Former CIA agent blames Bush, Rice for extraordinary rendition of Egyptian cleric
The CIA inflated the case of a kidnapped Egyptian cleric in order to protect high-ranked government officials from prosecution in Italy, a former intelligence agent admits for the first time.
Sabrina De Sousa, 55, has long denied involvement with the CIA, and even asked the United States for immunity after she was charged by Italian officials for the 2003 “extraordinary rendition” of Hassan Mustafa Osama Nasr. But a decade after that kidnapping, the case has reemerged in recent days upon news that her former CIA boss in Milan was captured in Panama, only to be sent back to the US in lieu of what would have likely turned into an extradition request from Italy.
Along with former station chief Robert Seldon Lady and 21 others, De Sousa was convicted in absentia for her role in the kidnapping but avoided any sentencing by straying from Italy. Now speaking to McClatchy, De Sousa admits for the first time her involvement in the plot and identifies herself as one of the CIA agents responsible for the international incident.
In an interview published Monday by McClatchy reporter Jonathan S. Landay, De Sousa outted her role with the CIA and added harsh words about the incident that will likely be unable to mend the agency’s reputation during a time of strained international relations.
According to De Sousa, the entire abduction was masterminded by Jeffrey Castelli, a former CIA station chief in Rome who she insists exaggerated claims that Nasr posed a threat.
Nasr has maintained that the CIA kidnapped him in 2003, and then relocated him to his native Egypt where he was interrogated and tortured for years without ever being charged. In her McClatchy interview, De Sousa said that Castelli plotted the mission and received approval from then-CIA Director George Tenet despite the cleric not even appearing on a list of top terrorists sought by the US intelligence community.
So unconvincing were claims that Nasr was a threat, in fact, that White House National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice was worried about the CIA’s handling. Despite her concerns, she eventually agreed on the operation, according to De Sousa, and recommended it to then-President George W. Bush.