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4 Cases of the U.S. Sheltering Vicious Criminals that Reveal Total Hypocrisy on Snowden

From a CIA agent to a Cuban terrorist, the U.S. shelters people who are accused of heinous crimes.

NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden in Hong Kong.
Photo Credit: Laura Poitras / Praxis Films


Russia’s decision early this month to grant National Security Agency whistleblower Edward Snowden temporary asylum in the country has led to a chorus of U.S. officials and media personalities denouncing Vladimir Putin.

Russia has stabbed us in the back, and each day that Mr. Snowden is allowed to roam free is another twist of the knife,” said Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY) on August 2. “Putin is acting like a schoolyard bully.” David Satter of the conservative publication National Review used the occasion to write that Russia, unlike the U.S., has no rule of law.”

But the cries for Russia to grant the request to extradite Snowden to face certain imprisonment and potential harsh punishment has exposed U.S. hypocrisy. There have been a number of cases in recent years where countries asked the U.S. to extradite suspected criminals back to their countries. But when it comes to those who committed crimes in the service of U.S. policy, America refuses those requests.

As the Guardian’s Glenn Greenwald pointed out in a recent column, the U.S. shelters a number of people who are accused of crimes more heinous than Snowden's—even if the country making the request has an extradition treaty with America, which Russia does not have.

Here are four egregious cases where the U.S. has refused extradition requests.

1. Robert Lady

After the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, the Bush administration granted the Central Intelligence Agency the authority to snatch people off the streets and whisk them to other countries for interrogation and torture. With the help of 54 countries, CIA operatives around the world implemented what was known as Bush’s “extraordinary rendition” program.

Robert Lady is o ne of those operatives. In 2000, Lady arrived in Milan, Italy to become the CIA’s station chief. Three years later, he oversaw an operation that would become one of the CIA’s worst debacles in recent history.

Lady and his team of operatives began working with Italian intelligence agents on the case of Abu Omar, an Egyptian cleric and a former member of a banned Islamist group who had successfully sought asylum in Italy. The U.S. and Italy were gathering intelligence on him because they suspected he had ties to terrorism. But higher-ups at the CIA pressured Lady to spurn his partnership with Italian intelligence and strike out on his own, though Lady tried to convince the CIA that wasn't a good idea.

In 2003, CIA operatives led by Lady kidnapped Omar off the streets of Milan. They whisked the cleric off to Egypt where he faced harsh interrogation and torture. As Amnesty International noted, Omar said that Egyptian security forces hung him “head down, feet up, hands tied behind my back, feet also tied together, and I was exposed to electric shocks all over my body.” He was beaten on his genitals with a stick and kept in a rat- and cockroach-infested cell that reached extreme temperatures. Omar was released in April 2004 only to be re-arrested after telling friends about his ordeal, and was kept in solitary confinement. He was finally released for good in 2007.

The Italian government began an investigation into Omar's extraordinary rendition in 2004. They gathered enough evidence to request that the U.S. extradite Lady for crimes against Omar. (Lady was the only subject of an extradition request because under Italian law, only people facing more than four years of prison can be extradited.)  The U.S. refused, even after an Italian court convicted Lady and others in absentia in 2009. Lady himself has admitted committing a crime, telling an Italian newspaper, “Of course it was an illegal operation. But that’s our job. We’re at war against terrorism.”

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