The United States Wednesday expressed disappointment over a new report saying that secret U.S. transfers and detention of terrorist suspects in Europe violated international law. The State Department said intelligence cooperation among the United States and European allies saves lives.
The report commissioned by the Council of Europe is the latest in a series of critical assessments in the past year of cooperation between the CIA and European counterparts in the transfer and detention of terrorist suspects.
The report's main author, Swiss Senator Dick Marty, listed 14 European countries that he said may have been involved or complicit in secret prisoner transfers known as renditions.
The United States has refused to provide specifics about such activity, but has insisted that renditions are lawful and that prisoners are treated in accordance with international norms and not tortured.
At a news briefing, State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said the Bush administration is disappointed by the tone and content of the Marty report.
He dismissed the document as a rehash of previous charges by the Council of Europe and said it lacks solid facts to back up its allegations.
McCormack said that rendition is an internationally recognized legal practice and that without it, notorious terror figures like the 1970's kidnap and hijacking mastermind Carlos the Jackal would not have been apprehended. He further said there is nothing inherently sinister about the United States' intelligence cooperation with allies.
"There seems to be a tone in the report, and some of the discussion, that there's something inherently bad or illegal about intelligence activity," said Sean McCormack. "It couldn't be further from the truth. The fact of the matter is that intelligence cooperation between the United States and Europe, and between the United States and other countries around the world saves lives in the war on terror."
The report by Senator Marty said that while proof was lacking, converging information suggests that the CIA did, as alleged previously by others, operate secret detention sites in Europe, and that several countries had allowed the CIA to use their airspace for detainee flights.
The United States has never acknowledged running such facilities though some countries alleged to have allowed them to operate on their territory have denied doing so. Romania and Poland both reiterated such denials Wednesday.
Marty did not allege that he CIA activity involved torture, but said it amounted to a form of legal and judicial apartheid that could exacerbate anger in the Muslim world and spawn new terrorism.
McCormack said U.S. officials would be happy to try to address any specific charges Marty or his colleagues might raise, though he said public discussion of ongoing intelligence operations could compromise them and endanger those involved.