Italy Disputes U.S. Report on Agent's Death

By Daniel Williams and Ann Scott Tyson
Washington Post Foreign Service
Tuesday, May 3, 2005

ROME, May 2 -- Italian investigators said Monday that nervousness and inexperience among U.S. troops contributed to the March 4 killing of an Italian intelligence agent at a roadblock as he tried to take a freed kidnap victim to the Baghdad airport.

In a 67-page report, the Italians countered conclusions released by American military authorities on Saturday that the agent's car was speeding and failed to respond to signals to stop. The soldiers acted properly, the U.S. report concluded, and will not face disciplinary measures.

"The Italian representatives, on the base of evidence that it has been possible to acquire, have not identified elements to suppose that the tragedy was willful," the Italian report said. "It is likely that tension, inexperience and stress led some of the U.S. troops to react instinctively and with little control."

Officials of the government of Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi said the killing of agent Nicola Calipari would not affect Italy's close relations with the Bush administration. But the report, which followed a joint investigation of the incident, was peppered with criticisms of American action in Iraq generally and the U.S. response to the shooting in particular.

The report was released here the day after the full classified version of the American report, released in censored form on Saturday, showed up on the Internet. U.S. officials said that it contained information about tactics and casualties that could endanger U.S. troops.

The information was disclosed because of a technical error by U.S. military authorities, who posted the censored version on a military Web site in a form that allowed outside computer specialists to manipulate it and reveal the deleted portions.

"If you're a soldier on the other end of the rifle in Iraq, seeking to keep the enemy from knowing our vulnerabilities, it's very significant," said a defense official, speaking on condition of anonymity because the matter is classified.

The March 4 shooting occurred in darkness, as Calipari was escorting Italian journalist Giuliana Sgrena to the airport after her release by kidnappers. Based on Sgrena's account that Calipari threw his body over her to protect her from the fusillade, he became a national hero. She was wounded.

His death brought to the surface simmering public opposition to the presence of 3,000 Italian troops in Iraq as part of the U.S.-led force. It also prompted an unusual break in the lockstep alliance between Berlusconi and President Bush. After the shooting, Berlusconi said he hoped to begin withdrawing Italian forces in September. He is scheduled to address both houses of Parliament on Thursday.

The Italian report countered U.S. findings that the incident grew in part from the failure of Italian officials to coordinate with American forces. It said U.S. authorities had a basic understanding of Calipari's mission, but it acknowledged they were unaware of his movements and details of his activity.

In any case, the report said it was neither necessary nor practical to notify U.S. military officials of movement on the well-traveled highway.

The U.S. troops failed to put up warning signs at a position that was meant to keep traffic from entering the road from an on-ramp, the report said. A duty log of the unit involved disappeared shortly after the incident, the Italians added.

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