Did The State Department Really Offer Assurances To Amanda Knox She Never Would Be Extradited?
Posted by Ergon
1. The Current Italy/US Extradition Treaty
As repeatedly explained here by posting lawyers the Italy/US treaty is deliberately written to exclude any politics.
If either nation has arrived at a guilty verdict of someone currently in the other nation by following its own laws, then the other nation deliberately has no legal option but to extradite them to serve their term.
So far neither nation has ever refused to do what the treaty says and so far politics has never intervened. That helps both nations in pursuing other extradition cases around the world.
2. Claims By An Anonymous Source
“Will Amanda Knox Be Dragged Back to Italy in Murder Case?” This was by Nina Burleigh in a cover story in Newsweek on March 19, 2015 quoting an anonymous source.
A State Department source tells Newsweek that diplomats in both Italy and the U.S. expect an extradition request to be denied: “I don’t think either Italy or the U.S. wants a major burr under our saddle in terms of relationships between our countries, and this would be that, if the Italians pushed it.” If they do, the source adds, there “is not any way” the U.S. will arrest Knox, nor will it have her declared a fugitive.
The elected Italian government in Rome is separate from the judiciary, and traditionally the two branches do not have warm relations. “I know the Italian government was rolling its eyes” over the prospect of the case reaching this phase, the State Department source says, adding that Rome faces “a real political problem” if the judiciary requests extradition. The American diplomat predicts the Italian court won’t ask to extradite.
It seems that ever since Amanda Knox was wrongfully acquitted by the Hellmann appeals court of Perugia in 2011 we have been inundated with unsourced reports that “the United States would never extradite Amanda Knox.
Going back several years to the Daily Mail, Guardian, The Express and various American media, they all seemed to be reading from the same script:
- She hadn’t received a fair trial.
- American public opinion would ‘never allow her to be sent back’.
- The Secretary of State would quietly prevail upon his counterpart in Italy to not request extradition.
And, as the final appeal of Amanda Knox and Raffaele Sollecito came up to the last stretch it seemed that these same hacks were repeating the same talking points, even though much has changed since 2011.
These were the basic points, reported over and over in the main stream media till it almost seemed like a guarantee. So I have been looking for the last three years to verify the truth of that. And, who made that promise, if any were made? These were the basic parameters of my search, and I had to tune out the background noise of ‘double jeopardy’ and ‘dueling extradition experts’.
Then I had to look for the ‘unnamed source’ quoted in all the news reports.
These possibilities came up:
- WA US Senator Maria Cantwell spoke to her colleague Sen. John Kerry of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee who spoke to his brother in law David Thorne, the former US Ambassador to Rome, who passed on a quiet message to the Italian Foreign minister. But would they ever speak on or off the record to reporters or like it very much if it was going to be bruited about?
- Mid-level Friends Of Amanda Knox like Anne Bremner and Judge Heavey had received vague assurances from Senator Cantwell; somehow extrapolated as iron clad guarantee that Knox would never be extradited, never mind there has not been any precedent I can find that would apply to a similar case like this.
- Someone in the Department of Justice and/ or State is feeding them shite.
- The FOA are making it all up. That last was my favourite, given that they are led around by people like Steve Moore, Bruce Fischer, and J. Michael Scadron.
3. My Search For The Truth
This has been an interesting journey, and as always, things seem to just come together at the last moment. It has helped that I have been watching diplomatic activity up-close all my life.
My father was in the Pakistani Foreign Service stationed in London, so, shortly after I was born, lived in the UK from age 0-3, then with the Pakistan Embassy in Tokyo from age 3-8. We were a cosmopolitan group of embassy brats going to St. Mary’s International School. My friends were American, Iranian, Turk, Indian, East German, Canadian, New Zealand, points all over. Their parents were all diplomats and I made lifelong friends. My father could have received a posting as assistant to the ambassador to Washington D.C. after that but fate prevailed as he’d been stationed out 8 years and had to be rotated back to Pakistan.
Since that time I kept in touch with my friends and also developed this passion for International Relations and Geopolitics. Travelling to the US and other countries but also meeting over the internet, made many more friends at various levels of the State Department. Saw the changes there as respected career diplomats got replaced by interest groups and major donors to political parties. Such only went to choice postings, of course, but not second or third world countries, so I had many interesting discussions with them over the years.
The Wikileaks cables were a revelation as Embassy intercepts showed the thousand different ways diplomacy led to but also tried to prevent, war. I’d been reading them ever since they first came out so started searching for links to secret discussions with Amb. Thorne. Couldn’t find anything except what already was reported, so reporter Andrea Vogt’s FOI request find was a goldmine:
NEWLY RELEASED EMBASSY CABLES SHED LIGHT ON STATE DEPT HANDLING OF AMANDA KNOX CASE
By Andrea Vogt
FEBRUARY 13 “Newly released state department documents show the U.S. Embassy in Rome declared the Amanda Knox matter “Case Closed” in a cable to Washington just days after the American’s clamorous 2011 acquittal. The memo reveals wishful thinking on the part of some U.S. diplomats, who were only too eager to see the thorny case come to a clean close.”
