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EU Investigation Accuses CIA of 1,000 Illegal Flights

Lisa Bryant

European Parliament investigators say the CIA conducted more than 1,000 undeclared flights over European territory during the past five years. The rendition flights allegedly moved suspected terrorists from the Middle East to other regions. But not all lawmakers are convinced that alleged CIA flights took place.

The latest allegations are part of a first interim report into alleged CIA activities published by a special European Parliament investigative committee.

Italian lawmaker Giovanni Claudio Fava, a committee member who drafted the report, says the apparent CIA flights over European territory violated international law. He said there was evidence that the alleged flights then flew on to countries that have used torture. Fava also charged the CIA with kidnapping and illegally detaining alleged terrorists on the territory of EU member states.

The United States denies illegally transporting terror suspects, and torturing prisoners is against U.S. law.

The EU Parliament is not the only body looking at alleged CIA renditions. Earlier this year, a special investigator for the Strasbourg-based Council of Europe also suggested that alleged CIA renditions to third countries appeared to have taken place - and that, if so, some European countries must have known about them.

The twin investigations follow reports last year that the CIA had run secret rendition flights and prisons in Eastern Europe for al-Qaida suspects.

But neither the European Parliament nor the Council of Europe has produced conclusive evidence that the flights or prisons existed. And some European lawmakers like Charles Tannock have their doubts.

Tannock is a British member of the European Parliament, and is on the special committee investigating the alleged CIA flights.

"I do not think this committee of enquiry will ever come up with anything substantial that is not already in the public domain," he said. "I doubt very much we will find evidence to corroborate that America deliberately took people to be tortured in third countries."

Tannock also criticizes the parliamentary inquiry for acting like a court of law. And he says the report's allegations about the CIA's undeclared flights should not be part of its purview.

"That is something for the member states to take up with the American authorities," he said. "Our agreement here is to investigate whether or not extraordinary renditions have taken place via EU member states or candidates to third countries or other jurisdictions where they are not subject to the same kind of monitoring in terms of being subject to torture."

The European Parliament committee plans to send a delegation this week to Macedonia to continue its inquiry. And a group of lawmakers is expected to fly to Washington next month in hopes of meeting with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and CIA head Porter Goss.

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