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Allegations of Secret US Prisons in Europe

There have been vehement rejections in Europe and the United States of a report asserting the existence of secret U.S prisons in Europe. A Council of Europe investigation alleges the existence of what it terms a global "spider web" of secret U.S. detentions and transfers of terrorist suspects. Investigators have no direct proof but point to what they call "coherent and converging elements" of secret detention centers in Europe.

A map released by the Council of Europe suggests a so-called spider web of illegal transfers of prisoners from Washington to Islamabad and to points in between. The lead investigator, Senator Dick Marty of Switzerland, also accuses 14 European countries of colluding with U.S. intelligence.

"In addition to the concept of the spider web, we have created the notion of the veil of silence,” Marty said. “Today, we are even more convinced than in January that such a system is impossible without participation -- and I consciously use the neutral term 'participation' not necessarily implying complicity -- participation from the states affected by the spider web."

The Marty report acknowledges there is no actual proof of secret prisons anywhere in Europe. Nonetheless, the report holds European leaders "responsible" for failure to investigate allegations of secret prisons in Romania and Poland.

Polish Prime Minister Kazimierz Marcinkiewicz rejects Marty's report as slander. "There is no point in replying to accusations that aren't based on any evidence or facts," Marcinkiewicz said.

The official response from the United States is similar. State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said, "This would appear to be a rehash of the previous efforts by this group. There seem to be a lot of allegations but no real facts behind it.”

Senator Marty said the movements of a plane registered to the CIA, which landed briefly in Romania in January 2004, "bear all the characteristics of a detainee transfer or drop-off point." He also expressed gratitude to Romanian authorities for confirming the flight. Marty notes that not all CIA flights participate in renditions, which are forced international transfers of suspected terrorists.

The report frequently cites Michael Scheuer, former head of the CIA unit charged with finding Osama bin Laden. Scheuer said rendition has been controversial since its initiation during the Clinton administration. "We pointed out when this assignment, the rendition program, was assigned to us by President Clinton, Sandy Berger, and Dick Clark, that taking them [suspects] to a third country was not a preferable option for human rights reasons and for access reasons.”

Scheuer said, “Their decision was that's where they should go. The agency at the end of the day is a service organization for the executive branch, and that's what we did."

State Department Spokesman Sean McCormick, however, says rendition is an internationally recognized legal practice, that has been used many times, for example, in the case of Carlos the Jackal, who waged a terror campaign in Europe in the 1970s and ‘80s.