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

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CIA behind ‘illegal’ anti-drug operation in Costa Rica

Costa Rica

Costa Rica

By IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
An espionage operation against drug trafficking by a mysterious unit within the Costa Rican intelligence service was organized and funded by the US Central Intelligence Agency, it has been alleged. The operation, codenamed CINEC, was revealed by Costa Rica’s former Minister of Public Security, Rogelio Ramos, in an interview earlier this week with the country’s leading newspaper, La Nación. Ramos told the newspaper that CINEC was conducted for a period of ten years by a group of “special agents” operating out of the Dirección de Inteligencia Seguridad (DIS), Costa Rica’s intelligence agency. The former government minister said CINEC members were stationed in houses throughout the country that were leased by front-companies operating on behalf of the CIA, and that they used equipment, including vehicles, supplied by the US agency. He also said that CINEC operatives were recruited, vetted, administered polygraph tests, and trained by the CIA. According to the Nación article, Ramos said that operation CINEC included activities that “are not legal”. Read more of this post

Three more Latin American countries recognize Palestinian state

Israel, Palestine

Israel, Palestine

By IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
Three more Latin American countries officially recognized the state of Palestine last week, prompting harsh diplomatic responses from Israel and the United States. The recognitions were announced by the governments of Brazil, Argentina and Uruguay, which make up the majority of Mercosur, a South American common market area modeled after the European Union. All three nations said they officially recognized a Palestinian state based on internationally established borders prior to the 1967 Six Day War, during which Israel illegally occupied the West Bank and Gaza. The official recognitions were immediately endorsed by Riyad al-Maliki, Foreign Affairs Minister of the Palestinian National Authority (PNA) in the West Bank, who said that the PNA expected Paraguay —Mercosur’s fourth member— to follow suit early next year. The new recognitions by Brazil, Argentina and Uruguay follow earlier similar moves by Nicaragua, Venezuela, Costa Rica and Cuba. Diplomatic observers expect Palestine to soon be officially recognized by the vast majority of Latin American nations, with Colombia, Peru and a handful of Central American states being the few exceptions. Read more of this post

Costa Rican political police rocked by high-level corruption scandal

DIS scandal

DIS scandal

For years, Costa Rica’s unions and opposition activists have accused the country’s political police, the Dirección de Inteligencia y Seguridad (DIS), of illegally spying on lawful political activity. Yet their allegations never made it into the US State Department’s annual human rights reports on Costa Rica. The Department’s latest report claims that the country’s “civilian authorities generally maintained effective control of the security forces”. Last November, however, government investigators uncovered an enormous money-laundering cartel operating inside DIS, whose head was no other than the organization’s Deputy Director, Roberto Guillén. Guillén, who was forced to step down on November 25, employed DIS computers to access private information of unsuspecting citizens, and used the data to launder nearly half a million dollars in illegal transfers to himself and others. Read more of this post