Now that anger has spilled over into the international arena. The Italian government will not allow their bases to be used in any Iraq attack -- an unprecedented step. "They've never played hardball with the Americans," says Burke. "There are lots of calls to renegotiate the agreement for the bases." Defense Minister Beniamino Andreatta told the Italian parliament: "What happened is incomprehensible." The plane's pilot, Richard Ashby, told an Italian newspaper that his altitude indicator malfunctioned.
American military officials at Italy's Aviano airbase admit that the plane, an EA-6B Prowler, was flying "well below the approved minimum altitude" when it clipped the cable car wire, sending a gondola crashing to the ground. But they reject Italian claims that the plane was six miles off its assigned flight path. Flight recorder data has been handed over to Italian investigators but the U.S. is clearly conceding at least some responsibility for the tragedy.