Thursday, February 14, 2013

Some Homework For Curt Knox/Marriott/FOA: How Leaning On Italian Judiciary Can Seriously Misfire

Posted by Peter Quennell

Update: Nicolo Pollari won at the Supreme Court level and walks free. On close examination this seems fair. He was forbidden by secrecy rules at trial to explain his role and put on a defense. It seems his role might have been very minor or none at all if he was kept out of the loop. Italy has ignored a negative opinion on this from the ECHR.

Nicolo Pollari (above) has just been sentenced to ten years and Marco Mancini to nine.

Mr Pollari was the supreme head of Italy’s intelligence agencies - its top spy - and Mr Mancinin was one of his deputies. They were sentenced by a court in Milan.  They were found to be complicit in an act now illegal both in Italy and now the US.

Under the George Bush and Berlusconi regimes, an Egyptian called Osama Moustafa Hassan Nasr was kidnapped by the CIA in Italy and dispatched to be tortured elsewhere. Revealed not to be a terrorist, he was later released.

Some 26 Americans, mostly CIA, were previously sentenced in Milan for the same crime in absentia. Italian warrants for their arrest are out and those warrants could be submitted to Interpol to be applied worldwide.

These were the outcomes DESPITE elements of the US and Italian governments putting up a tremendous rearguard fight. To their credit the US State Department and Rome Embassy dont seem to have been proactive in this (State was even sued for not providing one CIA operative with diplomatic cover) but bets are they would have hit a wall if they had. .

In an amazing new behind-the-scenes expose of the sordid history of the political strong-arming in The Guardian, in which he praises Italian justice a lot, Glenn Greenwald includes this:

This prosecution was possible in the first instance only because a single Italian magistrate, Armando Spataro, insisted on pursuing it despite all sorts of attacks against him.

This 2009 Der Spiegel article reports that, as a result of his pursuit of the case, “his communications were monitored, the Italian intelligence service placed him under observation and there were even investigations into whether he had betrayed state secrets.

The government tried again and again to silence him. But the magistrates ignored those repressive efforts, eventually even seizing [chief CIA operative] Robert Lady’s retirement villa in Italy to cover court costs.

Numerous cables show Italian officials, especially Berlusconi himself, attacking the Italian magistrates and assuring the US that Italian courts would eventually stop them.

One 2005 US cable celebrates that Minister of Justice Roberto Castelli “took the unusual step of publicly criticizing a member of Italy’s highly independent magistracy” over this case, specifically that he “called Armando Spataro a “militant’. meaning a communist”...

That public denunciation of the magistrate happened, recounted the US cable, after he “presented Castelli with requests for the provisional arrest in contemplation of extradition for 22 Americans involved in the alleged rendition of Egyptian Imam Abu Omar from Milan.”

Does this sound at all familiar?! There seem to be good lessons here for Curt Knox, David Marriott and the FOA.

Italian justice may take its sweet time (deliberately so, because of the Post World War II constitution) but all important cases are an opera in three acts - and no perp should think he or she is home free (and start writing books) at the end of Act II.

And prosecutors should never ever be leaned on because they invariably push back and most have the firm support of powerful colleagues - not the hapless Judge Hellmann, though, who the Council of Magistrates has made quite sure is gone.

Note that under Italian law criminal defamation suits by officialdom can be brought in Italy even if the serial slimers are across the Atlantic and believe distance or a helpful government is on their side.

The first of the suits against Sollecito for the multiple defamation in his book could be filed any day now, and Andrew Gumbel and Simon & Schuster executives might find targets on their own backs.

Roll on, the Amanda Knox interview and book!  We’ll see if anyone by then grew a brain.


I have followed this case from the beginning and have always appreciated the spine the Italians have demonstrated in pursuing this case. And the truth. One is enough.

Usually CIA sets fire to everything they leave behind. How come they “forgot” to leave the “retirement villa” intact? Too much of overconfidence, sadly.

I have always insisted that France and Italy are the only two successful communist countries in the world. I am sure that there will be 22 less visitors to Italy these days.

When I was younger, I heard that a British Philosopher wanted the take the US to court on war crimes in Vietnam. But he could not rent a suitable place for his trials.

Posted by chami on 02/14/13 at 08:01 PM | #

All very true Chami.

I’ve encountered CIA operatives when in “the field” with the UN and those were fine guys. They have a job to do but the top levels blow hot and cold so fine-tuning their act aint so easy.

That extraordinary rendition (torture in a third country) was a low point and I bet even many CIA operatives found it iffy. Its gone now of course, declared illegal.

Two misleading CIA movies are nominated for Oscars. One shows the CIA in an exaggeratedly good light (Argo; the rescue operation was in fact mostly Canadian) and one in an exaggeratedly bad light (Zero Dark Thirty; the analyst didnt solve the whereabouts of Bin Laden all alone while she was fighting a bunch of CIA numbskulls). 

The Oscar results ceremony is in about 2 weeks. Argo may win Best Picture being rah rah rah and a good yarn (thanks Canada!) but ZDT with is highly controversial endorsement of the effectiveness of torture seems toast.

Posted by Peter Quennell on 02/15/13 at 03:03 PM | #

One excellent movie which does quite fairly show a CIA operative in a very good light is this one:

Valerie Plame was the one who was convinced Iraq didnt have nuclear weapons and so, no real need for a war.

She was publicly shafted and outed by Vice President Cheney’s operation - and the war went ahead on spurious grounds.

Posted by Peter Quennell on 02/15/13 at 03:35 PM | #

CIA got lots of news inches in the extraordinary rendition case in the continent. I think it was quite reasonable as the continent was the fuelling point for the flights.

