Claudio Fava (PES, IT) said "Senior sources from the US intelligence community confirmed that between 30 and 50 extraordinary rendition operations have been undertaken in the world since 2001. We also got a list from Human Rights Watch with the names of 27 presumed terrorists held under US custody in unknown places". He did not have information, however, as to whether or not any of these detainees were European citizens.
The rapporteur also explained that the State Department Legal Advisor John Bellinger -- one of the American representatives to appear before the committee -- "neither confirmed nor denied the existence of extraordinary renditions". All the same, Mr Bellinger did seem to justify them politically, said Mr Fava. "Without confirming individual cases, Mr Bellinger said that renditions are 'probably indispensable.' All of that shed some light, even if the usual response was 'no comment' ".
Asked by journalists about the existence of detention centres in Europe, Mr Fava said that "a first hand source" had confirmed "the existence of seven black sites operated by the CIA in countries of Asia, Europe and Africa". According to that individual "the secret centres in Europe were closed down following the public pressure exerted by the media, but there is a black site still operating in a North African country".
The fact that the White House "called the editor of the Washington Post and told him not to name the countries" allegedly involved in the practice of secret detentions, said Mr Fava, was "very strong confirmation of the existence of clandestine prisons".
EU governments involved?
President of the delegation and committee chair Carlos Coelho (EPP-ED, PT) described the visit to Washington as "very productive " , stressing that the availability of Congressmen and US officials was "much better" than during the 2001 visit of the temporary committee on Echelon to the United States.
"All our guests", said Mr Coelho, "suggested or confirmed that the extraordinary renditions programme carried out in Europe could only be achieved with the knowledge and support of European national governments. State Department officials said, in a diplomatic manner, that the United States never violated the sovereignty of EU Member States; others admitted the involvement of European governments in a more straightforward way."
The press conference followed the committee's meeting in Strasbourg on 15 May, where MEPs discussed the information obtained during the meetings with US government representatives, congressmen, former CIA members, lawyers and NGO representatives.