Berlusconi: U.S. Given Advance Notice of Sgrena Rescue

U.S. ‘knew agent going to airport’ (CNN)

Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi says the intelligence agent shot dead by the U.S. military told them he would be escorting a newly released hostage to the airport — contrary to U.S. claims. Another Italian attache, who was at the Baghdad airport, also told U.S. military personnel the car carrying agent Nicola Calipari and journalist Giuliana Sgrena was on its way to the airport March 4 before the shooting occurred, Berlusconi told the Italian senate on Wednesday.

It’s quite possible that Calipari notified someone and word never made it through the chain of command. Of course, it’s also quite possible that he never got around to telling anyone.

On Tuesday, the top U.S. general in Iraq, Army Gen. George Casey, said he had no indication that Italian officials gave advance notice of the route the car was traveling.

I listened to the press conference via CSPAN radio last night and he basically refused to answer any question related to the details. He ducked that question entirely.

Update: My impression may have been faulty. See below.

From the DoD Transcript:

Q: Because the Italians have indicated that there was communication. I was just asking if there was any preliminary indication that —

GEN. CASEY: Yeah. I have no preliminary indication that that’s true.


Q So your current information, understanding it’s under investigation, understanding it’s a first report and it could change, with all of those caveats, at this point what you are saying, if I understand you correctly, is you have no information that any Italian authorities communicated with the United States about that travel that night.

GEN. CASEY: I, George Casey, have no information — (laughter) — about that.

Q Well, I’m just trying to be very (clear ?) because, as everyone has said, the Italian government has said that they did.

GEN. CASEY: Right. And I’m saying I personally have no information that that is the case. Okay?

Q Would it have come to you if there was information? Would you know?

GEN. CASEY: I would hope so.

My impression on hearing this was a deflection of the question. On reading it, though, it does sound like he’s saying that he has no reason to believe that there was any such communication.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. LJD says:

    “Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi says the intelligence agent shot dead by the U.S. military told them he would be escorting a newly released hostage to the airport — contrary to U.S. claims.”

    In related news, Prime Minister Berlusconi has proven his ability to speak with the dead.

  2. Truth anyone? says:

    The U.S. government and military are full of dishonorable liars. They deserve to be crushed.

  3. Ralph says:

    All this fuss is to obscure the millions of dollars conTRIBUTEd to the enemy’s war effort.
    From now on IEDs should be labeled:

    “A gift from our patron: the S.P.Q.R.”

  4. LeaNder says:

    Here I agree with you, Mr. Joyner. The above dialogue could be fitted in the most diverse fictions. I’ll give you the outline of one in the end.

    What would be the usual chain of information? The Italian secret service would contact it’s US partners and from there it would be passed on to the Army headquarters? Would Garner need to be informed about this? Yes at least now. Although I have no doubt that – if I look at it from the army’s point of view: The one that got the message might not necessarily considered this an information he had to act on? …

    Without doubt he got vague information, this would be something the kidnappers would take care of? So at least the Army officer that received the message had no knowledge about the car and where the journey started. He knew though, were it ended! And that’s something that starts our fiction producing process.

    Was it a regular checkpoint as the US army says or an ad-hoc group patrolling the road? If so, is this business as usual? This special road is considered very dangerous, and people tell us, no one drives fast there, who wants to survive. Could the high spirit in the car have make the driver forget about that?

    Here comes my little piece of fiction: Now the kidnappers warned Sgrena of the US authorities/ army. … What if they made sure too, that some message was spread about imminent danger coming form a certain car. At least they knew what car was used.

    And should we blame Sgrena, that the warning is immediately on her mind the moment she is under attack?


  5. Name, please? In a “communication”, the Italians are going to have to say WHO they talked to, and hopefully what they said. But until they say who, and the US side accepts who — and the text of the message, I have doubts.

    I suspect there WAS some ambiguous message, careful to avoid alerting any potential rescuers how to catch the kidnappers who were receiving the huge ransom millions. I doubt it was recorded. Something was prolly written down, and either acted upon or put to act upon sometime.

    In a mis-communication situation, the burden is on the talker to make sure the listener understands what is meant.

    I do believe this CNN note:

    An autopsy found Calipari was killed by a single shot to the head and died instantly. A state funeral was held for him on Monday .