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CIA flights: Amnesty accuses U.S.

An earlier Associated Press report said the CIA allegedly used a Boeing 737 to transport terror suspects.


Central Intelligence Agency (CIA)
Council of Europe

LONDON, England (CNN) -- The CIA has used private aircraft operators and front companies -- sometimes using European airspace -- to detain terror suspects at secret locations or transfer them to countries that condone torture, Amnesty International said in a report released Wednesday.

In a summary of "Below the radar: Secret flights to torture and 'disappearance,'" the humanitarian organization accuses the CIA of using the practice of "rendition," or illegally transferring people from one country to another to bypass judicial and administrative oversight.

Washington has denied that terror suspects are transferred to other nations to avoid U.S. and international laws on torture.

"The U.S. administration has tried to circumvent the ban on torture and other ill-treatment in many ways. The latest evidence shows how the administration is manipulating commercial arrangements in order to be able to transfer people in violation of international law," said Irene Khan, secretary-general of Amnesty International.

"It demonstrates the length to which the U.S. government will go to conceal these abductions," she said.

Amnesty International said it has records of nearly 1,000 flights directly linked to the CIA, most of which have used European airspace.

"These are flights by planes that appear to have been permanently operated by the CIA through front companies," the organization said. In addition, there are records of some 600 other flights made by planes confirmed as having been used at least temporarily by the CIA, the summary says.

The report details the destinations and ownerships of aircraft linked to people interviewed by Amnesty International who the group says have been transferred illegally.

The group said one aircraft made more than 100 stops in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, where the United States detains terror suspects.

Amnesty International said three Yemeni men believed they were taken by U.S. authorities to secret prisons following lengthy journeys through different climates and time zones.

The men said they were blindfolded during each transfer, but clues they provided indicated they may have been held in Djibouti in eastern Africa, Afghanistan and eastern Europe, Amnesty International group said.

President Bush signed a bill in late 2005 outlawing the torture of detainees, but he quietly reserved the right to bypass the law under his powers as commander in chief.

After approving the bill, Bush issued a "signing statement" -- an official document in which a president lays out his interpretation of a new law. In it, he said he will view the interrogation limits in the context of his broader powers to protect national security. This means Bush believes he can waive the restrictions, the White House and legal specialists said.

During the confirmation hearings for Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, he said the administration believed that anti-torture laws and treaties do not restrict interrogators at overseas prisons because the U.S. Constitution does not apply abroad.

In March, The British government said private planes -- which the opposition believes were part of a CIA program to transfer terror suspects to countries where they could be tortured -- landed at military airfields.

Armed Forces Minister Adam Ingram said in a written response to a parliamentary question that two U.S. planes made 14 flights, landing at three British military airfields -- Northolt, Briz Norton and Lyneham -- between October 2002 and May 2004.

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