by Chris Bertram on March 5, 2007

The Wall Street Journal has a confusing (to me) “editorial”:http://www.opinionjournal.com/editorial/feature.html?id=110009742 about the attempt by the Italian courts to prosecute CIA agents involved in “extraordinary rendition”. Here’s what is supposed to have happened:

bq. Nasr, a radical imam also known as Abu Omar, is a terrorist suspect who had been under Italian police surveillance since 9/11. In the covert operation that took place in February 2003, Italians and Americans worked together to apprehend Nasr, before whisking him back to Egypt against his will and without the permission of an Italian court.

(Nice use of the word “whisking”, that. Next time I’m charged with kidnapping I’ll tell the police that I was just planning to whisk my victim from A to B.)

The conduct of the Italian courts is deeply wrong according to the WSJ:

bq. No one seriously claims, however, that the CIA agents were in Italy without the explicit knowledge and participation of Italy’s security services. This is the crucial point — and explains why the indictments are a hostile act against the U.S. By long-established international legal practice, the official agents of one country operating in another with that state’s permission are immune from prosecution. The status of forces agreement that governs U.S. troops stationed in Italy enshrines this principle at least for official conduct.

We might pause to note the last five words of that paragraph and wonder whether the “whisking” constituted “official conduct”. It is also worth noting the slippage between “explicit knowledge and participation of Italy’s security services” and “operating … with that state’s permission”. Would the Wall Street Journal really contend that all and any acts (kidnappings? assassinations?) performed by foreign agents on US soil with the “knowledge and participation” of US government agencies (such as the CIA, or its operatives) should be taken to be acts carried out with the permission of the US government? Would they want to say that the perpetrators of such acts should be immune from prosecution in American courts? I rather doubt it.

Chris Lightfoot is dead

by Chris Bertram on March 5, 2007

I’m very sorry to see, via “the Virtual Stoa”:http://virtualstoa.net/2007/03/05/in-memoriam/ , that “Chris Lightfoot”:http://www.ex-parrot.com/~chris/wwwitter/ , blogger, coder and social entrepreneur “has died suddenly”:http://www.mysociety.org/2007/03/05/rip-chris-lightfoot-1978-to-2007/ . My own knowledge of Chris was limited to reading his blog, exchanging the odd email, and sometimes visiting the various projects he helped create (such as “Pledgebank”:http://www.pledgebank.com/ ). But I read enough to notice that he was one of the few really individual voices on the interwebs: quirky, stubborn, idiosyncratic and pretty determined about the things he cared about – such as government and commercial threats to privacy.