The Rachel Maddow Show, Trancript 08/07/13
The highest profile right wing think tank in the country is probably
the Heritage Foundation. And because they want to be thought of as a think
tank and not just another run-of-the-mill Republican pressure group, it was
a little embarrassing for the Heritage Foundation, a bit of a minor
conservative scandal, when the group announced last year that their new
president was going to be Jim DeMint.
Jim DeMint was, in fact, resigning his U.S. Senate to go run this
think tank because of his deep academic, rigorous, analytical background as
a marketing executive.
Yes, he is no more qualified to run a think tank than I am to fly
rocket ships. He`s just a Republican politician guy, he always has been.
But basically, Republican politics is just what Heritage does, even if
they want to seem slightly more empirical about it. It was a little
embarrassing when they hired Jim DeMint.
What was more embarrassing for the Heritage Foundation, though, was
when they decided to fight the prospect of immigration reform in our
country by releasing a pseudo-academic analysis of why immigration reform
was a terrible idea – a terribly expensive, terribly bad idea to reform
immigration policy in this country.
It turned out that under Jim DeMint the Heritage Foundation had hired
as a senior policy analyst to right that report, a man whose whole academic
career has been about ranking ethnic groups by their I.Q.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JASON RICHWINE: Race is different in all sorts of ways, and probably
the most important way is in I.Q. Decades of psycho metric testing has
indicated that in at least in America, you have Jews with the highest
average I.Q., usually followed by East Asians, and then you have non-Jewish
whites, Hispanics and then, blacks. These are real differences. They`re
not going to go away tomorrow.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: That is the guy who Jim DeMint hired as senior policy analyst
to crunch the numbers on immigration reform. And, lo and behold, the
Heritage Foundation study of immigration reform finds that when a guy like
that crunches the numbers, it turns out that immigrants are terrible.
They`re so dumb and they can never get smarter. Not without better
breeding at least. They`re dragging the whole country down, these
So, that was – that was really embarrassing for the Heritage
Foundation. It`s also embarrassing they never fired that guy once
everybody reported what his background was when the report came out and
freaked everybody out. After his background came out, they never explained
why they hired him in the first place. And they just let him resigned
quietly without firing him. And the Heritage Foundation is still sights
the report as if it`s good science.
Here`s the thing, though, about the Heritage Foundation. Jim DeMint
is the president of the group now, the head of research at the Heritage
Foundation is this guy. Do you remember him? Do you remember David
During all of the – I think during all of the scariest scandals of
the Bush administration, the stuff about, you know, memos saying that
torture is actually legal and cooking up the fake case for the Iraq war and
everything elsewhere it seemed like Dick Cheney and Dick Cheney`s office
were really the prime mover behind some of these most scandalous things in
the Bush administration – all of those scary things had David Addington
right at the center of them. He was the guy they called Cheney`s Cheney.
When Dick Cheney wanted get something done, David Addington was the guy who
would find a way by hook or by crook.
So, now, Jim DeMint runs the Heritage Foundation and David Addington
runs research for the Heritage Foundation bizarrely, also David Addington
is banned from ever traveling to Russia. Yes. Same goes for John Yu, the
Justice Department lawyer who David Addington got to write the memo saying
torture is legal. He can teach at Berkeley Law School, but he cannot go to
Also, General Geoffrey Miller, the general who ran both Guantanamo and
Abu Ghraib in the early days. He can`t go to Russia.
Also, another former commander of Guantanamo can`t go to Russia.
Also, weirdly, Preet Bharara. Remember Preet Bharara, remember him
announcing all those New York state legislatures getting arrested and those
Preet Bharara is the U.S. attorney in Manhattan and he cannot go to
Russia. By name he is banned. Same goes for Brendan McGuire, who`s an
assistant U.S. attorney. Same goes nor this random New York judge.
Same goes for this list of people. We have a list of 18 banned
Americans, banned by name. U.S. citizens who by name who are not allowed
to go to Russia for any reason, ever. Starting in April of this year, and
going on indefinitely.
And this list is Russia`s answer to the United States banning an
equally specific list of Russians who are never allowed to come to our
country. The phrase neener-neener comes to mind. You have 18, then we`ve
It all happened after President Obama signed this law last December
that`s named for a Russian lawyer who died in prison in Russia. He died in
police custody while he was investigating alleged corruption by Russian
officials. He had been in jail already for about a year when he died.
After he died, Russia went ahead with prosecuting him after death. There
was evidence that he had been tortured and beaten prior toying in prison,
nobody was ever held accountable for killing him.
