Italy gets pissed at Team America…


Richard Moore

From: •••@••.•••
Subject: Italy charges CIA agents


Italy charges CIA agents
In rare act by ally, officials seek arrests of U.S. agents in
kidnapping of imam who allegedly was tortured in Egypt

By John Crewdson, Tom Hundley and Liz Sly, Tribune
correspondents. Tom Hundley reported from Milan, and Liz Sly
from Rome
Published June 25, 2005

WASHINGTON -- Four days before Osama Nasr
Mostafa Hassan vanished into the thin Italian air, three
middle-aged American visitors checked into the $300-a-night
Milan Hilton on Via Luigi Galvani.

The Americans, a man and two women, might have been tourists
or fashion buyers, the hotel's usual foreign clientele. The
U.S. passports and visa cards, the driver's licenses, even the
frequent-flyer IDs they presented to the desk clerk were
genuine enough.

Only the names on those documents were bogus. So was their
shared corporate address, a non-existent company with a post
office box in Washington.

According to Italian authorities, there was a reason for all
the cloak-and-dagger business: The three Americans really were
spies, the last-arriving members of a covert action team
assigned to snatch Hassan off the street and ship him back to
Egypt, where he would later say he was brutally tortured.

On Thursday an Italian judge issued arrest warrants charging
two of the three Americans and 11 of their colleagues with
illegally detaining Hassan, a fundamentalist Muslim preacher
better known in Milan's Islamic community as Abu Omar.

The move was no less extraordinary for coming from a country
whose prime minister, Silvio Berlusconi, is one of the few
European leaders who support the U.S.-led intervention in Iraq
and which has contributed 3,000 troops to that effort.

Current and retired CIA officers, none of whom agreed to be
quoted by name, said they could not remember one of their own
having been charged abroad with a crime other than espionage,
and certainly not in a country friendly to the U.S.

Although the CIA refuses to talk about the Milan abduction or
even acknowledge that it occurred, documents obtained by the
Tribune clearly link the intelligence agency with the
identities, addresses and cell phones used by several of the
American operatives.

The existence of the CIA's supersecret abduction squads has
come to light since the events of Sept. 11, 2001, although the
agency's practice of snatching suspected criminals abroad goes
back at least to the Reagan administration.

Congressional Democrats have called for a public inquiry into
the practice of covert abductions, which the CIA
euphemistically terms "extraordinary rendition," and have
introduced legislation that would ban what they term the
"outsourcing of torture" to other countries such as Egypt.

News reports and human-rights organizations have identified at
least 33 suspected terrorists who have been "rendered" by the
U.S. since Sept. 11. Unnamed intelligence officials have been
quoted as putting the number over the past two decades at
closer to 100.

Egyptian Prime Minister Ahmed Nazief, whose country has
received more renditions than any other, recently told a group
of Tribune reporters and editors that he was aware of "60 or
70" cases in which U.S. agents have seized Egyptian nationals
abroad and flown them to Egypt.

In most of the known renditions, suspects have been arrested
by local authorities in such countries as Indonesia, Sweden
and Macedonia before being handed over to the CIA.

Even when such arrests are made purely at the behest of the
U.S.--"there are arrests, and then there are arrests," a
senior American intelligence official said with a laugh--they
technically absolve the CIA of responsibility for unlawful

In the case of Abu Omar, the absence of any prior arrest has
left the CIA open to kidnapping charges. Indeed, the police in
Milan, who had been tapping Abu Omar's telephone, were as
surprised as his wife and friends by his sudden disappearance.

When they learned he was gone, the puzzled police opened a
missing-person investigation.

The key sleuth

Armando Spataro, the Milan prosecutor who requested the
warrants, said the names of those accused, which have not been
made public, were taken from the passports and other documents
used at hotels and car rental agencies in Milan.

None of the databases accessible by the Tribune contains any
indication that individuals with those names have ever had a
spouse, a residence, an employer, a driver's license, a
telephone, a mortgage, a credit history or a family--in short,
none of the things typically associated with real people.

