Italy’s Pursuit of CIA Operatives Stalls: Resistance by Berlusconi government and apathy about being able to keep the U.S. from infringing sovereignty fetter case of imam spirited abroad. (Tracy Wilkinson, December 30, 2005, LA Times)
The pro-U.S. government of Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi is refusing to forward the extradition requests and instead has asked for more documentation, a highly unusual request that prosecutors regard as a delaying tactic.
Berlusconi has repeatedly denied that his government knew about or authorized the abduction, even as former CIA officers in Washington said the operation was conducted with Italian government cooperation.
Berlusconi shrugged off the contradiction. Last week, he justified the operation, saying governments should not be expected to fight terrorism “with a law book in hand.”
The ease and openness with which the operatives acted in Milan suggest that they knew they had the green light from Italian authorities. Among other activities, they ran up bills totaling more than $150,000 at some of Milan’s best hotels.
“Berlusconi was an accomplice,” said Giusto Catania, a leftist Italian member of the European Parliament who sits on its civil liberties committee. Catania is one of a group of EU lawmakers spearheading a continent-wide investigation into alleged CIA activities, as reports of secret prisons and flights mount.
It is not in the prime minister’s interest for the Italian inquiry to advance, Catania said, because of his apparent role in permitting the rendition.
Berlusconi believes he will weather any domestic criticism, said a senior advisor to the prime minister, speaking anonymously because he was not authorized to discuss the matter publicly. […]
Italian prosecutors said the CIA operation was an egregious violation of national sovereignty, a call taken up by some members of the political left. […]
Italian prosecutors have tried to broaden the prosecution of his captors. But, in addition to official roadblocks, they are confronted with a general sense of resignation among Italians, another obstacle to the criminal case. Outrage over the abduction has been tempered by a feeling among many Italians that the Americans will do as they choose on national territory, and nothing can be done about it.
“In a certain sense, Italians expect Italy to be taken for granted,” said Giuseppe Cucchi, a retired army general with Italy’s civil protection office who is familiar with intelligence operations.
It’s a very good thing for the Right to fret about the threat of transnationalism, but the reality is that America, as Crusader State, is the far more significant threat to national sovereignty.