The threat from terrorism is worse than at any time since 9/11, even as the West has limited its capacity for self-defense. One example of the latter is the way the Obama Administration has abandoned former CIA agent Sabrina De Sousa.
Ms. De Sousa was one of 26 U.S. officials convicted by Italy in 2009 for their role in the rendition of a radical Egyptian cleric. A Portuguese-American dual national who currently resides in Portugal, she received a seven-year sentence from an Italian court (later reduced to four years). Last week Portugal’s highest court cleared the way for her extradition to Italy under a European arrest warrant.
CIA agents working with their Italian counterparts in 2003 captured the cleric, known as Abu Omar, who was suspected of recruiting fighters for Islamists in Iraq, among other things, and transferred him from Milan to Egypt, where he says he was tortured. Egyptian authorities eventually released Abu Omar without charge, though Italy later convicted him in absentia on terror charges.
Among the anti-antiterror left, his case became emblematic of the evils of rendition. Italian prosecutors in 2004 launched an investigation and Italian courts eventually convicted, in absentia, the CIA agents, including Ms. De Sousa, and a U.S. Air Force colonel for their alleged participation in the affair. All of the convicted Americans had left Italy by the time the court case was under way.
Ms. De Sousa was acting in her official capacity and following U.S. policy during the 2003 rendition. Yet the U.S. government never asserted diplomatic immunity in her case, although it asserted a similar immunity on behalf of at least one other American involved in the affair.
When Ms. De Sousa sued the CIA, State and the Justice Department for failing to invoke immunity on her behalf, Justice argued that immunity is asserted for the benefit of the government, not of an individual employee. That’s a sound principle and is exactly why the government should act to protect Ms. De Sousa. Failing to do so sends a terrible signal to other U.S. operatives in the field. CONTINUE AT SITE