Sunday, July 09, 2006


On June 1, a senior Italian intelligence official placed a call from a public telephone booth to a fellow spy to discuss an investigation into the alleged kidnapping by the CIA of a radical Egyptian cleric in 2003.

The Italian spies were also under investigation, for complicity in the abduction of the imam, who was seized on a Milan street and sent to his native Egypt to be interrogated and imprisoned.

In a country where police officers and spies tap more than 100,000 phone lines each year, Gustavo Pignero, the former chief of military counterespionage at the Italian intelligence agency, apparently ignored the obvious - that investigators were listening in.

Pignero told his successor at the agency, Marco Mancini, that he had admitted to prosecutors that "Yankee" officers had asked the Italians to "identify and check out" the imam, Hassan Mustafa Osama Nasr.

Mancini began to fret. The Central Intelligence Agency, both men knew, had not only actually wanted to watch the suspect but also "actually wanted to seize this guy." He insisted, "I told my men that it was an illegal activity, and then I said no to this illegal activity."

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