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An Italian court has convicted 23 Americans--22 CIA agents and one Air Force colonel--of abducting a Muslim cleric in "extraordinary renditions" of terrorist suspects. Tried and convicted in absentia, the Americans have also been sentenced to an entirely unenforceable five (and, in one case, eight) years in prison. What does this conviction mean for U.S. policy, the agents, and countries involved?


  • I Never Understood This, Adam Serwer admits at The American Prospect. "Italy is an ally. Why was extraordinary rendition necessary?" Not that he's taking the Italian side: "[C]onvicting people in absentia? Not such a big fan of that."
  • A Signal to the CIA  Responding to Serwer's question, Foreign Policy's Annie Lowrey explains that the CIA took the steps in question "because it was the most efficient way to do it, and, at the time, operated in extralegal channels." The purpose of this court case, then, is to "[ensure] the CIA knows there's no impunity now." Meaning? "[F]ormer Milan station chief Robert Lady needs to cancel his European vacations."
  • A Signal to the U.S.  Mother Jones's Dave Gilson says that though none of the convicts will serve any prison time for this, "the ruling is a rebuke to the US government--and the nearly 15-year-old rendition policy."
  • A Complete Joke  Gawker's Alex Pareene isn't buying it. Extraordinary rendition, he patiently explains, "is 'illegal' under Italian 'law.'" But don't worry, he writes: "Obama signed an executive order promising to not fly prisoners to places where they will be tortured, anymore ... And we all know the CIA will do exactly as they are told, because they always do." What about the convicts? Extradition, Pareene continues, "is not going to happen." Luckily, there's a backup option: "Italians should probably consider having agents of their own lawless and unchecked international intelligence organization kidnap them all as they go to church or whatever."
  • What About the Guilty Italians?  Kevin Drum isn't convinced, either. He's got his own reason, though: Italians were involved in the extraordinary rendition process, too. What happened to them?

    Let me get this straight: the Italian judge was happy to convict a bunch of Americans who he knew would never pay a price since they'll never be extradited, but he wasn't willing to convict the Italians involved in all this, who would have paid a price. You'll excuse me, I hope, if I don't exactly see this as a triumph of judicial independence. Convicting a bunch of foreigners is easy. It's holding your own people to account that's hard.  Wake me up when either of our countries starts doing that.

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