Rights groups accuse Europe of CIA flights cover-up

LONDON: A majority of 28 mostly European countries have failed to comply with freedom of information requests about their involvement in secret CIA flights carrying suspected terrorists, two human rights groups said Monday.

London-based Reprieve and Madrid-based Access Info Europe accused European nations of covering up their complicity in the so-called “extraordinary rendition” program by failing to release flight-traffic data that could show the paths of the planes.

The groups said only seven of 28 countries had supplied the requested information. Five countries said they no longer had the data, three refused to release it and 13 had not replied more than 10 weeks after the requests were made.

Europe’s silence is in contrast to the United States, which handed over Federal Aviation Authority records with data on more than 27,000 flight segments.

The groups’ report said that the US had provided “by far the most comprehensive response” and accused European countries of lagging behind when it came to transparency.

“Is it an access to information problem, or is it a problem with this particular issue? It’s a bit of both,” said Access Info Europe executive director Helen Darbishire. “European countries have not completely faced up to their role here.”

Human rights campaigners have worked for years to piece together information on hundreds of covert flights that shuttled suspected terrorists between CIA-run overseas prisons and the US military base at Guantanamo Bay as part of the post-Sept. 11 “War on Terror.”

The CIA has never acknowledged specific locations, but prisons overseen by US officials reportedly operated in Thailand, Afghanistan, Lithuania, Poland and Romania — where terror suspects including Khalid Sheik Mohammad, mastermind of the Sept. 11 attacks, were interrogated in the basement of a government building in the capital, Bucharest.

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