Ex-CIA Officer Says US Allowing Italy to Send Her to Prison

Sabrina de Sousa convicted with other Americans in blown CIA op in Italy.

ByABC News
June 9, 2016, 9:36 AM

— -- A former CIA officer who was convicted for helping the agency abduct a terrorism suspect off the streets of Milan lost her extradition battle Wednesday and said she fears she’ll end up in an Italian prison while the U.S. government sits on the sidelines.

Sabrina de Sousa was one of 26 American officials convicted in absentia for the "extraordinary rendition" by the CIA of Osama Mustafa Hassan Nasr, a radical Egyptian cleric, who later claimed Egyptian officials tortured him after being handed over by the U.S. spy agency in 2003.

De Sousa's lawyers have for years tried to persuade Barack Obama's administration to support her.

"The U.S. government won't intervene because they don't want me implicating anyone else as I try to counter the charges against me," de Sousa told ABC News from Lisbon, Portugal, where she has spent the past year fighting extradition to Italy over the George W. Bush–era counterterrorism operation.

"It's prison when I get there. No one wants narrative changed," de Sousa said Wednesday. "I am trying to keep calm for the sake of my family.”

When she was convicted in 2009, de Sousa told ABC News the U.S. government had “abandoned and betrayed” her and her colleagues.

“Clearly, we broke a law,” she said then, “and we’re paying for the mistakes right now, whoever authorized and approved this.”

Egyptian cleric Hassan Mustafa Osama Nasr, known as Abu Omar, is seen during an Amnesty International press conference in Cairo in this April 11, 2007 file photo.
Khaled Desouki/AFP/Getty Images

So far, the U.S. government has mostly stayed out the case, at least publicly, so this week de Sousa appealed directly to Rome — penning an open letter to Pope Francis.

"Your holiness, you have spoken decisively about the [CIA's] rendition, detention and interrogation program. We need your holiness’s voice now more than ever to keep this issue in the forefront for much needed discourse in the court of public opinion," de Sousa wrote to Francis Wednesday in the letter, provided to ABC News. In October 2014, Francis spoke out against torture, illegal detention and countries that allow for the illegal transport of detainees to detention centers where torture is practiced.

"As of today, my extradition from Portugal to Italy is underway. Italy has guaranteed Portugal that I will be notified of my sentence and have the opportunity to counter the charges against me. Whether that happens remains to be seen," she told the pontiff.

Nasr has claimed he was innocent of the accusations of terrorism, but in 2013 was reportedly convicted in absentia by an Italian court of criminal association with the goal of terrorism and with aiding illegal emigration with the goal of terrorism.

The radical imam said this April in an interview with The Guardian that de Sousa and her colleagues were “scapegoats” and should not be held accountable for his abduction or torture. Rather, the U.S. government should own up to it.

De Sousa in the ABC News interview said she had long wished to respond to Francis' comments on the rendition, detention and interrogation program by CIA, "and since my future is uncertain, I am doing it now.”

The CIA declined to comment for this report. Last month a representative for the State Department declined to comment on de Sousa’s predicament as well, saying, “We don’t talk about extradition cases.”

ABC News’ Lee Ferran contributed to this report.