U.S. allowed Italian kidnap prosecution to shield higher-ups, ex-CIA officer says
August 30, 2013
A former CIA officer has broken the U.S. silence around the 2003 abduction of a radical Islamist cleric in Italy, charging that the agency inflated the threat the preacher posed and that the United States then allowed Italy to prosecute her and other Americans to shield President George W. Bush and other U.S. officials from responsibility for approving the operation.
Confirming for the first time that she worked undercover for the CIA in Milan when the operation took place, Sabrina De Sousa provided new details about the “extraordinary rendition” that led to the only criminal prosecution stemming from the secret Bush administration rendition and detention program launched after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.
The cleric, Osama Mustapha Hassan Nasr, was snatched from a Milan street by a team of CIA operatives and flown to Egypt, where he was held for the better part of four years without charges and allegedly tortured. An Egyptian court in 2007 ruled that his imprisonment was “unfounded” and ordered him released.
Among the allegations made by De Sousa in a series of interviews with McClatchy:
– The former CIA station chief in Rome, Jeffrey Castelli, whom she called the mastermind of the operation, exaggerated Nasr’s terrorist threat to win approval for the rendition and misled his superiors that Italian military intelligence had agreed to the operation.
– Senior CIA officials, including then-CIA Director George Tenet, approved the operation even though Nasr wasn’t wanted in Egypt and wasn’t on the U.S. list of top al Qaida terrorists.
– Condoleezza Rice, then the White House national security adviser, also had concerns about the case, especially what Italy would do if the CIA were caught, but she eventually agreed to it and recommended that Bush approve the abduction.
De Sousa said her assertions are based on classified CIA cables that she read before resigning from the agency in February 2009, as well as on Italian legal documents and Italian news reports. She denies that she was involved in the operation, though she acknowledges that she served as the interpreter for a CIA “snatch” team that visited Milan in 2002 to plan the abduction.
“I was being held accountable for decisions that someone else took and I wanted to see on what basis the decisions were made,” she said, explaining why she had delved into the CIA archives. “And especially because I was willing to talk to the Hill (Congress) about this because I knew that the CIA would not be upfront with them.”
“I don’t have any of the cables with me. Please put that down,” De Sousa added with a nervous laugh, her unease reflecting the Obama administration’s unprecedented crackdown on leaks of classified information to journalists.
De Sousa is one of only a handful of former CIA officers who’ve spoken openly about the secret renditions in which suspected terrorists overseas were abducted without legal proceedings and then interrogated by other nations’ security services.
More than 130 people were “rendered” in this way, according to a February 2013 study by the Open Society Justice Initiative, a U.S.-based group that promotes the rule of law. Many were tortured and abused, and many, including Nasr, were freed for lack of proof that they were hatching terrorist plots, said Amrit Singh, the study’s author.
Human rights groups and many legal experts denounce rendition as violating not only U.S. and international law, but also the laws of the nations where abductions occurred and of the countries to which suspected terrorists were sent. In December 2005, Rice defended renditions as legal, however, calling them a “vital tool” that predated the 9/11 attacks. She denied that the United State “transported anyone . . . to a country where we believe he or she will be tortured.”
The Bush and Obama administrations have never acknowledged U.S. involvement in the Nasr rendition, which makes De Sousa’s decision to speak publicly about it significant, Singh said.
“Any public account of what happened and who was ultimately responsible is of considerable interest,” she said. “Despite the scale of the human rights violations associated with the rendition program, the United States hasn’t held a single individual accountable.”
The CIA declined to comment, but a former senior U.S. intelligence official called De Sousa’s narrative “fairly consistent” with the recollections of other former CIA officials with knowledge of the operation. He asked not to be further identified because the matter remains classified.
“There was concern on the seventh floor about this operation,” he said, referring to the executive offices at the CIA’s headquarters in Langley, Va. “But they were reassured” by the Rome station and the agency’s European directorate that “everything was OK and everyone was on board in the country in question.”
De Sousa accused Italian leaders of colluding with the United States to shield Bush, Rice, Tenet and senior CIA aides by declining to prosecute them or even demanding that Washington publicly admit to staging the abduction.
