Sunday, July 21, 2013

Ex-CIA agent detained in Panama quickly returns to U.S.

It's the case of Edward Snowden, in reverse

Guadalajara -
Shortly before 12:00 p.m. on Monday, Feb. 17, 2003, an Islamic cleric by the name of Hassan Mustafa Osama Nasr walked to his local mosque for noon prayers in Milan, Italy. As he neared the place of worship, Nasr was grabbed and shoved into a minivan by a well trained commando team. They drove him to the joint U.S.-Italian air force base at Aviano, where he was tortured. Later he was flown to Ramstein, Germany, and then across the Mediterranean to Cairo.

Over a four year period, Nasr was repeatedly beaten, raped and subjected to electrical shocks to his genitals. He eventually lost the hearing in one ear, according to reports. On Feb. 11, 2007, Osama Nasr was finally released by an Egyptian judge, who concluded there was no evidence to hold him.

Four years ago an Italian court found that the man who supervised and directed the kidnapping of Osama Nasr was the then U.S. Central Intelligence Agency station chief in Milan, Robert Seldon Lady. Now 59, Lady worked as a New Orleans city cop in the 1970s before joining the CIA. Born in Tegucigalpa, the capital of Honduras, he spent his early years in that country.

The United States calls cases like Nasr's "extraordinary renditions" - the forced kidnapping and/or transfer of suspects who have never been found guilty of anything to countries whose laws permit physical abuse, including torture. Countries, in essence, where there is no rule of law. Some security experts claim it was a necessary tool in the months following 9/11, but Italy didn't see it that way.

On Feb. 16, 2007, five days after Nasr's release in Cairo, an Italian judge issued a criminal arrest warrant for Lady, charging him with kidnapping and other crimes. But he had already abandoned his home in northern Italy and fled abroad. Lady remained on the lam for years.

In an interview with GQ Magazine in March 2007, later quoted in this Los Angeles Times story, Lady said his superiors at the CIA "told me to keep quiet and let this thing blow over."

The respected Reuters news agency, quoting the Italian newspaper il Giornale in 2009, wrote the following about Lady's account of the Osama Nasr rendition:

"I'm not guilty. I'm only responsible for carrying out orders that I received from my superiors. 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. Of course it was an illegal operation. But that’s our job. We’re at war against terrorism."

Lady's defense was identical to that proffered by the Nazi high command at the Nuremberg trials in 1946. Perhaps that's why an Italian criminal court convicted him and 22 other CIA operatives on Nov. 4, 2009. Lady was sentenced to eight years in prison in absentia. Though he was not around to hear the judgment, the New York Times called the case a "landmark ruling of enormous symbolic value."

Last week Lady turned up in Panama, a close and ever obedient ally of the United States. He may have surreptitiously entered the country from Costa Rica. In any case he was arrested, and news of the detention spread quickly. In Rome the Italian minister of justice filed documents with Panama's embassy, requesting a two month hold on Lady while formal extradition documents were prepared and submitted.

The two countries have no treaty, but the Italian minister noted that such would not prevent Panama from turning over Lady anyway - much in the same way the U.S. has requested Russia to surrender Edward Snowden, although those countries have no extradition agreement. But without explanation, Panama announced on Friday that "Mr. Bob," as Lady was known to his CIA colleagues, had left the country and was on his way back to the U.S. The State Dept. confirmed his arrival in Washington.

In New York a spokesperson for the Center for Constitutional Rights called the events "incredible and hypocritical, considering what the United States has threatened to do to countries which refuse to cooperate in returning Edward Snowden." They include Bolivia, Ecuador, Nicaragua and Venezuela.

Venezuelan president Nicolás Maduro must have had the Lady case in mind when he made clear his feelings about Panama last week. Maduro infuriated by U.S. ambassador nominee's comments.

U.S. continues to hammer Venezuela over Snowden case
Samantha Power, U.N. ambassador nominee, speaks on human rights abuses - by the USA

© MGRR 2013. All rights reserved. This article may be cited or briefly quoted with proper attribution or a hyperlink, but not reproduced without permission.

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