Saturday, June 25, 2005

Italy Issues Arrest Warrant For 13 CIA Agents

From the Los Angeles Times:

"Italian arrest orders have been issued for 13 CIA operatives, and additional warrants are possible, in what might be the first time an ally of Washington, D.C., has attempted to prosecute its spies. The suspects face kidnapping charges that carry a penalty of up to 10 years in prison.

Judicial authorities said Saturday they also might seek the arrest of a senior U.S. Air Force commander who they say allowed the U.S.-run Aviano air base in northern Italy to be used in the abduction of Hassan Osama Nasr, a radical cleric better known as Abu Omar.

Italian authorities contend Abu Omar was kidnapped by the American agents two and a half years ago and taken to Egypt, where he was tortured. His whereabouts remain unknown.

Abu Omar had been long suspected of terrorist activities by Italian authorities, who had him under surveillance themselves as part of an investigation into an Islamic cell accused of recruiting and sending suicide bombers and fighters to Iraq.

The alleged former CIA station chief in Milan, a 51-year-old Honduran-born American who is among those named in the arrest warrants, is believed to have accompanied or followed Abu Omar to Egypt and to have been present for some of the interrogations, a senior Italian judicial official said Saturday.

That raises the possibility that the American agent was aware of the alleged torture, the Italian official said. The man's movements were tracked by his use of a cellular telephone to make calls from Egypt in the two weeks after the disappearance of Abu Omar, the official said.

'He was the one who knew everything about Abu Omar,' the official said, referring to the ex-station chief, 'and so he would have been very useful in the interrogation.'

Abu Omar, during a brief period of freedom in 2004, told associates that he was tortured with electrical shocks to his genitals and beatings during the interrogations in Egypt.

The former station chief apparently planned on retiring in Italy and had bought a home near Turin. Although he has been absent from Italy for several months, officials say, his wife had remained in the home, which Italian police raided Thursday night, confiscating a computer, computer disks and papers.

That he thought he could live out his golden years in Italy is another indication of the impunity with which he and the other alleged agents felt they were operating, Italian prosecutors say.

Amazing. Just another example of the arrogance with which the Bush administration and its operatives have waged its War on Terror. They break laws, they stamp on constitutional rights, they kidnap suspects and "render" them to foreign countries to be tortured or killed, they torture, abuse, humiliate, or murder suspects in their own custody (some 300 terror suspects have died while held in U.S. prisons in Iraq, Afghanistan, or Gitmo), and they do all of this with impunity. CIA agents and military personnel engaged in criminal acts overseas are not worried about being held accountable for their actions.

But it's not just overseas where the criminal actions are taking place. This new report from Newsweek details how the Bush administration has held suspects in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks without charging them with any crimes or even linking them to acts of terror. Michael Isikoff reports:

"July 4 issue - Since 9/11, the Justice Department has used a little-known legal tactic to secretly lock up at least 70 terror suspects—almost all of them Muslim men—and hold them without charges as 'material witnesses' to crimes, in some cases for months. A report to be released this week by two civil-liberties groups finds nearly 90 percent of these suspects were never linked to any terrorism acts, resulting in prosecutors and FBI agents issuing at least 13 apologies for wrongful arrest.

The post-9/11 decision to aggressively use 'material witness' warrants to detain suspects has been defended by Justice officials as a legitimate tool to root out possible terror cells. (A federal law, though used sparingly in the past, permits detention of witnesses who might have 'material' info about a crime—even with no evidence they committed any crimes themselves.) The practice has been shrouded. Citing national security, Justice has refused to disclose virtually any info about these cases, not even figures on how many have been detained. By combing court records and interviewing defense lawyers, researchers for Human Rights Watch and the American Civil Liberties Union say they have assembled the most comprehensive look yet at the practice—and conclude it may have produced the most civil-liberties abuses of any post-9/11 policy. Out of the 70 'material witness' arrests the groups were able to document, only seven suspects ended up charged with terror-related crimes.

Of the rest, 42 were released with no charges at all and another 20 were charged with unrelated crimes, such as credit-card fraud. (Two, Jose Padilla and Ali al-Marri, were named 'enemy combatants' and thrown into military brigs.) The report cites instances in which agents used what it calls 'flimsy' evidence to make arrests. A 68-year-old Virginia doctor named Tajammul Bhatti was arrested by the FBI in June 2002 after neighbors found magazines about flying and a phone number of a Pakistani nuclear scientist in his apartment. It turned out he had served in the U.S. Air Force National Guard and the Pakistani scientist was a childhood friend. Another 'tip' led to the arrest of eight restaurant workers in Evansville, Ind., who were shackled and taken to a detention facility in Chicago. The FBI later apologized—but never disclosed the basis for their detention. 'The law was never designed to be used this way,' says Anjana Malhotra, the prime author of the report. Justice spokesman Kevin Madden called 'material witness' detentions a 'critical' tool to thwart crimes and cited recent testimony from a top official, Chuck Rosenberg, noting that every material-witness arrest warrant must be based on 'probable cause' and approved by a federal judge. 'Justice cannot unilaterally arrest someone as a material witness,' Rosenberg said.

