Jack Rice - Blog

Jack Rice is a criminal defense trial lawyer who provides legal advice to those charged with crimes in Federal and Minnesota State courtrooms.


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Rome, the CIA and lots of Wine.

It started out so innocently. Really! I was sitting in a very small restaurant in Rome with my wife. You see, this was the negotiated settlement with my wife.

I am preparing to go back to Iraq to chase another story and my wife made me promise to take her someplace where people wouldn’t try to kill me. I agreed without hesitation. So Rome it was.

Anyway, we are sitting in this little restaurant the size of our bedroom, down an alleyway not far from the Italian Parliament. Now, let me assure you that I had no intention of working, chasing stories or trying to cause trouble. However, sometimes it just happens.

As we sit and are working our way through another bottle of Chianti, in walks this tall middle age man wearing a long black coat and matching fedora. He sits down at the table next to us. As I mentioned, because the restaurant was so small, he is almost in my lap.

Anyway, as he sits, I say, “Good evening” in my best Italian. It isn't that good!

And then we start talking. I mention that I am a journalist but that my wife and I are here on holiday, as I pour myself another glass of wine and then one for this gentleman as well.

I stop one of the waiters who happens to speak English, probably better than I do, and he helps interpret.

The man introduces himself as a member of the Italian Parliament. The waiter then whispers to me that this is a very important man in this country. In fact, he is also a member of the Italian cabinet. I don’t want to say more about his identity because this really was a very casual situation and I need to respect his privacy.

Now, at this point, I need to reiterate that it started out so innocently. After all, how could I possibly have known that I would end up sitting next to this guy. But once I found out, what else could I do?

My wife looks across the table from me and seemed to watch me twitch just a little. She then starts to just shake her head. She seems to know what is coming next.

So, what could I do? I pour her a drink and then do what I do. I chase stories.

The major story that is breaking across Europe and specifically in Italy involves the Central Intelligence Agency. It involves the issue of a court in Milan, Italy, indicting 13 CIA officers for helping to kidnap somebody from a street in Milan. The CIA seemed to think that this man was involved in terrorism and therefore they kidnapped him and sent him to Egypt. He later claimed he was tortured by Egyptian security officials.

Anyway, the question that people around the world were asking was whether the Italian government was going to support these indictments or ignore them. After all, some of those involved with the kidnapping were high ranking Italian intelligence officials. And these same court had already charged some of them with kidnapping.

I have to ask the question.

After more small talk, talking about our families and drinking a little, alright, a lot more wine, I ask . . .

“What is the Italian government position on the indictment and extradition of these CIA officers back to Italy for trial?”

As I ask, my wife just looks at me. But what could I do? This is one of those opportunities that rarely happens. So I have to toss it out there.

I look into the face of our waiter and he looks at me with a grin. And he translates.

I can see in this official's face that I asked a difficult question. He looks around and then leans in. My waiter, still at my side, translates in my ear.

“It is non-political. For me, if a crime has been committed, it should be prosecuted. It is not about politics.” He then immediately changes the subject.

Unfortunately, it is getting very late and he has to go. He thanks us, grabs his coat and fedora and goes on his way.

Believe it or not, this is an amazing response as there have been little to no response from the Italian government.

My wife just laughs at me. We are on vacation and she knows that I know that I can’t stop myself. No matter where I am, no matter what I’m doing, I guess it is how I’m wired.

You see. I told you. It isn't my fault. I had to ask. Oh well. I probably owe my wife another holiday now. Great!