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Subversive Espionage Ring Busted

by de Gondi Tue Oct 3rd, 2006 at 08:21:13 AM EST

On September 20th,  21 individuals were arrested in police operations throughout Italy. They were charged with illegally collecting and storing personal information on common citizens, bankers, CEOs, soccer players, politicians. The 344 page arrest ordinance points to alleged crimes such as fraud, blackmail, falsification, corruption, intimidation, violation of state archives and police records, illegal possession of government and state documents, illegal wiretapping, illegal possession of authorized wiretaps, impersonation of public officials.

Further reports since the story broke indicate that documents seized in police operations came from police and intelligence services of other European nations.

For Italian watchers the scandal is not new. The existence of an illegal parallel "intelligence service" has been regularly reported in the press since l'Espresso published their first scoop on the case in December 2004 linking the clandestine structure (then called "SuperAmanda" by l'Espresso) to Telecom Security. Since March 2006- and especially with the explosion of the Sismi-Abu Omar case and the subsequent death of Adamo Bove (Telecom security agent) in July- the press has continually revealed aspects of the on-going investigations.

From the diaries - whataboutbob

Tronchetti Provera's Telecom repeatedly denied the charges over the years in the press with full page ads, menacing to take legal action. Telecom eventually sued the Espresso group who in turn pressed a suit.

Beyond the few voices in a vigilant press, the political class ignored the case, with the exception of the Minister of Justice who appeared worried that his good friend and wife of Tronchetti Provera, Afef, had been spied on by this organization. Not a word about the thousands of ordinary citizens whose data had been illegally collected and used by Telecom, Pirelli, Sismi and others still unidentified.

In the wake of the scandal, the Prodi government has reacted by issuing a decree to modify article 240 of the criminal procedure code mandating the immediate destruction of illegally acquired documents as well as stiff sanctions for any editor who publishes them. The decree was touted as a measure to curb illegal wiretapping, a pet concern of the previous government. However, illegal wiretapping is only part of the current investigation and is not considered as evidence by investigators.

The full impact of the scandal has yet to be felt. It has been so convoluted and interlaced with false press leads and contradictory testimony to try the better observer's capacities.  It may compare to the Sismi-P2 scandal in the Eighties or the De Lorenzo-Sifar scandal in the Sixties.

Whereas the P2 scandal of the early Eighties directly implicated Sismi heads and the Sismi in subversive activity, the present scandal fits into the modern pattern of outsourcing key government services as well as activity that the Sismi, by law, cannot engage in (such as wiretapping). The present organization appears to consist of a myriad of private operators that change with time and opportunity around a hard core run by three longstanding friends.

At present it appears the structure was operated by Giuliano Tavaroli and Emanuele Cipriani with a crucial and major role played by their boyhood friend, Marco Mancini, the Sismi agent arrested last July for his alleged role in the Abu Omar kidnapping. Mancini is also under investigation in this "new" case, according to reports last Wednesday.

Giuliano Tavaroli and Emanuele Cipriani

In short there are two major historical  players in the case, Giuliano Tavaroli and Emanuele Cipriani. Tavaroli was head of security at Telecom while Cipriani ran a private investigation firm out of Florence called "Polis d'istinto" (a misnomer caused by a typographical error while registering the company). He would pass official Telecom orders to Cipriani's company, followed immediately by covert orders. In effect, illegal activity was covered by ordinary billing- usually with astronomical charges. Cipriani also ran a ready cash slush fund for Pirelli-Telecom employees sent on missions abroad with a mark up of 40-50%.

46 years old, Tavaroli left the Carabinieri special corps, ROS, with the rank of brigadier after becoming a specialist in the repression of left-wing terrorism.

Tavaroli quickly rose to power passing from Security chief at Pirelli to Telecom in the wake of the Telecom take-over in 2001- a move that made the Pirelli group the largest financial group in Italy. Tavaroli became chief of Security at Telecom after he "discovered" that the car of Telecom administrator Enrico Bondi had been bugged. The directors of Telecom security were fired and replaced by Tavaroli. The bugs turned out to be non-functional.

As head of Telecom Security, Tavaroli also ran security for the Cnag,  the single national bureau  responsible for undertaking all authorized wiretaps for judiciary investigations. It is alleged that Tavaroli and Cipriani gathered an enormous archive of illegal wiretaps through this key position- not only those wiretaps that had been ordered destroyed by the magistracy.

An emblematic case was the scoop by the Berlusconi Giornale reporter, Gianluigi Nuzzi, who published the conversations of Piero Fassino,  Secretary of the Left Democrats and Giovanni Consorte, indicted for financial crimes, before general elections. Berlusconi used this pretext to launch an attack on a purported abuse of wiretapping by the judiciary, glossing over the exclusive role of his own newspaper in the affair. An internal investigation quickly found that the wiretaps had been ordered destroyed by judiciary authorities.