In protest of that, this U.S. law was passed by the U.S. Congress and
signed by President Obama in December. And it banned from entering into
the United States, a whole list of Russian officials. 18 Russian officials
thought to be either connected with this specific death or accused of other
human rights abuses. Russia, of course, was enraged by this, enraged by
the rebuke, enraged that the United States would try to take some sort of
moral high ground on human rights issues, Russia protested vociferously and
it ultimately led to the tit for tat list, John Yu and David Addington
list, banning 18 Americans by name, if we`re going to ban 18 Russians by
It also led to a ban on American parents adopting Russian orphans.
And it not only banned American parents from adopting Russian children in
the future, it halted adoptions that were already well underway for
hundreds of families. Hundreds of Russian kids, more than 300 who had
already met their new American families, who had been told they would be
going home to their new home with their new parents, those hopes were just
ended in a gut-wrenchingly abrupt way when Vladimir Putin signed those
adoption ban effectively. And those kids were told that they would remain
in their orphanages.
There are 600,000 children living in overcrowded Russian orphanages.
Many kids in orphanages in Russia are disabled and now parents in this
country who wanted to bring a child here from Russia can no longer do that
due to this ban signed by Vladimir Putin last December, which is still
It was May of this year when a really strange story broke in Russia.
Russia announced that they had arrested an American spy who was in Moscow,
they said, trying to recruit Russian intelligence officers to become double
agents. And, you know, that is a thing that is maybe a plausible thing
that can happen in the world. We`ve all seen the movies.
But the circumstances around this alleged CIA spy`s arrest, the
circumstances were so strange, that the whole thing seemed like a parody of
itself. The alleged American spy was caught by the Russians wearing an
insane looking blonde wig as a disguise? Maybe trying to pass as James
When he was arrested wearing the James Traficant wig, He also had a
crude spy kit which included a paper map of Moscow and a knife and a
flashlight and also a compass. Also according to the video and photos
released by the Russians, he was carrying a letter he was going to give to
some Russian intelligence official, he was trying to recruit, a letter that
began with, “Dear friend, we`re ready to offer you $100,000 to discuss your
experience, expertise and cooperation.”
To discuss your cooperation, is there a Nigerian prince involved?
It was a strange and kind of impossible to believe story that broke in
May of this year, when he got this perp walk of this alleged spy. That was
just a couple weeks before Russia announced they were going to sell one of
their most advanced anti-aircraft missile systems to the government in
Syria. Over the loud objections of the White House and the State
Department and the European Union.
Since then, Vladimir Putin has signed into law, a bill that makes it
illegal to talk about gay people in a way that is not hateful in Russia.
You cannot talk about being gay in Russia, in anything approaching even
positive way or you will be arrested. That is the law. There`s a
provision in the law that says, even if you are a visitor to Russia, gay
foreigners and tourists can be arrested and held two weeks and expelled
from the country for being gay or being pro-gay.
Apparently, being pro-gay means saying gay affirmative things or
displaying a gay flag or holding hands with someone of the same sex. That
is all illegal now. It`s not some old vestigial law left over from worst
times in Russia. It`s a new law signed into law roughly six months before
Russia is scheduled to host the Winter Olympics, during which athletes from
all over the world, even including some gay ones are scheduled to travel to
Russia to participate in those winter games.
And, of course, hanging over all of these developments is the fate of
this young man, Edward Snowden, leaker of details of secret NSA
surveillance programs stuck in limbo at the Moscow airport for more than a
month, before he was granted temporary asylum in Russia, despite more very
loud objections from the American government.
So, yes, between us and Russia, things are not awesome right now.
Things have not been awesome for I don`t know – things have not been
awesome since 1947 basically. But they`re bad enough now on trivial levels
and on deeply serious levels, that the White House today essentially said,
you know what, let`s call the whole thing off.
The White House today announcing that President Obama has cancelled a
scheduled one on one meeting between him and Vladimir Putin next month,
during the G-20 Summit in Russia.
Quote, “Given our lack of progress on issues, such as missile defense,
and arms control, trade and commercial relations, global security issues
and human rights and civil society in the last 12 months, we have informed
the Russian government we believe it would be more constructive to postpone
the summit until we have more results from our shared agenda. Russia`s
disappointing decision was also a factor that we considered in assessing
the current state of our bilateral relationship.”
That was the announcement today at the White House. The president
giving some behinds that he was going to go in that direction in his
interview last night on the “Tonight Show” with Jay Leno.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JAY LENO, TONIGHT SHOW: Now, were you surprised that Russia granted
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I was disappointed
because even though we don`t have an extradition treaty with them,
traditionally, we have tried to respect if there`s a law breaker or alleged
law breaker in their country. We evaluate it and try to work with them.
