Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Italy Jails Former Officials for Extraordinary Rendition

The New York Times reported Feb. 12, 2013 that an appeals court in Milan, Italy sentenced Italy's former military intelligence chief, Niccolo Pollari, to a 10 year prison sentence for his part in the U.S. plot for extraordinary rendition kidnapping of Muslim cleric Hassan Mustafa Osama Nasr in 2003.  Recall that extraordinary rendition was used by the U.S. government to kidnap people suspected of terrorism and whisking them away to a territory where torture is common for questioning. Three Italian secret service officials who were involved in the plot were also sentenced to serve six years each.

Twenty-three Americans, including the former CIA base chief in Milan were tried in absentia in this case in 2009 and convicted.  Three other Americans in that case were acquitted as having diplomatic immunity, including the former CIA station chief in Rome.  This appeals court vacated the acquittals this month and convicted those three in absentia.

The 2009 decision was the first case successfully prosecuting rendition as a crime, and was viewed as a very courageous decision.  In that earlier decision, Mr. Pollari was given only 8 years' sentence, and the others got five year sentences. So the sentences on this appeal were raised, as well as adding more.

I know I was deeply troubled by my government's efforts at extraordinary rendition.  Now the drones are a somewhat similar ethical problem. According to a Justice Department memo, the President has authority to send drones to assassinate citizens.  The government, un-checked by courts, and behind closed doors, is declaring death sentences on citizens and non-citizens alike, and using unmanned drones to carry them out. There is also the use of drones for surveillance against citizens. The ACLU has filed suit to stop drone killings and drone surveillance.

I find several several federal and state bills to also stop drone surveillance within their borders --  Rand Paul's bill in the Senate; Fox news story that lists Virginia, Montana, California, Oregon, Texas, Nebraska, Missouri, North Dakota, Florida, Virginia, Maine and Oklahoma.  Here is a balancing story from the ACLU with some useful links noting that Florida's legislation seems the closest to passing as of Feb. 4, 2013.

Federal bills, from the 112th Congress, which have now been superseded by the 113th Congress.  Nothing comes up in the 113th Congress yet on the topic of drones (search Thomas website by text "drones").  Keep in mind that past bills can give you an idea of future bills.:
 1.  HR 6199 ( --> Preserving American Privacy Act of 2012, currently referred to both the House Judiciary, and the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committees) 
2.   HR 5925 ( --> Preserving Freedom from Unwarranted Surveillance Act of 2012 (Introduced in House, passed from the House committee on Judiciary to the House Committee on Crime, Terrorism, and Homeland Security. Has a companion bill in the Senate).
3.  S 3287 ( Preserving Freedom from Unwarranted Surveillance Act of 2012 (Introduced in Senate - IS, -- This is Senator Rand's bill.  Read twice and referred to the Senate Judiciary Committee).
4.  HR 5950 (NADA of 2012 or No Armed Drones Act of 2012;  Referred to the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committees and then to the subcommittee on Aviation.)
5. HR 6676 (Drone Aircraft Privacy and Transparency Act of 2012; Referred to the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, and in addition to the Committee on Energy and Commerce, then to House Transportation and Infrastructure, then to House Energy and Commerce, and finally to the Subcommittee on Commerce, Manufacturing, and Trade, where it simply ran out of time on Dec. 19, 2012.)
 6.  HR 3467 ( --> To establish a moratorium on aerial surveillance conducted by the Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency under the Federal Water Pollution Control Act. (Introduced in House - IH; This is related to the other drone limitation bills, but not quite the same in that it is aimed at a specific agency.  Read twice and referred to the Committee on Environment and Public Works. )

Here is a very handy link to the Drone Journalism Lab website which is tracking each state that introduces legislation to limit drone surveillance.  

It seems so ironic that this President used to teach Constitutional law and received a Nobel Peace Prize! The image at the top of the blog post is the shadow of a drone across the U.S. Constitution, of course.  Courtesy of Hammer of Truth blog post, Drones Across America.

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