Emanuele Cipriani ran a successful private eye agency in Florence. Self-professed Mason, Cipriani was up for candidacy to become a Sismi agent in 2001. His protocol had been put together and sponsored by Marco Mancini. (Sismi agents are chosen from the Italian administration or various police and military corps.) However, for reasons that became apparent with time, he declined to become an agent and set up his own private investigation agency, Polis d'Istinto. For five years he conducted outsourced investigations for Telecom and Pirelli Security as well as the Sismi. The "dirty work" he did for Sismi was paid by Telecom and Pirelli through a series of shell societies in London, Monte Carlo and fiscal paradises.

Investigators have confiscated 21 million Euro traceable to Cipriani following rogatories throughout Europe.

The Monte Carlo company was domiciled with the wife of Raffaello Gelli, Cipriani's longstanding friend. At present it appears that Licio Gelli, Raffaello's father and venerable master of the P2, is not involved in the case.

The Role of Marco Mancini

Marco Mancini is under investigation in this case. He had continuous contacts with the two conspirators, 1380 calls in a year, "more often than impassioned lovers," in the words of the arrest ordinance. Cell phones were routinely exchanged between the three and other co-workers, such as Adamo Bove who worked under Tavaroli. It was Adamo Bove who eventually helped the Milan PMs in wiretapping the Sismi phones in the Abu Omar case, a novel case of investigators "spying" on spies who in their turn were spying on the investigators.

Beyond the solidarity of the three friends, many of the illegal dossiers were done for the Sismi, according to documented testimony. Sismi, or Sismi agents, would outsource espionage to Cipriani. It appears that Cipriani's organization was also used to "independently confirm" bogus intelligence reports that may have originated within the services thus turning "single source" raw data into "multiple source" intel.

In another case it appears that Renato "Betulla" Farina, vice director of the rightwing yellow rag, Libero, turned over interceptions of fourteen Muslim personalities to Pio Pompa.  The fourteen were allegedly linked to Abu Omar. However, the request for illegal wiretaps on the fourteen seems to have originated from American sources in collaboration with Mancini and was handled by Adamo Bove. The testimony to this alleged fact can no longer be verified due to Bove's death. This again appears to be a case of re-circuiting intelligence through the private sector.  

A further note on Tavaroli's conduct indicates he may have been instrumental in removing Stefano D'Ambrosio as station chief of Milan. D'Ambrosio was opposed to any collaboration with the CIA in the projected kidnapping of Abu Omar. It has now been revealed that after he was referred to Gustavo Pignero by Mancini to argue his case, Pignero sent him to discuss the matter with Tavaroli. The conduct of Pignero seems strange as Tavaroli has never been identified as a Sismi agent. Shortly after, D'Ambrosio was removed from office- a necessary move to facilitate Abu Omar's kidnapping by the CIA.

In an independent investigation into the expulsion of a Syrian citizen towards Syria, Milan investigators have discovered that it was a false sting operation engineered by the Sismi. The Sismi alerted the press and the national government that they had blocked a terrorist conspiracy to place two highly explosive bombs on the Milan metro during the Winter Olympics. Investigators have found that all of the evidence had been fabricated, and charges are expected to be pressed against Sismi agents and their "informant" in the near future.

It has also been discovered that the major mainstream press scoop bannered by the Sismi alleging the presence of a kamikaze school in Milan just before the Olympics was groundless.

Secret CIA-Italy Accord?

Several reporters (Guido Olimpio and Paolo Biondani in the Corriere, Gianni Barbacetto in il Diario, September 29) have advanced the hypothesis that the organization may be linked to Alliance Base, a trans-national counter-terrorism intelligence center (CTIC), first revealed by Dana Priest in the Washington Post on July 3, 2005. Italy was not cited by Dana Priest as belonging to the CTIC. Whatever "tentative arrangements" between the two structures there may be, such as in executing so-called "extraordinary renditions", the Italian organization far exceeds any mandate in unorthodox behaviour. Sending corrupt revenue cops to execute false search warrants against hard discount tire retailers or spying on soccer players and referees, bankers, judges, Telecom employees and ordinary citizens does not appear to involve counter terrorism activity.

However, in the related investigation into the kidnapping of Abu Omar, the Prodi government has confirmed that state secrecy had been applied by the previous government. The previous government had always denied having resorted to state secrecy- in an apparent attempt to make state secrecy a secret. Whatever state secrecy may cover, General Pollari, director of the Sismi, has invoked it in his defence in the Abu Omar case, just as several Sismi agents did last Friday in the same case. It is thought that "state secrecy" likely refers to secret accords such as a CTIC.