They didn`t do that with us. There have been times where they slipped back
into the Cold War thinking and the Cold War mentality.
LENO: Something that shocked me about Russia. I`m surprised this is
not a huge story. Suddenly homosexuality is against the law. I mean, this
seems like Germany. Let`s round up the Jews, let`s round up the gays,
let`s round up the – I mean, it starts with that, you round up people you
don`t like. I mean, why is not more of the world outraged at this?
OBAMA: Well, I`ve been clear, when it comes to universal rights, when
it comes to people`s basic freedoms, that whether you are discriminating on
the basis of race, religion, gender or sexual orientation, you are
violating the basic morality, that I think should transcend every country.
Now, what`s happening in Russia is not unique. When I traveled to
Africa, there were some countries that are doing a lot of good things for
their people, who were working with and helping on development issues, but
in some cases have persecuted gays and lesbians.
LENO: Do you think it will affect the Olympics?
OBAMA: You know, I think Putin and Russia have a big stake in making
sure the Olympics work, and I think they understand that for most of the
countries that participate in the Olympics, we wouldn`t tolerate gays and
lesbians being treated differently.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: The United States is in this interesting position right now,
in that our relationship with Russia is pretty terrible. It is a very
important relationship and it is bad right now, to the point where our
president has to be in Russia for another meeting coming up in a couple
weeks. And even though he`s going to be in Russia, he`s not going to talk
to Putin while he`s there, and they`ve announced it overtly weeks in
advance. Yes, bad.
Bigger though that just our individual relationship with Russia is the
fact that Russia`s about to host this giant legitimately international,
global event, which is the Winter Olympics next year, and their new anti-
gay law has become a focus not just in the United States, but a broader
worry and concern, and increasingly protest around the world.
The comedian Stephen Fry today writing to his prime minister, David
Cameron in the U.K., writing to him that civilized nations should not give
Russia the honor of hosting the Olympics, arguing that an absolute ban on
the Russian Winter Olympics of 2014 is simply essential, stage them
elsewhere at all costs. Putin cannot be seen to have the approval of the
So what happens next here?
Joining us now is Charles King. He`s professor of international
affairs and government at Georgetown University. He`s author of “Odessa:
Genius and Death in a City of Dreams.”
Professor King, thank you very much for being with us tonight.
CHARLES KING, GEORGETOWN UNIVERSITY: Thanks for having me.
MADDOW: Do you think it is important in the larger scope of
U.S./Russian relations for President Obama to have cancelled this meeting
with the Russian president and not made any bones about it?
KING: Well, I think it`s an important step certainly. But I think
for most of the people who were involved in making that decision, this was
seen as the appropriate and prudent step to take. That is he`s not
cancelling his trip to Russia, he`s certainly going to go to the G-20
summit. He`ll probably meet Putin around that summit itself. He`ll
certainly be in the photograph with him. He`ll be seen at the meetings
But at the same time, it`s very important not to have a high level
summit at a time when relations are particularly bad between Russia and the
United States. And I think if you look at what`s going on at lower levels
within the U.S. government, those talks are continuing with the defense
officials, with foreign ministry officials in Russia, at all different
kinds of levels within the intelligence community.
So, this isn`t a break in relations, so much as it is an important
symbol of how bad things have become, but really nothing more than symbolic
at this stage.
MADDOW: In terms of the statement from the U.S. government and sort
of public rebuke of President Putin, does he wear this as a badge of honor
at home? Does that actually buy him points domestically? Or does it look
bad more him domestically?
KING: I think it buys him some points. Americans probably have a
tendency to overestimate the degree to which what we do matters either to
Vladimir Putin himself or to the Russian people.
The fact is, that Putin remains among many Russians really quite
popular. Anything he can do to be seen as a strong leader or standing up
to the United States, exposing what he considers the double standards of
the U.S. and the international system, this does buy him points at home.
But the fact is, if you look at the Russian blogs and you look at the
Russian media, the latest announcement really hasn`t garnered the kind of
attention in Moscow or elsewhere that it`s garnered in the United States.
MADDOW: How about the issue that President Obama touched on last
night on the tonight show of all places, about the Olympics and whether or
not Russia cares very much about international opinion, particularly on
this issue of gay rights heading toward the Olympics. It sort of seems
like with this much lead time, it might become a very big demonstrative
conflict for Russia at those games.
KING: Well, it could be. And to me, this is what is shaping up to be
the really important issue. Not just in U.S./Russia relations, but in
Russia`s position in the world. Russia is taking these Olympics very, very
seriously, they`re taking place this coming February, Russia is launching
the largest torch ceremony. The longest torch ceremony held ever in the
entire history of the modern Olympics, 65,000 kilometers the torch is going
to go across every constituent part of the Russian federation.
