Who Sent the CIA Thugs?

Italy's prime minister demands that the U.S. explain CIA criminality in his country

A half-dozen agents wearing hoods that covered their faces stepped down from [the CIA Gulfstream V jet] and hurried across the tarmac to take custody of two prisoners, suspected Islamic radicals from Egypt. . . . Swedish officers watched as the CIA operatives pulled out scissors and rapidly sliced off the prisoners' clothes, including their underwear. . . . They probed inside the men's mouths and ears . . . before . . . draping hoods over their heads. The suspects were then marched in chains to the plane, where they were strapped to mattresses on the floor. "New Swedish Documents Illuminate CIA action: Probe Finds 'Rendition' of Terrorist Suspects Illegal,"The Washington Post, May 21


It's a serious breach of Italian law; it's absolutely illegal. Armando Spataro, deputy chief prosecutor, Milan, on another CIA kidnapping in Italy, The New York Times, June 26


Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi is personally the closest ally of George W. Bush in the war on terrorism. On July 1, he publicly demanded, as The New York Times reported, that this country and implicitly its president "show 'full respect' for Italian sovereignty, after summoning the American ambassador and asking him to explain the reported abduction of a Muslim cleric by people associated with the CIA."

Already, Judge Chiara Nobili issued arrest warrants for the 13 CIA kidnappers whose identities had been solidly documented by Italian intelligence operatives. Those warrants, as reported too deep in the Times story, "will also be passed to Interpol, effectively requiring countries around the world to assist the Italian investigation."

The judge, moreover, has appointed public defenders to represent each of the CIA agents who planned and carried out the snatch.

Armando Spataro, Milan's deputy chief prosecutor, made a statement that someone in the White House should show the president, who purportedly does not read newspapers:

"I feel the international community must struggle against . . . international terrorist groups in accordance with international laws and the rights of the defendant. . . . Otherwise we are giving victory to the terrorists."

Unnamed "American officials," the Times reports, claim that "only a small number of Italian intelligence officials" were given a heads-up, but they admit that "Italian law enforcement agencies had not been informed."

But Premier Berlusconi's office says these American sources are lying: "No contacts, no conversations, no information sharing took place with regard to the Milan event, for which no authorization was ever requested or granted."

Carried out in a number of countries, these "extraordinary renditions"—as the CIA calls its crimes—have been widely and often reported, including in this column. But Porter Goss, Donald Rumsfeld, Alberto Gonzales, and other consiglieri of the president deny that they could possibly take place because they are against international and U.S. law.

Accordingly, there is no more chance that these 13 CIA kidnappers—and possible associates who are being investigated in Italy—will be extradited and put on trial than of my being nominated for chief justice of the United States. (I hereby attest that if confirmed, I will eagerly serve.)

No CIA agent—nor any of his Washington superiors at the agency—has been criminally charged in this country for any of these renditions. Nor have our chief law enforcement officers—former attorney general John Ashcroft and his successor Alberto Gonzales—been required to enforce the laws these kidnappers have continually broken as they send chained terrorism suspects to countries they know will torture prisoners.

Omar Nasr, who was plucked from a Milan street by the 13 CIA hoods, was sent to his native Egypt where he was tortured. Briefly released after 14 months, he has disappeared into some Egyptian dark hole.

Here are the laws that have been shattered, as included in an April 28 report, "Renditions: Constraints Imposed by Laws on Torture," by the bipartisan, persistently objective independent Congressional Research Service:

In 1994, the U.S. signed the 1984 U.N. Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment. Therefore, this country is responsible for obeying this law that states "No State Party shall expel, return or extradite a person to another state where there are substantial grounds for believing he would be in danger of being subjected to torture."

As for the American law against torturing prisoners—that Attorney General Gonzales has ignored—in 1998, Congress passed the Foreign Affairs Reform and Restructuring Act to implement our responsibilities under this international convention against torture. Our law states plainly that the United States will not "expel, extradite or otherwise effect the involuntary return of any person to a country in which there are substantial grounds for believing the person would be in danger of being subjected to torture."

If held accountable by Congress, the CIA could claim, as it has in the past, that no one is "rendered" unless assurances are given that the host country will not engage in torture. As I've reported in previous columns, former CIA agents have said (not for attribution, of course) that those assurances are phony. So have rendered prisoners once they've been released—with evidence of those tortures. Said CIA director Porter Goss, "Of course, once they're out of our control, there's only so much we can do."

The ultimate American accountable for this brutal lawlessness is George W. Bush. It is inconceivable he can claim ignorance because, for example, the indignation of his buddy Premier Berlusconi could not have been kept from him. (He meets the prime minister from time to time.)

Is there no one in Congress who will demand of the president that he testify under oath why he has continued to authorize these egregious violations of international and American law? That demand should also be made of Bill Clinton, under whose presidency these not so "extraordinary" renditions began.

How the hell can Bush continue to present us to other nations as the country protecting the free world from the lawlessness of the terrorists?

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