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Via Nazionale 230

by de Gondi Fri Jul 7th, 2006 at 03:19:28 AM EST

Yesterday's vast police operation at the behest of the Milan Procura is exposing a deviant parallel service bent on manufacturing false information and dossiers on "enemies." Until late last night the special investigative police, the Digos, continued their mandate to search and sequester material in Via Nazionale, 230, in Rome. On the sixth floor in an eleven room apartment, agents reportedly found an archive of thousands of dossiers on prominent public figures: journalists, politicians, magistrates, entrepreneurs, all considered "enemies" of the past government's "Italy." The operative base may also have a key role in the manufacturing and distribution of false dossiers and disinformation.

Promoted by Colman

The clandestine base was reportedly discovered, ironically, through wiretaps on a senior Sismi agent, General Gustavo Pignero, and the Chief of Sismi's First Division, Marco Mancino. Marco Mancino's name has turned up in the illegal wiretapping cases that dwarf NSA wiretapping by comparison. (The wiretapping controversy in Italy was misrepresented in an arguably spun article by Peter Kiefer in the NYT last June 25th.) According to reports, when the vice-director of the Berlusconi daily Libero, Renato Farina, asked for an interview with the Public Ministers, Armando Spataro and Ferdinando Pomarici, over the Abu Omar case, Spataro was warned by the Digos that Farina had been engaged to spy on him by Pio Pompa, Sismi agent in charge of press relations for Pollari. It is Pio Pompa who had rented out the flat in Via Nazionale. It did not take long for the Milan investigators to discover and understand the significance of the flat.

Marco Mancino's name first appeared in the press on May 11th in la Stampa in a follow-along press scoop to the revelations in l'Espresso and la Repubblica that debunked the Berlusconi government's assertion that Italy had nothing to do with the Abu Omar kidnapping. The scoops revealed that the Milan Procura had the confession of an Italian carabinieri, Luciano Pironi, friend of Bob Lady Sheldon, who had participated in the kidnapping operation. The care-taker Berlusconi government licensed a government communiqué falsely accusing la Repubblica of maliciously speculating on Nicola Calipari who had at one point in his Sismi career overseen intelligence operations in Northern Italy. La Repubblica replied in an unsigned editorial that it was Marco Mancino (as previously reported by la Stampa) the person in charge at the time of the kidnapping, not Calipari. La Repubblica returned the accusation and announced that although they have always refrained from naming agents and persons in general, they would now reconsider their policy. They then listed Marco Mancino's positions within the Sismi over the years.

Immediately after this exposé Pollari relieved Mancino of his position by offering him the directorate of an agency academy. Mancini refused and went on sick leave.

Following the confession of Luciano Pironi the Milan investigation uncovered the evidence leading to Marco Mancino's arrest yesterday through the further testimony of Colonel Stefano D'Ambrosio, Sismi head of Milan operations before Mancino. According to D'Ambrosio's testimony both Bob Lady Sheldon and himself were opposed to the illegal kidnapping of Abu Omar in the early stages. At Lady's behest, D'Ambrosio pleaded against the project to none other than Marco Mancini. D'Ambrosio wished to inform their superior at the time, Gustavo Pignero. Mancini said he would handle it. Ten days later D'Ambrosio was summoned to Rome by Pignero and removed from his office. Mancini was promoted to take his place. At the same time Jeff Castelli, allegedly together with the diplomat Sabrina De Sousa, reprimanded Lady and ordered him to cut off all relations with D'Ambrosio. Jeff Castelli was then CIA station chief in Rome. Arrest warrants have been issued for Jeff Castelli and Sabrina De Sousa, as well as the agent Ralph Henry Russomando, accused of creating a false dossier to mislead Italian investigators, and Colonel Joseph Romano, then head of the Aviano Air Force Base and now at the Pentagon.

Marco Mancini quickly rose through the ranks together with the veteran Gustavo Pignero, once under General Dalla Chiesa in the war against the Red Brigades. Pignero became head of the First Division which handles military security and counterespionage while Mancini commandeered North Italy. Thanks to his excellent relations with American services, Mancini eventually took Pignero's place, warmly recommended by George Tenet and Silvio Berlusconi. Mancini's best friend from the beginning of their respective careers is Giuliano Tavaroli,  ex-chief of Telecom Security and presently implicated in the illegal wire-tapping scandal.