So, this is a chance for Russia to demonstrate its status, demonstrate
its modernity and showcase itself to the world. But the question of gay
and lesbian rights is now becoming not just a side issue, which I think
Russians always saw it as being, but it`s going to become one of the
central issues in the way that Russia is perceived.
This is also a step in my mind, a step forward for the whole question
of gay and lesbian rights, because this is now a human rights issue. And I
think over the coming months, we`re going to see more and more countries
following the path that Stephen Fry wants Britain to follow, which is to
speak out on this question.
MADDOW: Charles King, professor of international affairs and
government at Georgetown, thank you very much for your time tonight. It`s
helpful to have you here.
KING: Thank you.
MADDOW: Appreciate it.
All right. Lots more ahead tonight, including an amazing real life,
globetrotting spy drama that does not involve a funny wig. And we have one
of the principal players in that drama right here in studio tonight.
You`re not going to see this anywhere else. And it is coming up.
Stay with us.
MADDOW: If this summer had one news story that was so dramatic, so, I
have no idea what happens next, so edge of your seat, that it basically
wrote its own movie trailer – it would be the case of the missing ex-CIA
guy. The former CIA station chief accused by the Italian government of
kidnapping someone off the street in Italy and sending him to a secret
prison in another country, the kidnapping that so angered the Italians that
even thought the CIA guy fled the country, the Italians tried him and
convicted him anyway in absentia, along with 22 other Americans.
Since then, Interpol has apparently been looking for him. He`s been
off the radar, until a couple weeks ago, when he turned up because he got
nabbed in Panama. What is he doing in Panama? I have no idea.
But he was arrested while trying to leave that country, picked up at
the border, on an Interpol alert. It`s all very cloak and dagger, very
John Le Carre, and that`s before you get to the part of him disappearing
again right after he was arrested in Panama.
He was arrested. It seems like maybe the U.S. government has
interceded in some way. And now, he has poofed again.
The trail once again has gone cold. But now, tonight, one of the
other people convicted alongside him, who did not disappear is talking to
us, live here on the show tonight, about what really happened in Milan, and
what is really going on right now.
That is the interview tonight exclusively. It`s coming up live. Stay
MADDOW: Say you were traveling in Central America, you are, say, in
Panama, and you decide you would like to visit Costa Rica. In order to get
there, you might consider going through the border town of Paso Canoas.
This port of entry is described on travel sites as slightly seedy and,
quote, “completely devoid of charm”.
That said, there`s likely to not be crowds there. One blogger who
posted these pictures says, you will get your passport stamped after
filling out a form. It only takes a minute. This whole thing took us all
of five minutes, including lining up. A lonely planet, they say. As you
might imagine, most travelers leave Paso Canoas with little more than a
passing glance from border officials at their passport stamp.
It might be handy depending on who you are and why you`re traveling.
On the morning of July 18th – so just a couple of weeks ago – an
American man traveling alone, tried to make that routine passing glance
border crossing from Panama into Costa Rica through Paso Canoas. But
instead, his passport triggered an alert from Interpol, not from the band
Interpol, although that would be nice, from the actual Interpol, the
international criminal police organization.
The Costa Rican official working the border that day called Interpol
for some direction having gotten that alert. Interpol told him to not hold
the man in Costa Rica because the law there makes it difficult to extradite
somebody who`s wanted in another country. So, instead, Interpol suggested
that the Costa Ricans send this American guy back across the border into
Panama, and back he went.
But because he was apparently determined to get into Costa Rica for
some reason, despite the incident at the border, he tried again. And the
same thing happened, Costa Rica again said no, and they sent him back to
Panama again. But for this time, the guards on the Panama side, they
started feeling that alert as well. And the Panamanian police arrived and
took the American into custody.
The American man picked up at that border crossing that day is a spy,
was a spy at least, an American who is a retired employee of the CIA. He
used to be the CIA station chief in Milan, in Italy. His name is Robert
Seldon Lady. He`s the guy on the left.
And the reason him crossing the border set off an Interpol alert, the
Italian government has tried him, convicted him and sentenced him to prison
for something he participated in when he was CIA station chief in Milan.
It was 10 years ago. An Egyptian preacher named Abu Omar disappeared
off the streets of Milan, he had just stepped out of his apartment to head
to mosque for noon prayers and he was snatched off the street in broad
daylight. Witnesses said a man inside a white van flung open the side door
of the van, then they say two other men grabbed Abu Omar, they drew him
inside the van, slammed the door shut and sped off.
