Sunday, February 15, 2015

Journalist Andrea Vogt Highlights Non-Damning Nature Of Rome Embassy Cables About Knox

Posted by Peter Quennell

Ambassador to Italy David Thorne with Secretary of State John Kerry

1. US Freedom Of Official Information And Politics

Since 1967 the US Federal Government has had to provide certain official information to requesting citizens and organizations.

Most of those are watchdog groups and reporters. The relevant rules are quite elaborate, and can be read here and here.

About half of all information requested is handed over fully, about 3/8 is handed over with excisions and withholdings, and about 1/8 is not handed over at all, with summary reasons for the refusal. This can then be appealed or alternately brought to the attention of someone in Congress.

If a powerful congressman or committee staffer picks up the ball then the information can flow quite magically.

If the information can embarrass the presidential administration the other party can gleefully extract the information, if necessary with the issuing of a subpoena. The news media will usually pick this up and run with it, especially if a Congressional committee decides to ask questions or hold hearings.

We reckon that our readership and the case-watchers in general extend right across the political spectrum from left to right. No easy trick and we have always been quite pleased with this. It is usually impossible to tell what the political position of any poster or emailer is.

Same with the US media. Fox News cable news is generally thought to be right-wing and MSNBC left-wing and CNN tries to make it in the middle. But all three have had left-wingers and right-wingers on their shows supporting either Italy and justice or the anti-justice anti-Italy misinformation Knox campaign.

In other words support by Americans for Italian justice or for giving Knox a pass has had nothing to do with party lines. But that could change some.

Right now the presidential administration is on its back foot, as the other party controls both the houses of Congress. The Secretary of State and the Ambassador in Rome both work for the administration, and can be called to account by that Congress.

Knox happens to live in a city and state which largely goes along with the presidential party and administration. Senator Patty Murray and Senator Maria Cantwell are in the presidential party as is Mayor Ed Murray of Seattle.

Senator Cantwell is STILL the only influential politician who has taken a public stance anti-Italy; nobody from the opposite party ever has.

In 2009 Cantwell was sharply rebuffed and her facts corrected by the State Department and CNN’s legal analyst and even by some pro-justice Seattle voters..

In October 2013 Cantwell flashed in and out of a bizarre misinformation panel perhaps embarrassed to be associated with it.

Bottom line? The presidential administration and party does not seem in a strong position to refuse to hand over any documents, or without very strong reason to take a pro-Knox anti-Italy position.

We are not guaranteeing that this case will become a political football. But it could. If it does, the Knox gang will have only weak political allies (if any) and what the Rome Embassy reported to the State Department 2007-2015 is really going to matter.

How does all this relate to what Andrea Vogt has recently encountered?

2. Andrea Vogt And The Cables From The Rome Embassy

Andrea Vogt in effect holds a giant lever. She has long pursued her right as an American journalist to surface what the consular officers in the Rome Embassy who watchdogged the 2009 trial and 2011 and 2013 appeals and Knox’s stint in prison had been reporting back to the State Department in Washington.

Releases of copies of cables in 2010 showed “no cause for concern” over Knox’s treatment and copies of cables in 2011 showed likewise.

There was zero official paper trail helpful to a Knox fight against extradition. That was despite a very nasty effort by Knox forces to lean on the Embassy and the State Department by complaining directly to President Obama.

Now Andrea Vogt is reporting on the Freelance Desk in “Update Feb 13 2015” on her experience with a new batch of cables.

Oddities to our eyes are that (1) in this batch, some requested cables were not released; and (2) a cable in October 2011 at the end of the Hellmann appeal wrongly declared “case closed”.

Passages of special interest have been highlighted here by us.

Many may view the cables as just routine bureaucracy, which in large part they are, but I believe they are important documents to add to the public record for two reasons.

First, they show insight into how American citizens in trouble abroad are supported (or not, depending on your viewpoint) by their government.

