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April 22, 2008 11:26 AM   Subscribe

The CIA's Odd Man Out: CIA station chief Bob Lady coordinated the secret kidnapping of Islamic militant Abu Omar in Milan and Omar's "extreme rendition" to Egypt where he was tortured. Italy indicted various CIA agents; Lady is on the run in Central America, abandoned by the agency. The twist: Lady opposed the mission all along. And Abu Omar will probably end up with Lady's home in the foothills of the Alps.

Lady's boss -- Jeff Castelli, then head of intelligence operations in Italy -- simply received a reprimand and is being groomed for promotion, despite the arrest warrant out for him in Europe. (See "Backchannel Chatter" at end of this article. )

More on Lady's situation from the March, 2007 GQ; Omar's description of these events from the Chicago Tribune.
posted by msalt (38 comments total) 4 users marked this as a favorite

 
Lady is on the run in Central America, abandoned by the agency

So what you're telling me is that Lady is a tramp?
posted by nasreddin at 11:32 AM on April 22, 2008 [21 favorites]


So basically, all those spy movies were right. Let it be known that you're not in 100%, and you end up on the run in some less-than-scenic locale, while your employer whitewashes everything and pins the blame on you in your absence.

And as usual for the government, incompetence gets promoted.

Nice.
posted by Kadin2048 at 11:35 AM on April 22, 2008


(And by "nice" I mean "normally I try not to get this cynical about the government until at least Thursday, but today I'll make an exception.")
posted by Kadin2048 at 11:36 AM on April 22, 2008


As much as I try, I can feel little but schadenfreude. Sorry, Mr. Bob.

The CIA’s Counterterrorism Center gave Castelli his head. Lady, ever the good soldier, went along.

"I was just following orders."

It turned out the CIA boys and girls were using not only their own phones but also personal credit cards, for both pleasure and business as they cavorted through the luxury hotels of Milan and Venice for their mission.

I swear to god, if the CIA were disbanded tomorrow, our nation would be 80% safer. What a bunch of fucking clowns. I'm tempted to think the CIA itself might be a massive KGB operation to bring down the American government.
posted by mr_roboto at 11:38 AM on April 22, 2008 [8 favorites]


to Egypt where he was tortured

What? No. We do not torture.
posted by East Manitoba Regional Junior Kabaddi Champion '94 at 12:00 PM on April 22, 2008


I wonder if he was in Italy long enough to be involved in the strategy of tension.
posted by Pope Guilty at 12:00 PM on April 22, 2008


I can't help but think of Bob, the CIA man from the movie "Syriana".
posted by Xoebe at 12:01 PM on April 22, 2008 [1 favorite]


Wasn't there chatter a few years back about how a lot of undercover CIA-type people were taking out fancy/expensive insurance policies to help protect them against this sort of thing?

Yeah, here it is:

"CIA counterterrorism officers have signed up in growing numbers for a government-reimbursed, private insurance plan that would pay their civil judgments and legal expenses if they are sued or charged with criminal wrongdoing, according to current and former intelligence officials and others with knowledge of the program."

Guess Lady either didn't sign up, or doesn't have faith in his insurance company..
posted by inigo2 at 12:09 PM on April 22, 2008 [1 favorite]


Er, it's "extraordinary rendition," not "extreme rendition," no matter how much we want to make this sound like a reality TV show.
posted by Dasein at 12:23 PM on April 22, 2008


I didn't particularly like Jake Gyllenhaal in this, but just the same, he doesn't deserve to be abandoned in Central America.
posted by psmealey at 12:28 PM on April 22, 2008


Bob Lady

who also gave Excalibur to Arthur
posted by George_Spiggott at 12:34 PM on April 22, 2008 [1 favorite]


Guess Lady either didn't sign up, or doesn't have faith in his insurance company..

The insurance company won't go to jail for you
posted by delmoi at 12:36 PM on April 22, 2008


I have this very ugly feeling that in a couple of years some of these Bush appointed CIA aparatchiks are gonna find themselves getting a bullet in the brain. You can't piss on these field agents with out some repercussions.
posted by tkchrist at 12:41 PM on April 22, 2008


Lady is on the run in Central America...

On the run? Seems folks know where he is.
"At the time [of his 2007 GQ Magazine interview], a downcast Lady was hanging out in South Florida. Lately he’s been doing some security consulting work in Central America, where he grew up, the son of an American businessman in Honduras....The Italian dream has evaporated....'I’ll probably be convicted,' Lady told [writer Matthew] Cole. 'But I won’t go to the trial, and I’ll never see Italy again.'"
posted by ericb at 12:44 PM on April 22, 2008 [1 favorite]


I have this very ugly feeling that in a couple of years some of these Bush appointed CIA aparatchiks are gonna find themselves getting a bullet in the brain. You can't piss on these field agents with out some repercussions.

Actually, I'd be most worried if I had a name similar to one of the Bush appointees in the phone book. 'Cause you figure, with a CIA agent, mistakes will be made.
posted by mr_roboto at 12:48 PM on April 22, 2008 [4 favorites]


I swear to god, if the CIA were disbanded tomorrow, our nation would be 80% safer.

