Now Even Oscar “The Grouch” Is A Subversive Leftist!
Europe Is Doing Our Job For Us.
Twenty-three Americans have been convicted in an Italian court of kidnapping and coercive interrogation -- "extraordinary rendition."
One of the twenty-three is, of course, a CIA station chief. None of was present at the trial; all were legally represented.
An enormous symbolic victory for Italian prosecutors, the case was the first ever to contest the United States practice of rendition, in which terrorism suspects are captured in one country and taken for questioning in another, presumably one more open to coercive interrogation techniques. The case was widely seen as an implicit indictment of the measures the Bush administration relied on to fight terrorism.
Judge Oscar Magi handed an eight-year sentence to Robert Seldon Lady, a former C.I.A. station chief in Milan, and five-year sentences to 22 other Americans. Three of the other high-ranking Americans were given diplomatic immunity, including Jeffrey Castelli, a former C.I.A. station chief in Rome.
The judge did not convict three high-ranking Italians charged in the abduction, citing state secrecy, and a former head of Italian military intelligence, Nicolò Pollari, also received diplomatic immunity. All the Americans were tried in absentia and are considered fugitives.
That Italy would convict intelligence agents of an allied country was seen as a bold move that could set a precedent in other cases.
What would be best -- but not likely -- is if our Justice Department were to pick up the task of due process for all law breaking by members of our government. If Justice doesn't do its job, then the international legal community may continue to do it for us -- a further diplomatic embarrassment for the US.
Italian Court Levies Judgment on U.S. Rendition Program ...
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Huffington Post (blog)
Some of those violations appear to amount to grave breaches (ie war crimes) contrary to the Fourth Geneva Convention 1949, which protects civilians living ...
Today, Italy convicted in absentia twenty-three Americans for their roles in a CIAextraordinary rendition gone awry. The Italian court sentenced ...
Reuters - Phil Stewart –
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The conviction in Italy of 23 Americans for the abduction of a Muslim cleric poses a challenge to the Obama administration's plans to keep so-called "renditions" as an option for rounding up terrorism ...
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Cooking The Books On Heath Insurance Premiums
Big Insurance Keeps Medical Premium Profits Quiet Says Senate Inquiry
John Rockefeller (D-WV) said, “While health care costs are spiraling upward, consumers are paying more and getting less, and the insurance industry doesn't ...
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By E.J. Dionne
EAST BRUNSWICK, N.J.—Tuesday’s elections were a rebuke to the right wing and a warning to Democrats.
They were also a timely reminder that President Obama needs to tune up his celebrated political organization and find a way to make Americans feel hopeful again.
The night’s biggest loser was the national conservative political machine—the wealthy tax-cutters at the Club for Growth and the Palin-Limbaugh-Beck complex. The Beltway right shoved aside local Republicans in an upstate New York congressional race, imposed their own candidate who didn’t even live in the district, and went down in a heap.
To understand the importance of the defeat of third-party conservative Doug Hoffman by Democrat Bill Owens in New York’s 23rd District, consider the narrative that would have been woven if Hoffman had won.
Combined with Republican victories in the New Jersey and Virginia governors’ races, a Hoffman triumph would have been heralded as the beginning of a new conservative revolution, a reproach to Republican moderates as well as Obama Democrats, and a sign that “big government,” including the Democrats’ health care plan, was on the run.
Instead, voters in the district (parts of which have been Republican since Abraham Lincoln) staged a different kind of rebellion. Furious that big conservative money and national personalities such as Sarah Palin and Glenn Beck had forced out Assemblywoman Dede Scozzafava—the official, moderate, locally chosen Republican candidate—they turned to Owens.
The Democrat was the perfect candidate for a middle-of-the road protest. He had only recently been a political independent and presented himself as having no ideological edges. The spurned Scozzafava backed him, creating a moderate united front. June O’Neill of the New York Democratic state committee called Owens’ victory a “backlash” against “the way they treated our friend and neighbor.” We know who “they” are.
The Owens win puts the victories of Republicans Chris Christie in New Jersey and Bob McDonnell in Virginia in a different light. Both won governorships by focusing on the need to win voters smack in the middle of the electorate: moderates, independents and suburbanites. David Axelrod, Obama’s senior adviser, engaged in a bit of self-serving hyperbole when he said in an interview that McDonnell ran “not as a Sarah Palin Republican, but more as a Barack Obama centrist,” yet his point was right: McDonnell knew where the votes were.
So did Christie, who capitalized on a deep, personal disaffection with incumbent New Jersey Gov. Jon Corzine. Christie, like McDonnell, managed in reverse the excite-the-base, win-the-middle strategy Democrats pursued so effectively in 2006 and 2008. Christie ran up huge margins in Republican counties, but also won over previously Democratic voters who were angry but not ideological.
