The Italian Job

Earlier today an Italian court convicted in absentia twenty-two CIA officers and a colonel in the US Air Force of charges relating to the February 2003 kidnapping of Muslim cleric Osama Moustafa Hassan Nasr aka Abu Omar.

Abu Omar was a victim of the extraordinary rendition program established by the Clinton administration and greatly expanded under President George W. Bush in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks.

He was snatched off the street in Milan and flown secretly to Cairo where he was handed off to Egyptian security officials. Abu Omar was tortured extensively in Egyptian custody. He was finally released without charge in 2007.

The Italian decision is a graphic illustration of just how damaging practices such as kidnapping and torture are to America’s national security.

Armando Spataro, the deputy Milan public prosecutor, told reporters:

“This decision sends a clear message to all governments that even in the fight against terrorism you can’t forsake the basic rights of our democracies.”

Yet, the Obama administration has given no commitment to end the practice of extraordinary rendition. Indeed, the administration has asserted that this is an option that it plans to retain as part of its counterterrorism strategy.

This is a terrible mistake. Continuing these practices will inevitably have a chilling effect on other countries’ willingness to work with the United States until they can be sure that America will no longer operate as a rogue nation outside the law.

Two Italian intelligence officers were also convicted for their roles in the Abu Omar abduction and it is hard to imagine that this lesson has been lost on counterterrorism officials in other western countries.

These policies are toxic. We gain nothing but shame from them. There is no upside. Extraordinary rendition famously produced the false intelligence that linked Iraq to Al Qaeda and helped precipitate the rush to war in Iraq perhaps the biggest counterterrorism blunder of this, or any, decade.

The United States shouldn’t need a foreign court to distinguish right from wrong. The Obama administration must repudiate the unlawful practice of extraordinary rendition – and hold accountable those responsible for having put this system in place — or his administration will end up as tarnished as his predecessor’s.

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6 thoughts on “The Italian Job

  1. I have 2 questions

    1)
    Why are you not also calling for the arrest and prosecution of the actual perpetrators of the physical torture itself, namely. the leading government and security officials of Jordan, Syria and Egypt who actually authorized or carried out the torture itsef, instead of just prosecuting the Americans who sent the victims there?

    2)
    Since the current Administration is itself commuting its own war crimes every day, such as the illegal use of “extra judicial execution” by the technique of drone aircraft assassination in Pakistan, personally authorized by order of the current president, with its predictable mass civilian bystander death toll in the 100s this year alone, will you then be calling for the next administration in 2 or 6 years to prosecute this current one for these crimes?

  2. I have 2 questions

    1)
    Why are you not also calling for the arrest and prosecution of the actual perpetrators of the physical torture itself, namely. the leading government and security officials of Jordan, Syria and Egypt who actually authorized or carried out the torture itsef, instead of just prosecuting the Americans who sent the victims there?

    2)
    Since the current Administration is itself commuting its own war crimes every day, such as the illegal use of “extra judicial execution” by the technique of drone aircraft assassination in Pakistan, personally authorized by order of the current president, with its predictable mass civilian bystander death toll in the 100s this year alone, will you then be calling for the next administration in 2 or 6 years to prosecute this current one for these crimes?

  3. source:
    Pakistan Drone War Takes a Toll on Militants — and Civilians
    By Peter Bergen, Katherine Tiedemann, New America Foundation
    CNN.com | October 29, 2009
    http://www.newamerica.net/publications/articles/2

    "The Obama administration has dramatically ratcheted up the American drone warfare program in Pakistan. Since President Obama took office, U.S. drone strikes have killed about a half-dozen militant leaders along with hundreds of other people"

    "According to Philip Alston, a U.N. human rights investigator, the use of drones to carry out targeted assassinations that end up killing civilians may well violate international law.

    On Tuesday at a news conference in New York, Alston publicly warned that unless the Obama administration explains what the legal basis is for selecting the individuals targeted by drone attacks, "it will increasingly be perceived as carrying out indiscriminate killings in violation of international law."

  4. source:
    Pakistan Drone War Takes a Toll on Militants — and Civilians
    By Peter Bergen, Katherine Tiedemann, New America Foundation
    CNN.com | October 29, 2009
    http://www.newamerica.net/publications/articles/2

    "The Obama administration has dramatically ratcheted up the American drone warfare program in Pakistan. Since President Obama took office, U.S. drone strikes have killed about a half-dozen militant leaders along with hundreds of other people"

    "According to Philip Alston, a U.N. human rights investigator, the use of drones to carry out targeted assassinations that end up killing civilians may well violate international law.

    On Tuesday at a news conference in New York, Alston publicly warned that unless the Obama administration explains what the legal basis is for selecting the individuals targeted by drone attacks, "it will increasingly be perceived as carrying out indiscriminate killings in violation of international law."

  5. source:
    Pakistan Drone War Takes a Toll on Militants — and Civilians
    By Peter Bergen, Katherine Tiedemann, New America Foundation
    CNN.com | October 29, 2009
    http://www.newamerica.net/publications/articles/2

    "The Obama administration has dramatically ratcheted up the American drone warfare program in Pakistan. Since President Obama took office, U.S. drone strikes have killed about a half-dozen militant leaders along with hundreds of other people"

    "According to Philip Alston, a U.N. human rights investigator, the use of drones to carry out targeted assassinations that end up killing civilians may well violate international law.

    On Tuesday at a news conference in New York, Alston publicly warned that unless the Obama administration explains what the legal basis is for selecting the individuals targeted by drone attacks, "it will increasingly be perceived as carrying out indiscriminate killings in violation of international law."

  6. source:
    Pakistan Drone War Takes a Toll on Militants — and Civilians
    By Peter Bergen, Katherine Tiedemann, New America Foundation
    CNN.com | October 29, 2009

    http://www.newamerica.net/publications/articles/2009/pakistan_drone_war_takes_toll_militants_and_civilians_19353

    “The Obama administration has dramatically ratcheted up the American drone warfare program in Pakistan. Since President Obama took office, U.S. drone strikes have killed about a half-dozen militant leaders along with hundreds of other people”

    “According to Philip Alston, a U.N. human rights investigator, the use of drones to carry out targeted assassinations that end up killing civilians may well violate international law.

    On Tuesday at a news conference in New York, Alston publicly warned that unless the Obama administration explains what the legal basis is for selecting the individuals targeted by drone attacks, “it will increasingly be perceived as carrying out indiscriminate killings in violation of international law.”