The Bush administration argues that they need all of these tools to fight the War on Terror, including the extraordinary rendering of suspects to other countries and the detentions of suspects "in perpetuity," which seem to be clear constitutional violations of presidential power. But if you disagree with the preznit of the United States or his policies, his Republican propaganda machine hammers you as unpatriotic or treasonous. Even Republicans who criticize the preznit's policies, like Senator Chuck Hagel, find themselves being personally attacked for criticizing the preznit. Since 9/11, the message out of the White House is either agree with the preznit or you will be tarred as a traitor. And Democrats who criticize the preznit - well, remember that Karl Rove said the other night in front of a crowd of New York conservatives that liberals wanted to offer therapy and understanding to the 9/11 attacks on September 12th. In other words, liberals and Democrats want to sell out the country to terrorists while only Republicans can keep the country safe.

Rove was just following the blueprint he developed after the 9/11 attacks to consolidate Preznit Bush's power and create a permanent Republican majority. He used the same blueprint in the 2002 midterm elections when Republicans attacked Senator Max Cleland (Vietnam veteran and an amputee) as being "soft on terror." It was the same blueprint used to destroy John Kerry in the 2004 elections when Rove's "Swift Boat Veterans for Truth" questioned Kerry's war record and called him a "Manchurian candidate" and Communist dupe. It was the same blueprint used when Homeland Security Director Tom Ridge said the administration often raised the terror alerts on flimsy evidence or outdated information during the 2004 election season to remind voters how safe the president was keeping them. And it was the same blueprint Republicans used at their 2004 convention when they used the words "9/11," "September 11th," or some other synonym to remind voters of the tragedy.

Karl Rove, George W. Bush, and the leadership of the Republican Party have waved the fallen towers of 9/11 the way Republicans waved the "bloody shirt" of the Civil War for years after the Confederacy fell. They have cynically manipulated Americans into thinking only they can keep America safe. Weak-kneed Democrats have rolled over at every turn. When Senator Dick Durbin had the guts to challenge the prisoner policy of the Bush administration at Guantanmo Bay, he was bombarded with criticism by Republicans and Conservatives. Many fellow Democrats failed to support Durbin in his time of need and some, like Mayor Daley of Chicago, attacked Durbin for being unpatriotic.

Contrast how Dems failed to back up Durbin with how Republicans backed up Rove this week after his New York remarks. The White House said Rove was just speaking the "truth" when he said Democrats wanted to offer therapy and understanding for the terrorists instead of bullets and bombs. Other Republicans, including New York Governor George Pataki, were quick to say Rove was just pointing out a difference in party philosophy. You know - Republicans are tough guys and Dems are wimps (cuz' the pear-shaped Karl Rove sure looks like a tough guy, you know?).

If only Democrats would point out their own differences between a legal, ethical, and effective War on Terror from Bush's war which includes torture, abuse, humiliation, murder, kidnapping, and detention "in perpetuity." Democrats should say over and over again that this preznit has made the War on Terror worse, not better, by aiding terrorist recruitments the world over. Our standing in the Muslim world is near an all-time low and resentment against the United States for its war in Iraq, its treatment of Muslim detainees, and its handling of the Koran in detention facilities has risen to very scary levels. Many people in the world sympathized with Americans after 9/11 (though it is true many Muslims weren't unhappy with the attacks.) Now many people in the world, especially in the Muslim world, hate us and wish us ill.

Or worse - they are doing us ill. Preznit Bush's War on Terror policies are not helping us win the war. They are dividing the nation, setting many in the world against us and helping to recruit what seems to be unlimited new terrorists to the jihadi cause (the Pentagon estimated 5,000 foreign fighters in Iraq 6 months ago, now they estimate 26,000.) It is true to say that we haven't been hit on American soil by terrorists since 9/11. But the more you learn about how the Bush administration operates, the more you realize that it may be just blind luck. Or the preznit may be right, that the terrorists are fighting us in Iraq instead of fighting us here at home.

But what happens after we leave Iraq in a year or so? Do you think all of the jihadis will be staying around Baghdad for long. Or will they be returning to their home countries, like Egypt and Saudi Arabia, or slipping into Europe and the Western Hemisphere?

Or setting off suicide bombs in Grand Central Station and the Minnesota Mall?

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