Second, they contribute transparently to the established written government record, clarifying diplomatic aspects of the case that until now have remained hidden while the saga played out solely in Italian courtrooms and the media.

The results of this second batch of FOIA requests were of particular importance due to the grave accusations being launched against the Italian police and members of its judiciary by members of Knox’s family, supporters and public relations team during the period of her incarceration.

The question at hand: was Amanda Knox abused, mistreated or robbed of a fair trail in Italy? How closely was the state department monitoring the case and what did embassy officials do, or not do, as it evolved?

The answer, first revealed in this first batch of embassy cables released to me in 2012 and dating back from 2007-2009, is that embassy and state department personnel actively monitored the case and provided aid from the very first days after her arrest. Other state and federal documents that I published back in 2010 ... show how Washington State’s congressional delegation, namely Sen. Maria Cantwell, was also involved.

This second batch of FOIA-requested embassy cables was released to me in late 2014 in response to another more extensive FOIA request made in 2012 (a two-year lag time is not unusual for broad requests)...

In brief, these new cables shows that the trend of close state department monitoring of the case was constant, with consular involvement up until the day (Oct 11, 2011) that the U.S. Ambassador Thorne in Rome sent a cable to the secretary of state in Washington D.C., officially declaring the matter “case closed.”

The communications are noteworthy because they bust a number of media myths about Amanda Knox’s release and immediate departure from Italy after her release in 2011, namely that the U.S. embassy did not receive her in the hours immediately post release for consular services, as she was traveling on a valid U.S. passport.

The other interesting point is that though the case was far from over in Italy,  once Amanda Knox was off Italian soil, it no longer considered the case to be of interest. “With the verdict of Oct. 3 overturning Amanda Knox’s prior conviction, her immediate release from prison and her subsequent departure from Italy today, Post considers this case closed. THORNE.”

For American citizens abroad, it is a welcome reminder that the embassy works on citizens’ behalf, as are the four documents released with excisions that show Knox was regularly visited by consular officials every six weeks and brought reading materials.

It is worth noting that the only persons to publicly report to have regularly visited Knox in prison to bring her reading materials were those associated with the Fondazione Italia USA, namely Italian parliamentarian Rocco Girlanda and Corrado Maria Daclon, the two men also present with her in the car that drove Knox out of prison the night she was acquitted.

Coincidence or are these the consular visits the cables refer to?

As soon as Knox was out of the country, the embassy declared “case closed,” perhaps not expecting that her trials would continue. Those who have followed the case know that the acquittal that prompted her release was later annulled in its entirety by Italy’s Supreme Court, which called for a second appeal trial to be held in a separate venue: Florence….

For the British and Italian authorities, and family members of Meredith Kercher who have patiently waited out the Italian legal system, perhaps the “case closed” cable jumped the gun. Once an American citizen is out of the country where he or she is in trouble, what duty does the embassy have to keep following legal developments that involve an American not physically in the country?

Did the embassy re-open the case later once the Supreme Court quashed the acquittal or is it “out of sight, out of mind,” and once an American in trouble abroad is no longer abroad, the embassy in that country can effectively wash its hands of the matter? Is it still considered “Case Closed”?

As the possibility of an extradition process hangs in the balance with the upcoming March 25 supreme court decision, the documents may provide some additional material for legal scholars to consider.

As the State Department letter points out, there are still 11 documents that fall under the umbrella of my initial FOIA request that have not been released that require further coordination.

Based on the content of my 2012 request, I believe these may be documents relating to then Sen. John Kerry and the U.S. Committee on Foreign Relations, of which he was chairman from 2009-2013 [ed note: and Senator Cantwell was a committee member] and to which specific FOIA requests were made, and for which I have not yet received response.

I have scanned and uploaded the 2-page FOIA response and 5 released cables (Oct 2011, June 2011, March 2011, November 2010, September 2010) below…

Andrea Vogt included images of those six seemingly mundane documents she received below the report, praises the Embassy and State, and voices no suspicions.

