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Thursday, July 06, 2006

Not Seeing the Forest for the Trees

Brad DeLong asks where is my post on the arrest of two high ranking officers of SISMI (Italian military intelligence think CIA with no restiction on domestic spying)

I can explain. I know nothing nothing. For one thing we are moving to a new house. For another said new house does not have a telephone or electricity yet hampering my internet access. Thus I am now in Sardinia which involves going on a car ferry with a TV tuned by the crew. If you think that Italians are going to watch the news when they can watch a world cup semi final in which Italy beat Germany, then your grasp of Italian politics is hopelessly weak.

Actually I just read the story (in the Washington Post). My personal reaction was "what they want me to believe that SISMI is breaking Italian law in cooperation with the CIA. Hah next they will try to convince me that Berlusconi is rich or something."

I predict no zero (0) political implications because all Italians (and this non citizen resident) assumed SISMI was involved when the story broke. This is not an organisation known for principled restraint (say like Karl Rove). SISMI agents have, among other things, been convicted of planting bombs and claiming responsibility as a fake communist terrorist organisation before real communist terrorists took over the market.

Believe me no one with any respect for the law even considers voting for the Italian center right. Kidnapping Islamic terrorists is likely to be a big hit with Berlusconi's base.

Also remember that I have already claimed (based on no evidence in good Italian fashion) the astounding incompetence of the CIA station chief in Milan was demonstrated when he took Berlusconi's word that he wouldn't be prosecuted in Milan when Berlusconi clearly doesn't control who is prosecuted in Milan since he has been sub giudice for the past 11 years.

Believe me, "Milanese magistrates investigate SISMI" is a shocker like "Brad DeLong does not plan to vote for Richard Cheney in 2008." It never crossed my mind that the news would be worth a blog post.

update: OK now I will check La Repubblica Italy's leading daily and a major center of Berlusconiphobia since he tried to buy it and fire the staff.

Headlines (translated) in the order in which they appear at

Taxis no longer on strike (will strike again July 11) Lawyers on strike.

This is about really huge news. The Prodi government is trying to eliminate dozens of explicitly anti competitive regulations which were designed to protect taxi driver/owners, lawyers etc etc etc etc from the evils of competition. Needless to say, the formerly protected are protesting. Over 110,000 have voted in La Repubblica's on line poll. The results are ... (so far) 93% approve of the deregulating reforms. 6% disapprove. 1 % don't know.

Wow. Totally unscientific but 93 % of Italians who clicked the link support market competition. This is news.

I have to point out that part of why La Repubblica is so enthusiastic about the reform is that protection of newspapers and journalists from competition were not eliminated as part of the reform. Consistency is a virtue but stupidity is not.

2nd headline

World cup final will be Italy vs France. President of the Republic will watch the game.

3rd headline

SISMI number 2 arrested

Get it 3rd headline today.

The story does report that the SISMI officers were arrested for "studying the movement of Abu Omar and, especially, because they evaluated the possible use of Ghedi airport to transport him after the kidnapping (it wasn't used)". Amusingly 2 of my fellow citizens who are now wanted by the Italian authorities are named Russomando (trans. I send a Russian) and Castelli (trans. castles).

The center left does not want to touch this one with a ten foot pole. The Prime Minister's office says that SISMI assures them they weren't involved but that they respect the magistrates and will co-operate. Roughly what the last Prime minister's office would have said. The far left still communist president of the chamber of deputies is extremist enough to say "There is a need to respect the work of the magistrates" in response to the center right which is, more or less, accusing them of being soft on terrorism.

I'm sure Prodi is really looking forward to the request that his government forward the request to extradite the CIA kidnappers to the USA.

Remember, in Italy, prosecutors are really really independent. I think all politicians in Italy just want this case to go away (but it won't).

update: In a totally unscientific poll 5 Italian adults stared at me as if I was crazy when I asked them if they were suprised that SISMI officers were breaking Italian law in cooperation with CIA agents. It's like asking someone if they have ever heard of the theory that the earth is round.

Laura Rosen has more on the story based on her actual reporting.

Also Henry Farrell has a comment.

Henry Farrell has left a new comment on your post "7/06/2006 03:21:00 AM":

Ah, but check out La Repubblica today. A very different story. Number one story: "Amato: We have to talk about secret service reform." Number two story: "Abu Omar: Mancini: I never kidnapped anyone." I agree in re: the World Cup fever - but my best guess yesterday was that the less than prominent placement was b/c it was a late breaking story, and the many La Repubblica journalists with axes to grind in this affair were working on stories for the morning edition.

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