Twenty-six American citizens, most of them believed to be CIA agents, just went on trial in Italy, but it’s the Bush Administration’s policies on extraordinary rendition and torture that are really under fire.
The accused themselves are in little danger. In 2003, they allegedly kidnapped a Muslim cleric in Milan and transported him to Germany and then to Egypt, where the cleric claims he suffered electric shocks, beatings, rape threats, and genital abuse while under interrogation. With what we know now about the war on terror, the allegations are almost certainly true — the only tricky question is whether the Italians have accused the right 26 people. It doesn’t much matter, because they’re being tried in absentia and the United States refuses to extradite them. Their chances of serving time in Italy or anywhere else are less than zero.
So even though they’re holding what amounts to a show trial, kudos to the Italians. While I’m uncomfortable with actually convicting the CIA agents of anything, since they are likely little more than foot soldiers, it’s unquestionable that holding up the war on terror’s ugliest aspects to bright lights is something we need more of, in Italy, around the world, and especially here at home.