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Italian spy chief eyes jail over CIA abduction

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Comment There's nothing new about governments exploiting the 9/11 atrocities for such purposes as passing draconian laws at home, or pleasing the USA enough to feast on some of its rich security pork.

But there is something new about a country's top-ranked security official facing criminal charges for trying to please the Bush administration through their weak spot, the so-called war on terror.

And yet, that's just the predicament in which Italian intelligence director Nicolo Pollari will likely find himself next month.

At issue is the kidnapping of Abu Omar, aka Hassan Mustafa Osama Nasr, from the streets of Milan by CIA thugs. Omar was rendered to Egypt, where he is believed to have been tortured, then released. He then disappeared, either because he wisely went into hiding, or by virtue of being abducted again and sent to one of those CIA black holes where no one can hear you scream.

The incident made headlines in Italy and has led to arrest warrants against 22 CIA agents. Few expect the Americans to be arrested, although Pollari is conveniently available. And there is evidence suggesting that Pollari did more than turn a blind eye to the kidnapping. There are allegations that he actually participated in the abduction and rendition to please his master, Silvio Berlusconi, who in turn was keen to please his master, George W Bush.

Certainly, there's little that the Berlusconi government wasn't willing to do to curry favour with the Americans. There have been serious allegations that Pollari, with Berlusconi's support, circulated fraudulent documents related to the Niger/Iraqi uranium debacle to help the Bush administration bolster its preposterous case for invading Iraq. Both have denied any involvement.

If Pollari does end up in the dock, and especially if he is found guilty, it will give nightmares to the former presidents, prime ministers, and intelligence chiefs of numerous European countries that played fast and loose with the law in their eagerness to parlay 9/11 into eternal American gratitude.

Currently, Pollari is attempting to derail his (apparently inevitable) trial by claiming that he cannot defend himself without disclosing state secrets in court. Interestingly, a lot of suspected terrorists have that same problem, although the US has got a nifty solution: they simply chuck people unfit for trial into the slam down in sunny Camp Delta until further notice.

Perhaps Italy could do the same with its intel chief. ®

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