Former CIA Officer Back to Italy to Face Sentence

“The message that this scenario sends to civilian government employees serving this country on tours of duty abroad is a potentially demoralizing one.”

U.S. District Judge Beryl A. Howell

Former CIA Officer Sabrina de Sousa

Former CIA officer Sabrina de Sousa is back to Italy where she is expected to serve a three-year sentence. Follow us on Twitter: @INTEL_TODAY

Quick update. I managed to exchange a few messages with Former CIA officer Sabrina de Sousa over the weekend.

Last Friday (July 7 2017), Sabrina de Sousa returned to Italy to do community service —  the equivalent of house arrest.

She feels totally abandoned.

“It looks like the White House wanted to help… And then, the ‘swamp’ kicked in.”

On February 20 2017, the Portuguese authorities have detained the former undercover C.I.A. officer whose extradition has been sought by Italy, where she faced a prison sentence over her role in the 2003 kidnapping of an Egyptian cleric as part of a secret United States rendition program.

Then, at the very last-minute, Sabrina de Sousa was granted a partial pardon by the President.  Allowed to travel, she returned to the United States.

I asked her why she chose to return to Italy (rather than Portugal).

“Portugal threw me in prison for 10 days for no plausible reason. I had abided by all court restrictions, did not abscond even when I was allowed to go see my mom in india. Also the courts were very insensitive to my mother’s funeral request. So I was reluctant to go there.”

As the Italian president granted her a one year pardon, the sentence was reduced to three-year and therefore could be served as community service. The exact terms of the supervised probation are not known to her at this point.

RELATED POST: Former CIA Officer Sabrina de Sousa forced to testify in Italy on ‘rendition program’

RELATED POST: Ex-CIA Sabrina De Sousa: Extradition cancelled, to be released in Portugal

RELATED POST: CIA Covert Ops in Italy Lasted Long After the 1948 Elections (National Security Archive)

Testimony before COPASIR

De Sousa is expected to be called to testify before COPASIR — the Italian government’s version of the U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee.

The former American spy warns that her testimony could be extremely “damaging”.

“I think it will be damaging for both countries. In  Italy, the previous Prime Minister Renzi, asserted state secrets over everything [related to this case], and in the U.S. everything is classified,” she said.

“It sets a precedent, a precedent where the U.S. allowed convictions of intelligence officers and U.S. diplomats overseas by foreign courts,” she added.

If Sabrina de Sousa is forced to testify before COPASIR, the work of the Italian Intelligence Community in several North African countries — and its relationship with some Muslim organizations — could be revealed. (In April 2017, Trump rejected Gentiloni’s plea for a US intervention in Libya.)

I strongly suspect that the Italian Intelligence services were fully aware — and perhaps even accomplice — of the “Abu Omar” operation. But obviously, their oversight committee was left in the dark…

A bit surreal

This case has always been a bit surreal. Even Abu Omar —  the Muslim cleric  abducted on February 17 2003 in Milan by the CIA — has suggested that Italy drop the case against Sabrina de Sousa. In 2012,  the prosecutor general in Rome’s Supreme Court of Cassation had recommended  annulling the sentence against De Sousa.

Let us do a “Chomsky” on this one. Let us compare her case and the story of CIA contractor Raymond Davies. Davies killed two people and caused the death of two other persons. The US government negotiated his release and he got away with murder.

RELATED POST: Former CIA Operative’s Memoir Sparks Outrage in Pakistan

Sabrina de Sousa was part of a CIA team in Italy. The operation was sanctioned by the US government and run by the CIA Chief of Station. She took no part in the kidnapping. (She was on holiday with her son.) She has been through hell for 14 years and now, she must face a three-year sentence.

Sabrina de Sousa is — of course — tired of all these years of legal uncertainty. Last month, she thanked me — and therefore all the readers of this blog– for keeping track of her case. And she has a simple message to pass around:

“I should not have to serve a sentence for a sanctioned operation and decisions made at the highest levels of USG.”

This is indeed particularly true if the Italian Intelligence Agencies were fully aware and accomplice of the operation, while leaving their Oversight Committee in the dark…

About Sabrina De Sousa

Sabrina De Sousa (born c. 1956, Bombay, India) is a Portuguese-American convicted in 2009 (in absentia) of kidnapping  in Italy for her role in the 2003 abduction of the Muslim imam Abu Omar.

Abu Omar, a Muslim cleric, was abducted on February 17, 2003, in Milan by the CIA. and transported to the Aviano Air Base, from which he was transferred to Egypt, where he was interrogated.

De Sousa is not alleged to have kidnapped Omar herself, but is said to have “helped make false documents to mislead investigators”.

A European Arrest Warrant valid throughout Europe was issued in 2006 by Italian authorities  for her arrest. (They named her publicly in July 2008.)

About COPASIR

COPASIR — Comitato Parlamentare di Controllo per i Servizi di Informazione e Sicurezza e per il Segreto di Stato (Parliamentary Committee for the Intelligence and Security Services and for State Secret Control) — is a body of the Italian Parliament deputed to survey and oversee the activities of the Italian intelligence agencies. [Wikipedia]

RELATED POST: Introduction to Italian Intelligence Agencies — PART IV : The Mission of the Oversight Committee

Timeline

Sabrina De Sousa (born c. 1956, Bombay, India) is a Portuguese-American convicted in 2009 (in absentia) of kidnapping  in Italy for her role in the 2003 abduction of the Muslim imam Abu Omar.

