|Before a CIA paramilitary team was deployed to snatch a radical Islamic cleric off the streets of Milan in February 2003, the CIA station chief in Rome briefed and sought approval from his counterpart in Italy, according to three CIA veterans with knowledge of the operation and a fourth who reviewed the matter after it took place.|
As the Post points out, the accusation has increased anti-American feeling in Italy. Perhaps that was the whole point of this story?
Evidently, Italy not only knew about the operation, but there was mutual agreement beforehand that if it were to become public knowledge, the standard response is that neither side would confirm involvement.
But here’s what happened instead:
Warrants were issued in Milan by a local magistrate. Later they were upgraded into “European” warrants, meaning that any of the agents currently stationed in Europe could be arrested there.
The story stayed at that puzzling level until it became obvious that this had not been a national government move, but an action by a local magistrate in Milan. The question then arises whether or not the national administration knew ahead of time. Probably not. Another question to consider is whether the magistrate in Milan was cooperating with the national oppositon. Probably so.
Nonetheless, to save face, Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi summoned the American ambassador, Mel Sembler, and read him the riot act about Italian sovereignty. According to the statement released by the Prime Minister’s office,
|Sembler confirmed to Berlusconi that the U.S. government’s respect was “complete and total and won’t be neglected in the future.”|
The Italian opposition was contemptuous of the meeting, dismissing it as a “waste of time”:
|“Berlusconi and Sembler could have spared us this farce,” said Pietro Folena of the center-left Olive Tree coalition. The United States, he said, “hide the truth about Calipari, kidnap presumed terrorists, and then give no explanations.”|
The comment about the “truth about Calipari” refers to the death of the Italian agent in Iraq following the failure of Italy to inform the Americans or Iraqis of their work in Iraq:
|Italian agents likely withheld information from U.S. counterparts about a cash-for-freedom deal with gunmen holding an Italian hostage for fear that Americans might block the trade, Italian news reports said yesterday.|
|The decision by operatives of Italy’s SISMI military intelligence service to keep the CIA in the dark about the deal for the release of reporter Giuliana Sgrena, might have “short-circuited” communications with U.S. forces controlling the road from Baghdad to the city’s airport, the newspaper La Stampa said|
Conclusion: the strange incident of the warrants issued by a magistrate in Milan for CIA agents dating back to a case in 2003, a situation Italian intelligence helped plan and execute, may have a simple explanation. That is, a reasonable person could assume the following motive for the opposition government in Italy: after the fact, this anti-American-to-the-core faction dreamed up a payback for the death of the unauthorized Italian intelligence agent, Nicola Calipari, on the road to the Baghdad airport. This payback was issued in the coin of betrayal of the thirteen CIA agents who removed a thorn from the side of the Italians — this thorn being the very destablizing presence of the terrorist Imam in Milan.
Thanks, Italy. We needed that. It’s good to know who you can count on.
See earlier post: Italy Seeks Revenge