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May 2, 2005
Italians To Present Rebuttal Today

Italian investigators working with Americans on the shooting that left commando Nicola Calipari dead and Giuliana Sgrena wounded will present a rebuttal to the American report that they released yesterday without proper redaction, which the BBC reports will challenge American conclusions about the nature of the incident. The Italians plan on disputing earlier contentions that Italy kept Calipari's mission a secret and a key issue of the timing of the warnings:

Correspondents say the Italian report will reply point by point to the Pentagon inquiry, which recommended that no disciplinary action be taken against the soldiers involved in Calipari's death. ...

Italy says at least three troops opened fire on the car taking freed hostage Giuliana Sgrena to Baghdad airport with Calipari and a second Italian intelligent agent.

Italian newspapers say an Italian reconstruction of events show the US authorities were informed of the operation to release Sgrena several hours before the shooting, though the US denies that.

Reports say the experts who drafted the Italian report will also claim that a three-second warning given by the US troops was not enough time for the car to stop.

Readers who have followed this story closely will already see the holes developing in the Italian rebuttal, if the BBC report is accurate. First, the three-second warning does not reflect on American action nearly as much as it indicates the rate of speed that Calipari's car approached the checkpoint. By acknowledging the three-second time span, Italy admits that the car traveled at much faster speeds towards the checkpoint than Sgrena first claimed, making the reason for shooting the car plain. Second, it demonstrates that the Americans did try to warn the driver to slow down and did not simply open fire, either out of malice or incompetence.

As far as whether the Americans knew about Calipari's mission at all, Italian newspapers answered that question in March, when two of them reported that not only did Italian commander not tell the Americans about the hostage release, he may not have known about it himself. General Mario Marioli sent his report to Rome, where presumably investigators still have access to it. The reason for the secrecy emerged within days of Sgrena's release and subsequent wounding, when Italy's ransom payment to the terrorists became public knowledge. Under those circumstances, the notion that Americans had been informed of the progress of Sgrena and Calipari becomes very doubtful; Italian secrecy about the mission from its American partners becomes a likely explanation for the miscoordination.

The rebuttal will be out this morning, but it sounds like the same vacillating story we've heard from the Il Manifesto crowd all along.

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at May 2, 2005 5:41 AM

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