Skip Navigation

Extraordinary Decisions: Italy’s High Court and the Bush Administration

Abu Omar. Wikimedia Commons. Creative Commons License. SLUG: FO/Milan-Cleric DATE: Downloaded email 12/01/2005 (EEL) CREDIT: Corriere Della Sera (Italian newspaper) LOCATION: Milan, Italy CAPTION: Hassan Mustafa Osama Nasr, a radical Egyptian cleric known as Abu Omar, was allegedly kidnapped by CIA operatives in February 2003 while walking to a mosque in Milan. According to Italian investigators, this surveillance photograph of Nasr was found on a computer disk in the home of the CIA's ranking official in Milan and was taken on Jan. 14, 2003, one month before he disappeared. The photograph shows Nasr walking along the Via Guerzoni in Milan in the same location where a witness reported he was kidnapped one month later.

The year President George W. Bush left office Jane Mayer published “The Dark Side,” a scathing, revelatory piece on the Bush administration’s unscrupulous detention and interrogation policies during the administration’s War on Terror.  Mayer’s account reports the dubious legal foundations for the policies and contains detailed descriptions of the numerous human rights abuses the executive branch justified in the name of national security.

The most commonly cited and well-known illustration of the ethical misconduct of the Bush administration during the War on Terror is found at the U.S. detention center located at Guantanamo Bay. After the years following its establishment in 2002, Gitmo was considered to be a prison existing “outside of the law,” thus barring prisoners from being entitled to the treatment typically guaranteed at the hands of U.S. authorities.  Guantanamo Bay’s existence has been widely perceived as a glaring affront to fundamental American values. And though Gitmo attracted well-earned public attention – even forcing 2008 presidential candidates Barack Obama and John McCain to stake positions on the issue – it was only one of the various instances in which the Bush administration authorized programs of “enhanced interrogation,” that to many amounted to torture or at the least, inhuman and degrading treatment of wartime detainees.

Another practice that has spawned from the post-9/11 hyper-intelligence frenzy is extraordinary renditions, or the capture and transfer of ‘illegal enemy combatants’ to countries known to permit torture. The authorization of the practice indicates that the highest levels of the executive branch condoned the extrajudicial abduction of foreigners. It has resulted in the kidnapping and torture of innocent individuals for years on end, and even the murder of some illegal enemy combatants.

The most recent news in renditions, which continue to be practiced in the Obama administration, is that the Italian High Court upheld the guilty verdict of three American CIA agents for the kidnapping of the then Imam of Milan, Osama Moustafa Hassam Nasr, or Abu Omar. Omar was abducted from Milan in October 2003 and transferred to Egypt where he claims he was tortured and abused. The three Americans are among 26 agents to be found guilty in absentia by the Italian court, after the U.S. government refused to extradite them to Italy for trial. The decision, which was released on March 11, is thus far the only example of prosecution against the Bush administration for the extraordinary rendition program.

About the Author

Meg '15 is a political science concentrator and the US section director for the Content Board. She is writing a senior thesis on right wing movement success and political opportunity structures, with a focus on party institutions, in the US, UK, France and Germany. She enjoys watching angry middle aged white men screaming at one another which explains her affinity for both Congressional politics and Martin Scorsese films.