The White House doesn't directly comment on whether or not the CIA is running secret prisons in Europe to house and torture al Qaeda captives, but vows the claims warrant an investigation.
However, more information from Europe has uncovered at least two CIA special flights landed in France in 2002 and again in 2005, but investigators did not know the final destination of those flights, which used a CIA Learjet and Gulfstream III. But the European Union says more than 300 flights in total have involved clandestine CIA activities.
Secretary of state Condoleezza Rice is in route to Europe to defuse the charges. The White House said to "stay tuned" and await Rice's report following her trip.
Representative Jane Harman (D-Calif.) questioned why Rice would visit Europe when the department of intelligence, headed by John Negroponte, should have information at their fingertips to either officially confirm or deny what Europe claims is true.
Instead, the White House said it is the world leader on human rights issues, and that given the history of Europe in WWII, the Europeans would "best take example from the United States" on the humane treatment of its people, said White House spokesman Scott McClellan.
As news broke of the European-led investigation the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) went to court to sue the CIA to "stop the transportation of terror suspects to countries outside" of the United States. The ACLU's suit claims the CIA has violated international human rights laws.
Charges include abduction, detention without communication, beatings, use of narcotics on detainees, and transportation of suspects across country borders without just cause.
Some of the men under protection of the ACLU claim they were flown by the CIA to Syria (currently a country at odds with the White House) and Egypt where detainees were tortured, sexually assaulted, and drugged. The federal government denies such activity could ever have taken place and vows to defend itself "vigorously," but added that under presidential order the CIA is absolved of presenting secret procedures in a court of law in the name of national security.
CIA director Peter Goss said his department uses unique methods to obtain important information on detainees while obeying laws. "This agency does not do torture. Torture does not work," Goss said. He asserted that the CIA's innovative ways often provide information the department seeks without causing harm to detainees. Goss said a reasonable response to the charges were warranted.
The White House won't comment on whether or not it knows of secret CIA camps in Poland or Romania, which if true would be illegal under the European Union law. Under current federal law within the borders of the United States, severe treatment of prison detainees is illegal.
McClellan said that President George W Bush "had made it very clear that we do not torture, he would never condone torture or authorize the use of torture." McClellan added that anyone who does not abide by "our laws, they're held accountable. That's the difference between us and others" referring to Europe's history of abuse during the Nazi regime.
Europe on the other hand has uncovered eight investigations revealing CIA operations whereas airports and airspace were used to transport prisoners into special camps the Union claims house torture chambers.
Rice said she'd respond appropriately to the charges, and will visit Romania and other countries on a pre-planned trip meant to halt Romania's pullout from Iraq.
"When it comes to human rights, there is no greater leader than the United States of America," McClellan said, and with the war on terrorism the nation is spreading "freedom and democracy" as such an example speaks for itself.
McClellan added that there is no greater proof that "by liberating people in Afghanistan and Iraq --some 50 million people-- no one has done more when it comes to human rights than the United States of America," and he said the people of the United States agree with him.
Meanwhile the State Department confirms that it has not answered Europe's two-month old charges. Spokesman Sean McCormack told the press that there have been "examples where we've not done as good a job as we might have." He suggested the United States had not broken any laws or violated human rights, but specifically to the European Union's claims, the department had no comment.
The European Union is proposing to suspend voting rights from any country it finds to have supported the alleged United States' torture camps.
"I am not at all reassured that there is sufficient determination by (member states) to get to the bottom of this and establish the truth," said Sarah Ludford, a British member of the European Parliament's civil liberties committee.
She said there is no longer speculation, "We now have sufficient evidence involving CIA flights. We need to know who was on those flights [and] where they went."
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