from: By David Brunnstrom Thu May 4, 9:23 AM ET
BRUSSELS (Reuters) - Allegations that CIA flights through Europe carried people bound for ill-treatment are damaging transatlantic intelligence cooperation, a lawyer acting for the State Department said on Thursday.
Speaking before heading the defense of U.S. practices at the U.N. Committee against Torture in Geneva, John Bellinger reiterated Washington's position that it does not outsource torture or transfer people it suspects of being involved in terrorism to places where it can expect them to be tortured.
Bellinger was responding to a European Parliament probe which, while producing no firm evidence, concluded last month that more than 1,000 CIA flights had transited the EU and that the CIA had been responsible on several occasions for kidnapping and illegally detaining people on EU soil.
"The suggestion that intelligence flights are somehow engaged in illegal activity really undermines the cooperation between the United States and Europe," he told a news briefing.
EU lawmakers are due in Washington next week to probe allegations of secret detention centers and flights in Europe for terrorism suspects. Bellinger is among those they will meet.
He said he did not know how many flights there had been, but the suggestion or implication that a large number had detainees aboard was "absurd."
"Someone needs to challenge that," he said. "It's not possible for the United States to prove a negative, but responsible European governments or responsible European officials simply need to say this has gotten out of hand."
"There is no evidence for the suggestion or implication that however many flights there have been that they have all got detainees on them or that an intelligence flight is engaged in some sort of improper activity."
He said there had been "very few" cases of renditions, or the transfer of terrorism suspects from one country to another, but declined to provide details.
"NOT TOURIST FLIGHTS"
Claudio Fava, author of the EU parliamentary report, told a news conference the suggestion was not that all flights carried detainees, but "some" had been used for detainees and often had routes linking Guantanamo, Kabul and Baghdad.
"These were not tourist flights," he said.
Bellinger said so many allegations about intelligence flights were incorrect Washington had decided not to respond to specific charges, nor to give details of the purpose of every flight, given operational security requirements.
"Intelligence activities by their very nature are simply carried out in secret because you don't want to tell the al Qaeda people that you may have captured their material or you are engaged in cooperation," he said.
A Washington Post report last year which said that the CIA had run secret prisons in Europe and flown suspects to states where they would have been tortured unleashed a spate of investigations, but none have so far produced solid proof.
The United Nations' torture investigator Manfred Nowak told the EU parliamentary committee probing the allegations there was evidence of secret detention centers outside the United States, but there was no definite proof they had existed in Europe.
"Whatever stronger action could be taken from the European Union, be it in relation to Guantanamo, or secret places in detention -- here, or whatever -- would be, in my opinion, most welcome," he said.
Bellinger said there was "understandable uncomfortableness" about the holding of al Qaeda suspects at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba, but there were not many suggestions as to an alternative.
I wonder if the cost of the CIA leaks has reached into the $Billions$ of dollars yet ?? If not, then it wont be long..
I can only hope that we can bring Mary McCarthy up before a Military Tribunal !! Would Rumsfeld qualify to be the Judge ?? OK, now I dreamin !! Since I'm dreamin, maybe we could thro Helen Thomas in as a co-conspirator.. SHHHHHHH. Nobody wake me.. THIS is just too good !!