An Italian court has convicted 23 Americans of crimes involving a rendition case in 2003, where a radical Muslim cleric was kidnapped from Milan and rendered to Egypt. Fortunately, the U.S. citizens were all tried in absentia and are not in custody, so this is an empty verdict. But there is talk of requesting extradition. Here's my take on the case.
The U.S. government should only carry out renditions in allied states with the consent of the allied government. Was neutralizing one terrorist really worth jeopardizing relations with Italy? If it is truly necessary to violate the sovereignty of a friendly state like Italy, it should be done in a secret and deniable way. We should not be in a position of having to defend such actions in court.
Having said that, the U.S. government has an obligation to protect its operatives from foreign retaliation. Under no circumstances should the U.S. agree to extradite any of these individuals, no matter what the Italian government or courts demand. If the Italian government goes so far as to actually request extradition, we should treat that as an unfriendly act, and respond accordingly. Italy is well aware that rendition operations were U.S. government missions, sanctioned at the highest levels. Italian anger should be focused where it belongs, at the U.S. government. Demanding an apology and assurances that the U.S. will not violate Italian sovereignty in the future would be a reasonable response. Prosecuting individual CIA agents as if they were common criminals, rather than agents of the U.S. government, is just not acceptable.