Posted: 1:33 pm ET
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More than 13 years after an Egyptian cleric was kidnapped off the streets of Milan by CIA operatives, one former agency officer now living in Portugal faces extradition to Italy and the possibility of a four-year prison sentence for the abduction — an outcome that a former agency historian describes as “unprecedented.”
Sabrina De Sousa, 60, was one of 26 Americans convicted in absentia by Italian courts for her alleged role in the February 2003 rendition of Hassan Mustafa Osama Nasr, also known as Abu Omar.
De Sousa’s extradition and potential imprisonment would be an astonishing turn of events for a case that raises major questions about how much diplomatic protection CIA case officers abroad possess when carrying out operations sanctioned by their superiors. During her CIA tenure, De Sousa was registered in Italy as a State Department officer at the U.S. consulate in Milan. She did not work as a “NOC” — a non-official cover operative.
“Those of us who were convicted were accredited diplomats and declared to the Italian government,” De Sousa said. “We instead find ourselves treated like NOCs with our U.S. government affiliation disavowed. I would have never joined the CIA if I was told there was a remote possibility that I would never see my mother in Goa again and not travel abroad. This has set a terrible precedent. This rendition was funded by Congress with approval of senior government officials in the U.S., Italy and Egypt.”
It all began on Feb. 17, 2003, when two men snatched Omar while he was walking to a mosque in Milan and stuffed him into a van. The cleric was flown to Egypt where he was beaten and subjected to electric shock , but eventually released. It wasn’t until early 2005 when reports surfaced that Italian authorities were investigating the CIA officers for breaking local laws against detaining terrorist suspects in Europe.
In early 2009, De Sousa resigned from the CIA, after failed bids to persuade the State Department to grant her immunity.