Abu Omar, a Muslim cleric, was abducted on February 17, 2003, in Milan by the CIA. and transported to the Aviano Air Base, from which he was transferred to Egypt, where he was interrogated.

Abu-Omar

Abu Omar

 

A European Arrest Warrant valid throughout Europe was issued in 2006 by Italian authorities  for her arrest. (They named her publicly in July 2008.)

In 2012, Italy’s supreme court of cassation upheld the sentences handed down after the trial in absentia of de Sousa, 22 other CIA operatives and a US soldier. They were given jail terms ranging from seven to nine years. De Sousa’s sentence was later reduced to four years.

De Sousa was arrested in Portugal under that arrest warrant in 2015. She was briefly detained at the Lisbon airport in Portugal on October 5 2015. Her passport was confiscated.

In January 2016, she was ordered extradited to Italy.

On April 11, 2016, the Portuguese Supreme Court upheld De Sousa’s extradition.

On June 8 2016, the Portuguese Constitutional Court upheld the Supreme Court’s decision.

Sabrina de Sousa was due to be extradited to Italy to serve her sentence before June 18. (Indeed, the law allows for at most 10 days.)

Legal twist. As of August 1st 2016, she has not been extradited. The process seemed to have come unstuck.

According to the Portuguese “Expresso” newspaper, the Italian justice ministry recently wrote to Lisbon saying there would be no new trial or appeal.

“If Italy now says that is not possible the Portuguese judges will have to take that into consideration,” De Sousa said.

Indeed, if the  previous guarantees given by the Italian judiciary were effectively bogus, the Portuguese judges could overrule the decision made at the beginning of the year to extradite De Sousa since such re-trial/appeal was a condition of their decision.

The Portuguese Supreme Court has rejected Sabrina de Sousa’s latest extradition appeal.

However, in November 2016, the Portuguese Supreme Court rejected Sabrina de Sousa’s latest extradition appeal. She may file an appeal in Portugal’s Constitutional Court.

Sabrina de Sousa told The Associated Press she may file an appeal in Portugal’s Constitutional Court.

De Sousa said in emailed comments to the AP that an appeal is “possible” but she is “not sure” she will go ahead with it. She said she needs to undergo surgery but did not elaborate.

Friday 30 December 2016. Portugal plans to extradite Sabrina de Sousa to Italy. The former CIA officer said that the extradition procedure was due to start “after January 3rd”.

Friday 13 January 2017 . Portugal plans to extradite Sabrina de Sousa to Italy on 17 January 2017.

Monday 16 January 2017. Tomorrow, Portugal will extradite to Italy a former CIA Officer convicted over the 2003 abduction of radical Egyptian imam Abu Omar, a case that highlighted the controversial US secret rendition program.

In a recent post, I reminded you that former Rep. Pete Hoekstra, a current adviser to Donald Trump’s transition team on Intelligence matters, has long argued that the US Government had abandoned one of their ‘soldiers’: ex-CIA Sabrina de Sousa.

“Portugal will soon extradite former CIA officer Sabrina de Sousa to Italy for incarceration. Her crime? She executed the orders of her CIA superiors, who were acting under the direction of the administration with oversight from Congress.” [Pete Hoekstra]

RELATED POST: Portugal plans to Extradite Ex-CIA Sabrina De Sousa to Italy

According to De Sousa, this would “set a hugely bad precedent for the conviction by an allied nation of a U.S. diplomat.”

U.S. District Judge Beryl A. Howell wrote :

“The message that this scenario sends to civilian government employees serving this country on tours of duty abroad is a potentially demoralizing one.”

February 22 2017. The former officer, Sabrina De Sousa, 60, was detained Monday night (February 20 2017) and is awaiting imminent extradition to Italy, one of her lawyers, Dario Bolognesi, said. [NYT]

Wednesday March 1 2017 — Sabrina de Sousa was at the airport this morning to be handed over to Italy. However, a prosecutor in Milan revoked the detention order. Interpol agents, who were at the airport to extradite her, have been informed and the extradition has been definitely cancelled.  She is no longer at the airport. She is not free yet, but she is expected to be released TODAY.

July 7 2017 — Back to Italy to face sentence

Former CIA agent faces punishment in Italy

Published on Jul 5, 2017 — Italian court convicted Sabrina de Sousa in absentia for the U.S. government-sanctioned kidnapping of cleric Abu Omar; chief intelligence correspondent Catherine Herridge reports.

 

“The Italian Job”. [Vice News]

 

 REFERENCES

Ex-CIA officer says she’s being forced to testify in Italy on ‘rendition’ — FoxNews

“Strange letter sent by Italian government” seems to have halted extradition of former CIA officer holed up in Portugal

Ex-CIA Agent Loses Latest Italy Extradition Appeal — NYT 18 Nov 2016

Ex-CIA officer faces imminent extradition to Italy, hopes Trump can help — FoxNews 15 January 2017

Una espía portuguesa de la CIA intenta evitar la cárcel — El Pais

U.S. Refusing to Intervene as Ex-CIA Agent Faces Extradition, Prison, in Italy — The Investigative Project on Terrorism (IPT), 13 January 2017

Portugal Detains Former C.I.A. Officer Sought by Italy — NYT February 22 2017

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Former CIA Officer Back to Italy to Face Sentence

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