Italy demonstrates how to handle warantless domestic spying

Surprise! This is probably the biggest news story you haven’t heard about yet: the Italian government has arrested its deputy director of its spy agency over suspicion that he assisted the CIA in the kidnapping and “rendition” of a Muslim cleric.

Prosecutors believe a CIA-led team grabbed Nasr off the street in Milan, bundled him into a van and drove him to a military base in northern Italy. He was then flown to Egypt and, Nasr says, tortured under questioning.

Twenty-six Americans, most believed to be CIA agents, also face arrest warrants for the abduction.

The probe into Italy’s intelligence agency has widened to include “possibl[e] illegal domestic espionage by…agents compiling dossiers on judges, journalists and prosecutors.”

Prosecutors suspect that SISMI agents were carrying out surveillance on journalists, magistrates and businesspeople and collecting the data in a massive secret archive at a government building in Rome, the sources said. Police began raiding offices housing the archive Wednesday and continued Thursday, hauling out loads of files and computer disks.

Basically, Italy’s secret police have been engaged in warentless domestic espionage, apparently a big no-no in some democratic societies.

It appears that the new Italian government is finding out that Bush ally and former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi may have condoned not only the CIA operation in Italy but the domestic spying in Italy.

Keep an eye on this story. Right now it’s the focal point for the US’ illegal rendition program in Europe. You can bank on some screaming headlines when more information becomes available.

I’d also expect some juice tidbits on Nigerian uranium “intelligence” – the same bit of fakery that got Joe Wilson targeted by BushCo – to break. The source for the bogus uranium story was the same Italian agency currently under investigation, and rumor has the story planted there by a US Department of Defense official.

Ultimately Italy is showing us how a democratic government should handle rendition and domestic spying.

  1. Mark Tokarski

    This is indeed a big story, but I think it will receive little or no coverage in American media – it will be accorded the same treatment as the Downing Street memos. It will not exist save here on the blogs.

  2. well, actually

    Looks like Mark was right. My search showed nyt, wash post, and cnn hardly touched it. Oh I forgot Fox, I bet they are all over it.

    I’m going to really go out on a limb and wager the US doesn’t extradite suspected Americans.

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