Calling the operation unjustified and illegal, De Sousa said Italy and the United States cooperated in “scape-goating a bunch of people . . . while the ones who approved this stupid rendition are all free.”
The Senate and House intelligence committees enabled the coverup, De Sousa added, by failing to treat her as a whistleblower after she told them of the lack of prosecutable evidence against Nasr and what she called her own mistreatment by the CIA that compelled her to resign in 2009.
“Despite that, no one’s been held accountable,” she said.
De Sousa, 57, a naturalized U.S. citizen from India’s state of Goa, was one of 23 Americans convicted in absentia in 2009 by a Milan court for Nasr’s abduction. She received a five-year sentence. An appeals court in 2011 added two more years, and Italy’s Supreme Court upheld the sentence. Nineteen of the Americans, De Sousa said, “don’t exist,” because they were aliases used by the CIA snatch team.
The case drew fresh attention this month when Panama detained Robert Seldon Lady, the CIA’s former Milan station chief, whom the Italian court had sentenced to nine years in prison. But Panama released him within 24 hours and allowed him to fly to the United States, rather than wait for Italy to request his extradition.
Another convicted American, Air Force Col. Joseph Romano, who oversaw security at Aviano, the U.S. base from which Nasr was flown out of Italy, received a seven-year term. But Italian President Giorgio Napolitano pardoned him in April under U.S. pressure.
The Bush and the Obama administrations, however, have refused to ask Italy to do the same for De Sousa, who insists that she qualified for diplomatic immunity as a second secretary accredited to the U.S. Embassy in Rome.
“It’s always the minions of the federal government who are thrown under the bus by officials who consistently violate international law and sometimes domestic law and who are all immune from prosecution,” De Sousa said. “Their lives are fine. They’re making millions of dollars sitting on (corporate) boards.”
De Sousa’s interviews with McClatchy are the first in which she’s publicly disclosed her decade-long career in the CIA’s undercover arm, the National Clandestine Service. She’s discussed the case with news media before, but insisted in those interviews and in Italian legal proceedings that she was a diplomat.
Her only connection to the rendition, she said, was translating between the CIA snatch team and officers from the Italian military intelligence service formerly known by the acronym SISMi.
The translating stint “was legal at the time because SISMi was involved” in planning Nasr’s rendition, although SISMi later refused to participate, she said. She said that she was away with her son on a skiing trip when Nasr was abducted.
According to De Sousa, the Bush administration had two thresholds for an extraordinary rendition: A target had to be on a U.S. list of top al Qaida terrorists who posed “a clear and imminent danger” to American and allied lives, and the nation where an operation was planned had to make the arrest.
Neither occurred with Nasr, De Sousa said.
A cleric who preached holy war against the West, Nasr, who is also known as Abu Omar, was living in Italy under a grant of political asylum when he was accosted Feb. 17, 2003, by black-suited men on a Milan street as he walked to his mosque. He was bundled into a white van and driven to Aviano, from which he was flown to Germany and then to Egypt.
A member of a banned Egyptian Islamist group, Nasr was being investigated at the time by an Italian anti-terrorist police unit known as DIGOS, which had a warrant to eavesdrop on him. He allegedly had close ties to al Qaida and other Islamist groups and arranged for militants to travel to fight in Afghanistan, Iraq and elsewhere.
But DIGOS made no move to arrest Nasr, De Sousa said, because it had no evidence that he was plotting any attacks. He knew that he was being monitored, she said.
Castelli, however, was eager to pull off a rendition, she said, explaining that after 9/11, “everyone around the world” was being pressed by CIA headquarters to “do something” against al Qaida. Castelli, she said, was ambitious and saw a rendition as a ticket to promotion.
“Castelli went to SISMi to ask them to work on the rendition program, and SISMi says no,” De Sousa recounted. That, however, “didn’t stop Jeff,” she said.
Castelli did not respond to a request for comment.
Neither did Lady’s reservations, she said. Close to the DIGOS officer investigating Nasr, Lady often complained to De Sousa that the rendition “made no sense,” because DIGOS had Nasr under surveillance. But the CIA station in “Rome kept constantly pressuring him to proceed with their plans,” she said. Her assertion was corroborated by Lady in an interview with GQ magazine in 2007.