Pollari can make fair game of denial before the parliamentary "oversight" committee, both for the Sismi and his person. Illegal activity need only be outsourced to the private sector so that the government and its representatives can easily deny any involvement or knowledge. While individual Sismi agents moonlighted as go-betweens in such cases as the kidnapping of Abu Omar or the Niger forgeries, Pollari can assert that the Sismi itself is not involved- a fairly narrow interpretation of truth. Unlike his P2 predecessor, General Giuseppe "Johnny Walker" Santovito, he can conveniently be unaware of what is going on around him within his own organization. Just as Tronchetti Provera denies knowing what his own Security, both in Pirelli and Telecom, were really up to- despite the exorbitant bills. They are both self-styled victims of an intrigue much larger than their imposing shoulders but nevertheless irresponsible. Tronchetti Provera has bowed out with his PR frills, his kids front-rowed in their Sunday best. Pollari no longer has an over-friendly government to bend over for him. His resignation is long overdue.

For coverage of this case in the English press the International Herald Tribune published this article on September 21.

For background on the separate but overlapping investigation into the Abu Omar kidnapping, consult Migeru's excellent diary for all links.

The Italian right-wing, constant treasure trove of actual actions putting the nuttiest conspiracy theories to shame...

In an independent investigation into the expulsion of a Syrian citizen towards Syria, Milan investigators have discovered that it was a false sting operation engineered by the Sismi. The Sismi alerted the press and the national government that they had blocked a terrorist conspiracy to place two highly explosive bombs on the Milan metro during the Winter Olympics. Investigators have found that all of the evidence had been fabricated, and charges are expected to be pressed against Sismi agents and their "informant" in the near future.

It seems every second reported act or plan of terror in Europe was fake or an intel error.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Mon Oct 2nd, 2006 at 10:19:07 AM EST
Will those italians be condemned?
by Laurent GUERBY on Mon Oct 2nd, 2006 at 02:42:39 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The Italian Judiciary system requires several degrees of justice before a definitive sentence is passed. This usually takes years. Since the statutory limits in Italy are absolute, i.e. in no way does the clock stop, most important trials run out of time. A person may be declared guilty but let off for extinction of the crime for the statute of limitations.

The Berlusconi government reduced statutory limits on most any crime that could be committed by the upper middle class, halving it for first time offenders. At the same time it passed many laws to hamper due process of law. Funds were cut off for the judiciary to further impede investigative action as well as trials.

The Prodi government then passed an "act of indulgence" that practically condones sentences of six years or less for all crimes committed before May 2006.

In both the Abu Omar case and the present Telecom spy case, many of the accused have partially or wholly admitted guilt, although in contradiction with each other. It will be up to the trial to determine their eventual guilt. But it is unlikely that a final sentence will be passed before the statue of limitations runs out.

by de Gondi (publiobestia aaaatttthotmaildaughtusual) on Mon Oct 2nd, 2006 at 03:50:46 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Wow, "in no way does the clock stop", that's incredible!

In France we have "prescription" (for almost everything but genocide I believe), but most acts of justice do interrupt it and reset the counter.

Don't know about other systems in Europe & the USA. Anyone?

by Laurent GUERBY on Mon Oct 2nd, 2006 at 04:22:47 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Italy is the exception. In most countries prescription stops when a crime is discovered or an arrest warrant has been issued.

Often the timing of the crime becomes an issue such as in the case of Andreotti whose relation with the mafia was successfully argued as having terminated 19 years before the definitive sentence, therefore forcing the extinction of the crime in the final judgement. 19 years for three trials!

The prosecutor argued without success that Andreotti's collaboration with the mafia had continued after that period.

The solomonic sentence was issued only weeks after the statute of limitations had expired although the court had retired on the case months before.

by de Gondi (publiobestia aaaatttthotmaildaughtusual) on Mon Oct 2nd, 2006 at 04:58:59 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Italy is what made me accept that there are such things as real conspiracy theories. After all, Italy is just a big one.

Peak oil is not an energy crisis. It is a liquid fuel crisis.
by Starvid on Tue Oct 3rd, 2006 at 12:29:00 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Further reports since the story broke indicate that documents seized in police operations came from police and intelligence services of other European nations

This make me think of the old 'GLADIO'disaster.

In the weekend, I found an article in our Flemish press, behind suscr. so I only have the introduction.

But it is enough to increase my unease...  


'Interpol is grote knoeiboel, Europol een ramp'     30-09-2006
BRUSSEL l De besluitvorming binnen Interpol, het orgaan voor internationale politiesamenwerking, loopt volledig mank: overleg is niet meer mogelijk. Met Europol is het al niet veel beter gesteld. 'Europol slaagt er niet in het vertrouwen te winnen van de nationale politiediensten. De directeur is doof voor de noden van het terrein', zegt Patrick Zanders, directeur internationale politiesamenwerking binnen de federale politie.
Interpol is a mess, Europol a disaster  30/09/06 Brussels.
The decision making within Interpol, the organisation for international police-cooperation, fails: consultation is no longer possible.
Europol  is not better off. Europol fails to build confidence between the national police services and doesn't recognize the needs in the field; said Patrick Zanders, director of the Belgian police cooperation.

The struggle of man against tyranny is the struggle of memory against forgetting.(Kundera)
by Elco B (elcob at scarlet dot be) on Mon Oct 2nd, 2006 at 02:36:24 PM EST

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