The Italian services have a long tradition of putting together illegal archives and  false dossiers that dates back to Mussolini's feared secret services, about a dozen agencies in all. After the war the orphaned fascist spies found welcome haven in the fledging  services directly run by the Americans well into the late Fifties. In 1955 Allen Dulles and Claire Booth Luce put General De Lorenzo as head of the Secret Services, then known as the Sifar. In 1966 it was discovered that the Sifar had put together at least 157,000 illicit dossiers on Italian citizens. But what was most regrettable about these dossiers was the order to destroy them rather than turn them over to be catalogued in the state archives. On August 9, 1974 a bonfire acted as scapegoat for an entire political generation. But conveniently left many key dossiers in others' hands.

Then there was the legendary Ufficio Affari Riservati run by Federico Umberto D'Amato, who reigned much like J. Edgar Hoover or James Jesus Angleton thanks to their collections of illicit dossiers.

We are looking forward to finding out what's in Marco Mancini's collection. Perhaps some of the questions that have dogged investigators and reporters these past few years may find some answers.

Are these very very good signs for Italy, or is there a danger?

(Baci ed abbracci!  Can you recommend any Italian websites?)

"Ma e' propio bella, quella cosa."

(il tuo diario)

"Mi fa piacere trovarti qui."

Io, che non sono giornalista, sono molto grato che tu mi informarmi cosi' bene sull'italia che trovi.

Don't fight forces, use them R. Buckminster Fuller.

by rg (leopold dot lepster at google mail dot com) on Thu Jul 6th, 2006 at 09:01:13 PM EST

Dolores alla panza!  Quest' inglese scrive comm' un...non ho parole!

Sotto la panca la capra campa
Sopra la panca la capra mangia banane

Perche' gli piacono le banane!

Don't fight forces, use them R. Buckminster Fuller.

by rg (leopold dot lepster at google mail dot com) on Thu Jul 6th, 2006 at 09:05:25 PM EST
Thanks for this explanation.

Can you describe the role of Jeff Castelli further? And the relationship between Mancino and Pollari? What are the chances that Mancino will implicate Pollari?

by emptywheel (emptywheel at earthlink dot net) on Thu Jul 6th, 2006 at 09:35:51 PM EST
Mancini was reportedly interrogated yesterday. The probe is widening and promises to bring down entire sectors of the Sismi, much like what happened in the Eighties. At the time the Sismi was in the hands of Licio Gelli's P2 and was involved in fabricating false evidence to mislead the investigation into the Bologna Train Station massacre.

That massacre of over eighty people and 200 wounded is still covered by state secrecy.

Francesco Pazienza is still in jail for his role in that criminal cover-up. His emprisonment has not prevented him from cooking false information and blackmailing a petty Iran-Contras scoundrel, Pio Maria Deiana,into leveling false charges against Prodi in the Telekom Serbia Commission scandal in 2003-2004.

by de Gondi (publiobestia aaaatttthotmaildaughtusual) on Fri Jul 7th, 2006 at 01:54:11 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Mancini's interrogation was postponed to today in Milan. There are several Sismi agents, reportedly three, that have testified against him.
by de Gondi (publiobestia aaaatttthotmaildaughtusual) on Fri Jul 7th, 2006 at 02:43:42 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I have reported on the Abu Omar kidnapping and Jeff Castelli in two diaries:

New Developments in the Abu Omar Kidnapping Case
Of Forgeries and Kidnappings.

A previous report on the illegal wire-tapping scandal was reported here Italian Elections Round-up- January 24th, 2006.

I reported on Marshall Luciano Pironi here.

by de Gondi (publiobestia aaaatttthotmaildaughtusual) on Fri Jul 7th, 2006 at 02:41:59 AM EST
[ Parent ]
This story sounds like a great script for a Fellini movie.
by Fran on Fri Jul 7th, 2006 at 12:20:26 AM EST
There's some coverage in the LA Times here.
by IdiotSavant on Fri Jul 7th, 2006 at 12:34:55 AM EST
Thanks very much for link. It's great to see the LA Times on the story as usual. Another person on the ball is Laura Rozen at War and Piece.
by de Gondi (publiobestia aaaatttthotmaildaughtusual) on Fri Jul 7th, 2006 at 01:56:33 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Excellent diary with historical perspective. Thanks, de Gondi.
by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Fri Jul 7th, 2006 at 01:33:39 AM EST
As always, thanks for the good coverage of the Italian political scene.