Castelli “was hell-bent on doing a rendition,” she said, and he pressed the director of SISMi at the time, Nicollo Pollari, throughout 2002 to agree, according to cables De Sousa found between Castelli and CIA headquarters.
“This is very important, because there is a written trail of what was going on,” she said.
Pollari refused to budge, telling Castelli that the rendition would be “an illegal operation . . . unless the magistrates approved it,” De Sousa said. Pollari, she said, wanted to wait until the Italian Parliament passed intelligence reform legislation that would have allowed SISMi broader counterterrorism powers.
Castelli’s superiors at Langley insisted that SISMi and Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi had to agree to the operation, or “they couldn’t go to Condoleezza Rice and the president of the United States” for authorization, De Sousa said.
“So what does Castelli say? Castelli says, ‘Well, I talked to Pollari and he’s not going to put anything in writing. But wink, wink, nod, nod. You know, wink, wink, he’s provided a tacit sort of approval. They are not going to put anything in writing,’” she said.
In an “assessment cable” to CIA headquarters laying out his case for Nasr’s rendition, De Sousa said, Castelli cited the cleric’s suspected al Qaida links and referred to a conversation recorded by DIGOS in which Nasr and another man mused about possibly attacking a bus belonging to the American School of Milan.
Yet DIGOS wasn’t “overly concerned because there really wasn’t anything . . . to show that he was actually going to do this,” De Sousa said. “If they thought he (Nasr) was going to go bomb something right away, they would have stopped him, right? It’s not in the . . . Italians’ interest . . . for anything to happen on Italian soil of that nature, because the majority of the students were Italian or nationalities other than American.”
“That happened in 2002, and Nasr wasn’t rendered until 2003. So what imminent danger was that?” she asked.
The rendition had another problem: There was no outstanding arrest warrant for Nasr from Egypt, she said. To resolve the issue, Castelli asked the CIA’s Cairo station to request one from Omar Suleiman, the powerful intelligence czar for Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak. The warrant was issued. Later, after Nasr had been turned over to the Egyptians, the CIA station in Cairo asked Castelli for the evidence the Egyptians needed to prosecute.
“Castelli wrote back and said, ‘I thought you had the information. That’s why you issued the arrest warrant,’” De Sousa said. Cairo replied that Egypt had issued the warrant only “because you needed an arrest warrant.”
Despite concerns with the strength of Castelli’s case, CIA headquarters still agreed to move forward and seek Rice’s approval, De Sousa said. She recalled reading a cable from late 2002 that reported that Rice was worried about whether CIA personnel “would go to jail” if they were caught.
In response, she said, Castelli wrote that any CIA personnel who were caught would just be expelled from Italy “and SISMi will bail everyone out.”
Of her CIA superiors, De Sousa said, “They knew this (the rendition) was bullshit, but they were just allowing it. These guys approved it based on what Castelli was saying even though they knew it never met the threshold for rendition.”
Asked which agency officials would have been responsible for reviewing the operation and agreeing to ask Rice for Bush’s authorization, De Sousa said they would have included Tenet; Tyler Drumheller, who ran the CIA’s European operations; former CIA Director of Operations James Pavitt and his then-deputy, Stephen Kappes; Jose Rodriguez, then the head of the CIA’s Counterterrorism Center, and former acting CIA General Counsel John Rizzo.
An Italian prosecutor began investigating the CIA’s role in Nasr’s disappearance in 2004, carefully building a case based on the CIA rendition team’s sloppy use of cellular telephones and credit cards. By then De Sousa had returned to the United States and had assumed a new CIA position at headquarters.
She was charged by Italian authorities in 2006 in the last of three sets of indictments.
The Bush administration remained silent on the Italian charges and ignored De Sousa’s pleas to invoke diplomatic immunity on her behalf. The CIA barred her from contacting her Italian state-appointed public defender, she said, and refused to pay for a private lawyer. The CIA also ordered her not to leave the country, an order she says she disobeyed to fly to India to see her father for the last time as he lay dying from cancer.
