[News] Italians Issue Six New CIA Warrants

News at freedomarchives.org News at freedomarchives.org
Tue Jul 26 14:24:12 EDT 2005

  Italians Issue Six New CIA Warrants
     By Tracy Wilkinson
     The Los Angeles Times


     Tuesday 26 July 2005
Appellate court agrees with prosecutors, who now seek 19 operatives in 
cleric's abduction.

     Bologna, Italy - An Italian appeals court ordered the arrest of six 
additional CIA operatives Monday in connection with the disappearance of a 
radical Muslim cleric who was snatched from the streets of Milan two years 
ago, a prosecutor said.

     The arrest warrants bring to 19 the number of operatives being sought 
by Italian justice officials. None is believed to be in Italy currently, 
and no one has been arrested in connection with the case.

     "We now have 19 fugitives," the lead prosecutor in the case, Armando 
Spataro, told the Los Angeles Times.

     At issue is the disappearance of Hassan Osama Nasr, also known as Abu 
Omar, an Egyptian who Italian officials say was kidnapped by CIA agents and 
bundled off to an Egyptian jail, where he was tortured. The operation was 
believed to be an "extraordinary rendition," a controversial U.S. practice 
of clandestinely seizing terrorism suspects in one country and transporting 
them to another, where they are interrogated and sometimes brutalized.

     Italian prosecutors' efforts to arrest and try the CIA operatives have 
proved enormously embarrassing to the agency and to Italian government 
officials, straining traditionally close U.S. Italian ties. It is rare for 
one of Washington's allies to attempt to prosecute U.S. spies.

     The six for whom warrants were issued Monday are believed to have 
followed Abu Omar, who had been living in Milan since 2001, determined his 
habits and patterns, and cased out routes for transporting him to the 
U.S.-Italian Aviano Air Base in northern Italy, from which he was flown to 

     The operation appeared sloppy: According to Italian court documents 
and interviews with Italian law enforcement officials, the operatives 
behaved recklessly, leaving a clear trail. They spoke frequently and openly 
on cellphones and rented rooms at luxury hotels using passports and credit 

     Although most of the names used were probably aliases, the identity of 
the former CIA station chief in Milan was exposed and has been printed 
widely in the Italian press and some American press. He no longer works for 
the agency and has vanished from a retirement home he purchased near Turin.

     Spataro, the Italian prosecutor, sought arrest warrants this year for 
all 19 operatives allegedly involved in the operation. A judge last month 
granted them for the 13 who allegedly participated directly in seizing the 
cleric as he walked to a mosque. The judge refused to order the arrest of 
the six who allegedly helped in reconnaissance.

     Spataro appealed, and a three-judge court Monday granted his request.

     "The court wrote that it is not possible to distinguish between the 
two groups, the first that only studied the area of the operation and [Abu 
Omar's] way of life, and the second group that were the actual executors," 
Spataro said from Milan. "They were all involved in the same project of 
kidnapping. They were all responsible."

     The appeal, a copy of which was obtained by The Times, alleges that 
all of the operatives participated in the conspiracy because they shared 
hotels, and their telephone traffic indicated they were frequently together 
and in regular contact. A female agent from the group of six shared a room 
at the five-star Westin Hotel in Milan with a male agent from the group of 
13, the court documents allege.

     The CIA declined to comment on the case Monday.

     At the time of his disappearance, Abu Omar was under investigation by 
Italian counter-terrorism police who suspected he was helping recruit 
suicide bombers. He was frequenting a mosque in Milan that U.S. authorities 
had long branded a center of Islamic extremism.

     The Italians insist they were preparing to arrest Abu Omar when he 
disappeared and say the U.S. ruined their case.

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