Saturday, May 31, 2008

CIA operatives on trial in Italy

26 Americans, mostly CIA operatives, are currently on trial in absentia in Italy for the kidnapping and "extraordinary rendition" of a radical Muslim cleric, Abu Omar, who was taken to Egypt to be tortured. On Thursday, Italy's top counterterrorism official, Bruno Megale, explained in court how they identified the CIA operatives responsible for Omar's kidnapping:
Megale obtained records of all cellphone traffic from the transmission tower nearest the spot where Abu Omar was abducted, for a 2 1/2 -hour period around the time he disappeared. There were 2,000 calls.

Then, using a computer program, Megale was able to narrow down the pool by tracing the phones that had called each other, in other words, an indication of a group of people working together. Seventeen phone numbers, which showed intensifying use around the time of the abduction, were pinpointed. By following all other calls made from those phones, the investigators ultimately identified 60 numbers, including that of a CIA officer working undercover at the U.S. Embassy in Rome.

In his testimony, Megale revealed that one telephone number he recognized was that of Robert Seldon Lady, then-CIA station chief in Milan. Lady and Megale had worked together in counter-terrorism investigations. It was a number, Megale said somberly, that he and his team knew.

(Via Talking Points Memo.)

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