Democrats will highlight Obama’s continued strong approval ratings in New Jersey as part of their larger argument that these contests were local in character. But the disaffection in both Virginia and New Jersey—and the unexpected narrowness of New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg’s re-election margin, despite his record-breaking campaign spending—should worry all incumbents, particularly governors seeking re-election next year. And after their strong showings in the last two national elections, Democrats happen to constitute a large share of the pool of incumbents.
Sen. Frank Lautenberg, as he made his way to Corzine’s concession speech at a hotel here, said he sees an electorate in a dark mood. “There are two things happening,” the New Jersey Democrat noted. “One is fear. The other is punishment. Voters fear for themselves and their families, and they want to punish anyone who got them into this condition.”
What Lautenberg underscored is a spirit far different than the buoyant confidence Barack Obama inspired a year ago. And the Obama change-agents, particularly the young, were notably absent from the voting booths this week. In Virginia, a state Obama carried comfortably last year, a majority of those who showed up to vote on Tuesday said they had backed John McCain. This much more Republican electorate produced a GOP landslide all the way down the Virginia ballot.
That is the fact from this week that Democrats would be fools to ignore. It’s not a resurgent right wing that should trouble Obama’s party. Indeed, the stronger the right’s role in shaping the Republican message, the harder it will be for middle-of-the-road voters to use the Republicans to express their discontent. But for the moment, the thrill is gone from politics, and that is very dangerous for the mainstream progressive movement that Obama promised to build.
By JOHN TOMASIC 11/5/09 8:40 AM
Controversial Minnesota Republican Congresswoman Michele Bachmann is hosting a “House Call” and urging Tea Party activists to storm the Capitol today to oppose health care reform. The underlying politics of this is simply pathology, says longtime journalist Marc Cooper.
We live in a country where 50 million people are one broken leg away from bankruptcy, where an annual health care policy costs $12,000 a year, where a cartel of insurance companies have entire departments dedicated to finding loopholes to deny what coverage they do extend, and what, exactly, is the Republican-Bachmann proposal?
“I think if we stop it, it could be dead for 10 years,” she gleefully told her supporters tonight. Why stop there? if you can stop it for another ten years you can also have 500,000 or so additional Americans dead.
Look, I have my own problems with Obamacare. And I certainly grant the right to those to my right to have their own set of objections. The pre-condition for my tolerance, however, is that you have some rational counter-proposal to the unacceptable status quo.
I heard the always comical RNC Chair Michael Steele on the tube today crowing over this week’s elections. He claimed that “left-wing nuts” in Congress were responsible for blocking national health care that Obama has promised and that his granny was in peril because of it. That’s pretty damn funny coming from the leader of the party that is unanimously united against all heath care reform. He’s right, of course, that it will be a bunch of nuts obstructing reform tomorrow.
They will, however, be right-wing nuts. And out in front of the mob, Rep. Bachmann.
Here’s Cooper in August conducting a public radio interview with California Rep. Henry Waxman, chair of the House Energy and Commerce Committee. They talked then about how the final House health reform bill might look like.
Waxman at the time was confident that universal health insurance would pass.
“It should happen,” said Waxman. “That’s a moral statement.’Should happen’ is the expectation of what I’d like to see… There are a lot of things that can happen but when there’s so much at stake… we’ll get it done one way or another.”
At about 8:20 Cooper asks Waxman this rare simple question:
“Too many reports leave out for what the average family is a simple detail. The detail is: ‘How much does this thing cost?’ I know from my own research that the average family policy costs about $12,000 per years. Is there going to be a way in 2013 that a single mother with three kids who makes $45,000 a year, who does not qualify for Medicaid or anything, and takes home $30,000 and can not afford to spend $12,000 on health care, is a person like that going to be able to get coverage buy something for $3,000 or $4,000 and get real coverage?”
Listen to the answer. Waxman ends up discussing the bill to ban smoking on airlines, which passed by three votes and was limited to flights more than two hours or less. It was a hard fight. Nutritional information on food labels is also the product of another hard fought battle. Waxman at the time said they might get three GOP votes. Waxman is shocked then, during the town hall crazy recess, that Republicans were determined to almost unanimously obstruct health reform for strict political reasons.
BY JEFF STEIN
For the first time since the September 11 attacks, a court has charged and convicted former CIA officials and a military officer for their involvement in an alleged case of "rendition," a now-infamous procedure used to capture and question terrorism suspects. Following a months-long trial, for which none of the defendants were present, a Milan court today convicted 23 CIA operatives and one Air Force colonel in the kidnapping a Muslim cleric, who says he was later tortured in Egypt.
The implications of the ruling range from banal to the profound. The CIA operatives and an Air Force officer can forget about spending the summer in Provence, or any European Union country for that matter. But more fundamentally, the case raises questions about diplomatic immunity and the ability of foreign courts to try U.S. officials in cases of supposed human rights and other abuses.
