Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Germans, Italians seek to arrest CIA operatives

American intelligence and military officers are the subjects of arrest warrants connected to the abductions of German and Italian citizens in the war on terror.

Italian prosecutors intend to try dozens of CIA operatives and an Air Force officer, if they ever get their hands on them.

Most recently, Germany issued arrest warrants for 13 CIA agents who allegedly kidnapped a German citizen in 2004, and kept him in custody in Afghanistan.

The German arrest warrants, filed in Munich, are the second case in which prosecutors have filed criminal charges against CIA employees involved in counterterrorism operations in Europe. European investigators acknowledge that it is highly unlikely the U.S. spies -- most of whom worked undercover or using false identities -- would ever be handed over to face trial. But the prosecutions have strained U.S.-European relations and underscored deep differences over how to fight terrorism.
Obviously, the United States will never hand these people over to face trial in other countries. However, what if the German and Italian governments simply take a page from the Bush administration playbook and kidnap them? What if German or Italian intelligence agencies mount an operation to snatch these men up and spirit them away to face trial? By what rationale would the administration object?

This is where Bush's contempt for international law has brought us. The subjects of those German and Italian warrants are not safe now if they travel overseas. They are not necessarily safe on the streets of their own hometowns. They are at risk of abduction, arrest, and prosecution for criminal acts that their president ordered them to commit.

I'll say it again: there is no substitute for the rule of law.