Tuesday, October 09, 2012

CIA v. State Department: A Significant Development For The Perugia Case?

Posted by Peter Quennell

As expected the Supreme Court of Cassation has upheld kidnapping convictions against 23 CIA operatives.

The landmark case dates to Feb. 17, 2003, when Hassan Mustafa Osama Nasr, a radical Egyptian cleric known as Abu Omar [image below}, walked out of his Milan apartment in broad daylight and vanished.

talian authorities used cellphone records made at the time and location of the abduction to determine that CIA officers snatched Abu Omar, drove him to nearby Aviano Air Base and flew him to Egypt. According to Italian court documents,

Abu Omar was beaten and subjected to electric shock in a Cairo prison. He was later freed.

The significant development for Meredith’s case is that the State Department had refused to organize diplomatic immunity with Italy for any of the 23. 

Now at least one of them, Sabrina De Sousa (image at top with her lawyer), is suing the State Department for not having stood by her in retroactively organizing that diplomatic immunity.

All 23 could now be the subject of requests for extradition to Italy to serve out their six-year sentences, and if the US Justice Department refuses to comply they could be the subjects of worldwide arrest warrants via Interpol.

That could mean the end of their operational usefulness in the CIA and conceivably prevent any of them ever traveling outside the US again in their lifetimes.

Why have the CIA and the State Department seriously parted company here? Well, their mandates are almost polar opposites.

The State Department and its Embassies and the very considerable American presence throughout the United Nations tries hard to get along with friendly nations, and Italy is probably one of its top half-dozen friends.

The CIA on the other hand is charged with using fair means and foul to fight back against terrorism worldwide, and sometimes its practices contravene the best interests of diplomacy and the local law.

Here the CIA is coming out the clear loser and State is sweetly sitting on its hands and not upsetting Italy in any way.

Cables released so far by the State Department under the Freedom of Information Act suggest that State and the Rome Embassy really didnt ever lift a finger to subvert Italian justice on behalf of Amanda Knox.

Here’s betting more of the same - no action by State - as the Cassation appeal comes alive. And no standing in the way of an extradition request for Knox if Cassation decides Judge Masssei got the trial right.


Our previous posts September 2009



Our previous post June 2010:


An Andrea Vogt update on the cables May 20l1:


FOA were very disappointed at the lack of suggestions in those Embassy cables that the investigation and trial had gone amiss.

They ridiculed Andrea Vogt for being late with the news but they were wrong - she had just got more cables not before seen.

Senator Cantwell might have tried to get the American ambassador to pull strings, but so far as we know he never did.

Posted by Peter Quennell on 10/09/12 at 10:16 PM | #

Some of the informed reader comments under some of the stories are saying that if Sabrina De Sousa and some others were not involved, as they claimed, they should have gone back to Italy and taken their chances in court.

The sure way to come across as really guilty - as Amanda Knox might foolishly choose to do next year - is to sit in Seattle and not let the court size them up.

Posted by Peter Quennell on 10/09/12 at 10:25 PM | #

It would be impossible to organize diplomatic immunity “retroactively” within the Italian territory.

There is no constitutional power in Italy who could stop the justice system retroactively.

The only option to save the 23 convicted is that the Italian government doesn’t forward a request of extradition. Or a pardon by the President.

Posted by Yummi on 10/10/12 at 01:18 AM | #

I’m scanning the reports and the reader comments below them and so far the kind of bigotry Curt Knox and his hatechet men stirred up is nowhere to be seen.

The US overreached under the George Bush regime, and now a fair-minded but firm Italy is saying “never again”.


There is a strong article by David Swason highly worth reading there. Opening paras:

Almost 10,000 Americans have sent messages to the Italian Embassy in Washington thanking Italy’s high court for upholding the conviction of 23 Americans (22 CIA officers and one military official) for the offense of kidnapping a man off the street in Milan on February 17, 2003, and shipping him to Egypt to be brutally tortured.

“La Legge E’ Uguale Per Tutti,” were the words on the wall behind the judges. Would that it were so. Those 10,000 messages, sent through the website of an organization I work for, RootsAction.org, also asked Italy to request the extradition of the 23 convicts, who are living free and immune from serious consequences in the United States.

If the law were the same for all, Italy would request extradition. If the law were the same for all, Italy would be able to kidnap the 23 and justify the act to the U.S. government by calling it “rendition.” If the law were the same for all, the United States would prosecute our own criminals and not have to rely on Italy to do so. If the law were the same for all, prosecutions of mid- to low-level operatives would be followed by prosecutions of the ultimate decision makers at the top, including U.S. presidents. If the law were the same for all, the U.S. government would be more interested in shipping 23 convicts to Italy to serve their sentences than in shipping WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange to Sweden or the United States, in neither of which nations he has been convicted of or even charged with a crime.

And further down this extraordinary ode to the justice of Italy:

We need Italians’ help. We’re struggling on our own. We need a friend who doesn’t tell us pretty lies. We need a brother or a sister who gives it to us straight. We need the courageous principled action of the Italian courts to have consequences.

I don’t mind saying my nation is wrong. I said it when I protested U.S. Army base construction in Vicenza. I’m not asking for the United States to be stripped of the power to enforce its own laws. I’m asking for universal jurisdiction to be employed precisely where it must be, in those cases in which the relevant nation has failed. I’m asking for Italy to be able to enforce its own laws against everyone in equal manner.

Posted by Peter Quennell on 10/10/12 at 03:18 AM | #

It’s never been proven that torture enhances intelligence or security. In fact, to the contrary: people will “say anything” to end torture. There was a CIA guy who wrote a book about it recently (forget his name). He said the Bush administration had it exactly wrong: you have to win the trust and confidence of your captives to get viable information. It’s sort of like using the Stockholm syndrome in your favor. Water-boarding and electric shock are sadistic toys for little boys, who don’t know how to really do the proper intelligence gathering.

Not to mention the minor little matter that torture violates the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Good for Italy for standing up for the rights or all to due process and not to be tortured! Thanks, Pete for reporting on this!

Posted by Earthling on 10/11/12 at 12:37 AM | #

I have a feeling the Italian government has no intention of requesting extradition for the CIA guys.  They have no desire to open another can of worms and be put in a position of jailing these guys.

As for Amanda, it might be interesting to speculate what a Romney Administration would do with an extradition request.

Posted by Gonzaga on 10/11/12 at 12:55 AM | #

It does not matter whether the US extradites the CIA chaps; that is a mere formality and depends on several political factors.

Today the imprisonment (at least in an European prison) of a criminal is a symbolic affair. We are no more living in the good old days of “eye for an eye”. Deliverance of the justice lies in the pronouncement: what you did is wrong, then and now. I am happy with that.

I am sure that the Nasr alias Abu Omar was no saint but the greatness of the Italian system was that he was simply tolerated. But the most powerful country considered him a threat. And was worried. And was determined to do something, somehow, at any cost.

The judgement says it all loud and clear. Even the deaf can hear.

The race is not to the swift nor the battle to the strongest…

Posted by chami on 10/11/12 at 04:56 PM | #

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