The case relates to an incident that happened in February 2003, when an agency team hustled a top al Qaeda suspect known as Abu Omar into a van, rushed him to the U.S. air base at Aviano, and flew him to Cairo via Ramstein, Germany, for interrogation.
Italian police later intercepted a telephone call from Omar to his wife in Milan in which he described his abduction in detail from where he said he was captured. The detectives, mining cell phone broadcast records on the day of Omar's disappearance, easily traced the kidnapping team to its hotels and rental cars, which eventually revealed its members' true and false names and movements all over Italy.
The question of the convicted officials' status seems relatively clear. Despite a plea for the case's prosecutor, the Italian government in Rome has decided not to press Washington for extradition. Regardless, the U.S. government would be unlikely to hand them over. However, should any of the convicted enter the European Union, they will be met with handcuffs, the Milan prosecutor, Armando Spataro, told me. A European arrest warrant has been issued, which would turn over the officials to prosecutors in Milan to serve out the five- to eight-year prison sentences handed down today.
But that's where the damage ends for the CIA, a former senior U.S. intelligence officer told me. He spoke anonymously because the case still involves a still-classified operation. "No great secrets were revealed, no sensitive equipment compromised," he said.
Nor will diplomatic relations with Rome and other governments allied with Washington in the war on Islamist terrorism be undisturbed by the case. "There will be a lot of hyperbole about how this will affect diplomatic relations and renditions," said the former intelligence officer. "[B]ut in reality, nothing will change." He maintained that Italy would remain cooperative as an ally in the war on terror. "If it's in [Italy's] interest" to collaborate on future renditions, he said, "they'll do it."
For the CIA, "the issue is better field management and tradecraft." The Milan fiasco "shouldn't keep you from doing something -- just do it better."
Those convicted include Robert Seldon Lady, the CIA's man in Milan at the time. By some accounts, he objected to the operation. But he did his part because he was "a soldier," he told the Italian daily Il Giornale this summer. He was sentenced to an eight-year jail term today.
Another CIA operative sentenced in the case was Sabrina DeSousa, who at the time was listed as a U.S. consular official in Milan. DeSousa, 53, has maintained all along that she was a U.S. Foreign Service officer who deserved diplomatic immunity, despite voluminous records gathered by the Italian prosecutor, Armando Spataro, showing her to be a CIA officer with responsibility for liaising with Italian intelligence on the operation. The State Department does not confer diplomatic immunity on consular officials as it does embassy officials. Regardless, DeSousa also maintains that because she was on a Swiss skiing holiday at the time of the abduction, she is innocent of the kidnapping charges laid against her.
DeSousa's case raised particular questions after she persuaded the U.S. government to pay her legal expenses last summer. She, like Robert Lady, was never granted diplomatic immunity from the kidnapping charges even as the mastermind of the operation, former Italy CIA station chief Jeffrey Castelli, was. Castelli's documentation shows him as a State Department official in the Rome embassy, granting him immunity. The court also declined to sentence two lesser CIA officers stationed in Italy, Betnie Medero and Ralph Russomando, for the same reason. (Spataro plans to appeal, he told me this afternoon. "Their crime, in my opinion, is not covered by any immunity because it was not committed in the exercise of their diplomatic functions.")
DeSousa's attorney in Washington, Mark S. Zaid, expressed outrage at the U.S. government for abandoning his client and plans to sue it for monetary damages. "The Italian conviction merely confirms the U.S. government's betrayal of our diplomatic and military representatives overseas," Zaid wrote today in an e-mail. "The intentional failure of the government to protect those such as Ms. DeSousa is a travesty and an embarrassment."
Indeed, the case sends CIA operatives a reminder that they're on their own if they take the field without a cloak of full diplomatic immunity. "It's part of the world of intelligence, working undercover," the former CIA offical said.
The final irony of the case is that the "victim," Abu Omar, who had long been the target of Milan counterterrorism investigators, could end up being awarded title to an Italian country house that Lady bought for retirement, in compensation for Omar's pains, according to the procedures of trials in absentia. He "doesn't need to come here to collect [the deed]," Lady's erstwhile Italian lawyer, Daria Pesce, told me in a 2007 interview, explaining the procedure. "He could get it via anybody he appoints to represent him, through power of attorney." Omar, however, is unlikely to ever live in Lady's home: He's wanted for questioning on terrorism charges by the same prosecutor who convicted the Americans for kidnapping him.
Telegraph.co.uk - Tim Hancock - 49 minutes ago
The plane that “rendered” Abu Omar to his grisly imprisonment in Egypt (Gulfstream jet, N85VM) refuelled on its homeward journey back to the US at Shannon ...
ABC News - 18 hours ago
... known as “extraordinary rendition” was essentially put on trial for the first time - in Italy - and this week the court rendered a guilty verdict. ...