In Update March 23, 2015 posted today, Andrea Vogt says this:
In a 2011 Italian embassy cable released as part of several Freedom of Information Act requests I’ve filed on this case (first published Oct 11, 2011) [US] diplomats in Italy mistakenly thought Knox’s acquittal in 2011 would bring to a close this complex and divisive international case. Italy’s Court of Cassation would prove them wrong, overturning her Perugia acquittal and ordering a second appeal in a different venue (Florence) which ended last year with a guilty verdict.
So is a political fix being attempted or already in? See my Conclusion, Part II to be posted tonight.
Thank you Ergon
I hope the US diplomats were deeply embarrassed for saying “case closed”, when it was hardly a secret that it was a multi-level trial and it wouldn’t be over till the signing off by the Supreme Court.
I’m sure they were indeed glad to see of a thorny case closed (they thought) but you wouldn’t normally expect such ignorance from diplomats, who are surely supposed to be more up to speed with Italian justice. Sounds like the cable was sent at the end of the day (on a Friday?) when they were anxious to leave to down some vino!
@Ergon, what marvelous credentials you have to analyze the extradition issue, with your father in the Pakistani Foreign Service and your many years involved with diplomats and the ambassadorial process. TJMK is incredibly lucky to have your insider knowledge of how Knox’s international extradition may work.
FOA is probably just floating rumor and innuendo using wishful thinking and PR tactics when they handwave away the chance of Knox being shipped back to Italy for prison, but how fortunate we are at the Meredith Justice site and PMFs that you can actually read diplomat-speak and search out the truth.
See the breaking-news box at the top and the link to Andrea Vogt’s new report. The cable is there. Alternatively click here;
It is dated 11 October which was nine days after Knox got sprung. The staff member’s name is not shown on the cable as it was sent to Washington in the Ambassador’s name (then Thorne).
We believe the staff member usually came from the consulate section, and usually from the Embassy in Rome, though there are American consulates in Milan, Florence, and Naples too.
The main purpose of consulates is to help out in travel work. They help their own nationals with visas and lost passports and small problems, and they help nationals of the country they are in to get work permits or vizas in turn.
Valuable work. But it doesnt require an advanced degree or law degree, and consulate staff are rather looked down upon by diplomatic staff. They are usually moved to another country every 2 or 3 years.
So I am not surprised at the wrongness of the cable. For whoever wrote that it may have been Day One.
However there actually is something strange in all of this which I hope Andrea Vogt gets her teeth into..
Usually, when drugs are involved in a local crime by an American national, the US consulates are not allowed by their rules to play any role. Knox herself never denied drug use, in fact she made it part of her defense.
So why did the consulates even monitor Knox? We dont know.
Such monitoring could have been three days work each month allowing for travel and 3 or 4 times that during the Massei trial. At a guess monitoring Knox would have cost $1000 a day in staff costs and hotels and travel and meals every time.
Make that $48,000 in 2008, $96,000 at least in 2009, $48,000 in 2010, and $96,000 in 2011, total close to $400,000 for monitoring, which US taxpayers had to pay, probably against rules as this was a case involving drugs.
Despite this very expensive overkill (how many other Italian trials are monitored?) I cannot see rotating consular officers as having any real grasp of what was going on. Nice people, but low-level grunts. Could be Italian junior staff.
Were they lawyers? Definitely not. Did they ask the prosecution or judges anything? Not to our knowledge. Did they ask Dalla Vedova and Ghirga? It seems so. But they are hardly the most neutral of advice.
All could be worth it if the State Department accepts that it has no paper trail showing anything done wrong and now helps to put the case to bed.
But the US taxpayer will have been severely ripped off if State now changes its tune. Note! A simple complaint by any American to the Inspector General or GAO about this cost and ceilings could come crashing down.
“$400,000, for monitoring which US taxpayers had to pay - and for a case involving drugs.”
Is that why Knox didn’t argue-mitigation, in the beginning, that she was “under-the-influence”?
Was she told that drugs precluded US Diplomatic help?
Good point. If the consulate was diligent it would have known. Monitoring the case anyway at such huge cost gave Knox an aura of “precious” she really did not deserve.
Knox used drugs as a key part of her defense right back on 6 November 2007 and throughout 2009. Sollecito too. But they seemed to me to try to calibrate how much and to what effect, especially after Knox’s drug dealer went down. Each hinted the other used more.
Of course claiming drug-use as a mitigating factor is always an option for any defense in court but almost always it falls on deaf ears or makes things worse.
My guess is the consular officer was always there because the Knox-Mellases had lobbied, but the K-Ms must have been disappointed when Andrea Vogt proved the monitoring showed nothing wrong.
Between this and Ergon’s great snoop and Andrea Vogt’s great snoop we may see State eagerly following the rules.
Then in future such American-Perp cases, Italy might be wise to include Drugs in the charges?
Ergon, thanks for your always intelligent and informative posts.
I believe from the point of view of the concerned staff that the comment “case closed” is quite normal and acceptable.