Unfortunately, this looks like some sort of movie script. The twists and turns are as good as any Hollywood scriptwriter.

Let's hope the prosecutors and magistrates are able to dig further into this.

by gradinski chai on Fri Jul 7th, 2006 at 04:56:29 AM EST
Stay tuned. It's an earthquake.
by de Gondi (publiobestia aaaatttthotmaildaughtusual) on Fri Jul 7th, 2006 at 06:28:17 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Many thanks de Gondi as usual! For those who do not know Italian organisations, wikipedia has some informations about Sismi
by Laurent GUERBY on Fri Jul 7th, 2006 at 03:53:10 PM EST
Thanks for the link.
by de Gondi (publiobestia aaaatttthotmaildaughtusual) on Fri Jul 7th, 2006 at 06:30:12 PM EST
[ Parent ]
here is another article from the Stars and Stripes which is the newspaper serving the US military overseas.
An American military officer sought by Italian prosecutors in connection with the alleged 2003 abduction of an Islamic leader in Milan is the former security forces commander at Aviano Air Base, according to a warrant issued by an Italian judge Wednesday.

The warrant identifies the former commander as Lt. Col. Joseph Romano. The warrant, issued as part of the abduction investigation, also is directed at three CIA agents who have not been named publicly. Romano's name also has been published in Italian media and the Los Angeles Times.

Romano served as commander of the 31st Security Forces Squadron in 2003 during the period in which the alleged abduction by CIA agents of a cleric known as Abu Omar occurred.

According to various media reports, Omar - who was under surveillance by Italian agents - was taken from Milan to Aviano and then flown to Ramstein Air Base in Germany.

He reportedly was later transferred to Egypt, where he is believed to still be held.

U.S. military officials consistently have declined to talk about the case or provide information about any role the bases may have had. That was again the case Thursday.

"It is inappropriate to comment on this when there is an ongoing investigation," said Capt. Jennifer Ferrau of the 31st Fighter Wing Public Affairs Office at Aviano.

Col. Pat Mackin, a public affairs officer for the U.S. European Command, referred an inquiry to the Department of Defense. "Though it is a policy that the department does not discuss intelligence or ongoing judicial matters," he noted.

Lt. Cmdr. Joe Carpenter, with the Department of Defense press office in Washington, said the Defense Department is aware of the reports. He said, "The department would work in conjunction with the government in analyzing any requests from the Italian government." But he said, at this point, it would be "premature to speculate" about the situation.

Romano is currently stationed at Maxwell Air Force Base in Alabama.  Attempts to call him at his office at Maxwell on Thursday were not successful.

Wednesday's warrants are in addition to 22 others sought in December by an Italian prosecutor in Milan. Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi's government reportedly declined to ask the United States for  extraditions of the people - reportedly all CIA agents - listed in those warrants. Since then,  Italians  voted a center-left coalition led by Romano Prodi into power.   Prodi generally is not viewed as supportive of American policies and  actions as Berlusconi, and reports in Italian media have speculated that the new government might forward the requests to Washington.  

Two members of the Italian secret service also were detained this week, according to numerous media reports. Berlusconi's government had steadfastly  denied any knowledge or help in the alleged abduction, and the arrests marked the first time that an Italian had been connected to the event.

only a couple of things different from de Gondi's article, such as the rank of Romano and his current duty assignment.

by dan of steele on Fri Jul 7th, 2006 at 05:13:57 PM EST
Thank you very much for the helpful link and the corrections. Stars and Stripes is understandably better informed on Joseph Romano than news-breaking Italian sources.
by de Gondi (publiobestia aaaatttthotmaildaughtusual) on Fri Jul 7th, 2006 at 06:18:56 PM EST
[ Parent ]
There are currently 26 arrest warrants for American citizens or agents, including the four I have listed above. Only a small group of them is believed to be bona fide CIA. A good part of the members are thought to be DIA agents or outsourced agents.

The investigations by the European parliament indicate that it is a specialized team that has operated frequently in Europe.

by de Gondi (publiobestia aaaatttthotmaildaughtusual) on Fri Jul 7th, 2006 at 06:28:55 PM EST
[ Parent ]

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