An opportunity for the anti-Snowden crowd to show their consistency to principle has arisen. A convicted American kidnapper has been apprehended in Panama as a result of an international arrest warrant. The man was convicted in Italy in 2009 and sentenced to serve 9 years in jail. However, he went on the lam and has never returned to Italy to face justice. While Italy and Panama do not have an extradition treaty, Panama could nonetheless voluntarily send this convict back to Italy to serve his time, much as the anti-Snowden crowd is requesting Russia to send Edward Snowden back to the United States.
Will the anti-Snowden crowd demand that Panama extradite this convicted kidnapper to Italy, as they have been doing with Russia and Edward Snowden?
Don’t count it. Statists have never been known for their consistency to principle. Their “principles” are usually just a bunch of ad-hoc choices that revolve around the dictum, “My U.S. national-security state, never wrong.”
You see, the convicted kidnapper, Robert Seldon Lady, is the former CIA station chief in Milan. He led the team that kidnapped a Muslim cleric off the streets of Milan and renditioned him for torture to Egypt. Yes, that Egypt—the one that is ruled by a brutal military dictatorship that was then headed by military strongman Hosni Mubarak.
One big problem is that in Italy kidnapping is a criminal offense, just as it is here in the United States. But the position of the U.S. national-security state is that as long as national-security state officials are engaged in the “war on terrorism” or protecting “national security,” criminal laws that apply to regular people don’t apply to them.
Recall, for example, the national-security state’s role in the murder of American Charles Horman during the U.S.-supported Pinochet coup in 1973. There has never been a grand jury investigation or a congressional investigation into that murder. That’s because the murder of an innocent American citizen isn’t considered illegal if it’s committed by U.S. national-security state operatives engaged in protecting “national security.” Helping oust the democratically elected president of a foreign country and helping install a brutal military henchman in his stead was considered protecting “national security.”
Consider the recent assassination of Abdulrahman al-Awlaki. That was another cold-blooded murder of an innocent American citizen and a teenager to boot. There’s never been a grand jury investigation or a congressional investigation into that murder either. That’s because the boy was killed as part of the much-ballyhooed “war on terrorism” and in the process of protecting “national security.”
Consider the perjury that Director of National Intelligence James R. Clapper Jr. committed before Congress when he knowingly, deliberately, and intentionally lied about the NSA’s surveillance scheme on the American people. Again, no grand jury indictment or congressional investigation. The laws against perjury, like laws against kidnapping and murder, don’t apply to federal officials who are engaged in the “war on terrorism” or in the process of protecting “national security.”
And let’s not forget that that Lady and his kidnap team also successfully avoided any criminal charges for conspiracy to torture, notwithstanding the fact that that was the reason — torture — that he and his team kidnapped their victim in Italy and forcibly delivered him to the brutal, tortuous Egyptian military regime, which was serving as a loyal rendition-torture partner of the U.S. national-security state.
As Lady, the convicted kidnapper who is now residing in a Panamanian jail, put it to an Italian journalist, “Of course it was an illegal operation. But that’s our job. We’re at war against terrorism.”
My hunch is that Lady will not be returned to Italy to face justice and serve out his sentence. I wouldn’t be surprised if U.S. officials have already offered Panamanian officials an enormous seven-figure bribe in the form of “foreign aid,” along with package of special trade privileges, in return for permitting Lady to return to the United States rather than send him to Italy. Along with the benefits package, of course, no doubt U.S. officials have let the Panamanians know all the bad things that are going to happen to them if they do return Lady to Italy — you know, the sorts of things with which they’re blackmailing countries that are considering giving asylum to Snowden.
It’s just one more reflection of what the national-security state has done to the morals, principles, and values of the America people. Courageous and principled people who expose government wrongdoing, like Edward Snowden and Bradley Manning, are vilified, condemned, and punished while kidnappers, murderers, and torturers are honored, praised, and harbored.
For more on the CIA kidnapping case, here are some articles I’ve previously written about the case:
CIA Illegality in Italy (2009)
The CIA Is the Law (2010)
Imperial Terrorism in Italy (2010)