The Spark

“The emancipation of the working class will only be achieved by the working class itself.” — Karl Marx

Italy and the CIA:
Subcontracting torture

Jul 18, 2005

The Italian justice department issued an arrest warrant for 13 CIA agents formerly working in Milan. These CIA agents had grabbed an Islamic imam in February of 2003, taking him to a U.S. air base and then sending him to Egypt for "questioning" by the Egyptian authorities.

The imam, Abou Omar, was tortured in the Egyptian prison; his health was so severely ruined that he was released in April of 2004. Then the Egyptian authorities re-arrested him a month later for mentioning his torture in telephone calls. Since February of 2005, his family has had no news of him.

The demand of the Italian government to extradite the CIA agents to Italy for arrest has been ignored by U.S. authorities. Omar's medical records, which show clearly what he went through, somehow managed to disappear between Egypt and Italy.

In carrying out this operation, the CIA agents didn't bother to hide who they were, paying for luxury hotels in Milan and Venice on credit cards. Several days after the kidnapping, they claimed the imam had fled to Bosnia. To explain his disappearance, they started a rumor that he was fed up with his wife!

The whole episode with the imam shows the methods of the U.S. intelligence services, making clear they were authorized at the highest levels. With the excuse they are hunting terrorists, they feel free to do anything, without concern for legalities. Nor do the Egyptian authorities bother to hide their participation in what is called "extraordinary rendition." The Egyptian prime minister admitted his government had been involved in at least 60 or 70 such kidnappings.

This past January, President Bush claimed that "torture is never acceptable, nor do we hand over people to countries that do torture." This direct lie was rebutted in two articles published in The New Yorker the following month. The writer Jane Mayer outlined a secret program begun ten years ago, during the Clinton administration – long before September 11th. Mayer interviewed a former CIA agent who wrote a book about these matters and helped set up the "extraordinary renditions" program in 1995, arranging for Egypt, Morocco, Syria and Jordan to do the dirty work for the U.S. government. A law expert cited by Mayer estimated at least 150 people have been "rendered" in the last three years, not counting those detained at Guantanamo or in Iraq and Afghanistan. Omar is hardly alone in his treatment.

But none of this stops the U.S. government from pretending to give lessons in democracy to the entire world. Condoleezza Rice had the nerve to tell Arab governments they needed to become "more democratic," on her recent tour of the Middle East.