Paris The head of an investigation into alleged secret CIA prisons in Eastern Europe said Tuesday he was checking 31 suspect planes that landed in Europe in recent years and was trying to acquire satellite images of sites in Romania and Poland.
If the European probe uncovers evidence of covert facilities, the potential impact ranges from major embarrassment for the United States to political turmoil in countries that might have participated. Countries found housing secret detention centers also could be suspended or expelled from the 46-member Council of Europe, a human rights watchdog organization.
In an interview with The Associated Press, Swiss senator Dick Marty said the Council of Europe, on whose behalf he was investigating, had a "moral obligation" to look into claims the CIA set up secret prisons on the continent to interrogate al-Qaida suspects.
He said that despite lack of proof, there were "many hints, such as suspicious moving patterns of aircraft, that have to be investigated."
But given the limited powers of the Strasbourg-based council, Marty's chances of uncovering explosive state secrets seemed unclear. The U.S. government has neither confirmed nor denied the existence of facilities.
Allegations the CIA hid and interrogated key al-Qaida suspects at Soviet-era compounds in Eastern Europe were first reported in The Washington Post on Nov. 2. The paper did not name the countries involved.