Once the citizen returns back to the country, the role of the embassy is over. Just try to see from their point of view.
For the same reason, I do not think any embassy staff attended the Florence trial because Knox was simply not there…
The time has finally come and I am confident that justice will be delivered…
Thanks,all. Diplomacy is a great and honorable way to represent national interests but also put a country’s best face forward.
I liken much of diplomatic work like an iceberg, 90 % below the surface. But even though it is invisible, it holds to those principles mentioned above.
I just could not believe in the end the State Department would abandon its national interests on behalf of Amanda Knox or risk its standing to protect a convicted murder. I am glad to have been able to confirm for myself that in the event of a conviction Secretary of State John Kerry would do his duty.
See part II coming up shortly for the question “Who Is The State Department Source?”
Thank you Ergon. Great piece.
(Playing devil’s advocate here), Secretary Kerry would do more than just scorch U.S.-Italian relations. Meredith is a British citizen, and her British family has said repeatedly they will push for extradition. Blocking such a move would damage U.S.-U.K. relations as well, with a ripple effect throughout the European Union. I am sure the Secretary knows this.
And as you point out in the article, denying extradition would cause other major headaches abroad (such as getting Edward Snowden back).
There has also been the suggestion that Knox will hop the Washington/B.C. border to hide out in Canada. Aside from being legally inadmissible due to her murder/sexual assault convictions, she would be unable to work legally up here. Canada would definitely send her Italy if she were caught here.
Likewise if Knox flees to any other country, the U.S. (even if it wanted to), won’t have the authority to intervene. If anything, other countries would be MORE inclined to extradite her since she is American.
As for your conclusions, the last is likely correct, the ‘‘anonymous source’’ is making it all up. The ‘‘vague assurances’’ is also possible, if not all information was disclosed while making these inquiries.
Hi Cardiol, not sure how closely you follow what’s going on in the US, but to me drugs appear to be the new “cool” here, legislation is moving toward making them more readily available to the voting moronity—not surprising, considering that people who “did not inhale” were elected into office, and pictures surface now showing current “leaders” puffing like there was no tomorrow (sure enough, they made sure “tomorrow” is as screwed up as they thought it would be). Even better, there’s talk now of pot for pets, which would ensure Bo’s gonna get stoned just like Daddy.
This is a bit random, but if you have Netflix, check out Criminal Minds - Suspect Behavior, season 1, episode 10 (The Time is Now). It’s on Netflix US, but if you have an account, there are some easy ways to surf other regions.
While the specifics of this fictional case are different, you may notice an eerie familiarity in the way the female suspect is constructed. I’m not saying she’s based on Knox per se, but I think this character and Knox may share certain psychological issues.
This series suffers from an awful lack of charisma compared to the main Criminal Minds series and the cases aren’t really as interesting, but this one is intriguing.
Thank you Ergon. And thank you Miriam.
I have a hard time believing Mr Kerry would
comment while the case is ongoing. That would
breech policy. lol
I look forward to many TV shows based on the psychological profiles of the three accused one day, Vivianna. At this point people are just a little constrained, but who knows after Wednesday?
Wow! an Exclusive story in today’s Daily Mail (March 23, 2015) shouts headlines that Amanda Knox’s supporters expect a guilty verdict by the Supreme Court this week. Dr. Mark Waterbury is quoted at great length lamenting the likelihood of such a guilty verdict, and blaming it on “the judicial truth” established at Rudy’s trial, the truth of multiple attackers.
Jim Clemente uses the term “farce”, and offers to wade into the fray if the farce gets further protracted. He is a lawyer.
Then “Italian writer” Frank Sfarzo claims in typical hyperbole that all of Italy now views Sollecito as innocent, even the most conservative who thought them guilty, because the scientists have spoken. Sfarzo thinks there’s an “80 percent” chance the guilty verdict will be overturned. He is quoted at length.
Photos of Amanda at her most bedraggled wearing red and black with boots and no makeup in recent February photo accompany the story, with head shots of Guede and Raffaele, and large photos of Meredith (she is always lovely).
Waterbury, who lives near the Mellox crowd in Seattle, says that he told them Knox is probably going to be found guilty, but that the family is not at all worried about it because they believe she will never be extradited.
I read that Daily Mail article. After reading the history and antics of Frank Sfarzo here, it seems like a big joke on Daily Mail that they would quote him as having credibility.
Also thought it laughable that they have Knox as engaged to James Terrano:
“New life: Amanda Knox is now engaged to her childhood friend James Terrano and the two live in Seattle”
@ Bjorn: my Comment that Italy might be wise to include Drug-Charges, if relevant to the other charges against American Perps, was stimulated by Pete’s Comment re US consulates not being allowed by their rules to play any role helping Americans accused of breaking the Drug Laws of & in Foreign Countries.
Are you suggesting that any such US Consulate Rules may soon be discontinued?
Hi Cardiol, I am very removed from diplomacy and consular workings (as is probably evident), I respect what you and Peter are saying, but yes, I see the rules changing, how fast depends on how degenerate the elected official is.