American spies get time for CIA kidnapping in Italy

On Wednesday, 23 Americans and two Italians were convicted of participating in an extraordinary rendition allegedly carried out by the CIA in Milan in 2003. In a nutshell, the CIA wanted to interrogate a Muslim cleric whom they suspected of being a terrorist, so they kidnapped him in Milan and took him to Egypt, where they imprisoned, questioned and apparently tortured him. Click here and here for more background.

Turned out the CIA had the wrong guy. The cleric didn’t exactly keep quiet upon his release from prison several years later, and following an extended investigation and trial in Italy, the Americans involved were convicted in absentia to five years in prison each, except for the person who served as the CIA Milan station chief at the time – he got eight.

Various Washington officials expressed their disappointment at the verdict, but the CIA did not comment. Italian military intelligence was involved in the organization and carrying out of the operation, but either under better protection or not in particularly great numbers seeing as only two Italians were convicted, each to three years.

Sabrina DeSousaOne of the Americans, Sabrina DeSousa – who is no longer with the CIA and sought to get the U.S. to invoke diplomatic immunity on her behalf – is extremely upset about being “abandoned and betrayed” and has spoken out to ABC News about her frustration with her previous employer.

Although she did not give any details about her role in the kidnapping, she admitted to breaking the law but only with the express authorization and direction of her superiors in Washington – the people who, now that the operation has been exposed, are being extremely quiet.

DeSousa did not confirm that she was a CIA officer, but says she should have been protected by diplomatic immunity as she worked for the State Department as a diplomat in the U.S. Consulate in Milan. According to the Italian prosecutor, as well as various other unnamed former CIA folks, the diplomat role was DeSousa’s cover, but she is nonetheless indignant about being “hung out to dry,” as described by Representative Pete Hoekstra (R-MI), a member of the House Intelligence Committee.

It appears that U.S.-Italy intelligence relations will be somewhat strained moving forward, as confirmed by intelligence officers from both countries. International intelligence collaboration doesn’t always pan out when you suspect the wrong people…

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