Amazingly, not one other American reporter has pursued this obvious angle. Still, in a political fuss, all those many others described in Part 1 above could also choose to do so.


Posted by Odysseus on 02/15/15 at 12:50 PM on the previous thread, my own response here as it relates to this post. 

I know this is water under the bridge, etc., and has likely been explained here before, but can anyone kindly tell me, if they have the time to post, why the deadly duo were ever released from jail, bearing in mind that the trial was always multi-level and would not be finalised until the Supreme Court signs off? Is this normal in Italy?

The mere appearance of Knox back in the US gave the impression that she had been acquitted - even the US Embassy seems to have thought it was “case closed”! If I didn’t think so much of Italy I would have to think this was a cock-up. So much might have been avoided by keeping these two where they belong. If it was normal procedure it’s surely something they should reflect upon when this case is finally over.

It wasn’t a cockup. It was a corruption of the court, of the legal process. The decision was purely Judge Hellmann’s, without consultation, and a breach of the law. He shouldnt have done it.

Business judge Hellmann was appointed by the Chief Justice for Umbria De Nunzio having been persuaded to push aside senior criminal Judge Chiari (who took Bongiorno down in a famous case when he was a prosecutor) who then angrily resigned and left Perugia.

The prosecution were very annoyed at the bent court (one rumor in Perugia is it cost $2 million) and the to-them unsurprising outcome and the two being sprung.

The prosecution had signaled for months that they knew the appeal was bent. Prosecutor Comodi spoke out against it strongly. It was amazing what she said as the appeal was still ongoing.

And Knox was spirited out of Italy in a huge hurry (with MP Girlanda’s help) as there was a real fear that the prosecution could issue an arrest warrant. Those forces knew there was corruption.

Cassation made it pretty clear that they knew that the appeal was corrupted (hence the annulment) and so did the Council of Magistrates (hence Hellmann’s “early retirement”.)

In State’s and the Embassy’s favor, remember the Knox forces have tried hard to impugn the Embassy - Judge Heavey wrote directly to President Obama to complain!

He was ignored by Obama, we presume, but State and the Embassy presumably knew they were under fire. (This really should be looked at by a Congressional Committee.)

Andrea Vogt is for the most part nice to them and they seem to have tried to play fair, though normally cases with drug use dont attract Embassy involvement.

But in my mind the US Embassy still jumped the gun in closing their case file. Had it not been merely a consular officer monitoring Knox but a lawyer, they would have realised all of this below was still ongoing (from the post on RS and Gumbel a few days ago) and it should have shown up in a cable to the State Department - as should (thanks to her) the bust of Knox’s drug dealer.

On 3 October 2011 Judge Hellmann told RS and AK they were free to go, despite the fact that no legal process for murder and some other crimes is considered final in Italy until no party pursues any further appeals or the Supreme Court signs off. Most still accused of serious crimes (as in the UK and US) remain locked up. Hellmann, pathetically trying to justify this fiasco ever since, was firmly edged out and still the target of a possible charge.

Other flashing warnings should have made Sollecito’s family and legal team and book writers very wary. They included the immediate strong warning of a tough prosecution appeal to the Supreme Court. They also included the pending calunnia trials of Knox and her parents, the pending trial of the Sollecitos for attempting to use politics to subvert justice, the pending trials of Spezi, Aviello, and Sforza, and so on.

A major flashing warning was right there in Italian law. Trials are meant to be conducted in the courtroom and attempts to poison public opinion are illegal. They can be illegal in the US and UK too but, for historical reasons to do with the mafias and crooked politicians, Italian laws in this area are among the world’s toughest. So mid-process, normally no books are ever published

Posted by Peter Quennell on 02/15/15 at 10:53 PM | #

Blimey and struth, I didn’t realise the extent of Hellmann’s corruption.

Early retirement isn’t enough I say, he should be arrested! Then they should look at his financial affairs and find out who greased his palm.

