US intelligence agencies have carried out spying operations on telecommunications in at least 14 Latin American countries, according to a series of articles the Brazilian national daily O Globo began publishing on July 7. Based on classified documents leaked by former US intelligence technician Edward Snowden, the articles reported that the main targets were Brazil, Colombia and Mexico. The US also spied "constantly, but with less intensity," on Argentina, Chile, Costa Rica, Ecuador, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay, Peru and Venezuela, the newspaper said. Brazil and Colombia, a major US ally, have both officially demanded explanations from the US.
In a bizarre and largely unexplained incident, on July 2 several Western European countries denied the use of their airspace to a Bolivian plane carrying the country's president, Evo Morales, home from a gas exporting countries forum in Moscow. The Bolivians made an unscheduled landing in Vienna, where Austrian authorities reportedly inspected the plane with President Morales' permission. After a 13-hour stopover in Vienna, the flight was cleared with the Western European countries and proceeded to La Paz, where it landed late July 3.
Italian president Giorgio Napolitano on April 5 pardoned US Air Force Colonel Joseph Romano of his conviction related to the US Central Intelligence Agency's abduction and "extraordinary rendition" of Egyptian cleric and terror suspect Osama Moustafa Hassan Nasr AKA Abu Omar. Joseph Romano was security chief of northern Italy's Aviano air base where Nasr was abducted prior to being flown to Egypt. Nasr was seized on the streets of Milan in 2003 by CIA agents with the help of Italian operatives, then allegedly transferred to Egypt and tortured by Egypt's State Security Intelligence before being released in February 2007. The US Department of Defense welcomed the news of Napolitano's pardon.
The Milan Court of Appeals on Feb. 1 convicted three US nationals for their roles in the 2003 "rendition" kidnapping of Egyptian cleric and terror suspect Osama Moustafa Hassan Nasr AKA Abu Omar. Due to diplomatic immunity, all three men had been acquitted in the previous trial where the Milan court convicted 23 former CIA agents. Vacating the acquittals, the court now sentenced former CIA station chief Jeff Castelli to seven years, and the two other Americans, Betnie Madero and Ralph Russomando, to six years. The appeals process has been separated for Castelli and the other two men for technical reasons, and the appellate court's reasoning is expected to be released this month.
Wow. We called out Obama's Peace Prize in 2009 as Orwellian, but the Nobel committee have now sent the irony-meter into full tilt. An appropriately exasperated commentary in Spain's El Diario, wryly titled "That Which the Nobel Prize Calls Peace," states: "The Nobel Prize goes to a European Union being ruled for the banks and financial power, at the expense of the increasing asphyxiation of the people: In Spain the misery index has already reached 26.4%... In Greece, operations are being denied to cancer patients who have lost their health coverage and cannot afford treatment. There are growing cases of diseases such as tuberculosis. Public hospitals limit the supply of vital medicines, and are denying care to the needy..." And the debacle that Euro-unification has become is actually causing a bitter divide in Europe—not this time between Germany and France, but between Germany and the Mediterranean nations of Greece, Spain and Portugal—where a new austerity budget sparked angry protests yesterday, AP notes. And we should probably add Italy, where students clashed with police in protests against austerity measures nearly across the country, Reuters reported Oct. 4. Greek protesters against German-led budgetary whip-lashing have been quick to recall that their country was occupied by the Nazis in World War II, reopening old wounds—even as a Greek neo-fascist movement has emerged to exploit the misery with the usual bogus populism that scapegoats immigrants, leading to a wave of violent attacks. Wow, what an astonishing advance for world peace the European Union represents!
The Italian Court of Cassation on Sept. 19 upheld the convictions of 23 former CIA officers for the 2003 kidnapping and rendition of Egyptian terror suspect Osama Moustafa Hassan Nasr. Former Milan CIA station chief Robert Seldon Lady was originally sentenced to eight years in prison, while 22 other Americans were sentenced to five years after they were all tried in absentia. In 2010 an Italian intermediate appellate court increased Lady's sentence to nine years while increasing the sentences of the other 22 defendants to seven years. The Court of Cassation upheld the sentences of nine and seven years.