Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Abu Omar kidnapping case to proceed (in Italy)

Italian prosecutor Armando Spataro is going on with his case under legal circumstances quite different from those in America (well, currently). Spataro is seeking to prosecute 26 Americans and 7 Italians for the kidnapping of Abu Omar, who was flown from Italy to Egypt to be tortured. Amazingly, even though wiretap transcripts of the Italian intelligence agency involved is now excluded as a violation of state secrets, the case will still go on! How can this be?

According to Spataro in an interview set up by Jeff Stein he has "plenty of other evidence to fall back on":

"According to some early news accounts Wednesday, the court's decision was
a 'potentially fatal blow' to the prosecution.

But Spataro, who has also successfully prosecuted some of Italy's top terrorism cases, has plenty of other evidence to fall back on.

After Omar was reported missing, for example, Spataro's investigators
talked to a woman who said she saw men snatch Omar off a Milan street and take
him away in a van.

Using cell phone records, investigators eventually linked the kidnapping to
25 CIA agents and a U.S. Air Force officer at Aviano Air Base, where Omar was
allegedly taken and flown out of the country, according to an official who
identified the plane.

They also raided the home of the CIA's top official in Milan, Robert Seldon
, where they captured computer disks with surveillance photos of
and other evidence related to the case.

Spataro will also be able to call on Italian police who were involved with, or learned of, the 'extraordinary rendition' plan."

Wait a second...are you telling me that this evidence is admissible? That what is public can be brought into the courtroom? It doesn't sound like this will destroy the Italian state either...

It's no surprise that it was the AP that provided the account describing the exclusion of some of the wiretap transcripts as a "potentially fatal blow." After all, in our country, cases involving torture, rendition, or wiretapping are kicked aside for the flimsiest of reasons by the government. Imagine the variety of the bundle of evidence in Mohamed et al v. Jeppesen. And truly, there is so much that is public - flight records, quotes from Boeing employees, etc.

The Italian government is not seeking to throw out Abu Omar's whole case based on "national security." Nor are they apparently daunted by whatever threats the United States might be making to make this go away (as the UK has been). Even the Americans' attorney suggests that despite the excluded evidence, the case against the Americans may continue.

Hopefully, as this case goes on, it will prove doubly embarrassing for the US, triply even. First for the exposure it will give to our shameful rendition to torture program and its ineffectiveness. Secondly because it will show up exactly how cowardly our government is for seeking to dismiss cases involving similar facts outright. As Stephen Grey writes in "Ghost Plane," "If Watergate was about 'follow the money,' the story of renditions was about 'follow the planes'." Except...we are apparently barred from doing that, and worse, the victims of these flights, would be by the request of the government barred from doing that.

Thirdly, it should be embarrassing because those at the very top responsible for authorizing the torture are still getting off scot-free - while the operatives who carried out the nitty-gritty of the rendition of Abu Omar are being put in front of an Italian court. The geniuses that decided torture was the way to go refuse to take responsibility for their actions - and we still refuse the responsibility to hold them accountable. First Abu Omar was a victim of these policies - and now the CIA operatives (such as Bob Lady) are. Bushco seemingly never is. Abu Omar and Bob Lady have both been deeply affected by this case. Neither of them thought it was a particularly good idea to carry out this rendition. Others did. So it goes. But for them to claim they take responsibility is a crock - and that we do not take steps to hold them accountable is also a crock.

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