In 2003, CIA agents snatched an Egyptian cleric in Milan, Italy, and flew him to Cairo, where he was, predictably, interrogated and tortured by Egyptian security forces. The case of Abu Omar would have been like many of the extrajudicial “extraordinary renditions” secretly carried out by the Bush administration except that an Italian prosecutor stepped in and indicted 26 Americans involved in the daylight abduction. Today, an Italian judge ruled against 23 of the defendants, sentencing them to as much as eight years in prison. None will serve any prison time since they were tried in absentia, but the ruling is a rebuke to the US government—and the nearly 15-year-old rendition policy, which remains in place.
The policy of transferring suspected terrorists to third countries, implemented during the Clinton administration, has led to at least 67 people being detained by American agents and then taken to one or more countries where they were tortured, imprisoned without trial, and/or killed. In his investigation into the Italian case in Mother Jones’ special package on torture, Peter Bergen described how the Bush administration’s insistence that it was not handing over suspectes to be abused was demonstrably—and knowingly—false. The Obama administration has made similar assurances. It has not ruled out the use of rendition (AKA “transfers”) but has said that it will ensure that “any affected individuals are subjected to proper treatment.” And presumably, if the CIA still is playing body snatcher, it’s no longer doing it on Italian soil.