Posted by Odysseus on 02/15/15 at 11:12 PM | #

@Peter. Thanks by the way.

Posted by Odysseus on 02/15/15 at 11:46 PM | #

Hi Odysseus

Maybe “greased his palm” or maybe his connections via a rogue group of masons as Yummi has posted about previously. Perugia has quite a few groups of masons and some are pretty disruptive of justice and the careers of “normal catholics” like Mignini.

Think competing moslem jihadists. It was like that - a sort of masonic arms race. The same groups subverted justice in the false charges against Mignini and Giuttari and the investigation of Narducci. That is coming more and more into the open.

Read what Yummi translated yesterday from Giuttari’s new biography on PMF dot Org, which we will be picking up on.

Posted by Peter Quennell on 02/16/15 at 12:01 AM | #

Hello all.

Regarding ‘‘double jeopardy’‘, if what was suspected about Hellmann turns out to be true, then it would not matter USA/Italy or whether it was trial/appeal. 

There was a case of a defendant, Harry Aleman, charged with murder being acquitted at trial in 1994 (yes trial, not appeal), and anther trial being allowed to proceed.  This was because the judge, Frank Watson, in the first case was bought off to throw the case.

The defendant was retried, and the appeals court rejected the ‘‘double jeopardy’‘, on grounds that since judge Watson had been bribed, there was no jeopardy, and hence no ‘‘second trial’‘.  The courts found that even though Aleman was technically ‘‘acquitted’‘, it would have a chilling effect.


‘’ ... Judge Michael P. Toomin’s decision is the first time that a judge in the U.S. has validated the novel prosecution
legal theory that double jeopardy and its protection does not attach if bribery prevented the accused from any jeopardy in the first place.

In a 45-page opinion, Toomin held that if the outcome of Aleman’s trial was predetermined, that is,
by bribery of the judge, then the trial was a sham and “there can be no risk to anyone . . .

“Absent such risk,” he said, “the claim of jeopardy is more imagined than real.”

The double-jeopardy clause protects defendants from being tried more than once
after a jury or judge has acquitted them.

Toomin said his research of the issue went back centuries, to the very beginnings of common
English law and the Magna Carta at Runnymede, but none of it turned up a case precisely on that point…..’‘



There is precedent.  Hellmann’s ‘‘acquittal’’ of Knox and Sollecito would not prevent a retrial, or new appeal.

*****Note, In 1995, the T.V. series, Law & Order had an episode based on Aleman’s case:

*****Note, the A&E documentary show ‘‘American Justice’’ also had an episode about Aleman.

Basic facts are included in the links, but I could do a piece on it.

Posted by Chimera on 02/16/15 at 08:13 AM | #

Unfortunately the corruption of Hellmann has not been formally investigated but the suspicion was always there from the beginning.

Particularly amusing was his comment that the real truth could be different!

I also suspect the independent experts who sold their souls. In some sense FOAkers are right: corruption is a serious factor in this trial. What is the going rate?

That the Hona’ble Justice was forced to retire early simply suggests that there are others, more well informed than me, who also share similar suspicion.

Posted by chami on 02/16/15 at 10:59 AM | #

Given her track record Bongiorno must have something to do with this. Her hysteria is well known and dirty tricks that sometimes backfire have shown her up for the crooked person she is. “Win at all costs” is her motto. Knox and Sollecito could not have chosen a better lawyer Birds of a feather etc:

Posted by Grahame Rhodes on 02/16/15 at 04:35 PM | #

Hi Grahame

Right. Bongiorno absolutely does not like to lose, although quite often she does lose, as a lawyer she is not top-drawer.

