For a woman who could be arrested for kidnapping if she steps outside the United States, Sabrina De Sousa looks and sounds like a pretty cool customer.
The former CIA agent sips a lavender lemonade at Eatonville, one of those trendy bistros along Washington, D.C.'s U Street corridor, and says with a slight smile, "Everybody wants me to be sad, but.…" She lets it trail off.
Instead, she's resigned. She reserves her anger for the senior figures in George W. Bush's administration who were responsible for her fate but have escaped accountability, much less punishment, for their roles in the botched caper that has ruined her life.
Her list starts with the then-director of the CIA, George Tenet, and his head of covert operations at the time, Stephen Kappes, and continues to the Rome station chief who quarterbacked the ill-advised plan, Jeffrey Castelli. All three are now retired.
"The people responsible are sitting on corporate boards and living comfortable lives, traveling," she says. De Sousa, meanwhile, will likely spend the rest of her life under virtual house arrest in her adopted country, risking capture if she leaves U.S. soil.
It has been seven years since De Sousa, listed as an American diplomat at the U.S. Consulate in Milan, was indicted in Italy, along with 22 other Americans, in connection with the disappearance of an Egyptian terrorist suspect, known as Abu Omar, from a Milan street in February 2003.
In 2009, she was found guilty in absentia for an act that U.S. authorities call "extraordinary rendition," but Italy calls a crime -- kidnapping. Along with secret CIA prisons and "enhanced interrogation techniques" such as waterboarding, CIA officials insist such methods were necessary, and effective, in preventing another terrorist attack on the United States. After years of denying their existence, the CIA closed the so-called "black sites" and banned waterboarding.
De Sousa was first sentenced to five years in prison. An appeals court tacked on two more years, without explanation.
As De Sousa and the 22 others had no intention of returning to Italy to stand trial, much less go to prison, their sentence has been existential: None can travel outside the United States without fear of arrest on an Interpol warrant. For any former operative who joined the spy agency to see the world, such a fate might amount to a grating inconvenience. For De Sousa, a native of the erstwhile Portuguese enclave of Goa, India, the sentence has meant a cruel separation from her family, in particular her elderly mother, for whom travel to the United States is simply too taxing. "It's hard for her, and me," De Sousa says.