Separated at Birth?
Participation in patently illegal activities, "enemies" lists, illegal spying, paying "reporters" to act as Government propaganda organs, lying about most of these activities. Sound like the Bush administration? Actually, this is from Italy - and is the legacy of Bush's buddy Silvio Berlusconi, who has also separately been charged in an unrelated matter - over allegations of "false accounting, embezzlement and tax fraud". (Clearly, they share many of their "moral values" - if there was ever an index for high crimes and misdemeanors per unit time, Bush and Berlusconi would be in strong competition for the #1 spot.)
In the past week some extraordinary revelations have rocked Italy and Laura Rozen has been covering it almost daily. Here's the gist of what's been reported to date. (I've provided links for you to read more).
The Bush administration's CIA had secretly kidnapped a radical cleric Abu Omar from Italy in 2003 to ship him off to a torture-friendly state (Egypt) and the Italian Goverment had repeatedly denied any involvement in this sordid affair because it was illegal. However, an Italian magistrate investigating the matter - Armando Spataro - issued arrest warrants for numerous CIA operatives and as part of the expanding investigation, the former SISMI head in Milan - Colonel Stefano D'Ambrosio - allegedly testified to SISMI's role in this matter. This expanded the targets of the Spataro investigation to senior SISMI officials, with the #2 official Marco Mancini (the deputy to SISMI chief Nicolo Pollari) being one of the people arrested in the last week. During the raids conducted by Italy's special police (the Digos), they discovered a secret apartment at Via Nazionale, 230, in Rome, which was part of a massive dirty tricks operation by SISMI which involved, among other things, the creation of "dossiers" on "enemies" who were illegally spied upon (unfriendly journalists, magistrates, politicians and businesspeople), and the fabrication of bogus documents. Also discovered were receipts of payments made to a right-wing "reporter" Renato Farina (of the small Libero newspaper) allegedly to enlist Farina's "services" as a spy against Spataro and as a paid propagandist to propagate SISMI's denials on their involvement in the CIA rendition of Abu Omar. It appears SISMI head Nicolo Pollari himself was part of this latter scheme. Not to mention, one of the reporters who was doing investigative reporting on this case and exposing SISMI's role in this matter (and, incidentally, on the Niger forgeries affair) - La Repubblica's Giuseppe D'Avanzo - was being spied upon by SISMI.
I'm not sure it ends there. Interestingly:
The Italian press led by Repubblica has been reporting for months, but it is a detail you couldn't make up; that the best friend since childhood of the arrested Sismi #2 Marco Mancini is Giuliani Tavaroli, ex-chief of Telecom Italia security. Quite a useful friendship if your business is wiretapping your political enemies. No joke, Tavaroli is also now under investigation.
I'll have more on the right-wing "reporter"-spy tomorrow, but for now read Laura Rozen and de Gondi at European Tribune:
Yesterday's vast police operation at the behest of the Milan Procura is exposing a deviant parallel service bent on manufacturing false information and dossiers on "enemies." Until late last night the special investigative police, the Digos, continued their mandate to search and sequester material in Via Nazionale, 230, in Rome. On the sixth floor in an eleven room apartment, agents reportedly found an archive of thousands of dossiers on prominent public figures: journalists, politicians, magistrates, entrepreneurs, all considered "enemies" of the past government's "Italy." The operative base may also have a key role in the manufacturing and distribution of false dossiers and disinformation.
Following the confession of Luciano Pironi the Milan investigation uncovered the evidence leading to Marco Mancino's arrest yesterday through the further testimony of Colonel Stefano D'Ambrosio, Sismi head of Milan operations before Mancino. According to D'Ambrosio's testimony both Bob Lady Sheldon and himself were opposed to the illegal kidnapping of Abu Omar in the early stages. At Lady's behest, D'Ambrosio pleaded against the project to none other than Marco Mancini. D'Ambrosio wished to inform their superior at the time, Gustavo Pignero. Mancini said he would handle it. Ten days later D'Ambrosio was summoned to Rome by Pignero and removed from his office. Mancini was promoted to take his place. At the same time Jeff Castelli, allegedly together with the diplomat Sabrina De Sousa, reprimanded Lady and ordered him to cut off all relations with D'Ambrosio. Jeff Castelli was then CIA station chief in Rome. Arrest warrants have been issued for Jeff Castelli and Sabrina De Sousa, as well as the agent Ralph Henry Russomando, accused of creating a false dossier to mislead Italian investigators, and Colonel Joseph Romano, then head of the Aviano Air Force Base and now at the Pentagon.