The case she lost against then-prosecutor Judge Chiari was the prosecution appeal (in Perugia) against ex-PM Andreotti who at trial had been found not guilty of murder. From Wikipedia, which is well worth a read:

Contemporaneously with his trial for Mafia association Andreotti was tried in Perugia with Sicilian Mafia boss Gaetano Badalamenti, Massimo Carminati and others on charges of complicity in the murder of journalist Mino Pecorelli. The case was circumstantial and based on the word of Mafia turncoat Tommaso Buscetta who had not originally mentioned the allegation about Andreotti when interviewed by Giovanni Falcone and had recanted it by the time of the trial. Andreotti was acquitted along with his co-defendants in 1999. Local prosecutors successfully appealed the acquittal and there was a retrial, which in 2002 convicted Andreotti and sentenced him to 24 years imprisonment. Italians of all political allegiances denounced the conviction. The Italian supreme court definitively acquitted Andreotti of the murder in 2003.

That last sentence is wrong; in fact he ran out the clock and was not “definitively” acquitted (which would have had to have happened at another appeal court) which bothered his people till he died.

Bongiorno collapsed in court at the appeal verdict, she was so upset. She lost at the Massei trial in 2009 but with the engineered replacement of Chiari as lead appeal judge she got a craven nitwit for a judge.

Judge Hellmann in turn at the 2011 appeal often favored her, and it was her arguments that made it into the Hellmann sentencing report.

More favoritism. Because she had her new kid at the time the court dates were set purely for the convenience of her: occasional saturdays and no other days which made court an expensive low-return trip for the Kerchers, to whom he gave no respect at all.

More favoritism. At the 2011 appeal witness Aviello flared at the prosecution, and then his cellmates said Bongiorno had offered bribes. She threatened to sue, but didnt, and Cassation chastized Hellmann for not getting to the bottom of this and letting Bongiorno off the hook. Aviello is on trial now; this aint dead.

The Wikipedia entry explains how a very violent faction of the mafia emerged in the 1980s (the Corleones!) and it was they behind so many justice official deaths. It was their habit of impugning prosecutors and judges that led to substantially more official powers to hit back - which now has Sollecito and Gumbel in court.

Dempsey and Fischer foolishly say Mignini is “litigious” but he never mounts personal suits - he is forbidden to. But the pile of lies about him is immense and the rules require that he ask a prosecutor to hit back.  And so Gumbel & Sollecito are on trial now.

Bongiorno’s Plan A is to separate RS from Knox and she broke with that in 2009 and 2011 only once (the Jessica Rabbit speech) though she had agreed they should be tried together.

The book so irritated her because a weak and foolish and sex-starved RS was hijacked by Knox people on the west coast and RS found himself Honor Bound. She took a foolish whack at Nencini after the appeal (which failed) and since has been back on Plan A.

As we sarcastically said behind the scenes at the time, that baby was a smart career move.


Posted by Peter Quennell on 02/16/15 at 11:16 PM | #

On the other hand, Peter, a Knox baby at this time would be seen as self-serving by her (and I would feel sorry for the baby)

Posted by Ergon on 02/17/15 at 01:11 AM | #


Do you really believe that a baby will help Knox anyway? I doubt.

But then I too shall feel pity for the baby.

Posted by chami on 02/17/15 at 05:41 AM | #

@ Ergon, Chami—I guess in a sense Knox must realize her biological clock is running out.  She’ll be too old for kids once she gets out, and no chance in hell anyone will let her adopt.

Yeah, poor kid if that ever happens.

Posted by Chimera on 02/17/15 at 08:15 AM | #

It’s so Knox, to use a human life for her own purposes. This is Amanda the sociopath that we have come to predict so ridiculously precise. I doubt she really wants a kid..she is too in love with her own murderin’ self. Transparent and maybe even karma inducing!!
Those recent pics of the killer tell quite a story..the charade weighs heavily..and the fear of incarceration, although she did rather well in confining spaces.
Maybe the kid can write a book..“Weaned By a Killer”, “Momma Tried to Kill Me” or “My Many Step Daddy’s”,something like that… and will realize a good life with the profits. I hope

Posted by Tina on 02/19/15 at 06:54 AM | #
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