Our nation too.
posted by darkripper at 1:03 PM on April 22, 2008 [11 favorites]


Snatching Omar was the brainchild of Jeff Castelli, a rising star in the CIA, who was the Rome station chief and in charge of all U.S. intelligence operations in Italy.

I have this very ugly feeling that in a couple of years some of these Bush appointed CIA aparatchiks are gonna find themselves getting a bullet in the brain. You can't piss on these field agents with out some repercussions.

I was just curious what these two sentences would look like side by side.

(This totally feels like the setup for a TV show of some kind.)
posted by quin at 1:20 PM on April 22, 2008


I have this very ugly feeling that in a couple of years some of these Bush appointed CIA aparatchiks are gonna find themselves getting a bullet in the brain.

Ugly? That feels like hope to me.
posted by FatherDagon at 1:20 PM on April 22, 2008


Er, it's "extraordinary rendition," not "extreme rendition," no matter how much we want to make this sound like a reality TV show.

I was quoting the article in the "Backchannel Chatter" link I listed in -more inside- there, which was quoting some unnamed source.

However, this sounds more like "incompetent rendition" than "extreme rendition", given agents who left their cell phones on, used their real names at conspicuous fancy hotels, etc.
posted by msalt at 1:24 PM on April 22, 2008


I swear to god, if the CIA were disbanded tomorrow, our nation would be 80% safer. What a bunch of fucking clowns. I'm tempted to think the CIA itself might be a massive KGB operation to bring down the American government.

I've read that intelligence agents like to joke that the CIA, NSA et al. are actually just supposed to provide cover for the real U.S. intelligence community.
posted by gsteff at 1:30 PM on April 22, 2008


Being an evil CIA bureaucrat sure is torture, eh Lady?
posted by Mister_A at 1:36 PM on April 22, 2008


I've read that intelligence agents like to joke that the CIA, NSA et al. are actually just supposed to provide cover for the real U.S. intelligence community.

Thousands of dead people aren't laughing.
posted by Bathtub Bobsled at 1:43 PM on April 22, 2008 [1 favorite]


What's that old joke about how to prove that the CIA didn't kill Kennedy?

"Well, he's dead, isn't he?"
posted by Pope Guilty at 1:49 PM on April 22, 2008 [3 favorites]


I've read that intelligence agents like to joke that the CIA, NSA et al. are actually just supposed to provide cover for the real U.S. intelligence community.

They're not joking.
posted by amyms at 2:01 PM on April 22, 2008


So, I don't get it. I've been trying to recreate the line of reasoning that must've been touted in order arrive at the conclusion that we needed to have such a program in the first place, and I just can't get there.

Practically everything I've read on the subject says that unless you are trying to get someone to do something against his will (sign a confession, recant his faith, or pretty much say anything at all) there's no surer way to gather faulty information than torturing someone. In fact, there's no indication at all that even more recent practitioners of torture (the Gestapo, the NKVD, its successor the KGB, the Vietcong, the Khmer Rouge) used it for anything other than forcing confessions from their victims.

The rendition program basically tells us that, even though the very idea of torture is counter productive to accomplishing its presumed ends (presumably, identifying/stopping potential terrorist plots underway, learning the whereabouts of key players and organization structures), we don't have the balls to do it ourselves. Not that it takes any kind of bravery to strap someone down and go to town on him, but politically it seems you should at least have the courage of your convictions to be public about it if you're going to engage in this abhorrent practice at all. The effect of outsourcing it, just makes a very bad thing look even worse.

So what's the idea, then? Deterrence? Intimidation? Letting some sickos in the administration look tough to the mouthbreathers back home, people in Kansas that wanted to kill A-rabs after 9/11 when they didn't have the slightest connection to anyone in the Trade Towers or the pentagon?
posted by psmealey at 2:17 PM on April 22, 2008


They call you Bob Lady
But there is room for doubt
At times you have a very un-lady-like way
Of running out

One dark night in Milan
the rendition is extreme
And yet before the evening is over
He'll be tortured by your team

You might forget your manners
You might refuse to stay
And so the best that I can do is say

Good luck being Lady tonight
Good luck being Lady tonight
You're fucked if you've been Bob Lady to begin with
Good luck being Lady tonight

(Sorry, Frank.)
posted by Floydd at 2:17 PM on April 22, 2008 [3 favorites]


further recommended reading/viewing: charlie rose interview with tim weiner, who has an excellent book out called legacy of ashes: the history of the cia.

also: here's a photo of bob lady. (linking this is just my personal little fuck you to the gov.)
posted by krautland at 2:25 PM on April 22, 2008 [1 favorite]


Er, it's "extraordinary rendition," not "extreme rendition," no matter how much we want to make this sound like a reality TV show.

