MILAN - A Milan court has issued a European arrest warrant for 22 CIA agents suspected of kidnapping an Egyptian cleric from Italy’s financial capital in 2003, Prosecutor Armando Spataro said on Friday.Since I have an actual Italian person around me 24-7 who I can bug with questions like this, I decided to ask my wife what she thought about the warrant.
Milan magistrates suspect a CIA team grabbed Hassan Mustafa Osama Nasr off a Milan street and flew him for interrogation to Egypt, where he said he was tortured.
Prosecutors asked the Italian Justice Ministry last month to seek the extradition of the suspects from the United States, but Justice Minister Roberto Castelli has not yet decided whether to act on the request.
A European Union warrant is automatically valid across the 25-nation bloc and does not require approval of any government.
The warrant was agreed by the European Union in the wake of the Sept 11 attacks on the United States in 2001 and was hailed as a key part of the bloc’s fight against terrorism. [coulda fooled me --ed.]
Spataro told Reuters he had also asked Interpol to try to detain the suspects anywhere in the world.
Earlier this week, Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi said he did not believe CIA agents had kidnapped Nasr, but added that governments were not going to defeat terrorism by playing by the rules.
Justice officials believe Nasr, also known as Abu Omar, is still in custody in Egypt. Italian investigators have accused him of ties to al-Qaida and recruiting combatants for Iraq, and a Milan judge has issued a warrant for his arrest.
"Well, the judge was right! That's typical of you Americans. You go into other peoples' countries and think you can do what you want."
"But honey, what if the guy was a dangerous terrorist?"
"Well, you could have asked permission, or worked with SISDE" (the Italian equivalent of the CIA/NSA).
(Bear in mind that my wife is as strong a supporter of the GWoT as any European you're likely to meet. I was taken aback. So I decided to explore the matter with some more questions.)
"So, you don't think your government knew anything about it? Not even Berlusconi? According to the article, he said that governments can't defeat terrorism by playing by the rules."
"Maybe they did."
"You make a good point: We should not treat our allies in this war with disrespect--especially ones as loyal as the Italians have been. But as good as your secret services and spec ops forces have been in finding and arresting terrorists here in Italy, it seems strange that we would have to do this at all--and impossible that we could have done so without them knowing about it. Why do you think we did?"
"Well, you remember the time that that judge in Milano let those terrorists go?"
"Yeah. The ones she said weren't terrorists because they were recuriting and supplying Iraqi insurgents, who are guerillas, not terrorists."
"Right. Maybe Berlusconi thought that they would just be freed by a judge who was anti-American or had been bought off by the Muslims, and that's why he allowed it."
After my wife and I talked this out, she began to consider the matter from another point of view. But I hope our government takes these kinds of perceptions into consideration. To wit:
1. As much as I love my country, I have to admit that we do sometimes have this reputation, whether or not it is wholly deserved.
2. Most Italians (and people in other countries allied with us in the GWoT do not have the chance to experience these kinds of one-on-one exchanges that might have a chance of countering the anti-American spin of their national media.
3. The average Italian aside, there are a significant number of Italian elites--especially in the media and the judiciary--that embrace the values and vision of the not-at-all-America-friendly European Union. The judge who issued the warrant as an EU warrant is a perfect example. His attempt at recuriting Interpol to give that warrant teeth is another example of the EU attempting to extend the authority of its system of governance by regulating people to death beyond the boundries of its member states.
I am not proposing that we should try to win the hearts and minds of the transnationalists, whether in the EU or elsewhere. Indeed, they and their kind form another front in the war we are fighting not only against Islamic terrorism; but ultimately for the values of human dignity and human freedom. But I do hope that we are taking care about not only the steps we are taking to win this war, but the way in which those steps are being perceived--especially by those who are sacrificing their blood and treasure to lend us a hand.