The world would later learn that he was taken to an American military
base in Italy, then to an American military base in Germany, and then he
was flown by Learjet to Cairo where he says he was rather horribly tortured
for a very long time. Egypt eventually decided not to charge him with
anything, and they released him a few years later and today, he is a free
In 2007, four years after Abu Omar disappeared off the street in
Milan, the Italian authorities issued an arrest warrant for Robert Seldon
Lady and more than two dozen other Americans that they said were involved
in the kidnapping. The warrant cited kidnapping, seizing a terrorist
suspect without a warrant, transferring the person to another country,
often one known to employ torture.
The CIA had grabbed Abu Omar as part of the U.S. extraordinary
rendition program, which was policy in the Bush years and arguably maybe
still in the Obama years. People suspected of terrorism grabbed in one
country and then not taken back to the U.S., but instead brought to some
third country for questioning, and torture or whatever. It was definitely
policy in the Bush years, right, set in Washington.
But it`s not like these Washington policymakers were traveling around
the world carrying it out themselves. Somebody down the food chain had to
carry this policy out, out in the field. A recent review by the Open
Society Institute says this was done by the U.S. more than 130 times after
9/11, regardless of the laws of the countries in which it happened. But
this thing in Milan, this is the only rendition case where the Americans
who did it got criminally charged as kidnappers.
Robert Seldon Lady had planned to retire in Italy, had a very nice
house there, then all this unpleasantness happened. Then came the
investigation, then came the arrest warrant. By the time the arrest
warrant was out, he had fled Italy entirely, along with everybody else
named in the indictment.
No one believes that most of the names on that charge sheet were
actual real people, they were probably aliases since most of these folks
were working under cover. But Robert Seldon Lady were real. And none of
the others were in the courtroom to face prosecution. The trial in Italy
was carried in absentia.
And in 2009, the ruling came down. The Italian judge convicted Robert
Seldon Lady and 22 other Americans for that kidnapping of that cleric in
Remember, Robert was convicted, he got nine years. He was the Milan
station chief for the CIA. One interesting thing about that trial, is that
the CIA station chief not in Milan, but in Rome and two other people were
given diplomatic immunity at that trial. So, at that trial, in 2009 they
all got off.
The station chief in Rome got immunity, but not the station chief in
Milan? Why is that? Could more of these American defendants have been
given immunity? It turns out to be a good question.
But Robert Seldon Lady doesn`t get immunity. He gets convicted. He
gets nine years. Twenty-two other Americans get five years sentences and
then all of them are in the wind, poof. Italy wants them, but they don`t
And then a few weeks ago out of nowhere, years later, Robert Seldon
Lady turns up. He gets arrested while trying to cross the border in
Panama. And it`s crazy, right? I mean, probably the only place in the
world that he can be sure is not going to extradite him back to Italy to go
to prison is in the United States.
The U.S. government is who he was working for, whose policies he was
carrying out when he was doing the thing that got him arrested and tried
and convicted. Why is he not in the United States? And instead, he`s in
Central America trying to cross borders?
And what is Panama going to do now that they got him. I mean, Italy
says they`re psyched to have found him, psyched to have gotten him back
because they really want to lock him up. Is Panama really going to send
him to the Italians to go to prison after all these years?
Will this guy, the CIA station chief from Milan, end up being the one
person in the world to serve prison time for this U.S. government policy of
extraordinary rendition? What`s going to happen? It`s fascinating, right?
And how does it resolve? Dude disappears again, after getting
arrested in Panama. He disappears again. And it`s not that he geared
because he`s about to turn up in Italy.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I have a couple. There`s a report that Robert
Lady who was the former station chief, the CIA station chief in Milan, who
was in panama, being detained on a conviction in (INAUDIBLE) rendition case
out of Italy, that he`s on a plane bound for the United States. Is – do
you know what his status is? And can you tell us what his situation is?
MARIE HARF, STATE DEPARTMENT SPOKESPERSON: It`s my understanding that
he is in fact en route or back in the United States. Beyond that, I have
no further details.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Do you know when he left?
HARF: I don`t have any further details.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Either en route or back in the United States. They don`t
Today, Catherine Chomiak at NBC News asked about it again.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CATHERINE CHOMIAK, NBC NEWS: Do you have an update on Robert Lady and
his whereabouts and any contact you`ve had with the Italians on this case?
JEN PSAKI, STATE DEPARTMENT SPOKESPERSON: Well, I know that a couple
weeks ago, my colleague Marie mentioned that he was en route back to the
United States, and he was – and obviously returned, he`s a private
citizen. So, we don`t track his movements. Beyond that, I don`t have any
CHOMIAK: Any contact between the U.S. and the Italians on this case?
