Ex-CIA Agent Accuses Top Bush Officials of Approving Kidnapping in Italy and then Abandoning those who Followed Orders
A former Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) officer has gone public with claims that the George W. Bush administration agreed to an Italian trial of CIA officials for abducting an Islamic cleric in 2003, so that the president and other senior leaders would be protected from prosecution.
Sabrina De Sousa told McClatchy Newspapers that administration officials inflated the threat posed by Osama Mustapha Hassan Nasr, who was kidnapped by a CIA team in Milan and flown to Egypt, where he was held for almost four years without charges and allegedly tortured.
In November 2009, an Italian court tried 23 Americans, including De Sousa, in absentia for the kidnapping. All of the convicted received jail sentences of seven years, except for Robert Seldon Lady, the former Milan CIA station chief, who had his sentence increased to nine years after appealing.
During the trial, Lady told an Italian newspaper he was not guilty—but also indicated he may have been involved in the abduction. “I’m only responsible for carrying out orders that I received from my superiors,” he told Il Giornale.
The U.S. government refused to turn over any of those convicted. Lady was arrested in Panama on an INTERPOL warrant on July 18, 2013, but was returned to the United States the next day.
In her interview, De Sousa told McClatchy:
–Jeffrey Castelli, former CIA station chief in Rome, was the mastermind of the operation, and that he exaggerated Nasr’s terrorist threat to win approval for the kidnapping and misled his superiors that Italian military intelligence had agreed to the operation.
–Senior CIA officials, including then-CIA Director George Tenet, approved the operation even though Nasr wasn’t wanted in Egypt and wasn’t on the U.S. list of top al-Qaeda terrorists.
–Condoleezza Rice, then the White House national security adviser, also had misgivings about the case, especially what Italy would do if the CIA were caught, but she eventually agreed to it and recommended that President Bush approve the abduction.
De Sousa said her claims are based on classified CIA cables that she read before resigning from the agency in February 2009, as well as on Italian legal documents and news reports.
She denied being involved in the kidnapping, although she acknowledged that she served as the interpreter for a CIA “snatch” team that visited Milan in 2002 to plan the abduction.
“I was being held accountable for decisions that someone else took and I wanted to see on what basis the decisions were made,” De Sousa told McClatchy, explaining why she had delved into the CIA archives. “And especially because I was willing to talk to the Hill [Congress] about this because I knew that the CIA would not be upfront with them.”
She added that she did not possess any of the cables, seemingly in an attempt to avoid the CIA going after her for stolen classified materials.
De Sousa is one of only several former CIA officers who have spoken publicly about the Bush administration’s secret rendition operations. It has been reported that more than 130 people were kidnapped, many of whom were tortured at “black sites” in specially selected countries.
Neither the Bush nor the Obama administration has admitted to involvement in the Nasr operation.
De Sousa accused the U.S. and Italy of collaborating in “scapegoating a bunch of people …while the ones who approved this stupid rendition are all free.” She also named the U.S. House and Senate intelligence companies as enablers of the cover-up, given their inaction in response to the information she gave them about the case, and their refusal to treat her as a whistleblower.
“Despite the scale of the human rights violations associated with the rendition program, the United States hasn’t held a single individual accountable,” she told McClatchy. “It’s always the minions of the federal government who are thrown under the bus by officials who consistently violate international law and sometimes domestic law and who are all immune from prosecution. Their lives are fine. They’re making millions of dollars sitting on [corporate] boards.”
De Sousa said she could face prosecution for speaking out. “You’ve seen what’s happened lately to anyone who has tried to disclose anything,” she said. “You have no protection whatsoever. Zero.”
To Learn More:
U.S. Allowed Italian Kidnap Prosecution to Shield Higher-Ups, Ex-CIA Officer Says (by Jonathan S. Landay, McClatchy)
Lessons from Edward Snowden and Robert Seldon Lady (by Tom Engelhardt, Mother Jones)
Italy Imprisons Military Intelligence Chief for Helping CIA Kidnap Egyptian Cleric (by Noel Brinkerhoff and David Wallechinsky, AllGov)
Italy’s Highest Court Upholds CIA Kidnapping Convictions (by Noel Brinkerhoff and David Wallechinsky, AllGov)
Judge Rejects Diplomatic Immunity for CIA Agent Accused in Italian Kidnapping Case (by Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov)
Why does it matter if Susan Rice serves as secretary of state?
