"I was walking down Via Guerzoni with my little girl and I saw a man with a long beard and a djellaba being stopped by two westerners with a mobile telephone. They were asking him, in Italian, for his documents, the way the police do," the witness said.
"At the junction with Via Croce Viola there was a pale-coloured van on the pavement," she continued. "Then, all I heard was a loud noise like a thud. The van suddenly shot backwards and then set off again, away from the mosque, passing me at high speed. And the three people I'd seen, they weren't there any longer."
The CIA's abduction and torture in 2003 of Abu Omar, a resident of Milan and a radical Muslim cleric suspected of al-Qaeda links, has become a major issue in Italian-American relations (see Reuters, The New York Times, The Guardian, Agenzia Giornalistica Italia). The idea that the United States is ignoring due process and abducting people in foreign countries is alarming. What's more alarming still is the possibility that, as the Washington Post suggests, this fits into a recent history of the United States collaborating with the public-security bureaucracies of other countries in ways outside the notice--never mind control--of the actual democratically elected governments.
In Italy, the justice department and public have been demanding answers from the United States and their own government since Nasr disappeared as he was walking to a mosque on Feb. 17, 2003. And justice departments and government investigators in other countries have begun to unearth information about their governments' roles in apprehensions once thought to be the work of the CIA alone.
In Sweden, an inquiry discovered that Swedish ministers had agreed to apprehend and expel two Egyptian terrorism suspects in 2002 but called the CIA for help in flying them out of the country when they could not charter a flight quickly to take the suspects to Egypt.
A former CIA official said the covert operation was exposed after the CIA paramilitaries drew attention to it by arriving commando-style, in semi-opaque masks, and "went through the standard drill as if they were arresting Khalid Sheik Mohammed," the architect of the Sept. 11 attacks.
In Canada, a government inquiry has revealed a greater role by Canadian intelligence in the Justice Department's secret 2002 "expedited removal" of a Syrian-born Canadian citizen to Syria after he was detained as he changed flights at a New York airport.
The idea that the government of the United States sees nothing at all wrong with subverting the rule of law in other democracies is worrying, to say the least. Freedom's for everyone, including people you don't like, and, yes, including foreigners.