A rather important political development in Italy. Marco Mancini, the second-in-command of SISMI, the Italian intelligence agency has been arrested, along with his former boss, General Gustavo Pignero, for his part in the extraordinary rendition/kidnapping of Abu Omar. The NYT also has a piece on this, but its focus is on the magistrates’ decisions to issue arrest warrants for four Americans who were allegedly involved. It seems to me that the SISMI part of the story is the more important one. There’s no prospect that the US is going to comply with warrants issued against its agents, but there is a real possibility of substantial political repercussions from the SISMI arrests.
The path to justice in Italy is a long and tortuous one – arrest by magistrates is no guarantee of successful prosecution. But the arrest of a key figure in the Italian intelligence agency suggests that the unwritten rules of Italian politics are changing. SISMI has traditionally been a law unto itself, with many connections to shady right wing groups in Italian politics, and an unstated presumption of judicial immunity. This may not be true any longer. The Italian government has issued a statement which is a quite perfect example of the art of flowery Italian political rhetoric – effusive and entirely meaningless expressions of confidence in the loyalty of the Italian intelligence apparatus to the state, which strongly suggest to me that some of the principals of aforementioned intelligence apparatus are being measured for the chopping block. Readers of Laura Rozen and Josh Marshall will remember that there are many interesting things that Mancini’s boss, Nicolo Pollari, could reveal about Nigerien uranium and forged documents should he choose to. It’s still unlikely that he’ll be forced to make that choice, but it’s a little more likely than it was yesterday.