Tuesday, December 6, 2005

What Else Can We Screw Up?

Secretary of State Rice has to “carefully” explain what we’re doing with terror suspects in Europe, which allegedly includes getting them out of the countries she’s visiting so no one can ask her about them and catch her in a lie (hmm, that sounds like a book by J.D. Salinger).

Rice did not confirm or deny the existence of the prisons, saying, “We cannot discuss information that would compromise the success of intelligence, law enforcement and military operations.” But she implied that governments in Europe were aware of U.S. intelligence operations there, including assistance in a practice known as “rendition,” in which suspects are secretly transferred from countries without formal extradition proceedings.


ABC News reported Monday night that the United States had closed two prisons and transported 11 top al Qaeda detainees out of Europe before Rice’s arrival. The report could not be confirmed, and the CIA and the State Department declined to comment.

Elsewhere in Europe, the CIA is accused of skunking the Italian police in the investigation of the disappearance of a Muslim cleric.

In March 2003, the Italian national anti-terrorism police received an urgent message from the CIA about a radical Islamic cleric who had mysteriously vanished from Milan a few weeks before. The CIA reported that it had reliable information that the cleric, the target of an Italian criminal investigation, had fled to an unknown location in the Balkans.

In fact, according to Italian court documents and interviews with investigators, the CIA’s tip was a deliberate lie, part of a ruse designed to stymie efforts by the Italian anti-terrorism police to track down the cleric, Hassan Mustafa Osama Nasr, an Egyptian refugee known as Abu Omar.

The strategy worked for more than a year until Italian investigators learned that Nasr had not gone to the Balkans after all. Instead, prosecutors here have charged, he was abducted off a street in Milan by a team of CIA operatives who took him to two U.S. military bases in succession and then flew him to Egypt, where he was interrogated and allegedly tortured by Egyptian security agents before being released to house arrest.

This is not even good enough for a Frederick Forsyth novel. Where is Maxwell Smart when you need him?

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, it turns out that the only use the Bush administration and Congress have gotten out of the 9/11 Commission was as a campaign backdrop.

The federal government received failing and mediocre grades yesterday from the former Sept. 11 commission, whose members said in a final report that the Bush administration and Congress have balked at enacting numerous reforms that could save American lives and prevent another terrorist attack on U.S. soil.

The 10-member bipartisan panel — whose book-length report about the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks became a surprise bestseller — issued a “report card” that included 5 F’s, 12 D’s and two “incompletes” in categories including airline passenger screening and improving first responders’ communication system.

The group also said there has been little progress in forcing federal agencies to share intelligence and terrorism information and sharply criticized government efforts to secure weapons of mass destruction or establish clear standards for the proper treatment of U.S. detainees.

“We believe that the terrorists will strike again,” the panel’s chairman, Thomas H. Kean, a former Republican governor of New Jersey, told reporters in Washington. “If they do, and these reforms that might have prevented such an attack have not been implemented, what will our excuses be?”

Seeing as how the Republicans have been in control of the House, the Senate, and the White House and have basically shut the Democrats out of any meaningful role in crafting legislation or bringing it to a vote, I am wondering how they’ll blame this on the Democrats. But they will.