That is a trick question, because in fact, it doesn’t matter at all. American foreign policy will be unchanged regardless of who the next secretary may be. The full force of imperialism will be brought to bear against the people of the world under the Obama administration. The democratic president has made real the goals of the neo-con Project for a New American Century, a 21st century version of Manifest Destiny, the belief that the United States should rule the world and do so with a vengeance.
Rice’s nomination is a non-issue but is treated as an important one for many black people because of the words of right wing racists. The sight of the embittered sore loser John McCain calling Rice “unqualified” and “not very smart” reminds black people of the slights they are personally subjected to in their lives every day. It is especially galling for the insult to come from McCain, the quintessential entitlement baby. He was admitted to the U.S. Naval Academy because his father and grandfather were admirals. The legacy leg up didn’t help much because the mediocre young McCain still graduated at the bottom of his class. McCain’s insistence that the obviously sub-par Sarah Palin was a qualified vice presidential candidate makes the racist slaps at Rice all the more offensive.
The yearning to see a black face in one of the highest and most rarefied places is a very deep one and not to be easily dismissed, but it is crucial to note that Rice is no different from John McCain in her beliefs of how the United States should conduct itself in the world. The facts against Rice and her predecessors are obscured by a corporate media which hides all the atrocities committed by the United States government, making the Rice story appear like nothing more than that of a high achieving black woman being slandered by evil racists.
The case against Rice or whomever is nominated by the president should be a case made against United States foreign policy and all of the people who now or ever were in charge of carrying it out. The presidents, secretaries of state, United Nations ambassadors, national security advisers and their ilk are held up as paragons of virtue, intelligence and moral rectitude. They emerge from elite institutions and are held up as the “best and the brightest” the country has to offer.
A secretary of state not only has a prestigious position, but is considered an elder statesman or woman for life. Of course, he or she also can walk into positions of great wealth after their public service has ended. Corporate speeches, book deals and lucrative board positions await every living secretary of state from Henry Kissinger to Condoleezza Rice.
The true horror is that the people who hold these supposedly august positions are in fact no better than criminal enforcers in organized crime families. American secretaries of state have plotted invasions and assassinations, occupied countries, destroyed economies, fomented coups and in a myriad of other ways laid waste to sovereign nations. Countries which try to bring about their own democracies are thwarted if their plans are seen as a threat to American interests.
No secretary of state should be lionized and there is nothing wonderful about black people having the right to perform the evil acts which were once the reserve of whites.The Dulleses and Kissingers and their predecessors and successors made wars on huge swaths of the planet and did in fact crush attempts at democracy so that American businesses might be able to harvest bananas at cheap prices.
The appearance of Colin Powell and Condoleezza Rice as part of the Bush administration foreign policy team ended the white monopoly on American state terror. Colin Powell went to the United Nations with his power point presentation full of lies in order to justify the invasion of Iraq. He also removed Jean Bertrand Aristide, Haiti’s democratically elected president, from office. National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice covered up her own incompetence and the still murky facts which brought the September 11th terrorist attacks onto American soil.
It was during the Bush administration that the black face in the high place joined in committing the worst kinds of dirty work to be carried out by the United States around the globe. It was also the first time that black Americans began to look the other way and excuse their government’s inhumanity. Defending Colin and Condi became substitutes for analysis and the ideology that once made black Americans the group least supportive of their government’s acts of aggression.
The ascendancy of Barack Obama to the presidency accelerated this grotesque delusion of racial uplift. Not only are NDAA, kill lists, and naked imperialism to be overlooked, but the black man who destroyed Libya and Somalia and who is on the road to destroying Syria will have another terrorist of color by his side. In a perverse way this terrible duo will increase the joy of a people who a mere five years ago recoiled at the very behavior which Obama and Rice have exhibited toward the rest of the world.
America is and will continue to pose terrible threats to the rest of the world, whether the next secretary of state if Susan Rice or John Kerry or an unknown player to be named later. That should be the crux of any debates about who should serve in these positions. Anything else is just drama playing out while the world burns because the United States keeps lighting the match.
Margaret Kimberley can be reached via e-Mail at Margaret.Kimberley(at)BlackAgendaReport.com.
- Susan “Genocide” Rice: Is Susan Rice “Bad for Congo” (disquietreservations.blogspot.com)
In 2002 and early 2003, the Bush administration made its case for war with Iraq. There were assertions given about Saddam’s maintenance of weapons of mass destruction and ties to al-Qaeda. What was never said explicitly, however, was that Saddam Hussein was behind 9/11. Yet by late 2003, seventy percent of polled Americans thought Saddam Hussein was personally behind 9/11. Bush’s Republican voters were especially convinced of this.
