The imminent extradition of former CIA intel officer, Sabrina De Sousa, from Portugal to Italy will have the single greatest chilling and detrimental effect upon the secretive intelligence agency than the full eight years of Obama’s war on, and managerial incompetence over, the Intelligence Community. Her conviction, in absentia, in an Italian court was for her alleged participation in the Agency’s rendition program, a program backed and sanctioned by the full force and credit of the CIA and the US Government. Whether true or not, her conviction and extradition are more like Cold-War Soviet spy games than liaison activities between trusted NATO allies.
In response, President Trump should play the most powerful “Trump” card in his hand, and break off diplomatic relations with Italy. He should not just recall ambassadors, expel some diplomats, or beat his chest and send out late night tweets, but he should officially break diplomatic ties with the current NATO ally.
That should get the Rome’s attention!
As a former CIA officer, I spent 17 years traveling internationally and have been in over 100 countries. The one belief I have always had in my back pocket was the belief that the CIA “had my back” in any situation that might not have worked out as planned. While not every covert action is the basis of a James Bond thriller, the risks of being caught are real. That trust will now be decimated if the extradition request is honored and Lisbon transfers her to Rome to serve her 6-year sentence. As such, few intelligence officers will be willing to be branded, tried and convicted as a criminal for executing CIA sanctioned, covert actions, in foreign nations.
The spy game is unique. Everyone knows it occurs, yet everyone denies its existence. At the same time intelligence liaison activities between the US and host nations ensures both sides gain knowledge, insight, and understanding of those activities of intelligence value within their borders. From HUMINT to SIGINT to GEOINT, these intelligence activities keep Western Democracies informed of enemies who wish to undermine or overthrow these democracies, both foreign and domestic. The Italians have broken this shared intelligence bond. So, to the Italians I would say, “Hasta La Vista, Baby,” and throw them out with the rest of the swamp water.
Since it always takes two to tango in the world of international espionage, I would ask Lisbon: “Hey, are you listening? Can you hear me now?”