Looking behind the scenes

by Henry on July 6, 2006

More on the Mancini affair. First, the foreign minister, Massimo D’Alema (who’s one of the less pleasant operators on the Italian left imo) has suggested that the Italian government “knew about Abu Omar’s kidnapping”:http://www.repubblica.it/2006/07/sezioni/cronaca/arrestato-mancini/amatop-riforma-servizi/amatop-riforma-servizi.html.

bq. It appears to me unlikely that operations of this sort, which seems to have involved actors at the highest level of the services, could have taken place totally unbeknownst to the political authorities (my translation).

Second, the justice minister, Giuliano Amato has suggested that there may be a need to reform the secret services. There appears to be a debate taking place within the Italian government over whether the blame should be laid at the door of individual actors within SISMI or SISMI as a whole. Amato is being quite cautious – but hinting that serious reforms are needed. Prodi is even more cautious – but may become less so as this develops (see below).

Finally, Laura Rozen links to a “story”:http://www.eurotrib.com/?op=displaystory;sid=2006/7/6/184443/8436 at the _European Tribune_ suggesting that Mancini was running an elaborate dirty tricks operation with dossiers on thousands of Italians considered enemies of the previous Italian government. I’m not sure what the sourcing is for this piece, but it’s certainly interesting and consistent with much of what we know already.

Now on the one hand, as “Robert Waldmann”:http://rjwaldmann.blogspot.com/2006/07/not-seeing-forest-for-trees-brad_06.html suggests, none of this is likely to surprise many Italians. There’s a long tradition in Italy of “dietrologia” – of assuming that politics is a shadow play, where the really important things happen back stage among clandestine actors of one sort or another. Most Italians will likely be less surprised that SISMI was involved than at the revelation that some within SISMI seem to have resisted the extraordinary rendition of Abu Omar. But on the other, there does seem to be an interesting political realignment taking place. I wouldn’t like to bet hard money that the Italian government is going to use the scandal as an excuse to clear out some of the rotten wood from the Italian intelligence services, which have traditionally been run like a state within a state (think of a combination of the worst attributes of J. Edgar Hoover and James Jesus Angleton and you won’t go far wrong). But Romano Prodi is among those who have suffered directly from smear campaigns run by people with SISMI connections in the past, and may well be personally inclined to do something about it, as the scandal gathers force. It’s also becoming increasingly clear that there were connections between SISMI and the Berlusconi government which went considerably beyond formal lines of authority, suggesting that there may be some political gains to be made by investigating further. More as this develops.

{ 7 comments }

1

Dick Durata 07.07.06 at 1:04 am

henry, I’d be interested to know why you think that about D’Alema.
‘Less pleasant operators’ implies something, what?

2

Filter 07.07.06 at 2:43 am

Probably Henry refers to the typical way D’Alema sneers at everybody he’s talking with.
A couple of personal impressions from Italy: the Italian public opinion seems very blasé about this scandal (also because of the impending World Cup final); Prodi won’t concentrate on political gains (there are no elections in sight) but he has already decided to use the scandal to rebuild intelligence services from zero.

3

John Emerson 07.07.06 at 6:11 am

There’s a long tradition in Italy of “dietrologia” – of assuming that politics is a shadow play, where the really important things happen back stage among clandestine actors of one sort or another.

Those silly Italians. We’ll have to have David Broder explain things to them.

4

Idiot/Savamt 07.07.06 at 6:34 am

The LA Times has a piece here.

5

vanya 07.07.06 at 10:07 am

Has anyone determined the scope of Michael Ledeen’s involvement? It would be nice if Prodi would blow the whistle on the neocon involvement with the fascist elements in Italy’s government.

6

French Swede the Rootless Vegetable 07.08.06 at 3:15 am

Has anyone determined the scope of Michael Ledeen’s involvement?

There’s quite a bit about him on this (long) piece of investigating reporting of the nigerien uranium affair in Vanity Fair by Craig Unger:

http://www.vanityfair.com/features/general/articles/060606fege02

7

Nell 07.10.06 at 12:38 pm

Pollari knew.

Via Laura Rozen, who also links to this semi-overview from the NYTimes.

Good thing Italy won the World Cup, eh? Otherwise an almost embarrassing amount of attention would be paid.

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