Yet Bush and his officials never said this. And after the multiple disasters of the Iraq war began to present themselves with great clarity, the Bush officials were questioned about their pre-war intel. Yet they could say, strictly speaking, one thing they never claimed was Saddam was behind 9/11.
Condoleezza Rice had said something about the attacks originating in the same region or area as Iraq. There was all sorts of insinuation that Saddam might have been involved. And surely the Bush team never put an ounce of effort into disabusing the American people of the completely false notion that Saddam was behind 9/11. The vast majority of Americans believed it—indeed, at times, more Americans thought Saddam was behind the attacks than believed the Iraq War was just!—yet it was not only completely untrue, but not directly rooted in any explicit assertion given by the administration. Various pro-war commentators had said it, but Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Rice, Powell—none of them ever did.
Fast forward a decade to the current day. Seventy-one percent of Americans—almost exactly the percentage that thought Saddam was behind 9/11—think that Iran has nuclear weapons. It’s a small sample, but it is consistent with polls over the last couple years, each one showing a majority believing Iran already has nukes, and almost nine out of ten Americans sure that Iran is seeking them.
Indeed, talking with “respectable” liberals—the type who listen to NPR and watch Jon Stewart—I find repeatedly that even folks who don’t want to go to war assume that every reasonable American knows that Iran is on the brink of having nukes, if the regime doesn’t already have them.
What’s bizarre about this, other than the fact that there is no credible evidence that Iran has nuclear weapons, is that no one in a position of official authority is claiming it either! Every report from the International Atomic Energy Agency, even when framed in a way to make Iran seem ominous, confirms the “non-diversion” of nuclear materials to weaponization purposes. The CIA and intelligence community have consistently stood by the National Intelligence Estimate findings that Iran has not sought a nuclear weapon since 2003 (and Iran doing so back then is only suspected based on very scant evidence produced by the Israeli government).
Even if Iran wanted to make nuclear weapons, it would probably take three or more years. Iran is reportedly attempting to enrich its uranium to 19.75% LEU. Nuclear weapons require 95%—and there is no evidence that Iran has the means to do this. It is even more dubious to believe a nuclear-armed Iran would be some sort of unprecedented threat for the United States, but that’s neither here nor there.
So what’s the deal? The Obama administration (and the Bush administration, and the UN) have all had the same official position: Iran doesn’t have nukes, and the Iranians probably aren’t looking to get them. Yet seven out of ten Americans think Iran already has them. Meanwhile, every Republican presidential candidate except Ron Paul warns about the unparalleled threat of a nuclear Iran, and the Obama White House punishes the country with tighter sanctions and ever more threats.
Indeed, Obama has thrived on the insinuation that Iran has nukes. When he acted tough back in 2009 because Iran had been caught red-handed with its fledgling nuclear facility at Qom—a civilian nuclear facility that Iran readily alerted the international community to, consistent with its continuing adherence to the Non-Proliferation Treaty to which Iran is a signatory—he did so against a backdrop of insinuation that of course everyone knows Iran wants nuclear weapons. He did this even though all that existed at Qom, according to an IAEA official, was a “hole in a mountain.” Why didn’t the president remind the public instead that there is little to worry about, since the entire Defense Department and intelligence community confirm that Iran has no nuclear weapons program?
If a war begins with Iran, it will largely be on the basis of propaganda believed by the public, propaganda that the government has never officially articulated. In the past, the U.S. thrived on outright lies for war: the Gulf of Tonkin Incident, Kuwaiti babies being ripped from incubators, and so forth. There has long been a fair share of unsubstantiated allegations involved behind major U.S. wars—the USS Maine being sunk by the Spanish, the Zimmerman Telegram posing an actual threat to the United States, the Serbians committing genocide of ethnic Albanians, killing many tens of thousands of civilians in the late 1990s, and so on.
Yet today lies and unproven allegations are not enough. The U.S. warfare state appears to thrive on insinuation in its war propaganda. The U.S. war machine’s top brass never outright declare the most provocative claims about U.S. enemies. That way, when the war goes south and people begin accusing the political class of misleading them, the empire’s defenders can easily say (accurately in word if not in spirit): “Bush never claimed Saddam was behind 9/11! Obama never claimed Iran had nuclear weapons!”
But don’t think for a moment that our rulers aren’t glad the American people believe what they do. It makes wars so much easier to wage when the public buys into all sorts of nonsense. The plausible deniability that insinuated propaganda gives the ruling class is just icing on the cake.
- US spooks say no Iranian nukes (rt.com)