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Report Details 'Spider's Web' of CIA Prisons

ALEX CHADWICK, host:

This is DAY TO DAY, I'm Alex Chadwick.

MADELEINE BRAND, host:

And I'm Madeleine Brand. More than 20 countries were part of a global spider's web of secret CIA flights transporting terrorism suspects. That's the conclusion of a European watchdog group called the Council of Europe. It issued a report today after investigating the flights and alleged secret prisons in Romania and Poland.

NPR's Rob Gifford joins us from London. And, Rob, we heard first about this story last year; we heard about these secret flights and so-called black sites in Eastern Europe. I'm wondering, what's new in today's report?

ROB GIFFORD reporting:

Well, the author of the report - the Swiss Senator Dick Marty - says it follows up on some of those allegations that were made first in The Washington Post in November. He says that one of the most crucial elements that is new is his access to flight logs. Flight logs in many European countries, which show that CIA airplanes, airplanes from the United States came into European countries and did all sorts of things. We don't know exactly what, specifically in Poland and Romania, and then went on to other places like Afghanistan. And he has put together these flight logs with interviews with some of the people who say that they were taken off the streets of Europe and taken on to other places where they were tortured, and he has come up with this report and says it gives much more evidence than they had before of these so-called renditions.

BRAND: Now, human rights groups have sited Romania and Poland as actually having secret prisons where torture may have been carried out. Does he mention that in the report?

GIFFORD: He does. He mentions specifically Poland and Romania, but politicians in Poland and Romania have, today, dismissed these allegations. In fact, the Prime Minister of Poland called the allegations libelous; and Tony Blair, as well, in Britain, has dismissed the allegations. He said he's dealt with them in years past and he brushed them aside in Parliament.

So I think Dick Marty, the man leading this - who has written this document at the Council of Europe, he does have a problem here, and that is that a lot of the evidence is circumstantial. It comes from interviews and he doesn't, as it were, have a smoking gun, which really points to the existence of for instance these secret detention camps in Poland and Romania.

BRAND: What is the likely fallout from this report? Will the countries implicated be punished in any way?

GIFFORD: Well, no. The Council of Europe does not have any powers to legislate. It's one of those sort of strange bodies within the European community that has an ability to investigate and write reports, but it can't do anything that makes any of the member states in Europe actually do anything.

I think Dick Marty and some of the human rights groups here in Europe and in the U.S., what they'll be hoping is that it's just raising the profile a little higher of these issues. It's putting a little bit more pressure on to the governments involved. But certainly in the absence of any harder evidence, I think it's going to be difficult to really make governments within Europe actually pay any more attention.

BRAND: Thank you, Rob.

GIFFORD: Thanks very much, Madeleine.

BRAND: NPR's Rob Gifford in London. You can find a link to the full Council of Europe report at our website, npr.org. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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Rob Gifford
Rob Gifford is the NPR foreign correspondent based in Shanghai.
Madeleine Brand
Madeleine Brand is the host of NPR’s newest and fastest-growing daily show, Day to Day. She conducts interviews with newsmakers (Iraqi politicians, US senators), entertainment figures (Bernardo Bertolluci, Phillip Seymour Hoffman, Ricky Gervais), and the everyday people affected by the news (an autoworker laid off at GM, a mother whose son was killed in Iraq).
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