The Raymond Davis case did not get that much attention but we all read about it here and the local press was quite bad (I am being modest). The image of the common American man or woman has suffered badly in the sub-continent. Personally I think you (US) need to take the overall blame for the mess.

Posted by chami on 02/15/13 at 03:49 PM | #

Agreed Chami.

The HUGE shortfall in American foreign policy is in how it approaches “nation building” in its “assistance” with development and economic growth.

Get that right and wars and spook activity largely go away.

The US is literally the worst in the world at models of growth for othger countries for reasons we touched on before and all Asian growth now is on lines pretty well opposite to what the US still keeps pushing.

The developers (I suppose) meant well but the US grew in its own special way, over aeons.

Posted by Peter Quennell on 02/15/13 at 04:50 PM | #

I do not have any documented evidences, but the Mafia has actually made the people demand (ha!) that the law be respected. Now the mafia fading in the background, the judiciary has actually become stronger (mostly; you can discover a bad apple everywhere) and, in a sense fearless. You can see the difference across the border, e.g., in France and Germany, both richer and politically more powerful. It is the Mafia that taught the people the importance of the “rule of the law” and the judges have all gone up a notch in people’s esteem.

Most of the Mafia bosses has been given a transparent and fair trial as per newspaper reports. It is the people’s trust that is the only source of power for the judges- not the political masters. It has the origins in the empowerment of the common man. In some sense, Italians are more empowered, socially speaking, compared to a typical American. A typical common man in the US has a poor social bond and disgraceful quality of service (relatively speaking) from the community.

Posted by chami on 02/15/13 at 09:15 PM | #

Hi Peter
The very basic reason that the US fails in so called ‘Nation Building’ is that Americans have no comprehension of the culture of other countries. This is not their fault for the American view of geography usually does not extend past the county line. Trouble is Americans have been brought up on commercialism and Hollywood movies. This after WW11 was a good thing. Not now though because after WW11 the CIA/FBI could do no wrong and got away literally with murder. (Send suspected terrorists to be tortured in other countries then you can turn round with a straight face and say “Who Us”) I’m not bashing the US by the way just stating facts.

Posted by Grahame Rhodes on 02/15/13 at 09:23 PM | #

Andrew Gumbel can be contacted via Twitter:


Please feel free to pass on the good news to him.

Posted by The Machine on 02/15/13 at 09:36 PM | #

A good news post.  Much appreciated.  I appreciate your analogy: ‘all important cases are an opera in three acts’.  Very good.

I still don’t understand why Sollecito, who should surely understand the Italian system, went ahead to write such a stupid book.

But there again, he is not the brightest button in the box and I suspect that he was swayed by some notion that he could jump on the clamorous US-led band wagon that appeared to serve Amanda Knox so well.

Posted by thundering on 02/16/13 at 03:01 AM | #

I understand why Sollecito wanted to write these things, since he’s a spoiled, self-entitled, arrogant brat who believes himself superior to the vast majority of people and somehow intangible after the appeal (without realizing that any protection he’s benefited from is a direct result of his father’s wealth and connections, and not something attained through his own efforts).  For those familiar with Martin’s “A Song of Ice and Fire” series (aka “Game of Thrones”), he’s like King Jeoffrey - cruel, arrogant, and insufferable.  Jeoffrey, however, was a pre-teen, while Sollecito has been an adult since before the murder even happened.

What I don’t understand is why the lawyers and publishers involved in the production of this book didn’t do some serious fact-checking and draw the line at some of Raffaele’s more outrageous claims.  I also don’t understand why Papa Doc didn’t exert more control over this venture.  All of them ought to have known better.

Posted by Vivianna on 02/16/13 at 12:29 PM | #

Hi Vivianna

Yeah Sollecito sure scored an astounding “own goal”! I think compounding everything was that Andrew Gumbel seems a real Italy-phobe, a condescending bigot himself, a terrible choice.

Also that the book was written in English in the US and the nuances might have been lost on Raffaele and certainly on his family and team. He didnt seem to know his lawyers’ own defense. 

Also that Sollecito really did think he was home free, especially after pretty well writing that it was Knox that was the real perp, and he forgot that his legal status is “still accused”.

Nobody with a brain in Italy sets out to belittle the government team when “still accused” and the third act is still coming up. This has never happened before.  And Bongiorno etc are credited with helping on the book!

RS got pretty tongue tied throughout his media tour in the US during which the September Porta a Porta put all Italy in a rage. He has been stupidly macho on the web since but may now have been gagged.

We’ll post late today or tomorrow with all we know of what is in the suit and what it all means. Its a complicated suit, and more than half is about defaming the institutions, which will just kill RS and his team.

Posted by Peter Quennell on 02/17/13 at 05:46 PM | #

Good Morning/Evening Everyone,

I just read an article that Knox will doing an interview with Diane Sawyer of ABC on April 30, which will be televised on prime time tv.

Interesting ... this is the same day Knox’s “book of fiction” will “disgrace” the bookstores.


I will NOT watch the interview and I will NOT buy the book !  I sure would like to know how much $$$ she is getting for that interview ?

It is truly despicable that Knox is capitalizing off the murder she and RS committed !

I can’t wait to hear what the Supreme Court rules next month !

I was not sure where to post this—so please feel free to move and/or edit if I put in the wrong place here at TJMK .  Thank You. 


Posted by MissMarple on 02/18/13 at 03:47 PM | #

Hi MizzMarple

If she is home free she can do it. If she is not home free - well, check the new post above for the minefield she would enter into.

Posted by Peter Quennell on 02/18/13 at 05:11 PM | #

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