In covert intelligence terms, a rendition occurs when a suspected criminal or terrorist is smuggled into a country with less stringent human rights laws for further interrogation. This gives the investigating operatives additional leeway in their extraction of potentially crucial information. The Central Intelligence Agency of the United States indulged in a comprehensive rendition program in support of its self-proclaimed War on Terror following the attacks of September 11. The Italian Job tells the story of one of the most infamous of these rendition missions, and the only one to have been successfully prosecuted in a court of law.
It all started in the late 1990's, as Italy began granting asylum to certain suspected Islamic extremists. One of these suspects, Abu Omar, belonged to an Islamic group which was deemed extremist by the Egyptian government. Just after 9/11, U.S. suspicions were stoked when Omar performed several impassioned and incendiary public speeches. Soon thereafter, he was abducted as part of a top-secret CIA operation known as The Italian Job.
The Italian government, incensed by a flagrant and illegal rendition operation playing out on their turf, took action to investigate and eventually charge 22 CIA operatives and one Air Force colonel. One of these operatives, Sabrina De Sousa, was charged in absentia. As a result, she spends her life in a state of paranoia, unable to properly travel and care for her parents due to her constant fear of detainment and incarceration.
Produced by VICE News, The Italian Job offers an intimate portrait of De Sousa, who continuously denies any personal involvement whatsoever in the operation. The counterterrorism division of the CIA remained silent in their support or defense of De Sousa, which led to her eventual retirement from the agency. Driven by desperation, De Sousa travels the globe in an effort to clear her name and hold these shadowy and impenetrable organizations accountable.
At times, this intriguing documentary short harbors all the complex menace and excitement of a John le Carre novel. At the center of this real-life thriller are the confessions of a master spy who may or may not prove to be an unreliable narrator.