I hate the term. It's pure military speak. People need to come up with a phrase that includes the words kidnap & torture.
posted by chunking express at 3:33 PM on April 22, 2008 [2 favorites]


I guess Valerie Plame. got out just in time...
posted by vhsiv at 3:37 PM on April 22, 2008


I would love some citations to the Italian court proceedings for this case. Or anything from a more recognizable source.
posted by 1adam12 at 5:10 PM on April 22, 2008


I think it's pure "us vs. them" thinking, psmealy, along the lines you posit. It seems to me that the mood in this country, particularly on the right, but also among some with big megaphones on the left, was that them Ay-rabs and furriners just plain had it comin'.

The whole Bush administration has been about politics and power over everything, and utter disregard for policy. "If it feels good, do it," has been their motto.

Really, if you're a conservative, as that term's meaning had been recognized in the US for the previous 50 years, you can't be happy with the record debt and the political appointees in the Pentagon overruling the generals to put a small force into an open-ended commitment in Iraq. William F. Buckley wasn't too happy with this administration.
posted by ibmcginty at 5:16 PM on April 22, 2008


"I've read that intelligence agents like to joke that the CIA, NSA et al. are actually just supposed to provide cover for the real U.S. intelligence community."

Google?
posted by klangklangston at 5:22 PM on April 22, 2008


In fact, there's no indication at all that even more recent practitioners of torture (the Gestapo, the NKVD, its successor the KGB, the Vietcong, the Khmer Rouge) used it for anything other than forcing confessions from their victims.

That's only because they didn't have Jesus on their side like George W does.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 5:26 PM on April 22, 2008 [1 favorite]


I would love some citations to the Italian court proceedings for this case. Or anything from a more recognizable source.
Le Figaro | October 15, 2007: "Italian judge Guido Salvini issued warrants for the arrest of 22 persons said to be agents or operatives of the CIA, including Jeffrey W. Castelli, head of the CIA in Italy until 2003."*

CNN | December 23, 2005: "In November 2005, Italian prosecutors requested that Italy's Justice Ministry seek the extradition of the suspects from the United States. The Italian government declined. On December 20, 2005, European arrest warrants were issued for the 22 suspects."*

Reuters | July 5, 2006: "In addition to the 22 European arrest warrants issued in December 2005 and the arrest of the above-mentionned SISMI officers, an Italian judge issued additional arrest warrants for four Americans, three CIA agents and for Lieutenant Colonel Joseph L. Romano III, commander of security forces at the Aviano Air Base at the time, now working at Section 31b of the Pentagon."

Le Monde: February 17, 2007: La justice italienne prépare le procès des vols de la CIA.

Associated Press | February 17, 2007: Alleged agents of CIA charged.
posted by ericb at 5:29 PM on April 22, 2008


John Ashcroft confronted about waterboarding.

Obama suggests the possibility of war crime prosecutions.
posted by EarBucket at 4:36 AM on April 23, 2008 [1 favorite]


I have this very ugly feeling that in a couple of years some of these Bush appointed CIA aparatchiks are gonna find themselves getting a bullet in the brain. You can't piss on these field agents with out some repercussions. -

This reminds me of what happened at the end of the Departed. Blammo!
posted by Mastercheddaar at 5:53 AM on April 23, 2008


Knox College is in western Illinois, by the way, about an hour -- or less -- from the Iowa border. Corn country.

As for Ashcroft, at first it looks like he didn't get Fredo's note about the Bush process, but then he demonstrates a surprising misunderstanding about Waterboarding and the Japanese soldiers who were executed for using it at the end of WWII.
ASHCROFT: No. No it doesn't violate the Geneva Conventions. As for other laws, well, the U.S. is a party to the United Nations Convention against Torture. And that convention, well, when we join a treaty like that we send it to the Senate to be ratified, and when the Senate ratifies they often add qualifiers, reservations, to the treaty which affect what exactly we follow. Now, I don't have a copy of the convention in front of me...
ME: (holding up my copy) I do! (boisterous applause and whistling from the audience) Would you like to borrow it?
ASHCROFT: (after a pause) Uh, you keep a hold of it. Now, as I was saying, I don't have it with me but I'm pretty sure it defines torture as something that leaves lasting scars or physical damage...
A STUDENT FROM THE AUDIENCE: Liar! You liar! (the student is shushed by the audience)
ASHCROFT: So no, waterboarding does not violate international law.
posted by vhsiv at 6:48 AM on April 23, 2008 [2 favorites]


The Central Intelligence Agency issued a(n uncommon for it to do so) press release concerning Tim Weiner's book _Legacy of Ashes_, identifying factual errors. I saw this last summer on _The Spy Who Billed Me_ blog, with a link to the actual press release.

At the time, I recall reading the official press release and noting that the press release matched the copy of it quoted in full on the blog link - a good thing, because the CIA has rearranged its website since last August and the link on the blog to the original press release no longer works. I haven't checked if archive.org's Wayback Machine has the original press release.

(The Agency Defends Its Legacy blog link. )
posted by steveburnett at 1:58 PM on April 24, 2008


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