Fresh Evidence Shows Polish Government, CIA Cooperation on Renditions

WARSAW—Official flight records obtained by rights groups confirm that at least six CIA rendition flights landed in Poland in 2003 and reveal details of a cover-up by U.S. and Polish authorities. The Polish Air Navigation Services Agency (PANSA) provided the flight logs in response to a freedom of information request filed by the Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights in collaboration with the Open Society Justice Initiative.

The disclosure marks the first time a Polish government agency has confirmed, on the record, that aircraft associated with the CIA landed repeatedly at Szymany Airport, close to a suspected CIA secret detention and interrogation site for "high-value detainees" in northern Poland. In the past, the Polish government denied its involvement in rendition. It failed to provide any of these flight records to previous investigations conducted by the European Parliament and the Council of Europe. 

"It is time for the authorities to provide a full accounting of Poland's role in rendition," said Adam Bodnar of the Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights, based in Warsaw. "These flight records reinforce the troubling findings of official European enquiries and global human rights groups, showing complicity with CIA abuse across Europe."

The logs reveal attempts by the CIA and its Polish partners to cover up the true destination of rendition flights: several flights that landed in Szymany had declared Warsaw as their official destination, including in filings with pan-European aviation authorities.

"The Obama Administration has continued to cover up the rendition program, thwarting attempts to hold the U.S. and its allies accountable," said James A. Goldston, executive director of the Justice Initiative. "We are finding out the truth in Poland, and it is time for the U.S. to come clean."

The groups obtained the logs by requesting access to landing data for three specific aircraft known to belong to the fleet of "ghost planes" used by the CIA's rendition program. In response, they received actual flight logs for two of those aircraft: a Boeing 737, registered in the U.S. as N313P, and a Gulfstream V, with U.S. registration N379P. The two aircraft landed in Szymany a total of six times between February and September 2003. Five of the flights originated in Kabul, Afghanistan. One arrived from Rabat, Morocco.

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The Open Society Justice Initiative uses law to protect and empower people around the world. Through litigation, advocacy, research, and technical assistance, the Justice Initiative promotes human rights and builds legal capacity for open societies.

The Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights was established in 1989 by the members of the Helsinki Committee in Poland to support the development of the human liberties and rights culture, both domestically and abroad.