Former CIA case officer Sabrina De Sousa thanked the Trump administration for intervening to save her from extradition to Italy and imprisonment in a statement on Friday.
“I want to extend my deepest appreciation to the Trump administration for all their efforts on my behalf. Without their support I would be spending tonight in an Italian prison,” said De Sousa, in a statement quoted by Fox News.
“The Obama administration and former CIA Director John Brennan abandoned De Sousa the last seven years, and in six weeks, the Trump team made her freedom possible,” Rep. Pete Hoekstra (R-MI) told Fox News.
Hoekstra was one of De Sousa’s strongest champions and an outspoken critic of the Obama administration’s conduct in her case. He laid out her case and castigated Obama for abandoning her, along with a healthy dose of criticism for the governments of Italy and Portugal, in a Tuesday op-ed and Fox News:
Originally convicted in absentia in 2009 by the Italian legal system, America, until recently, has done very little to defend and support Sabrina and her family since. They have lived under the shadow of these convictions for years. Now she’s on her way to face punishment in Italy.
Roughly eighteen months ago Sabrina took a risk returning to Portugal. During her trip, Sabrina was arrested and instructed not to leave.
Portugal has detained her ever since.
The Obama administration did nothing for seven years following Sabrina’s conviction. They did nothing while she was detained in Portugal. Meanwhile, President Obama released prisoners from GITMO. The White House handed out pardons. Not a finger was lifted to assist Sabrina.
CIA Director Brennan visited Portugal twice in 2016. Sources in the Portuguese intelligence community indicate that Sabrina’s case was never even discussed.
De Sousa, 61, was working undercover for the CIA in Italy when Egyptian cleric Osama Mustapha Hassan Nasr, a.k.a. Abu Omar, was plucked from the streets and returned to Egypt in an “extraordinary rendition” operation. He was believed to have been involved in a plan to bomb a bus full of school children in Milan.
The case against Omar turned out to be thin. He was interrogated — he says “tortured” — by the Egyptians and released, then he was convicted in absentia by Italy for “criminal association for the purposes of international terrorism” and given a six-year sentence. He has never actually served time in an Italian prison for this conviction.
One might argue that De Sousa bears no responsibility for the Egyptian government’s conduct in the case, but the maddening truth of the case is that she did not even have anything to do with his rendition. She has documentary evidence in the form of phone records that she was over a hundred miles away when the operation occurred. She and 25 other Americans, mostly CIA employees, were convicted in absentia by an Italian court.
As Newsweek chronicles, De Sousa was en route to visit her mother in India in October 2015, having long since left the employ of the CIA, when she was detained at the Lisbon airport. To her astonishment, she ultimately found herself in a Portuguese prison awaiting extradition to Italy for what remained of a five-year prison sentence. Her mother, sadly, passed away while she was detained in Portugal.