I represent Robert Seldon Lady, who faces a six year Italian prison sentence in connection with the 2003 extraordinary rendition of an Egyptian jihadist Imam, Abu Omar, in Milan, Italy. In 2007, Lady was tried in absentia with 23 other American defendants. Italian Intelligence Chief, Niccolo Polari was sentenced to 10 years in prison. The case was brought by the same prosecutor who recently convicted former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi. The Lady prosecution was an easy one, because Lady was forbidden by State Secrets laws from testifying in the case, submitting classified information in his defense, calling any witnesses or attending the trial. He was also forbidden by law from revealing the Italian State Secrets to which he had access. So a loyal 24 year US government employee, following orders of the highest American officials, was thrown under the bus by the very country, Italy, that he had fought to protect. In fact, as a Consular official in Milan, Lady had brought Millions of Dollars of US resources, intelligence contacts, confidential sources and manpower to help protect the Italian people he loved from the vicious growing terrorist cells in Milan. Apparently, no one in the Bush Administration could do a thing to avoid the prosecution.
It was predictable that the usual keyboard warriors, who have no access to the true facts, would salivate over the thought of Lady’s imprisonment. Yet these are the same folks who justifiably weep over the graves and hospital beds of the Boston Marathon bombing victims— and then criticize the FBI for not “connecting the dots.” Lady had connected the Milan dots and many more dotted lines, over many years, that led— yes, to the neighborhoods of America.
We Americans and Italians need to decide whether we want to weep and run or stand and fight these terrorists. For awhile, we had the terrorists on the run, thanks to patriots like Bob Lady and the many others who are still in the shadows. Now it is clear that we are running— in circles. We cannot prosecute ourselves out of this nightmare. We cannot evacuate every Embassy and Shopping Mall on earth. And we should not turn on the very people we send into the field of battle. Rank and file Intelligence personnel in Italy and the United States are furious about the plight of the Milan defendants. Tomorrow it could be them on the Interpol Wanted Poster. What is especially perverse to the troops is that the politicians who issued the orders, resulting in these prison sentences, have arranged, through Chardonnay diplomacy, to avoid the noose.
And in the face of all this how do we recruit the young people we need to take up the battle? Can we assure them that when we send them secretly into the dangerous alleys of war on the orders of the latest politically appointed management, we can and will completely indemnify them? Apparently not.
Bob Lady worked for decades in dangerous places on dangerous assignments for us. He has never revealed our secrets. Unlike Mr. Snowden, he has kept his oath. The very least Americans and Italians owe him is tranquility. Yet last month, he was detained in Panama on an arrest warrant issued by the Italians. Incredibly, from its comfortable New York Offices, close to the 9/11 tragedy, Amnesty International demanded that Lady be returned in shackles to Milan. Legions of internet journalists joined in vicious attacks. Thankfully, due to a legal paperwork snafu, the Panamanians had the good sense to allow Bob to return to America.
President Giorgio Napolitano pardoned Air Force Colonel Joseph Romano, one of the Milan defendants, in April. Now he should do the right thing and finish the job. This has always been a political case, without a legal defense. President Napolitano should commute the sentences of all of these government employees. We have a war to fight.
Thomas R. Spencer, Esq