by de Gondi
Tue Jul 25th, 2006 at 04:19:13 AM EST
New twists in the on-going investigation into the Sismi's role in the Abu Omar kidnapping. Friday's papers (Repubblica, among others) carry the scoop that Marco Mancini had registered his conversations with his colleague Gustavo Pignero. As reported, both Mancini and Pignero are suspected of having done preliminary intel and logistics for the actual kidnapping. They then participated in the cover-up and disinformation campaign as the Milan Procura and investigative reporters unravelled the case. As magistrates focused on Mancini (burnt as an agent first by the Stampa and then the Repubblica), he went on diplomatic sick-leave at the behest of General Nicolò Pollari, head of the Italian Military Secret Services.
Mancini felt that he was being set up to take the fall by Nicolò Pollari and decided to act. He called up Pignero at the beginning of June and told Pignero that he (Mancini) had been convoked to testify by the Milan magistrates. He said they should meet to discuss their eventual testimony. But Mancini's intentions were to get Pignero to talk while he taped him.
From the front page ~ whataboutbob
At the same time both were unaware that the Milan investigators already had them under surveillance.
This is the conversation they had in Via Tomacelli, Rome, Saturday morning, June 2.
Mancini: Remember, Gustavo? Do you remember that the order to kidnap came straight from the Director?
Pignero: Yes, I remember.
M: And do you remember that he told mine [his group] that we had to grab him? And that two days after I told you we couldn't do it because we're not in South America?
P: Yes, I remember.
M: And do you remember that it wasn't me who decided to transfer [Milan station chief for SISMi] D'Ambrosio to Rome? That I wanted to send him to Trieste?
Now D'Ambrosio in Trieste would not have gone down well with the conspirators. The Aviano Air Force Base where Abu Omar was first taken is under Trieste's control. The base that had initially been chosen was Ghedi. It had already been excluded because its commander, Gianmarco Bellini, had been downed in the first Gulf War and held prisoner by Saddam for over a month. He would never had accepted to participate in an extraordinary rendition. It was necessary to put a friendly station chief in Trieste.
Mancini pressed Pignero for more information on Pollari. Pignero replied that he had met Pollari twice for the Abu Omar kidnapping: once in the winter of 2002. "Yes, it's true. As I entered Pollari's office, Jeff Castelli was leaving. I noticed he had left an envelope on the table.[...] an envelope with the names that interested them." Pollari allegedly gave orders to Pignero to stake out Abu Omar and another 11 suspected Islamic terrorists.
Pignero sums up his second encounter with Pollari in which he expresses Mancini's opposition to the operation. "I told him we can't do this operation and he took notice."
Mancini then pressed Pignero to explain why he refused to testify to the magistrates. "I'm terminally ill and have nothing to lose. In this story, I prefer to take the fall rather than the Director. Because if the Director goes, the government is going to fall, and it will ruin our relations with the Americans. So let's have it that I'm responsible for the whole thing, that all the contacts passed through me and that's it."
Mancini at this point consigned the tape to his lawyers who held them until after his arrest and interrogation on July 5th. After an examination by the scientific police the magistrates concluded that the tape is authentic and matches seamlessly with other material evidence.
Pollari, as previously reported, cannot invoke state secrecy now that he is under investigation but must rely on previously classified documents. The Milan magistrates have decided not to request these secret documents -- that Pollari alleges help his defence -- from the Council Presidency. They consider them irrelevant to the case.
Pollari replied today through his lawyers that there exists a letter addressed to the previous government covered by state secrecy that would prove that he categorically refused to authorize illegal acts. His lawyers also stated there is solid evidence that confutes the "illicitly published" conversation, a conversation partial, confused, inconsistent and gravely slanderous both for the SISMi and Pollari in particular.
Mancini certainly did his best to pilot the conversation to his advantage. Whatever the conclusion may be, what is certain is that within the SISMi hierarchy there's a run on cloaks and daggers.
UPDATE: Last minute news.
Adamo Bove jumped to his death this afternoon in Naples. He was an ex-cop and manager in security governance at Telecom. According to press release he was under investigation for an alleged role in one of the many illegal wire-tapping cases that may have involved sectors of the SISMi. Indiscretions point to a possible role in the Laziogate scandal in which the Union candidate, Marrazzo, and the far-right candidate, Mussolini, were allegedly spied on by the right-wing candidate and incumbent, Storace.
Further transcripts were published today, Saturday, that detail how Pollari gave Pignero the order to put 11 or 12 suspected terrorists under surveillance with the intent to “capture” them. According to the conversation, Pignero received the list, in English, directly after Castelli left the room. He then passed on instructions down the line to Mancini. At one point several agents began to protest that the whole operation was illegal.
Pollari had just been sworn in as Director of the Sismi just days before.
Pollari’s predecessor was Admiral Gianfranco Batelli. For those who closely follow the Niger uranium forgeries case, his name is familiar. The rightwing press makes a big deal out of the fact Batelli was in command when the “Niger” documents presumably started circulating. Batelli was a center-left appointee.
In the past weeks, the Italian rightwing press has mounted a disinformation campaign that accuses Batelli of having approved the CIA extraordinary renditions. It is suspected that Pio Pompa’s unit inspired the smear campaign.
In today’s Corriere in a scoop signed by Paolo Biondani, Batelli’s testimony to the Milan magistrates is revealed. Simple testimonies to the fact are sworn to tell the truth under penalty of law, whereas a person who is incriminated or registered as being investigated has a “right to lie, mislead or remain silent” to protect himself.
Batelli asserts that Jeff Castelli did approach him a few days after September 11, with the project to extend extraordinary renditions to Western democracies. It is presumed this means that the CIA had already used the technique in the past under other regimes. Batelli refused. According to him such an initiative had to have political support by the government, not by the Services. Further his term as Director was about to expire, and it was out of the question he would ever take such a decision. He advised Jeff Castelli to discuss it with the government and his successor.
Batelli’s successor, General Nicolò Pollari, was designated unilaterally by the Berlusconi government. That is without consulting the opposition and overriding the objections that, in a period of grave crisis immediately after the Twin Towers attack, it would have been better to extend Batelli’s directorate temporarily.
Batelli informed Pollari of current affairs during the changing of the guard. He advised Pollari that Castelli had made the proposition to conduct extraordinary renditions in Italy. Batelli declared that once he had left the SISMi he no longer followed what went on in the Services.
In a separate declaration, Batelli denied that the SISMi had anything to do with the Niger forgeries while he was in charge.