Ex-CIA officer seeks Italian pardon for role in abduction operation

Giorgio Napolitano By JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
A former officer of the United States Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), who has been convicted in absentia in Italy for his role in an abduction operation, has contacted the Italian president seeking a formal pardon. Robert Seldon Lady was the CIA station chief in Milan in February 2003, when a team of 23 Americans, most of them CIA operatives, abducted Mustafa Osama Nasr. The CIA suspected the Egyptian-born Nasr, also known as Abu Omar, of working as a recruiter for a host of radical Islamist groups, including al-Qaeda. In 2005, Italian authorities, which had not authorized Nasr’s kidnapping, convicted Lady, along with 22 other Americans, of abduction. The convictions were delivered in absentia, as the Americans had earlier left the country. Washington has refused to extradite them to Rome. Earlier this week, Lady wrote a letter to the President of the Italian Republic, Giorgio Napolitano, saying he had never intended to “disrespect Italy’s sovereignty” and asking for the President’s “personal forgiveness and pardon”. In his letter, Lady argues that he operated “under orders from senior American officials” with the aim of protecting lives, adding that US intelligence activities had been able to “stop numerous plans and targets of terrorists operating in Milan and elsewhere in Italy”. The former CIA officer also claims that the 2003 kidnapping of Nasr had taken place “in liaison with senior members of the Italian government”. He concludes by expressing his “regret” for his “participation in any activities which could be viewed as contrary to the laws of Italy”. Read more of this post

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Former CIA station chief arrested in Panama ‘has been released’

Panama-Costa Rica borderBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
A former station chief for the Central Intelligence Agency, who was detained in Panama last week for his alleged role in the kidnapping of a Muslim cleric in Italy, returned to the United States on Friday. The US Department of State said Robert Seldon Lady had been released by Panamanian authorities 24 hours after he was detained near Panama’s border with Costa Rica. Lady was the CIA’s station chief in Milan in February 2003, when a team of 23 Americans, most of them CIA operatives, abducted Mustafa Osama Nasr. The CIA suspected the Egyptian-born Nasr, also known as Abu Omar, of working as a recruiter for a host of radical Islamist groups, including al-Qaeda. In 2005, Italian authorities, which had not authorized Nasr’s kidnapping, convicted Lady, along with 22 other Americans, of abduction. The convictions were delivered in absentia, as the Americans had earlier left the country. Washington has refused to extradite them to Rome. Lady was crossing from Panama into Costa Rica at a remote jungle border crossing early on Thursday, when, according to Costa Rican authorities, “a check on his passport triggered an INTERPOL alert”. Following negotiations between Costa Rican and Panamanian authorities, Lady was detained by Panamanian border guards, who alerted INTERPOL and Italy. Late on Friday, State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf declined to offer details on the case, but confirmed that Lady was “either en route or back in the United States”. A Panamanian foreign ministry source told Reuters that Lady was released because “Panama does not have an extradition treaty with Italy and because documentation sent by Italian officials was insufficient”. Read more of this post

Panama arrests ex-CIA chief of station wanted by INTERPOL

Panama-Costa Rica borderBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
A retired 21-year veteran of the United States Central Intelligence Agency, who is wanted by INTERPOL for participating in the abduction of a Muslim cleric in Italy, has been detained by police in Panama. Robert Seldon Lady was the CIA’s station chief in Milan in 2003, when a team of 23 Americans, most of them CIA officers, abducted Mustafa Osama Nasr. The CIA suspected the Egyptian-born Nasr, known also as Abu Omar, of working as a recruiter for a host of radical Islamist groups, including al-Qaeda. On February 17, 2003, Nasr was seized in dramatic fashion by a group of CIA operatives in broad daylight in Milan. He was stuffed into an unmarked white van and eventually ended up in Egypt, where he was tortured before being released. Nasr’s case helped raise awareness of the US government’s extraordinary rendition program. Under the controversial program, suspected terrorist operatives were secretly taken to third-party countries where they were subjected to aggressive interrogation techniques. Italian authorities were irritated by Nasr’s kidnapping, which they claimed took place without the consent of the Italian government. There are also reports that the Italian intelligence services were monitoring Nasr at the time and were trying to recruit him as a source, which might explain why they were incensed when the Egyptian was snatched by the CIA without their authorization. Read more of this post

