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Italy Seeks Arrests of 13 in Alleged Rendition
A review of the names listed in the court documents suggests that most of the people were operating under cover names. Attempts by The Washington Post to locate individuals named in the warrants were unsuccessful. The majority of the people named have no listed residence, workplace, working telephone or corporate history, according to a review of public records.
Moreover, half of the U.S. phone numbers that the operatives listed when checking into Italian hotels had been disconnected when called on Friday. Two numbers were answered by recordings for companies with names that are unregistered. A third number was answered by an answering service for a company described as a foreign trade service. Phone messages left by The Post with all three companies were not returned.
Two of the individuals had listed their addresses as boxes at the same post office in Dunn Loring, Va., that is used by a man who is listed as an officer of Premier Executive Transport Services, a company that owns two planes used by the CIA for renditions. The man's name also appears to be a cover.
Three of the 19 people named in the court documents, however, appear to be legitimate identities. One is listed in public records as a longtime U.S. government employee who has been stationed abroad.
Scheuer, who supervised the CIA's special unit dedicated to tracking down Osama bin Laden and started the agency's rendition program, said he doubted that the CIA was involved in Nasr's disappearance. "The agency might be sloppy, but not that sloppy," he said. "There is no way they would sanction a kidnapping on Italian soil."
Details of the operation, as described in the court documents, bear little resemblance to the way the agency has handled previous renditions, Scheuer said. "Renditions have never worked this way," he said. "If I had taken a plan to my bosses to kidnap someone in Europe, it better have been Osama himself, and I doubt I would have gotten permission even then."
CIA officials have testified that they have relied on renditions for years to deal with suspected terrorists around the world, and security analysts say the practice has intensified greatly since the Sept. 11, 2001, hijackings. Only a few cases have come to light publicly.
German prosecutors are conducting a criminal investigation into the suspected kidnapping of a German citizen last year while he was on vacation in Macedonia. The victim, Khaled Masri, has told German investigators that he was detained by Macedonian officials, who thought he was a wanted terrorist, and then handed over to U.S. operatives, who flew him to Afghanistan. After spending three months in prison there, Masri has said, he was released when his captors realized his was a case of mistaken identity. German prosecutors say they believe his story.
In Stockholm, a parliamentary investigator concluded in March that CIA operatives violated Swedish law by subjecting two Egyptian nationals to "degrading and inhuman treatment" and by exercising police powers on Swedish soil during a rendition in December 2001. That rendition was carried out with the help of Swedish security police. Swedish prosecutors have not filed charges in the case.
If the Milan rendition was run by a U.S. intelligence agency, according to former U.S. intelligence officials, it would likely have been done with the knowledge of their counterparts in Italy.
In the past, Italian government officials have denied playing any role in Nasr's disappearance or having any knowledge of whether the CIA was involved. In the court documents, the Milan investigators state that they strongly suspect Egyptian officials assisted in the operation but that they have no proof.
"It is clear to us that there remain other accomplices to this kidnapping who remain unknown," the investigators stated. The documents make no mention of whether Italian intelligence officials knew or not.
Milan prosecutor Manlio Claudio Minale on Friday confirmed the issuance of the arrest warrants, first reported by the Italian dailies Corriere della Sera and Il Giorno.
Linzer reported from Washington. Staff researcher Julie Tate in Washington contributed to this report.