Sunday, December 11, 2005

Spies Gone Wild! Pt 1. CIA screw up damages major terror investigation

Sometimes the Term ClusterF*ck just doesn't seem strong enough.

Case in point: the CIA most recent Adventures in "extraordinary rendition" and secret prisons.  Not only have they trashed a century of U.S. credibility on human rights; Not only have they stretched relations with long time allies to or even beyond the breaking point; but in some cases they've actually HURT efforts to prevent new terrorist attacks.  This is my first two-parter but I think the subject deserves to be looked at in more depth than a single diary can reasonably accommodate.  Today the incredible story of how one CIA operation actually hurt efforts to identify and disrupt terrorist activities.  Tomorrow we'll look into more depth about how post 9/11 the CIA's been given an impossible mission and blank check to fulfill the mandate, and what a dangerous combination that's become.

First let's look at  This story of CIA incompetence in yesterday's WaPo.   It  details how one CIA snatch and grab, and their  amateurish efforts to cover it up, actually derailed a MAJOR anti-terror investigation:

In March 2003, the Italian national anti-terrorism police received an urgent message from the CIA about a radical Islamic cleric who had mysteriously vanished from Milan a few weeks before. The CIA reported that it had reliable information that the cleric, the target of an Italian criminal investigation, had fled to an unknown location in the Balkans.

Only that wasn't exactly, well,  "within the realm of objective accuracy":

In fact, according to Italian court documents and interviews with investigators, the CIA's tip was a deliberate lie, part of a ruse designed to stymie efforts by the Italian anti-terrorism police to track down the cleric. The strategy worked for more than a year until Italian investigators learned that Nasr had not gone to the Balkans after all.

Now WHY in the Multi-planar HELLS of the religion of your choice would they DO such a thing?:

  Well basically, because  the CIA had him and didn't want to share:

 he was abducted off a street in Milan by a team of CIA operatives who took him to two U.S. military bases in succession and then flew him to Egypt, where he was interrogated and allegedly tortured by Egyptian security agents before being released to house arrest.

Be clear here.  This wasn't a case of two agencies accidentally stepping on each other's toes.  The CIA had to  know the Italians were investigating this guy or they wouldn't have passed them that phony tip to throw them off.   In other words they played a major ally for a sucker just so they could be the ones to bring this guy (who incidentally has never been charged with anything)

So never mind all that National sovereignty crap, so much for any notion International cooperation, Apparently What the CIA wants the CIA thinks it can have no matter what the long term consequences.  To their credit, this time the "host" country isn't taking this lying down.  Thanks to an actually independant judiciary, Italian prosecutors have, ove rthe objections of thier own Federal government (who are Bushco Stooges)  done what no criminal justice system in this country has had the cojones to do; File criminal charges:

Since July, prosecutors and judges in Milan have issued arrest warrants charging 22 alleged CIA operatives, including the head of the CIA Milan substation, with kidnapping and other crimes.   "The kidnapping of Abu Omar was not only a serious crime against Italian sovereignty and human rights, but it also seriously damaged counterterrorism efforts in Italy and Europe."said Armando Spataro, the lead prosecutor in Milan.

And it's clear the prosecutor isn't engaging in hyperbole, theItalian Cops are pissed:

Italian anti-terrorism police said they were close to arresting Nasr at the time he disappeared. They had him under regular surveillance, with wiretaps on his home telephone, as part of an investigation into a network of Islamic extremists in northern Italy. His disappearance meant that Italian authorities lost a valuable window into the Islamic underground, prosecutors say....

And what has the US had to say for itself?  Well apparently we handed our "ally" Italian PM Silvio Berlusconi an autographed copy of the Tom Delay Criminal Indictment Playbook, from which he ran the old "Biased prosecutor Blitz":

 After meeting with U.S. Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales in Washington in early November,[Justice Minister Roberto] Castelli questioned whether the prosecution was politically motivated, calling the lead prosecutor a leftist "militant" whose work needed to be reviewed carefully.

Yeah because that worked So well against Ronnie Earle didn't it?  

Worse yet, our motives in this case may not have had anything to Do with preventing terrorism:

some European counterterrorism officials and outside experts to speculate that Nasr was abducted as a favor to the Egyptian government.

See, Egypt was less than pleased with some of his poltical activities, but couldn't get at him because Italy had granted him poltical Asylum. So while they vigorusly deny this, the CIA may actually have made Nasr a human Thank you gift to the Egyptian government for all those other messy torture and rendition cases of our they'd handled.

There's more to  this incredible saga of monumental incompetence;  If you want to be disgusted and amused read this Story from July about the actual kidnapping.  It features unbelievably sloppy spy-craft, and $100,000 luxury hotel bills.

However, bad as all this is, its just tip of the iceberg.  Incredible damage to our national reputation and foreign policy is being done by a completely unaccountable CIA that's been handed Carte Blanche to do whatever it wants , spend whatever it wants, and piss off whoever it wants just so long as they pretend to be making progress in the "war on Terra".

The scope of their actions is staggering.   So far they've snatched over 3,000 people, and subjected many of them to torture and interrogation without having to justify their actions to *any * executive, judicial or legislative body.  As a result serious mistakes have been made, lives have been ruined, people have even died;  but nobody's been held accountable.  Tune in  Tomorrow we'll examine how the hell this could have happened.


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