Tuesday, May 03, 2005

Foreign relations

Italian-American diplomatic relations hit a post-war low this week. U.S. soldiers killed Italian agent Nicola Calipari in a case of friendly fire on March 4. Now, Italian politicians are firing back. They issued a report saying American soldiers are unstable, trigger-happy, not to be trusted. Not a soothing assessment from an ally. Iraq is costing America some valuable friends. The acrimony no doubt will force Berlusconi to pull troops out of Iraq, probably by September.

On the street, the Italians are as gracious and welcoming as ever. (Don't test this by showing up to dinner with the Bush twins or John Bolton, mind you.) Still, they took great delight in discovering over the weekend that classified sections of the US Army report (including names and sensitive details about roadside bombing raids) could be read through a simple cut and paste technique. I interviewed an Italian sitcom writer/blogger Gianluca Neri who made the discovery. Some of his comments landed in the USA Today story above.

Neri's ingenuity earned him a call from Italy's Ministry of Defense Monday morning. In a Dr. Strangelove moment, they wanted to know more about this cut-and-paste technique. As he told me:
"This is the embarrassing thing for Italy, not just the USA. They had the document for three days," he said of Italy's MOD. "If I am a special agent and I received a digital document, I would do everything I could to reveal the words under the black spaces. They weren't able."


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