Spataro, who gained his reputation by prosecuting the Mafia in
Italy, said in a telephone interview Friday that he believed
most of the names were probably not the true identities of the
accused kidnappers.

Italy Opens Its Own Probe of Agent's Slaying in Iraq

By Daniel Williams
Washington Post Foreign Service
Thursday, April 28, 2005; A17

ROME, April 27 -- Dissatisfied with the results of a joint
investigation with the United States, Italy on Wednesday began
its own probe into the March 4 killing of one of its
intelligence agents by U.S. troops in Baghdad.

Italian officials said Rome prosecutors were looking for
evidence of homicide in the case of Nicola Calipari, who was
transporting a rescued Italian hostage to the Baghdad airport
when U.S. soldiers opened fire on their car. The
bullet-scarred Toyota Corolla was brought to Rome on Tuesday.

The prosecutors have demanded the names of the soldiers who
were involved, but the Pentagon has denied the request,
Italian officials said.

The Italian move follows the release this week of partial
findings from the joint American-Italian investigation. The
Americans concluded that their soldiers were not at fault and
had observed the proper rules of engagement for firing at a
suspicious vehicle, according to unnamed Pentagon officials.
Two Italian investigators who took part in the probe have so
far refused to sign on to the findings.

The controversy represents an unusual break between the Bush
administration and Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi,
whose chief aide, Gianni Letta, met with U.S. Ambassador Mel
Sembler twice on Tuesday. Berlusconi has been one of Bush's
most staunch European allies in Iraq, where Italy maintains
about 3,000 troops.

The killing of Calipari, who had aided in the release of
journalist Giuliana Sgrena from kidnappers, shocked Italians.
According to an account from Sgrena, who was wounded in the
shooting, Calipari threw his body over hers to protect her
from the hail of bullets.

U.S. officials have said, however, that Calipari was partly at
fault because he was traveling on a dangerous road at night
and, they say, had not properly notified American officials of
his plans.

The dispute has put at stake the reputation of a man viewed
here as a gallant hero. "The government of Italy does not want
a fight with the U.S.A., but it can't commit suicide by
putting full blame on a national hero," commentator Alessandro
Politi wrote in Il Messaggero, a newspaper in Rome.

The first findings from Italian investigators on Wednesday
absolved Calipari of any "errors," an Italian official said.

Italian investigators who are examining the car are trying to
ascertain how many bullets struck it and from which direction.
"The important thing is not what Calipari did but what the
people who shot him did," the official said.

Berlusconi had asked the United States for an admission of
error but did not receive one. U.S. officials have contended
from the beginning that, at most, the shooting was a tragic

The Italian government has avoided detailing just how Sgrena's
release came about. Stories of a ransom payment abounded in
the Italian press at the time, and some commentators have
questioned the wisdom of rushing Sgrena to the airport. "In
almost two months from that tragic night, we have not grasped
an ounce of truth or fact," Giuseppe d'Avanzo wrote in La
Repubblica, a newspaper that has been highly critical of

"It looks as if the love affair is over between Bush and
Berlusconi," an Italian Foreign Ministry official said.
"Berlusconi needed help, and the administration did not supply
it. The Americans were not going to sacrifice the morale of
their soldiers for Berlusconi." Shortly after the shooting,
Berlusconi announced that he would begin to withdraw Italy's
troops from Iraq in September.

Berlusconi's popularity has plummeted in recent months,
largely because of inflation and stagnation in the national
economy. The Baghdad shooting took place about six weeks
before regional government elections in which Berlusconi's
coalition fared poorly.

It is not clear whether Calipari's death contributed to
Berlusconi's woes, but commentators have been quick to point
out that the prime minister's closeness to Bush has all but
lost its political usefulness. This week, Berlusconi
reconfigured his cabinet to try to keep his coalition afloat
and avoid early national elections.

© 2005 The Washington Post Company


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Richard Moore (rkm)
Wexford, Ireland

"Escaping The Matrix - 
Global Transformation: 
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      Reichstag fire."  
      - Srdja Trifkovic

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