De Sousa later learned that Rice, after becoming secretary of state, wanted to give her immunity, but that the CIA “told Rice not to” because doing so would have “been admitting that the rendition took place,” De Sousa said.
Meanwhile, Castelli, who has retired from the CIA, escaped conviction after an Italian judge conferred diplomatic immunity on him even though Washington hadn’t asked for it, De Sousa said. Earlier this year, an appeals court revoked his immunity and sentenced him in absentia to seven years in jail.
De Sousa said that she has tried for years to report what she said was the baseless case for Nasr’s abduction and her shoddy treatment by the CIA and two administrations.
Her pleas and letters, however, were ignored by successive U.S. intelligence leaders, the CIA inspector general’s office, members and staff of the House and Senate intelligence committees, Rice, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Attorney General Eric Holder, said De Sousa.
She briefly made headlines when she sued the CIA, the State Department and Clinton in 2009 in a bid to secure her diplomatic immunity, but lost. U.S. District Court Judge Beryl A. Howell, however, declared herself troubled by the government’s treatment of De Sousa, which she said sent a “potentially demoralizing” message to U.S. employees serving overseas.
De Sousa wanted to resign from the CIA earlier than she did, but, she said, her attorney persuaded her to wait for Barack Obama to take office because he might be more sympathetic to her case.
“We thought, ‘Hope and change.’ But no hope and change happened,” she said.
“My life has been hell,” De Sousa said, explaining that her Italian conviction left her career in ruins, crippled her ability to find a good paying private-sector job and left her liable to arrest abroad. Her resignation, which she submitted after the CIA barred her from visiting her ailing, elderly mother in Goa for Christmas, and then refused to fly her mother to the United States, left her without a pension.
“In addition to losing your pension, you’re blacklisted in Washington,” De Sousa said. “Anyone who has anything to do with the agency will never hire you. I lost my clearances.”
Asked why she’d agreed to be interviewed, De Sousa replied, “I find this coverup so egregious. That’s why I find it really important to talk about this. Look at the lives ruined, including that of Abu Omar. And I was caught in the crossfire of anger directed at U.S. policy.”
Now, she noted, she also could face prosecution in the United States for revealing what she has. “You’ve seen what’s happened lately to anyone who has tried to disclose anything,” she said.
But her treatment, she said, provides a warning to U.S. employees serving around the world. If they get prosecuted while doing their jobs, she said, “You have no protection whatsoever. Zero.”
McClatchy Washington Bureau
Posted on Sat, Jul. 27, 2013
By Jonathan S. Landay | McClatchy Washington Bureau
last updated: July 29, 2013 06:21:18 AM
Find this story at 29 July 2013
© McClatchy Washington Bureau
This CIA Operative Indicted for Extraordinary Renditions Vanished from the Map—Twice
August 30, 2013
He came and he went: that was the joke that circulated in 1979 when 70-year-old former Vice President Nelson Rockefeller had a heart attack and died  in his Manhattan townhouse in the presence of his evening-gown-clad  25-year-old assistant. In a sense, the same might be said of retired CIA operative Robert Seldon Lady.
Recently, Lady proved a one-day wonder. After years in absentia — poof! He reappeared out of nowhere on the border between Panama and Costa Rica, and made the news when Panamanian officials took him into custody on an Interpol warrant. The CIA’s station chief in Milan back in 2003, he had achieved brief notoriety for overseeing a la dolce vita version  of extraordinary rendition as part of Washington’s Global War on Terror. His colleagues kidnapped Hassan Mustafa Osama Nasr, a radical Muslim cleric and terror suspect, off the streets of Milan , and rendered him via U.S. airbases in Italy and Germany to the torture chambers  of Hosni Mubarak’s Egypt. Lady evidently rode shotgun on that transfer.
His Agency associates proved to be the crew that couldn’t spook straight. They left behind such a traceable trail of five-star-hotel and restaurant bills, charges on false credit cards, and unencrypted cell phone calls that the Italian government tracked them down , identified them, and charged  23 of them, Lady included, with kidnapping.
