Passport

Italian court convicts CIA agents in absentia

Today, an Italian court convicted 23 U.S. citizens, 22 of them acknowledged as CIA agents, for the daylight abduction and "extraordinary rendition" of cleric Hassan Mustafa Osama Nasr, better known as Abu Omar.

The CIA snatched Abu Omar off of a street in Milan in 2002, sending him to the U.S. base in Ramstein, Germany, and then to Egypt, where he was allegedly tortured.

Adam Serwer at the American Prospect asks: "This case has always puzzled me -- Italy is an ally. Why was extraordinary rendition necessary? Such methods are usually reserved for apprehending individuals in countries that are not friendly to the United States precisely because those countries won't cooperate."

It's a good question, with a somewhat queasy answer: the CIA did it, I presume, because it was the most efficient way to do it, and, at the time, the CIA operated in extralegal channels with impunity. (The case that always confused me most was that of Ahmed Agiza -- human-rights respecting U.S. ally Sweden actually participated in that one.)

And it seems the Italian court is ensuring the CIA knows there's no impunity now, even if the only real effect is that former Milan station chief Robert Lady needs to cancel his European vacations. 

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