PSAKI: I don`t have any update on that either.
REPORTER: Isn`t there an Interpol write out for him?
PSAKI: I don`t have any update beyond what I just shared on him.
He`s a private citizen. He`s returned to the United States.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: He`s a private citizen, he returned to the United States, and
beyond that, nothing, nada, zip. Robert Seldon Lady is supposed to be on
his way back to the United States then the trail goes cold, gone again.
This guy who naturally we do not even have a real picture of, this former
CIA spy has disappeared yet again. He`s still a wanted man in Italy, as
are the 22 other Americans, or at least the 22 other American names
convicted alongside him.
But even though he has now disappeared again, reportedly somewhere in
the United States, we`re not getting any explanation. Now, one of his
colleagues in the CIA who was convicted alongside him has come forward to
tell her side of the story. Her name is Sabrina De Sousa. She was also
convicted in that Italian court.
Ms. De Sousa says that she and the other Americans convicted in
absentia in 2009 did not cook up this Abu Omar plan on their own. She says
another CIA in Italy, the one who got immunity at that trial, the Rome
station chief, he was the U.S. official who was hell bent on that
rendition, hell-bent enough she says that he exaggerated the case against
the guy who they kidnapped and then misled their bosses that he was back in
D.C. into thinking that Italy was fine with the U.S. plan to grab when in
fact Italy was not fine with that plan at all.
The rest of them, she says, officers like her were thrown under the
bus, left out in the cold by their own government.
We asked the CIA for comment tonight about the accusations from this
former officer. CIA naturally is not talking. But Sabrina De Sousa is
talking and she joins us for the interview straight ahead.
MADDOW: In 2009 in Italy, 23 Americans were convicted of kidnapping
for an incident six years earlier, in which an Egyptian cleric had been
grabbed off the streets of Milan by a CIA team. These 23-named Americans
were sentenced to four or nine years in prison. They were tried and
convicted and sentenced in absentia. They were not in the courtroom.
And it`s thought that most of the names of those on the list of those
convicted may actually have been aliases, since these were operatives, and
in some cases working under cover. Of the very few named identifiable CIA
officers involved in the case, Milan stationed chief Robert Seldon Lady is
one in the left here, he now faces six years in an Italian prison if Italy
can find him in the world and bring him back.
A few weeks ago, he surfaced for the first time in years when he was
arrested in Panama. Since then, he`s disappeared again. Panama did not
send him back to Italy. The U.S. State Department says last they knew, he
had flown back to the U.S. and now who knows?
Another CIA officer on the hook for serious time is this woman,
Sabrina de Sousa. She worked closely with Robert Seldon Lady in Milan. At
the time, though, she had denied working for the CIA, and, of course,
denied any involvement in the rendition of the cleric off that Milan
Well, now, Sabrina De Sousa confirms that she served as CIA
interpreter for the team that planned the grabbing of Abu Omar off that
Milan Street back in 2003. He was sent to Egypt where he was held for
years without charges and he says he was tortured. He was eventually
released without being charged with anything.
After being tried and convicted in absentia, along with Robert Seldon
Lady and 21 other Americans, Sabrina De Sousa is now essentially blowing
the whistle on the whole operation, saying it was the botched work of
another CIA station chief who was bucking for promotion and who was able to
finagle diplomatic immunity to protect himself from prosecution at least
initially, even as all these other Americans went down.
She says the U.S. government has thrown her and the others under the
For Sabrina De Sousa to come out as a CIA officer involved in this
case would be big news on its own. But Ms. De Sousa is now also naming
what she says are the real wrongs and the real wrongdoers in this case.
Joining us now tonight for the interview is Sabrina De Sousa, former
Ms. De Sousa, thank you very much for being here. It`s nice to have
SABRINA DE SOUSA, FORMER CIA OFFICER: Thank you, Rachel.
MADDOW: First of all, I know you know a lot more about this than I
do. Is the publicly available information, a lot of which I`ve summarized
here tonight, is it basically factual? Are we getting anything wrong in
the public understanding of the case?
DE SOUSA: No, you pretty much got a lot of things right. But the
focus of this has not been on the senior officials that went along with the
Costelli`s (ph) plan. That has been, you know, one of the things that
hasn`t been sort of got lost in the whole trial in Italy?
MADDOW: What do you mean Costelli`s plan?
DE SOUSA: Well, Costelli, wanted this rendition to be done.
MADDOW: He was the station chief in Rome?
