Friday, July 07, 2006

Journalists implicated in 'extraordinary rendition' kidnapping gang

Italian Probe Broadens Beyond Abduction
Los Angeles Times | July 7 2006

Italian "prosecutors are investigating whether SISMI (the Italian intelligence agency) used friendly journalists to spy on unfriendly magistrates.

"Reporters with Libero, a small right-wing newspaper in northern Italy, are suspected of setting up interviews with the lead prosecutor in the abduction case, Armando Spataro, to inquire about what he had learned, and then passing the information to SISMI agents.

"One of the Libero journalists, Claudio Antonelli, was interrogated by prosecutors in Milan for four hours Thursday, the Italian news agency ANSA reported. Editors for the paper have denied wrongdoing. Its offices were raided Wednesday by police working for the prosecutors.

"Spataro's work has been especially problematic for the CIA and its allies in Italy. In contrast to law enforcement officials in other European countries where the agency is believed to have carried out similar extraordinary renditions, Spataro is attempting to prosecute CIA operatives.

"He has issued arrest warrants for 26 Americans whom he has accused of being part of the Abu Omar operation, including the former CIA station chief in Rome, even though the Berlusconi government tried to shut the prosecutor down. None of the Americans are in Italy, and none have been detained.

"The transcripts of law enforcement wiretaps published in Italian newspapers showed that Mancini and other SISMI officers referred to Spataro as il cretino — the cretin. Mancini also can be heard, according to one of the transcripts, saying he lied about involvement in the Abu Omar case.

"Mancini was expected to be interrogated by prosecutors today. He said Thursday through his lawyer that he "trusted in justice" and was confident that his innocence would become clear.

"Part of the case that Spataro is building, according to sources familiar with it, relies on testimony from Col. Stefano D'Ambrosio, former head of SISMI's Milan office. He purportedly has said that he was removed from the position and replaced by Mancini after he voiced objections to the plan to seize Abu Omar, which he also discussed with the Milan CIA station chief.

"Berlusconi, a supporter of the Bush administration who lost reelection to a center-left coalition in April, has denied knowledge of the Abu Omar operation.

"The CIA has not officially acknowledged its role, but officers have said privately that the operation was conducted with Italian officials' approval and cooperation. Italy's new foreign minister, Massimo D'Alema of the Democratic Party of the Left, said in comments published Thursday that the entire matter needed to be fully investigated. 'The Americans have always said they never violated Italian sovereignty,' he told the Corriere della Sera daily newspaper. 'Perhaps they were not entirely wrong.'

"But he drew a line on what SISMI should be allowed to do under the new government. 'At what point is it legitimate, in the fight against terrorism, to negate the values you are fighting for?' D'Alema said. 'One of the principles of Italian foreign policy will be to promote the defense of human and democratic rights as universal values."

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