A Kidnapping in Milan: The CIA on Trialby Steve Hendricks
A book so compelling it deserves to become one of the nonfiction classics of our time.As propulsively readable as the best “true crime,” A Kidnapping in Milan is a potent reckoning with the realities of counterterrorism. In a mesmerizing page-turner, Steve Hendricks gives us a ground-level view of the birth and growth of international/em>/p>
A book so compelling it deserves to become one of the nonfiction classics of our time.As propulsively readable as the best “true crime,” A Kidnapping in Milan is a potent reckoning with the realities of counterterrorism. In a mesmerizing page-turner, Steve Hendricks gives us a ground-level view of the birth and growth of international Islamist terrorist networks and of counterterrorism in action in Europe. He also provides an eloquent, eagle’s-eye perspective on the big questions of justice and the rule of law.
“In Milan a known fact is always explained by competing stories,” Hendricks writes, but the stories that swirled around the February 2003 disappearance of the radical imam Abu Omar would soon point in one direction—to a covert action by the CIA. The police of Milan had been exploiting their wiretaps of Abu Omar for useful information before the taps went silent. The Americans were their allies in counterterrorism—would they have disrupted a fruitful investigation?
In an extraordinary tale of detective versus spy, Italian investigators under the leadership of prosecutor Armando Spataro unraveled in embarrassing detail the “covert” action in which Abu Omar had been kidnapped and sent to be tortured in Egypt. Spataro—seasoned in prosecutions of the Mafia and the Red Brigades and a passionate believer in the rule of law—sought to try the kidnappers in absentia: the first-ever trial of CIA officers by a U.S. ally. An exemplary achievement in narrative nonfiction writing, A Kidnapping in Milan is at once a detective story, a history of the terrorist menace, and an indictment of the belief that man’s savagery against man can be stilled with more savagery yet.
The vivid true story behind the kidnapping of Islamist troublemaker Abu Omar in Milan in 2003.
Tipped off by an American CIA chief to a terrorist plot led by an Egyptian exile who lived in the relatively liberal Milan and worshipped at an activist mosque, the Italian detectives helped put in motion a "rendition" in February 2003 that would have troubling repercussions. After 9/11, as journalist Hendricks (The Unquiet Grave: The FBI and the Struggle for the Soul of Indian Country, 2006) writes, the CIA frequently outsourced its covert operations, and Abu Omar was presumed to be a militant leader recruiting for a terrorist group in Iraq, on the eve of the U.S. invasion of that country. Abu Omar was seized from the streets of Milan, stuffed in a van, driven to the international air base, loaded on a plane and imprisoned somewhere in Egypt. He was also badly tortured in prison, and the author provides a horrific examination of the current torture practices. After some months he was inexplicably released. Subsequently, the Italian court decided to take up Abu Omar's case, even though a search of his apartment found incriminating evidence of his Islamic fanaticism. Magistrate Armando Spataro suspected that the Americans were involved. With a little research—and thanks to the spies' sloppy tactics—the Italians discovered that at least 26 American amateurs had their hands in this case. However, in this new war on terror, "few governments had challenged the American warriors," and both Silvio Berlusconi and Barack Obama defied the Italian court, which nonetheless tried the informant and the others involved in absentia. The author's attempts to interview the depleted, money-grasping Abu Omar are largely unsuccessful, and the whole affair remains sordid and sticky—and still unresolved.
Despite an unsatisfying conclusion, Hendricks does a nice job sustaining interest in this convoluted spy case.
- Norton, W. W. & Company, Inc.
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Meet the Author
Steve Hendricks is a freelance reporter. He is the author of A Kidnapping in Milan and The Unquiet Grave: The FBI and the Struggle for the Soul of Indian Country, which was named to several best-of-the-year lists in 2006. He lives in Tennessee and Montana.
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