DE SOUSA: He had to make a case, not only to CIA headquarters, but
because this was a NATO country, the case had to be made all the way up to
Condoleezza Rice, who was NSA at the time, National Security Council. And
then that had to go up to George Bush, who had to approve it, as the
president has to approve the rendition.
The only way that Costelli could get approval is if Silvio Berlusconi
who was the prime minister in Italy at the time was on board of with it,
and the head of the intelligence was on board with it. And (INAUDIBLE),
the Italians had to be the law enforcement group on the ground to arrest.
MADDOW: They had to be the ones to grab him?
DE SOUSA: They had to be the ones to arrest him, and then turn him
over to the Americans. That`s the way it was supposed to function.
So, the Italian intelligence decided they were not going to be part of
this. And Silvio Berlusconi, the prime minister, said absolutely not. And
the Italian intelligence gave three very good reasons for it. One was that
they didn`t have the authority to do this for Berlusconi. Two, the
intelligence formed (ph) did not allow to be involved in such things like
And finally, they also discovered a few weeks later, that the Italian
law enforcement DIGOS had Abu Omar under surveillance for like two years,
telephone taps, And they could not disrupt this –
MADDOW: They picked up because –
DE SOUSA: Yes, they were not allowed by law to disrupt that
MADDOW: If Jeffrey Costelli, who was the CIA station chief in Rome,
as you say, he was the architect of this whole plan, how was he able to get
diplomatic immunity initially when none of the rest of you?
DE SOUSA: That`s a very question, because officially, there`s nothing
on the record that says the U.S. invoked immunity for him. Neither that
they waived or invoked immunity for the rest of us. I believe it may have
been something that happened behind the scenes between the U.S. and Italy,
or the judge – and now the judge has to explain why he just out of the
blue gave diplomatic immunity to these three individuals.
MADDOW: It`s strange in connection with you, as someone who`s working
with the CIA, obviously, you were not a station chief at the time, what was
DE SOUSA: It really doesn`t matter if you were station chief or not.
When you are accredited to a country, you have immunity because you`re
accredited to that particular country.
So, you know, the Italians agree that their diplomats in that country
will not face criminal prosecutions or anything like that. The problem in
Italy, the judiciary is separate from the government of Italy, which is why
we have gotten to a bad situation where Italy has set a precedent for
diplomats to be prosecuted.
Do you have any insight into the movements or the predicament of
Robert Seldon Lady, who just turned up in Panama, who looked like he might
be getting sent back to Italy, but has turned up in the United States? No,
I don`t have any insight.
But listening to your clips, you make a important point, because I`m
going through this right now. This is State Department and the government
saying we don`t know who he is, where he is. He`s a citizen, a private
This is what I`ve faced. Since 2009 when I left the CIA I`ve been on
my own fighting this matter, seriously, on my own. I found my own lawyers,
my own resources. I had to sue the government to get a defense in Italy.
For the government to just abandon everyone and say, well, we don`t
know what Bob Lady is doing. The guy has a conviction against him, an
Interpol warrant against him. Where is his government in protecting their
diplomats? What kind of message does it send when for the first time in 55
years, the military allowed a senior colonel to be convicted? What kind of
message does that said?
MADDOW: They secured a pardon for the colonel thereafter.
DE SOUSA: Yes, that was completely political. That was one of the
reasons I decided to come out. One was that Bob Lady got picked up in
Panama, and there was this debate about, he should have en extradited to
Italy. Absolutely not, you`re supposed to protect these – particularly
when it`s other people who really messed this up.
Bob absolutely did not want to have this rendition take place at all.
But he was pressured by Rome to do it.
MADDOW: You feel like it is the policy that ought to be on trial, if
there is going to be a trial, if there are objections to the way this went
down – it is the policy and the policymakers who should be on trial for
this, not the people who carried it out?
DE SOUSA: Absolutely, because Rachel at the end of the day, it`s U.S.
policy, the anger again – and the frustration for victims and, you know,
against American policy is directed at whom, those who are vulnerable and
accessible. It`s our diplomats overseas, that`s why you have Benghazi,
that`s why you have the convictions, that`s why the embassies are closing
down. It`s – the ones who create the policy, the ones who direct all
these programs to be carried out, every one of them is immune from
prosecution in the United States.
MADDOW: Sabrina De Sousa, former CIA who has brought – I should say,
who has brought these complaints to Congress and gone through those
channels – has exhausted those channels as best as I can tell – thank you
for coming forward to tell this story. I`m sure this goes against the
grain for you in some ways. But I appreciate you helping us understand it.
Good luck to you.
DE SOUSA: Thank you very much.
