An unhappy anniversary

Italians convict 23 Americans in rendition case

This looks like it could get ugly for a number of reasons.

MILAN -- An Italian court on Wednesday convicted 22 CIA operatives and a U.S. Air Force colonel of orchestrating the kidnapping of a Muslim cleric in Milan in 2003 and flying him to Egypt, where he said he was later tortured.

The judge in the case, Oscar Magi, said three other Americans, including the former Rome station chief for the CIA, were covered by diplomatic immunity.

The Americans were all tried in absentia. A Milan prosecutor said his office would seek to have them extradited from the United States, but a formal decision will be made later by the Italian Justice Ministry.

The case is the only instance in which CIA operatives have faced a criminal trial for the controversial tactic of extraordinary rendition, under which terrorism suspects are seized in one country and forcibly transported to another without judicial oversight. A similar case involving a German citizen kidnapped in the Balkans has resulted in arrest warrants and a civil lawsuit but has not gone to trial.

Quite obviously tactics of this sort are controversial. The bigger concern for me here is the ability of foreign courts to claim jurisdiction over our covert operators who are performing their duties. Now in this case it appears that we certainly broke Italian law, the question is did we coordinate w/ Italian intel authorities. If we did, then we should have had some agreement that this could happen. It gets extra sticky if we didn't. There could be any number of reasons why we didn't including fear of leaks, lack of cooperation etc. But the question then becomes can we just up and snatch a bad guy anywhere we find them on earth? It seems like a stretch to say we have some legal justification, and if some other government came here and did it the outrageometer would peg out. So what is the answer to this dilemma?

I remember those golden days of yesteryear, when our covert ops were....well covert. WTF happened to that? We discuss our war strategies in the newspaper where we can also read about the CIA's secret prisons where we would interrogate and hold evil bastards, the Terrorist Surveillance Program which checked in on communications with known terrorists, and any number of other no-longer-secret secrets. When did we stop caring about secrets?

Now I realize I'm just an evil wingnut bent on shredding the Constitution and the civil rights of women and minorities, but FFS can't we have some secrets? Transparency is not particularly helpful when the folks tasked with doing our official skulking about and scarfing up bad guys are getting lights shone upon them. There are some unsavory things that an American President should order and put into action. The whole concept of Executive Power and Presidential Findings assumes that the Commander in Chief in performance of his sworn duty to protect and defend our Constitution may break somebody's law somewhere, perhaps even our own. I believe that is in the WTF clause emanating from a penumbra of the Shit Happens rule. Ideally we should not be reading about this in the NY Times or WaPo, or worse in the rulings of an Italian court. I don't know if this is a tradecraft issue, a failure to coordinate issue or what, but I think we need to aggravate our fecal matter as it pertains to our ability to perform dirty tricks. Like it or not they are a necessary part of a functioning democracy.

For example, would anyone argue that if we could grab an Iranian nuclear engineer that we ought to? I'm sure some would, but those people are called left wing buttheads and we don't listen to them. The rest of us who said of course are correct, and odds are we would break some laws in doing so, and so what? And yes that's an ends justify the means argument I just made. They are not always proper, but when it comes to saving the lives of millions it's a no brainer. So if we can break the rules for the right reason, then it follows that we ought to do a better job of cheating the system. Since we have a bunch of Chicago political thugs all over the Executive Branch it seems like an ideal time for an overhaul of our devious, back-stabbing abilities. I nominate the Ballerina Rahm Emanuel for the job. He knows how to hide bodies with the best of them.