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Italy Asks Interpol For CIA Agents

CIA shield over scales of justice and gavel
AP / CBS
Italian prosecutors want to extradite 13 purported CIA officials accused of kidnapping a radical Muslim cleric and transporting him to Egypt where he reportedly was tortured, and they've asked Interpol to help track down the Americans, a court official said Tuesday.

A man identified as the former CIA station chief in Milan is among the 13, according to court papers.

Egyptian cleric Osama Moustafa Hassan Nasr — also known as Abu Omar and believed to belong to an Islamic terror group — was seized Feb. 17, 2003, on Milan streets, purportedly as part of the CIA's "extraordinary rendition" program in which terror suspects are transferred to third countries without court approval.

The extradition effort and arrest warrants filed in the case marks a rare public objection to the practice by a close American ally in its war on terrorism. Opposition deputy Marco Minniti called the Nasr abduction "the most serious violation of national sovereignty in the history of the republic."

U.S. officials defend the practice of "extraordinary rendition," saying they receive assurances that terror suspects handed over to foreign governments won't be tortured. They acknowledge, though, that once a transfer occurs, the United States has little control.

Prosecutors have asked Interpol help in tracing the suspects, all identified as U.S. citizens, said the court official who asked not to be named because the inquiry is still under way.

In announcing the arrest warrants Friday, the Milan prosecutor's office said it will ask for American and Egyptian assistance in the case.

The 213-page order notes the arrests are needed in part because the suspects' links to "foreign intelligence services" give them the particular ability to destroy evidence in the case and disrupt the investigation.

Among the 13, according to court papers, is a man identified as the former CIA station chief in Milan.

The U.S. Embassy in Rome, the CIA in Washington and Egyptian officials have declined to comment.

Premier Silvio Berlusconi's government will respond in parliament Thursday to demands to know whether Italian officials were involved, the leftist opposition said.

CBS News reports that Investigators were able to trace the agents through check-in details at Milan hotels and their use of Italian cell phones during the operation, Italian news reports said.

The official also said there was no evidence Italians were involved or knew about the operation. He asked that his name not be used because official comment was limited to the prosecutor's statement.