In looking through today's release of documents by WikiLeaks, I picked out one that had some nice gossipy material in it. This little gem is chock-a-block full of juicy bits and was classified NOFORN meaning that it was intended for American eyes only.
Apparently, Italy's Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi is having issues. According to this cable dated October 27th, 2009, Berlusconi is suffering from a growing list of scandals, court decisions that have gone against him and health issues that could impact his ability to continue his rule of the country.
I'll briefly go into a few of the issues:
The first is the court ruling against his 96 percent family-owned company Finnvest, a communications holding company. Finnvest was ordered to pay a rival company €750 million for damages resulting from a Finnvest lawyer bribing a judge in a decision involving both companies. The fine was suspended by the Milan Appeals Court on October 3rd, 2010 after an appeal by Finnvest. Interestingly enough, details of the damages assessed to Finnvest were published by Reuters on October 10th, 2009, over two weeks before State cabled the NOFORN information.
The second is a ruling by the Italian Constitutional Court which, amazingly enough, concluded that one of the Berlusconi government's laws passed in 2008 that postponed criminal investigations against Berlusconi and other senior officials, was unconstitutional. The same law granted Berlusconi immunity from prosecution. The courts have since started proceeding with the cases. Once again, details of the Constitutional Court were published by Reuters on October 7th, 2009, 20 days before State cabled the NOFORN information. Apparently, they don't surf the internet at the Department of State to see how widely available world news really is!
This next bit of "gossip" must be quoted from the cable verbatim:
"XXXXXXX termed Berlusconi overwhelmed with private concerns. He noted that Berlusconi has felt alienated from his family since his wife, Veronica Lario, set off a public uproar by publishing an open letter last spring asking for a divorce and accusing the 74-year old PM of consorting with minors. Lario is reportedly asking for fifty percent of Berlusconi’s personal assets plus Euro 100 million in yearly support...."
The story behind the story on this one is interesting. Ms. Lario understandably got a bit testy with her 70 year old loving husband when he made the following comments to showgirl Mara Carfagna during a VIP party after a television awards ceremony that was broadcast on his own network:
"If I weren't married, I would marry you immediately."
Incidentally, the woman that his comment was directed at was later appointed as Italy's Equal Opportunities Minister by Silvio Berlusconi. Sometimes life is stranger than art!
Back to the story. Imagine that, a wife who doesn't like to hear those words from her husband's mouth when they are directed at another woman! After that, Ms. Lario wrote a letter to a left-leaning newspaper stating that her dignity was damaged and demanded a public apology since he had not apologized privately. Berlusconi wrote her back and apologized publicly through his political party press machine. All of this story was covered by the New York Times in their February 1st, 2007 issue so the information was hardly what one would consider "intelligence-worthy".
Apparently, the lesson was not particularly well learned by Mr. Berlusconi. In April 2009, Ms. Lario hit the news stands again with a public letter chastising her husband for consorting with young ladies, most particularly when the 72 year old went to Naples to attend the birthday party of an 18 year old girl by the name of Naomi Letizia. Her name was published on the dolcevita blog on April 29th, 2009, a mere 2 days after the State cable was written. On May 3rd, 2009, a week after the State cable was written, it was reported that Ms. Lario had filed for divorce.
As an aside, Silvio Berlusconi met Ms. Lario the old-fashioned way; after seeing her perform topless in a play in 1980. To put an end to this story, contrary to Mr. Berlusconi's primal fears, Ms. Lario only received a divorce settlement of €300,000 per month, one tenth of the €3.5 million per month she requested. More's the pity.
Lastly, the cable makes mention of Berlusconi's physical condition. It notes that "he is physically and politically weak" and that he is "not energetic". The cable also notes that he has fainted three times in public and that his penchant for late nights and partying mean that he gets insufficient rest. In fact, it even notes that Berlusconi dozed off during a meeting with the Ambassador the previous September. That must have been one exciting meeting! Here are two mainstream media press reports noting Berlusconi's health issues from the November 26th, 2006 New York Times and a December 18th, 2006 BBC News Report, once again, nearly two years before State published the "intelligence".
What I find most interesting about the Department of State cables is how many of them focus on details that really have nothing to do with State's mission:
"Advance freedom for the benefit of the American people and the international community by helping to build and sustain a more democratic, secure, and prosperous world composed of well-governed states that respond to the needs of their people, reduce widespread poverty, and act responsibly within the international system."
It seems so strange that some of these cables that aren't really even newsworthy are classified NOFORN by the Department of State. When one sees so-called "intelligence" that could have been gleaned from mainstream media reports, a question that must be asked is if State hasn't overstepped its mandate and lost its way as seems to happen so frequently in government today. One has to wonder what will happen to the Department of State when Federal government budget cuts become mandatory now that their inner workings have been exposed for all to see.