Former CIA spy laments Milan rendition

An ex-U.S. spy – once a CIA station chief in Italy – recently spoke to the Italian paper Il Giornale about his involvement in a 2003 CIA rendition heist, which took a Muslim cleric (Hassan Mustafa Osama Nasr) suspected of terrorist involvement from his home in Milan to Egypt, where he was jailed, interrogated and allegedly tortured.

Robert Seldon Lady, who gave the interview over the Internet from an undisclosed location, is one of 26 Americans suspected of being involved in the operation. They are all being tried in absentia by the Italian government.

One could argue that Lady has suffered particularly – his intention had always been to spend the rest of his days in Italy, but he had to escape the country to avoid prosecution and his retirement villa – with 10 hectares of vineyards to boot – was seized by the magistrate to pay court costs.

Wanted: Robert Seldon LadyIn the published interview, Lady pleads innocent: “I’m not guilty. I’m only responsible for carrying out orders that I received from my superiors. …I console myself by reminding myself that I was a soldier, that I was in a war against terrorism, that I couldn’t discuss orders given to me.”

Lady also said some pretty revealing things about careers in intelligence:

“I worked in intelligence for 25 years and almost no activity I did in those 25 years was legal in the country where it happened. When you work in intelligence, you do things in the country in which you work that are not legal. It’s a life of illegality … But state institutions in the whole world have professionals in my sector, and it’s up to us to do our duty.”

Regarding the actual rendition, Lady confirmed that the one Italian involved was a police officer who’s already confessed and who received a suspended sentence. “I wasn’t at the scene and I didn’t organize the thing, the rendition, the arrest, the kidnapping, however we want to call it…but my belief is that at that moment there weren’t other Italians.”

Silvio Berlusconi was prime minister at the time, and he maintains that the Italian government knew absolutely nothing about the CIA’s plot. Of course, he also arranged that no classified testimony or documents relating to Italy’s potential cooperation would make an appearance at the trial.

In the interview, Lady also voiced his regret and frustration about the trail that the American operatives had left behind in the 2003 kidnapping. They had been careless, had made “too many mistakes,” had left evidence in the form of cell phone records, wiretap transcripts and an Italian police officer with a guilty conscience.

“How could we have been so unprofessional?” asks Lady. “The answer I’ve given is that there were too many people involved. In these operations, there should be few.”

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