"Milan [Italy] prosecutors and police spent the last two years documenting Americans' role in the February 17, 2003 disappearance of Hussan Mustafa Omar Nasr, 42, an Egyptian cleric," notes The Washington Post in a June 26, 2005 article headlined "Italians Detail Lavish CIA Operation." The Post recalled that, " On Thursday [June 23, 2005], a Milan judge ruled that there was enough evidence to warrant the arrest of 13 suspected CIA operatives on kidnapping charges."
"The Americans' whereabouts are unknown, and Italian authorities acknowledged that the odds were slim that they would ever be taken into custody," the paper said. "The CIA has declined to comment."
Surely The Post did not expect the Bush Administration and the CIA to provide an opportunity for more speculation about the controversial "special rendition" program conducted by the CIA's " Special Removal Unit." The unit takes so-called terror suspects to countries like Egypt, Jordan, Morocco, Syria and Uzbekistan, where they are reportedly tortured to obtain information beneficial to the U.S. See Jane Mayer's article in the February 14, 2005 issue of The New Yorker headlined "Outsourcing Torture: The secret history of Americas extraordinary rendition program" for more on this subject.
The New York Times also weighed in on the Milan judge's call for the arrest of the U.S. CIA agents cited in The Post story. Stephen Grey and Don Van Natta, Jr., in an article also published in the June 27, 2005 edition of the New York Times Company-owned International Herald Tribune, characterized it this way:
The extraordinary decision by an Italian judge to order the arrest of 13 people linked to the CIA on charges of kidnapping a terrorism suspect here [in Milan] dramatizes a growing rift between American counterterrorism officials and their counterparts in Europe.
European counterterrorism officials have pursued a policy of building criminal cases against terrorism suspects through surveillance, wiretaps, detective work and the criminal justice system. The United States, however, has frequently used other means since Sept. 11, 2001, including renditions - abducting terror suspects from foreign countries and transporting them for questioning to third countries, some of which are known to use torture.
They said, "The two approaches seem to have collided for an Egyptian cleric, Hassan Mustafa Osama Nasr
, or Abu Omar
, accused of leading a militant mosque in Milan."
"By early 2003," The Times reported, "the Italian secret police were aggressively pursuing a criminal terrorism case against Nasr, with the help of American intelligence officials. Italian investigators said they had told the Americans they had strong evidence that he was trying to build a terror recruitment network, possibly aimed for Iraq if the United States went forward with plans to topple Saddam Hussein. On Feb. 17, 2003, Nasr disappeared," the paper noted.
Chicago Tribune reporters John Crewdson, Tom Hundley and Liz Sly, in a June 25, 2005 article, also used the term extraordinary. They wrote:
The move was no less extraordinary for coming from a country whose prime minister, Silvio Berlusconi, is one of the few European leaders who support the U.S.-led intervention in Iraq and which has contributed 3,000 troops to that effort.Current and retired CIA officers, none of whom agreed to be quoted by name, said they could not remember one of their own having been charged abroad with a crime other than espionage, and certainly not in a country friendly to the U.S.
"Although the CIA refuses to talk about the Milan abduction or even acknowledge that it occurred, documents obtained by the Tribune clearly link the intelligence agency with the identities, addresses and cell phones used by several of the American operatives. The existence of the CIA's supersecret abduction squads has come to light since the events of Sept. 11, 2001, although the agency's practice of snatching suspected criminals abroad goes back at least to the Reagan administration.
On March 20, 2005, Crewdson and Hundley reported that, "Before he resigned last June, former CIA Director George Tenet
testified that the CIA had orchestrated more than 70 renditions
during his seven-year tenure. There reportedly have been another 30 or so since then."
This revelation is contained in their article about how a Gulfstream Jet, "which bore the tail number N85VM" and is "owned by one of the Boston Red Sox's partners," departed from Aviano Italy, "which is home to the U.S. Air Force's 31st Fighter Wing," around "the time of Omar's disappearance. " from Italy.
"... Federal Aviation Administration records obtained by the Chicago Tribune show that Gulfstream N85VM has been many places around the world that the Red Sox have almost certainly never gone," Crewdson and Hundley wrote. "Between June 2002 and January of this year, the Gulfstream made 51 visits to Guantanamo, Cuba, site of the U.S. naval base where more than 500 terrorism suspects are behind bars."
They said, "during the same period, the plane recorded 82 visits to Washington's Dulles International Airport as well as landings at Andrews Air Force Base outside the capital and the U.S. air bases at Ramstein and Rhein-Main in Germany."
"The plane's flight log also shows visits to Afghanistan, Morocco, Dubai, Jordan, Italy, Japan, Switzerland, Azerbaijan and the Czech Republic." See "Jet's Travels Cloaked in Mystery" for more.
Meanwhile, Tracy Wilkinson of the Los Angeles Times, in an article headlined "CIA Said to Leave Trail in Abduction, "said "If Italian authorities are right, they have exposed a CIA operation here that on some levels was brazen and perhaps reckless, even as it successfully spirited away a notorious Egyptian imam."
Could it be that the warrants were issued because the CIA agents were so brazen?
Finally, Italy is not the only European nation upset with the U.S. for staging kidnappings on its soil. London Observer correspondent Barbara McMahon, writing from Rome, noted in an article in the June 26, 2005 issue of The Sunday Observer that, "Other nations have also begun to oppose [and expose] Washington's forcible removal of terror suspects.
"Canada is holding hearings into the deportation of a Canadian to Syria for questioning about alleged ties to al-Qaeda," the publication noted. "German prosecutors are conducting a criminal investigation into the suspected kidnapping of a German man who was flown to Afghanistan."
"In Stockholm," Ms. McMahon added, "a parliamentary investigator has already concluded that CIA agents violated Swedish law by subjecting two Egyptian nationals to 'degrading and inhuman treatment' during a rendition in 2001. See "Italians hunt covert CIA snatch squad"