it had seen flight logs documenting the flights by 26 planes operated by the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA).
The information showed an "unprecedented" amount of travel by the agency but did not reveal which planes took part in alleged prison transfers, it said.
The CIA has been accused in reports of using European countries for the transport, illegal detention and torture of suspected Islamist terrorists in the wake of the September 11, 2001 attacks on the United States.
Outrage over the reports mounted in Europe this week as EU Justice Commissioner Franco Frattini threatened sanctions on Monday for any member nation hosting CIA prison camps on their soil.
The Council of Europe's parliamentary assembly has announced a probe into reports of the clandestine prisons, including one that may be in Romania.
The Guardian said the flight logs revealed that the CIA visited Germany 96 times and Britain 80 times, though when charter flights were added this figure rose to more than 200.
France was only visited twice and Austria not at all, the newspaper said.
The logs also showed regular trips to eastern Europe, including 15 stops in Prague.
"Only one visit is recorded to the Szymany airbase in northeast Poland, which has been identified as the alleged site of a secret CIA jail," The Guardian reported.
Poland and Romania have denied hosting CIA prisons, it added.
The Guardian said the flight logs were obtained from Federal Aviation Administration data and sources in the aviation industry.
The United States has promised a timely and forthright reply to a EU letter demanding answers following the reports.
The issue threatens to dominate a five-day swing through the continent next week by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, after European Union chiefs warned member states involved in the alleged scheme could face sanctions.
Rice received the two paragraph letter from British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw, State Department spokesman Sean McCormack told reporters.
"We will ... endeavor to respond to this letter to the best of our ability, in a timely and forthright manner," he said, but declined to say if a reply would go out before Rice leaves for Europe on Monday.
McCormack declined to release the letter, but said it asked for information from the United States over press reports about alleged detention or transporting of suspects through EU member states.
"The letter does talk about the fact that these press reports have attracted considerable attention among European publics as well as parliaments," he said.
Citing intelligence concerns, McCormack declined to say whether the flights or the alleged prisons existed, and could not say either whether such information could be included in the reply to the EU.
Straw, acting in Britain's current capacity as rotating EU president, meanwhile told reporters he was awaiting a reply from Rice, with whom he has worked closely over issues like Iraq and Iran's nuclear program.
"Of course when I get the reply I will circulate it to all my foreign minister colleagues," Straw told reporters in London.
Rice discussed the issue with visiting German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier on Tuesday, and the controversy looks set to surface during her trip through Germany, Romania, Ukraine and Brussels next week.
Germany and nearly a dozen other European countries have launched their own investigations into alleged CIA flights transporting detainees via their territories.
The United States has defended the use of methods outside normal legal procedures for terror suspects by arguing it is fighting a "different kind of war" against terrorism which renders traditional methods obsolete.
But it contends that it has not broken international law, or infringed its own constitution.
McCormack played down the notion that publics in European countries, which polls show are often highly sceptical of the Bush administration, would be further angered by the latest controversy.
"I think the very fact that the people of Europe themselves have experienced terrorism, they have suffered losses in this war against terrorism -- whether that is on the battlefields of Afghanistan or Iraq or in the capitals of Madrid or London -- I think they understand very clearly what kind of war it is that we're fighting."
"This is an enemy that is determined to strike at them when they are engaged in their daily activities: riding a bus, getting on a train, flying on an airplane."
Copyright © 2005AFP