Saturday, June 25, 2005

Thirteen Is Not A Lucky Number

There is much odd and inbelievable about this story:

Thirteen With C.I.A Sought By Italy In Kidnapping"

"MILAN, June 24 - An Italian judge has ordered the arrest of 13 officers and operatives of the Central Intelligence Agency on charges that they seized an Egyptian cleric on a Milan street two years ago and flew him to Egypt for questioning... Chiara Nobili of Milan, signed the arrest warrants on Wednesday for 13 C.I.A. operatives who are suspected of seizing an imam named Hassan Mustafa Osama Nasr, also known as Abu Omar, as he walked to his mosque here for noon prayers on Feb. 17, 2003. "

Isn't Italy an ally of the United States - both in NATO and in the Global War on Terror?

Why would we operate in such a manner that suggests otherwise?

Why are our allies pursing our alleged agents in such an aggressive manner?

Why are we even conducting extra-judicial , non intelligence producing, operations in Italy?

Italy is not only an ally in the Global War on Terror, they have also been part of Bush's Iraq 'coalition of the willing.'

Does Bush know or care that the whole world constantly sees him saying one thing and doing another?

Recall the howls of laughter when the world heard Condi Rice critique the Iranian election, while keeping quiet about Saudl and Egyptian authoritarianism.

Recall the cynial chuckles heard around the world when Condi critiqued Russian democracy lapses , while she and her boss remain pretty silent about horrible allegations of unspeakable acts conducted by our new 'allies' in Central Asia's former Soviet Republics.

Every nation's leader is a bit hypocritical, but Bush is way over the top.

There seems to much incredulous about this whole fiasco, if true.

Our agents are poorly served by such odd operations - These operations seem, at face value, to be at cross-purposes to our strong relations with Italy and their own investigation of this man.

If this Egyptian Cleric the C.I.A. is alleged to have kidnapped and "renditioned" to Egypt was actually a terrorist, why was he not arrested, charged, and prosecuted?

Terrorism is illegal in Italy.

Indeed, the man who was allegedly kidnapped was actually under investigation (now botched?) for terror links.

Where that investigation would have led is now a mystery.

Now that Nasr has disappeared, it seems he and his contacts can no longer be as fruitfully tracked; we may have missed out on learning about new enemy cells.

Also, if the allegations had merit, why send him to Egypt?

In Egypt suspects are reportedly tortured; any confession obtained by torture is obviously meaningless and historically infamous.

Public opinion is better served by a detailed revelation of the facts.

Regarding the Americans who are alleged to be involved, we feel very bad for them. The administration has not demonstrated good loyalty for people who follow orders, rather than give them.

Please read the whole story, but check out some of these odd aspects:

"It was not known Friday whether the *Italian government* had approved the rendition here .... several former American intelligence officials have said they would be surprised if C.I.A. operations here had not been approved by Italy."

If that was true, and Italy approved- maybe there there should be a new rule that says if you [Italy] are going to approved such operations on Italian soil, you should not investigate what you knew was going to happen.

"Several senior Italian investigators said they believed the 13 operatives had left Italy. A raid carried out Thursday at a villa owned by one of the operatives in the Piedmont hills produced a computer disk drive and documents, investigators said."

Stop for a moment; How many intelligence officers can afford a villa in the Piedmont hills on their government check? Who among them would be so careless as to leave operational details on a easily seized computer disk?

Unless that was the point.

".... American agents used their Italian cellphones (Mama Mia!) at the precise moment Mr. Nasr was abducted; they kept the phones switched on for hours at a time, making it easier to track their movements; and they dialed many phone numbers in the United States, most of them in northern Virginia, including at least one number at agency headquarters."

If novelists and screenwriters know that cellphones are not secure, don't the professionals?

One hopes this seeming slip was intentional. Otherwise, that would raise disturbing issues of operational abilities and poor use of tax payer resources and training..

Maybe, just maybe, they were creating this loud visible mess, for little seeming gain, and at great cost, so as to distract from some brilliant, quiet, intricate operations that will make us safer.


Here's more odd stuff:

"The police said they were able to retrace nearly every step the American operatives made during the nine days they were in Milan for the operation. They identified the suspects by examining all cellphones in use near the abduction, and then tracing the web of calls placed. Investigators said they were able to trace several calls by Americans on the road from Milan to Aviano, the joint American-Italian air base north of Venice."

"The suspects stayed in five-star Milan hotels, including the Hilton, the Sheraton, the Galia and Principe di Savoia, in the week before the operation, at a cost of $144,984, the warrant says, adding that after Mr. Nasr was flown to Egypt, two of the officers took a few days' holiday at five-star hotels in Venice, Tuscany and South Tyrol."

Five-star hotels? Five-day holiday? Where was Ian Fleming?

"The Italian investigators also collected photocopies of the operatives' passports, photographs, cellphone numbers and their MasterCard and VISA credit card numbers (PIN numbers?). Six other American officials - either C.I.A. officers or diplomats posted at the Milan consulate - are under investigation for helping support the abduction, Italian investigators said."


"Mr. Nasr, a 42-year-old Egyptian-born cleric, came to the attention of counterterrorism officials here in 1997, shortly after he arrived from Albania. After Sept. 11, 2001, he was identified by American and Italian intelligence officials as a supporter of Al Qaeda who fought in Afghanistan and Bosnia and had made anti-American statements. At the time that he disappeared, Italian authorities were investigating reports that Mr. Nasr had tried to recruit jihadists through his mosque in Milan."

"The Milan police said they had been told by witnesses that at noon on Feb. 17, 2003, two or three Italian-speaking men approached Mr. Nasr as he walked along Via Guerzoni, in an industrial area on the outskirts of the city. The men asked Mr. Nasr to show them his identification, the witnesses said. The men then sprayed him in the face with chemicals and forced him into a white van, which sped away."

What kind of secret agent sprays supected clerics in foreign streets in front of witnesses?

What could be more suspicious looking that a white van in Milan?

Were these agents also wearing fanny packs, cell phones, and Disney t-shirts?

Here are some more details in the paper:

"....Mr. Nasr was taken within five hours to the American military base at Aviano, and was flown to Egypt on Feb. 18, 2003. His journey to Egypt began on an Air Force Learjet, operated under a radio call-sign Spar 92, which is used by the 76th Airlift Squadron, in Ramstein, Germany. It took off from Aviano at 6:20 p.m. for Ramstein. There, a week later, Mr. Nasr was transferred onto a Gulfstream IV executive jet for Cairo, the warrants say. "

Reading this, one cannot imagine a less secret operation.

"The Gulfstream belongs to a part-owner of the Boston Red Sox, Philip H. Morse. The warrant noted that Mr. Morse had previously confirmed that his jet was regularly leased to the C.I.A., with the team's logo covered. In an article in The Boston Globe on March 21, Mr. Morse was quoted as saying he was "stunned" by a newspaper report that the plane might have been used for renditions."

Is Jerry Seinfeld planning CIA operations?

Maybe that was Eliane and George who took off for a five day Northern Italian tour.


"A senior Italian official said the apparent abduction of Mr. Nasr had disrupted the Italians' attempt to identify his connection to a suspected terrorist network in Europe. "Our belief is that terrorist suspects should be investigated through legal channels and brought to a court of law - not kidnapped and spirited away to be tortured in some secret prison," the official said."

He is correct. Trials are not just the means to an end, but are an end in themselves.

That's no secret either.