Jewish World Review July 18, 2005/ 11 Tamuz,
Is the CIA above all laws?
On Nov. 12, 2003, Hussan Mustafa Omar Nasr, a radical imam, on the
way to daily prayers at a mosque in Milan who had been under
surveillance by Italian intelligence forces was sprayed in the
face with chemicals by eight CIA agents, shoved into a van, and
rendered to his native Egypt on a Gulfstream IV executive jet (a
plane often used for these CIA missions.)
In an Egyptian prison, Omar Nasr was given electric shock
treatments, hung upside down, and otherwise tortured. Released after
14 months, he was rearrested, and has disappeared in an Egyptian
dungeon. As has been reported in The New York Times, The Washington
Post and other publications there is no doubt that this abduction
was a CIA operation.
I had thought our spooks were more skillful; but as Craig Whitlock
noted in the June 26 Washington Post, the kidnappers, tracked by
Italian agents, "left a long trail of paper and electronic records.
(They) gave their frequent traveler account numbers to desk clerks
and made dozens of calls from insecure phones in their rooms."
Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, Italian prosecutors, and a judge
issuing 240-page arrest warrants, claim that these renditions
violate the nation's sovereignty and its laws. The CIA now says,
according to a July 1 New York Times story, that "a small number of
Italian intelligence officials" were told about the snatch, but adds
that "Italian law enforcement agencies had not been informed."
However, Carlo Giovanardi, minister of relations with Parliament,
says unequivocally that the Italian government and its intelligence
agencies knew nothing about this American derring-do. This is also
the position of the prime minister.
As for the CIA's unquestioned involvement, an April 28 Congressional
Research Service Report for Congress "Renditions: Constraints
Imposed by Laws on Torture" makes clear that the 1984 U.N.
Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading
Treatment or Punishment, which this country signed in 1994, declares
that no state party, "shall expel, return or extradite a person to
another state where there are substantial grounds for believing he
would be in danger of being subjected to torture." And a U.S. law,
the Foreign Affairs Reform and Restructuring Act of 1998,
implementing our responsibilities under the international
convention, emphasizes our pledge that we do not, "expel, extradite
or otherwise effect the involuntary return of any person to a
country in which there are substantial grounds for believing" he
would be tortured.
However, the Congressional Research Service notes that "it appears
unlikely that a U.S. official would be found criminally liable for
conspiracy to commit torture" if he first received assurances from
the country to which the suspect was to be sent that he would not be
tortured. The CIA says it gets these assurances. But statements from
a series of persons we have rendered given after their release
show that these "assurances" are false. A number of former CIA
agents have also concurred, off the record.
Moreover, on March 8, Congressman Edward Markey (D-Mass.), the
leading opponent of these renditions in Congress, quoted CIA
director Porter Goss admitting that once these abductees reach their
destination, "Of course, (when) they're out of (our) control,
there's only so much we can do."
Markey continued: "President Bush needs to put an end to the
practice of outsourcing torture ... (which) is alienating our
allies." But there is no indication that the president intends to
stop the kidnappings or that Congress will authorize an independent
investigation of "the CIA's special rules" (as Alberto Gonzales has
These 13 CIA agents will not be extradited to Italy by the United
States, which professes to be a model for the world of the rule of
law. On June 26, 2003, on the U.N.'s International Day in Support of
Victims of Torture, the president said: "The United States is
committed to the worldwide elimination of torture and we are leading
the fight by example."
He understands democracy, but not fundamental liberties in these
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