- The Washington Times - Monday, February 22, 2010

WARSAW — A government-run agency has for the first time provided official records confirming the landing in Poland of planes associated with the CIA’s secret detainee program, two human rights groups said Monday.

The data adds support to findings from a 2007 Council of Europe report that accused 14 European governments of permitting the CIA to run detention centers or carry out secret flights between 2002 and 2005, the Open Society Justice Initiative and the Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights said.

Though flight logs did not reveal that prisoners were on the plane, it confirmed that the flights landed in Poland, which the country previously has denied, said Adam Bodnar of the Helsinki Foundation.

“This is an official confirmation coming from a state-run agency,” he told reporters. “The authorities can no longer ignore facts.”

A 2005 Human Rights Watch report, based on leaked logs of CIA-linked plane flights to Poland, claimed the U.S. spy agency housed a secret prison in Poland where it allegedly held and brutally questioned al Qaeda prisoners. Poland has denied the allegations and refused to cooperate in international investigations.

“Ever new detail brings us closer to the truth, but we cannot say with a 100 percent certainty that there were CIA prisons in Poland,” Mr. Bodnar said.

The groups said Monday that flight logs provided by the Polish Air Navigation Services Agency under a Freedom of Information Act revealed details about at least six landings from February to September 2003 of Gulfstream and Boeing jets linked to the CIA at the former military airport of Szczytno-Szymany in northern Poland.

The report lists permission requests made to “Poland Civil Air” by a Jeppesen company on behalf of Stevens Express Leasing Inc. of Tennessee for “private noncommercial” flights. It lists names of the flight captains and the number of crew and passengers.

For instance, on March 25, 2003, the Gulfstream, coming from Kabul, Afghanistan, landed with a crew of four and six passengers. It took off after 23 minutes for Prague.

On June 27, it landed with a crew of four and four passengers. The request included one for an “English speaking customs escort” before it was to take off for Kabul.

Other destinations include Rabat, Morocco, and Constanta, Romania.

Grzegorz Hlebowicz, a spokesman for the air navigation agency, had no comment on the report and said the agency was formed in 2007, long after the flights took place.

Government spokesman Pawel Gras told the Associated Press that it was awaiting the results of a prosecutors’ investigation ordered in 2008. The findings remain classified.

Prosecutor Robert Majewski, who is in charge of the investigation, said Monday he was not familiar with the flight logs.

Mr. Bodnar said the report also showed signs of cover-up of the true nature of the flights by listing Warsaw as the destination in Poland and giving false names of the captains. He said the report was made available to his group in September but was being released now because it took time for the Open Society Justice Initiative in the U.S. to have it analyzed.

Airport officials and border guards at the Szczytno-Szymany airport previously have confirmed that a Boeing passenger jet with U.S. citizens aboard landed there Sept. 22, 2003 — the date Human Rights Watch said a Boeing 737 that was part of the prisoner transfer plan was at the airport. That flight also is listed in the logs released Monday.

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