Lady fled Italy, leaving behind a multimillion-dollar villa near Turin meant for his retirement. (It was later confiscated and sold to make restitution payments  to Nasr.) Convicted in absentia in 2009, Lady received a nine-year sentence (later reduced to six). He had by then essentially vanished after admitting to an Italian newspaper, “Of course it was an illegal operation. But that’s our job. We’re at war against terrorism.”
Last week, the Panamanians picked him up. It was the real world equivalent of a magician’s trick. He was nowhere, then suddenly in custody and in the news, and then — poof again! He wasn’t. Just 24 hours after the retired CIA official found himself under lock and key, he was flown out of Panama, evidently under the protection of Washington, and in mid-air, heading back to the United States, vanished a second time.
State Department spokesperson Marie Harf told reporters  on July 19th, “It’s my understanding that he is in fact either en route or back in the United States.” So there he was, possibly in mid-air heading for the homeland and, as far as we know, as far as reporting goes, nothing more. Consider it the CIA version of a miracle. Instead of landing, he just evaporated.
And that was that. Not another news story here in the U.S.; no further information from government spokespeople on what happened to him, or why the administration decided to extricate him from Panama and protect him from Italian justice. Nor, as far as I can tell, were there any further questions from the media. When TomDispatch inquired of the State Department, all it got was this bit of stonewallese: “We understand that a U.S citizen was detained by Panamanian authorities, and that Panamanian immigration officials expelled him from Panama on July 19. Panama’s actions are consistent with its rights to determine whether to admit or expel non-citizens from its territory.”
In other words, he came and he went.
Edward Snowden: The Opposite of a Magician’s Trick
When Lady was first detained, there was a little flurry of news stories and a little frisson of tension. Would a retired CIA agent convicted of a serious crime involving kidnapping and torture be extradited to Italy to serve his sentence? But that tension had no chance to build because (as anyone might have predicted) luck was a Lady that week.
After all, the country that took him into custody on that Interpol warrant was a genuine rarity in a changing Latin America. It was still an ally of the United States , which had once built a canal across its territory, controlled its politics for years, and in 1989 sent in  the U.S. military to forcefully sort out those politics once again. Italy wanted Lady back and evidently requested that Panama hand him over (though the countries had no extradition treaty). But could anyone be surprised by what happened or by the role Washington clearly played in settling Lady’s fate? If you had paid any attention to the global pressure  Washington was exerting in an “international manhunt ” to get Edward Snowden, the NSA whistleblower it had already charged under the draconian Espionage Act, back to its shores, you knew which direction Robert Seldon Lady would be heading when he hit the nearest plane out of Panama — and I don’t mean Italy.
But here was the curious thing: when Panama sent him north, not east, there wasn’t the slightest ripple of U.S. media curiosity about the act or what lay behind it. Lady simply disappeared. While the Italian minister of justice “deeply regretted ” Panama’s decision, there was not, as far as I can tell, a single editorial, outraged or otherwise, anywhere in this country questioning the Obama administration’s decision not to allow a convicted criminal to be brought to justice in the courts of a democratic ally or even praising Washington’s role in protecting him. And we’re not talking about a media with no interest in trials in Italy. Who doesn’t remember the wall-to-wall coverage of the murder trial (and retrial) of American student Amanda Knox  there? For the American media, however, Lady clearly lacked Knox’s sex appeal (nor would he make millions  off a future account of his Italian sojourn).
In this same period, there was, of course, another man who almost magically disappeared. In a transit area of Moscow’s international airport, Edward Snowden discovered  that the U.S. government had deprived him of his passport and was determined to bring him back to Washington by just about any means to stand trial. That included forcing the plane  of Bolivian President Evo Morales, returning from Moscow, to make an unscheduled landing in Austria and be searched for Snowden.
The NSA whistleblower was trapped in a kind of no-man’s-land by an Obama administration demanding that the Russians turn him over or face the consequences. After which, for days, he disappeared from sight. In his case, unlike Lady’s, however, Washington never stopped talking about him and the media never stopped speculating on his fate. It hasn’t yet.
He’s only appeared in public once since his “disappearance” —at a press conference  at that airport with human rights activists from Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch. The U.S. government promptly deplored and denounced the event as something Moscow “facilitated” or “orchestrated,” a “propaganda platform,” and a State Department spokesperson even suggested  that Snowden, not yet convicted of anything, shouldn’t have the right to express himself in Moscow or anywhere else.