Comment: Why the Italian Convictions of CIA Agents Matter

Sabrina DeSousa

Sabrina DeSousa

By JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
An Italian court has convicted 22 CIA agents and a US Air Force officer involved in the abduction of a Muslim cleric from Milan in 2003. All but three Americans tried in the case received jail sentences ranging from five to eight years, for kidnapping Hassan Mustafa Osama Nasr in broad daylight and for illegally renditioning him to Egypt, where he says he was brutally tortured before being released without charge. As intelNews has previously reported, it is extremely unlikely that the US will agree to extradite the convicted abductors to Italy. Washington has formally invoked the NATO Status of Forces Agreement, arguing that the offenders were operating “in the course of official duty” and fall therefore under US, not Italian, jurisdiction. But the convictions are important nonetheless, for three reasons.

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News you may have missed #0127

  • Is China using Nepal as a base to spy on India? India’s Research and Analysis Wing (RAW) has accused Beijing of using the so-called Nepal-China study centers in Nepal to spy on India. The centers, which are located all along the Indo-Nepal border, are being used to clandestinely gather information on Indian activities, says RAW. It also rumored that RAW is monitoring around 30 Chinese firms which have set up base in Nepal and may be involved in spying on India.
  • Italian lawyers seek jail for CIA agents. Public prosecutors in Italy have urged a court in Milan to jail 26 Americans for the kidnapping of a terrorism suspect in a 2003 CIA operation on Italian soil. They also want a 13 year prison sentence for the former head of Italy’s secret service, Nicolo Pollari. Last week the US government moved for the first time to officially prevent Italian authorities from prosecuting American citizens involved in the CIA operation.
  • CIA director meets Pakistani spy chief. The director of Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) Ahmed Shuja Pasha, has met with CIA director Leon Panetta in Washington. Last week, Lieutenant General Pasha yelled at a US journalist for daring to utter the CIA’s allegations that the ISI is withholding crucial intelligence information on al-Qaeda and the Taliban.

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US moves to shield operatives in CIA abduction case

Hassan Nasr

Hassan Nasr

By JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
The US government has moved to officially prevent Italian authorities from prosecuting an American Colonel who in 2003 was involved in the illegal kidnapping of a Muslim cleric in Milan. If the Reuters report is accurate, it will be the first time that Washington moves officially to shield its covert operatives from prosecution in the Italian court system. Colonel Joseph Romano is one of 26 Americans, many of them CIA agents, believed to have been involved in the daylight abduction of Hassan Mustafa Osama Nasr from a Milan street. Nasr, who is also known as Abu Omar, says he was brutally tortured and held illegally for years without charge in Egypt, where he was renditioned by his American abductors. Read more of this post

News you may have missed #0022

  • Australian detained on espionage charge in China. The arrest of Stern Hu, who heads Anglo-Australian Rio Tinto’s iron ore operations in China, comes right after the company backed out of a deal to sell China’s state-owned Chinalco a big stake in Rio Tinto.
  • US diplomat implicated in CIA abduction in Italy requests immunity. Days after the wife of a of Muslim cleric Hassan Mustafa Osama Nasr, who in 2003 was kidnapped by the CIA in Milan, Italy, announced plans to appeal to the European Court of Human Rights, a CIA agent involved in the affair has come forward requesting immunity. Sabrina Desousa, who was listed as a “diplomat” at the US consulate in Milan at the time of Nasr’s kidnapping, has made the request through her lawyer. Last week, Robert Seldon Lady, who was the CIA station chief in Milan at the time, came forward making a similar case.
  • CIA won’t release torture interrogation contracts. The CIA has denied a Freedom of Information Act request for post-9/11 contracts signed between the CIA and Mitchell Jessen & Associates. As intelNews explained last May, Jim Mitchell and Bruce Jessen were the psychologists hired by the CIA to design an elaborate ten-stage interrogation program of “war on terrorism” detainees, which apparently culminated in waterboarding.

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