Italy orders arrest of six more CIA agents
Los Angeles Times | July 26, 2005
By Tracy Wilkinson
BOLOGNA, Italy -- An Italian appeals court yesterday ordered the arrest of six additional CIA agents 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 CIA operatives being sought by Italian justice officials. None is believed to be in Italy now, and no one has been arrested in connection with the case.
"We now have 19 fugitives," the case's lead prosecutor, 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 suspected terrorists 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 yesterday are believed to have followed Abu Omar, who had been living in Milan since 2001, determined his habits and patterns and cased the best routes for transporting him to the U.S.-Italian Aviano Air Base in northern Italy, from which he was flown to Egypt.
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 cell phones and rented rooms at luxury hotels using passports and credit cards.
Although most of the names used were probably aliases, the identity of the former CIA station chief in Milan was exposed.