The truth is: when it comes to Snowden, official Washington can’t shut up. Congressional figures have denounced him as a “traitor ” or a “defector .” The world has repeatedly been lectured from the bully pulpit in our national capital on how necessary his return and trial is to freedom, justice, and global peace. Snowden, it seems, represents the opposite of a magician’s trick. He can’t disappear even when he wants to. Washington won’t let him, not now, not — as officials have made clear —ever. It’s a matter of morality that he faces the law and pays the (already preordained) price for his “crime.” This, in today’s Washington, is what passes for a self-evident truth.
The Lady Vanishes
It’s no less a self-evident truth in Washington that Robert Seldon Lady must be protected from the long (Italian) arm of the law, that he is a patriot who did his duty, that it is the job of the U.S. government to keep him safe and never allow him to be prosecuted, just as it is the job of that government to protect, not prosecute , CIA torturers who took part in George W. Bush’s Global War on Terror.
So there are two men, both of whom, Washington is convinced, must be brought in: one to face “justice,” one to escape it. And all of this is a given, nothing that needs to be explained or justified to anyone anywhere, not even by a Constitutional law professor president. (Of course, if someone had been accused of kidnapping and rendering an American Christian fundamentalist preacher and terror suspect off the streets of Milan to Moscow or Tehran or Beijing, it would no less self-evidently be a different matter.)
Don’t make the mistake, however, of comparing Washington’s positions on Snowden and Lady and labeling the Obama administration’s words and actions “hypocrisy.” There’s no hypocrisy involved. This is simply the living definition of what it means to exist in a one-superpower world for the first time in history. For Washington, the essential rule of thumb goes something like this: we do what we want; we get to say what we want about what we do; and U.N. ambassadorial nominee Samantha Powers then gets to lecture  the world on human rights and oppression.
This version of how it all works is so much the norm in Washington that few there are likely to see any contradiction at all between the Obama administration’s approaches to Snowden and Lady, nor evidently does the Washington media. Its particular blind spots, when it comes to Washington’s actions, remain striking — as when the U.S. effectively downed the Bolivian president and his plane. Although it was an act of seemingly self-evident illegality, there was no serious reporting , no digging when it came to the behind-the-scenes acts of the U.S. government, which clearly pressured four or five European governments (one of which may have been Italy) to collude in the act. Nor, weeks later, has there been any follow-up by the Washington media. In other words, an act unique in recent history, which left European powers disgruntled  and left much of Latin America up in arms , has disappeared without explanation, analysis, punditry, or editorial comment here. Undoubtedly, given the lack of substantial coverage, few Americans even know it happened.
The lucky Mr. Lady’s story has followed a similar trajectory. Having vanished in mid-air, he has managed so far not to reappear anywhere in the U.S. press. What followed was no further news, editorial silence, and utter indifference to an act of protection that might otherwise have seemed to define illegality on an international level. There was no talk in the media, in Congress, or anywhere else about the U.S. handing over a convicted criminal to Italy, just about how the Russians must return a man Washington considers a criminal to justice.
This, then, is our world: a single megapower has, since September 2001, been in a financing and construction frenzy  to create the first global surveillance state; its torturers run free; its kidnappers serve time at liberty in this country and are rescued if they venture abroad; and its whistleblowers — those who would let the rest of us know what “our” government is doing in our name — are pilloried. And so it goes.
All of it adds up to a way of life and the everyday tradecraft of a one-superpower world. Too bad Alfred Hitchcock isn’t around to remake some of his old classics. Imagine what a thriller The Lady Vanishes would be today.