MADDOW: Thank you. We`ll be right back.
MADDOW: If you are not busy on October 25th and you are in the great
state of Iowa, if you are so move, you can go see a freshman Republican
senator from Texas headline the Iowa Republican Party`s Ronald Reagan
commemorative dinner. A Texas senator will be in Iowa in October 2013
because he either wants to run for president or because he wants people to
think he wants to run for president.
I`m randomly going to Iowa is how politicians who aren`t from Iowa say
“I`m running for president.” Unless audio evidence of what seems like
pretty much flat out corruption of the whole Iowa process makes people
think twice about that. Audio evidence, next.
MADDOW: Running for president means starting in Iowa, right? Iowa`s
first. Their caucuses have been first in the nation for 40 years now.
So, starting to run for president means starting in Iowa, which means
first competing in the Ames, Iowa, straw poll which is a scam. It`s a
total scam – a fake wigged pay for votes not a real contest pretending to
be a contest.
Seriously, the Iowa straw poll costs money to vote. It costs $30 to
cast a ballot. Some of the candidates, the ones who really want to win,
they buy those ballots for people with the understanding that those people
will then vote for them and, ta-da, it`s actual vote buying in America in
the 21st century. Democracy, faked.
This is the seriousness with which Iowa takes its responsibility of
being first in the nation, in picking a new president, right? Getting all
the attention and political pandering that goes with that status.
There`s a lot of other places in the country like, I don`t know,
Camden, New Jersey, anybody, Appalachia, the North Dakota oil fields, I
don`t know. There`s a lot of other places in the country that frankly
could use the attention in the political process but because Iowa is first,
Iowa gets it all from the presidential candidates, every time we pick a new
president, and the straw poll is the first sign of how they handle that
great power and that great responsibility.
And then come the Iowa caucuses, actual election night. The Iowa
caucuses are run by the parties and not by the state government. And this
past year on election night, in the all-important first in the nation Iowa
caucuses to choose a Republican nominee to run against President Obama, the
chairman of the Iowa Republican Party made the announcement late after
midnight on the night of the caucuses that Mitt Romney had won, wow, Romney
wins Iowa! Seriously?
No, actually. A couple weeks later same guy issued a statement saying
that Mitt Romney hadn`t actually won. Maybe the caucuses were like a tie
this year. And a couple days later, OK, Rick Santorum won maybe they
think. And when it came time to pick delegates to pick a nominee, Iowa
Republicans gave most of their delegates to Ron Paul.
So, Iowa, wow, why are they first? You tell me. But they are first
and Iowa politicos have always been ready to fight to the death to defend
that, presumably in part because it makes them seem important.
The endorsement of an Iowa politician is worth a heck of a lot more
than the endorsement of a politician in another state like Kansas or
Connecticut because Iowa is first and so Iowa politicians get fought over
by all the national brand name politicians of their party. It must feel
great, right? Must feel like a million bucks or maybe like 208,000 bucks -
- which is allegedly what one Republican state senator charged the Ron Paul
campaign to get him to switch his endorsement from Michele Bachmann to Ron
Paul, which he did a week before the caucuses and the 2012 campaign.
The allegations were made by the Iowa Republican, a conservative news
site yesterday. The state senator in question denies it, says the e-mail
appearing to show his list of monetary demands are utter fabrications.
Now, though, the same site published sound of allegedly him talking and
fretting about getting paid by Ron Paul`s campaign, via a check made out to
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Did I tell you what happened?
UNIDENTIFEID MALE: No. What happened?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I kept saying no and my wife was like we need to
do this. And then I went to the bathroom and we were in a restaurant and
he made it out to my wife. I`m going to give you the check back.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh, you are?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you think I should or do you think I should
hold on to it? I`m not cashing it.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I understand.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Or do you think I should hold on to it or do you
think I should do a deal? Do you think I should hold on to it so I have
something over him?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don`t think I would give it to him, no.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think you need to sit down with an attorney
saying here`s what I`ve done and where am I? What will I do? He`ll
probably tell you to shut up.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I have. I mean, I`ve learned my lesson.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
MADDOW: He has now hired a lawyer who says regardless of the tape and
the e-mails that appear to show otherwise, all this never happened. This
comes at the same time that the FEC started looking into whether or not in
that same year, an endorsement from an Iowa anti-gay group cost Rick
Santorum`s campaign a million dollars.
Iowa gets a lot of benefit out of going first when we pick a
president. The next election, thank God, is still a long way off. But
maybe it`s getting to be time for Iowa to start explaining why exactly they
deserve to keep going first.
Now, it is time for “THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL.” Have a
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