See more stories tagged with:
Alfred Hitchcock ,
Amanda Knox ,
Candidate Position ,
Central Intelligence Agency ,
Constitutional law professor president ,
costa rica ,
Department of State ,
Diplomatic Relations ,
Edward Snowden ,
evo morales ,
Hassan Mustafa Osama Nasr ,
hosni mubarak ,
human rights watch ,
Italian government ,
latin america ,
Marie Harf ,
Nelson Rockefeller ,
obama administration ,
Person Career ,
Person Communication ,
Person Location ,
Person Relation ,
Person Travel ,
Robert Seldon Lady.Recently ,
Samantha Powers ,
The Lady Vanishes ,
u.s. government ,
u.s. military ,
united nations ,
united states ,
vice president ,
Source URL: http://www.alternet.org/world/cia-operative-indicted-extraordinary-renditions-vanished-map-twice
Published on Alternet (http://www.alternet.org)
Tom Dispatch  / By Tom Engelhardt 
July 28, 2013
Find this story at 28 July 2013
Telefonüberwachung Handy-Daten verraten illegale CIA-Operation
August 30, 2013
Ein CIA-Team reist nach Italien, entführt einen Verdächtigen nach Ägypten. Dort wird er mehr als ein Jahr lang verhört und gefoltert. Auf der IT-Konferenz Black Hat berichtete ein Reporter jetzt, wie Telefon-Metadaten die CIA-Operation verrieten – und Dutzende Agenten enttarnten.
“Ich habe keinen technischen Hintergrund”, entschuldigt sich Matthew Cole, Journalist bei NBC News, bei den Besuchern der IT-Sicherheitskonferenz Black Hat in Las Vegas, “aber ich habe eine Geschichte für euch.” Einen Spionagethriller, bei dem Metadaten eine geheime Entführung der CIA verraten.
Der Zugriff erfolgt am 17. Februar 2003 in Mailand. Nach wochenlanger Beobachtung entführt ein CIA-Team den Imam Abu Omar aus Italien und bringt ihn mit einem kleinen Flugzeug über Ramstein in Deutschland nach Ägypten. Dort wird er 14 Monate lang gefangen gehalten und verhört. “Es war die Zeit nach den Anschlägen vom 11. September, die CIA suchte wie besessen weltweit nach Qaida-Anhängern”, sagt Cole. Der SPIEGEL berichtete im Jahr 2006 ausführlich über den Fall.
Abu Omar, der in der Mailänder Islamistenszene gegen die USA gehetzt und selbst in Afghanistan gekämpft hatte, stand im Verdacht, Kämpfer für al-Qaida zu rekrutieren. Die CIA handelt, ohne die italienischen Behörden zu informieren, und lässt Abu Omar verschwinden. Die italienische Staatsanwaltschaft nimmt Ermittlungen auf. Sie weiß durch eine Zeugin, wann das Entführungsopfer wo zuletzt gesehen wurde. “Die Polizei hatte den Ort und den Tag des Verschwindens”, sagt Cole. Von den Mobilfunkprovidern fordern die Ermittler die Funkzellendaten an. Sie wollen wissen, welche Mobiltelefone sich am Tag der Entführung in der Gegend befunden haben. “Aber es gab ein paar Probleme, das zog sich hin”, sagt Cole.
Muster und Zusammenhänge in großen Datenmengen
Dann klingelt bei Abu Omars Ehefrau in Mailand das Telefon: Die Ägypter haben ihn freigelassen, nach 14 Monaten. Abu Omar erzählt von seiner Entführung und von Folter. Die italienischen Ermittler hören mit, der Anschluss wird überwacht. Der Verdacht bestätigt sich nun: Es gab eine verdeckte Operation, die USA könnten dahinterstecken. “Gleichzeitig konnten die Daten ausgewertet werden”, sagt Cole. Die Italiener nutzen dazu eine Software namens Analyst’s Notebook. Das Programm findet in großen Datenmengen Muster und Zusammenhänge.
Tatsächlich liefert Analyst’s Notebook einen Hinweis: eine Reihe von Handys, deren Besitzer nur untereinander kommunizieren. Die italienischen Ermittler sehen sich diese Telefonnummern genauer an, untersuchen die Verbindungsdaten und stoßen auf ein Netzwerk: “Sie fanden 18 Personen und 35 Telefone”, sagt Cole. Mit den Daten, welches Telefon wann in welcher Funkzelle eingebucht war, können sie Bewegungsprofile erstellen. Zwei Monate vor der Entführung werden die Telefone aktiviert, zwei Tage danach abgeschaltet.
Die CIA-Agenten nehmen nicht die Akkus aus den Handys
Mehr als ein Jahr nach der Entführung können die italienischen Behörden nachvollziehen, wie die Operation abgelaufen war. “Sie konnten sehen, wie die CIA-Agenten Abu Omar observierten. Nach einem Acht-Stunden-Tag nahmen die Agenten nicht etwa den Akku aus den Telefonen, sondern sie gingen schlafen.”
Die Telefone lagen eingeschaltet über Nacht mehrere Stunden an einem Ort. “Also gingen die Ermittler los, fanden Hotels und fragten nach amerikanischen Gästen.” Einer der Agenten, der für den Kontakt zwischen dem Entführungsteam und dem örtlichen CIA-Quartier zuständig war, hatte dabei seinen richtigen Namen genutzt. Cole macht ihn später in den USA ausfindig. “Ich kann nicht empfehlen, bei ihm zu Hause an die Tür zu klopfen. Er reagiert etwas empfindlich auf seine Enttarnung”, sagt Cole. Einen Schlag ins Gesicht habe er abbekommen.
Die italienischen Ermittler haben Glück: Sie können eine Verbindung zur CIA nachweisen. Nachlässigkeiten seitens des Geheimdiensts tragen dazu bei: “Die Agenten hatten Kreditkarten mit ähnlichen Nummern.” Außerdem finden sie durch die Verbindungsdaten heraus, das ein Telefon, das bei der Entführung genutzt wurde, später mit neuer Sim-Karte für Kontakte zur CIA-Station genutzt wurde.
“Metadaten verraten viel mehr”
“In der aktuellen Debatte um Metadaten heißt es doch: Inhalte von Gesprächen würden nicht erfasst, es gebe kein Problem mit der Privatsphäre”, sagt Cole. Die aufgedeckte CIA-Operation zeige das Gegenteil: “Metadaten verraten viel mehr.” Mit Hilfe von Netzwerkanalyse und Datenvisualisierung kommt die Staatsanwaltschaft der CIA auf die Spur. 2009 verurteilt ein Gericht in Mailand 22 US-Staatsbürger zu fünf Jahren Gefängnis, ein Angeklagter bekommt acht Jahre Gefängnis, drei Amerikaner werden mit dem Verweis auf diplomatische Immunität freigesprochen.
“Der Fall hat immer noch reale Konsequenzen”, sagt Cole. “Soweit ich weiß, gibt es keinen Auslieferungsantrag.” Italien wolle es sich wohl mit den USA nicht verscherzen. “Aber die enttarnten Agenten können nicht mehr ohne weiteres reisen”, sagt Cole. Beim Geheimdienst sei der Fall als “Italian Job” bekannt, benannt nach einem Filmklassiker. Bei der Untersuchung, wie das alles passiere konnte, soll einer der Agenten gesagt haben: Ihnen sei erzählt worden, dass ein Handy versteckt in einer Packung Chips keine Signale mehr aussenden könne. “Er meine wohl einen Faradayschen Käfig. Dafür ist eine Chipstüte nicht stark genug”, sagt Cole.
Ein weiterer Fall, in dem Metadaten zur Enttarnung von CIA-Mitarbeitern genutzt wurde, ging für den Geheimdienst weniger glimpflich aus. Cole erzählt, dass die Hisbollah 2011 in Beirut zwei Doppelagenten einschleusen konnte. “Die Hisbollah hat dann 90 Prozent des Informanten-Netzwerks im Libanon aufgedeckt. Sie haben sich die Metadaten angesehen, die Telefone ausgewertet.” Viele der Informanten und Agenten seien festgenommen und vermutlich getötet worden, sagt Cole.
Korrektur: In einer früheren Version dieses Artikels wurde ein US-Staat namens North Virginia erwähnt. Natürlich gibt es einen Staat dieses Namens nicht, nur Virginia und West Virginia. Wir haben den Fehler entfernt und bitten, ihn zu entschuldigen.
02. August 2013, 12:38 Uhr
Aus Las Vegas berichtet Ole Reißmann
Find thhis story at 2 August 2013
© SPIEGEL ONLINE 2013