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Shortly after taking office, President Obama announced he'd close CIA  prisons and end abusive interrogations of terrorism suspects by U.S.  officials. But the Obama administration has notably preserved the right  to continue "renditions" - the abduction and transfer of suspects to  U.S. allies in its "war on terror," including allies notorious for the  use of torture.

Although the Obama Administration in 2009 promised to monitor more closely the treatment of suspects it turned over to foreign prisons, the disturbing case of Gulet Mohamed,  an American teenager interrogated under torture in Kuwait, casts doubt  on the effectiveness of those so-called "diplomatic assurances." It's  also raised questions about whether the "extraordinary rendition"  program conducted by the Bush administration has now been transformed  into an equally abusive proxy detention program run by its successor.

On Thursday, The New York Timesreported that a Somali-American teenager from Virginia traveling with a valid  U.S. passport was placed on a U.S. government no-fly list because he had  previously traveled to Yemen and Somalia. He was detained, interrogated  and severely beaten in Kuwait. In a telephone interview with Times reporter Mark Mazzetti,  Gulet Mohamed, a 19-year-old living in  Alexandria, Virginia, said he was beaten, hit with sticks, threatened  with electric shocks, forced to stand for hours at a time and warned  that his mother would be imprisoned if he didn't say more about his  trips to Yemen and Somalia in 2009, his knowledge of the U.S.-born  cleric Anwar al Awlaki, and his relatives in Somalia. At one point during the interrogation he was visited by three FBI agents who asked similar questions and agreed to "facilitate" his release if  he would provide them information. If he didn't, they said, they could  not help him.

Mohamed has consistently said he traveled to Yemen to study Arabic,  has never met with militants and is a good Muslim. "I despise  terrorism," he told Mazzetti.

According to Salon's Glenn Greenwald, who also interviewed Mohamed and wrote about this on Thursday, Mohamed had valid visas for all the countries he visited  and has never been arrested nor had any interaction with law  enforcement, until his detention by the Kuwaitis two weeks ago. Mohamed  was never even questioned by U.S. or foreign authorities until he moved  to Kuwait to live with his uncle and continue his Arabic studies.

The FBI, State Department and Kuwaiti embassy all refused to respond to the Times' requests for comment, although they confirmed that Mohamed was placed on the no-fly list.

Unfortunately, this is not an isolated incident. Last January, Sharif Mobley, an American citizen living in Yemen, was abducted on the streets of the Yemeni capital of Sana'a in January 2009, just two days after he'd gone to the U.S.  embassy seeking a passport for his new baby so the family could return  to the United States.  According to his lawyer, Mobley was shot in the  process, then blindfolded and taken to a hospital. There, while chained  to a hospital bed, he was interrogated by two agents who identified  themselves as U.S. government officials. He says they told him he would  never see his family again and that he would be raped in a Yemeni  prison. Over the next two weeks, Mobley says. he was beaten severely by  Yemeni security forces while being moved between detention facilities  after interrogations. He was not allowed to speak to U.S. embassy  officials. He eventually tried to escape, and is accused of shooting his  Yemeni guards in the process. He faces death by firing squad if found  guilty.

Mobley has never been accused of terrorism, either in the U.S. or in  Yemen. And like Mohamed, he was not even questioned by U.S. authorities  until after he was living in Yemen and indicated a desire to return with  his family to the United States.

These are just two of several incidents in the past year where  Americans abroad have been arrested and interrogated about their travels  to Yemen, where U.S. authorities believe terrorist plots have  originated or been inspired by Anwar al-Awlaki, the U.S.-born cleric now on a U.S. government hit list.  The United States in the past year has more than doubled its military  aid to Yemen to encourage the Yemeni government to crack down on  terrorism. Perhaps the Yemens now feel pressure to have something to  show for it.

Meanwhile, many Americans with ties to Yemen have reportedly been  placed on a no-fly list while abroad, detained and questioned, and then  unable to return home even after their release.

Yahya Wehelie,  for example, a 26-year-old Muslim American, was stopped after he left  Yemen while changing planes in Egypt on his way home to Virginia last  May. FBI agents told him he was on a no fly list and questioned him.  Although eventually released without charge, he was then stuck in the  Egyptian capital and unable to return home because of his placement on  the no-fly list. He offered to fly home in handcuffs accompanied by air  marshals, but was refused.

The U.S. reportedly almost doubled the number of names on its no-fly list after the attempted Christmas  Day bombing on a plane bound for Detroit in 2009, from 3400 to about  6000 names.

This all raises some disturbing questions. While the U.S. may  legitimately ask questions of passengers flying to or from Yemen, is it  outsourcing those interrogations to countries known to engage in  torture?  Although publicly condemning abusive interrogation methods,  has the U.S. created a new proxy detention system that amounts to  extraordinary rendition-lite?  And what criteria is the U.S. using to  place such individuals on the no-fly list?  Is that status being used as  unofficial permission to foreign governments to detain and interrogate  such individuals in whatever manner they see fit?

Mobley's lawyer, Cori Crider from the UK-based organization Reprieve,  has asked similar questions. In a Freedom of Information Act request  sent in July she asked for information about U.S. agencies' involvement  in Mobley's abduction, incommunicado detention and abusive treatment.  Crider has asked for records pertaining to the "wider pattern of  U.S.-sponsored sweeps and proxy detention in Yemen from January 2010, of  which Mr. Mobley's seizure is a part."

The U.S. government has so far refused to provide any responsive documents.

Gulet Mohamed's lawyer, Gaddeir Abbas from the Council on American Islamic Relations, has asked similar questions. In a letter to the Department of Justice posted by Greenwald, Abbas asked whether his client's abduction was at  the behest of U.S. authorities and whether they were aware that Mohamed  was being tortured. Abbas has requested a full investigation.

The case of Mohamed, Mobley and others suggest that a thorough  investigation is needed, not only of each of these cases but of whether  the United States has a new policy of outsourcing abusive investigations  to foreign countries, where U.S. citizens and others suspected by U.S.  authorities cannot assert their basic rights.

If so, this new U.S. interrogation policy is disturbingly similar to  those that the Obama administration early on so staunchly disavowed.

Originally posted to Daphne Eviatar Human Rights 1st on Fri Jan 07, 2011 at 02:01 PM PST.

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Comment Preferences

  •  In a word: yes. (6+ / 0-)

    All accomplished without due process.  Congratulations to the First Constitutional Scholar . . .

    "we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex" Dwight D. Eisenhower

    by bobdevo on Fri Jan 07, 2011 at 02:28:55 PM PST

  •  Due Process (5+ / 0-)

    You'll get it if we feel like giving it to you

  •  While I have to reserve judgement... (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Dumbo, Roadbed Guy, tapu dali

    ...on these specific cases, pending more info...obviously any such activities should be thoroughly investigated.

    Maybe the Republicans will seize on this issue, to launch one of their many threatened investigations of Democrats?  

    Wait...that seems unlikely.  

    These criminal practice are something the Republicans initiated, now approve of and insist are necessary, and they may, indeed, even still be deliberately conducting such activities in a manner contrary to direct orders from the President.

    It wouldn't be the first time a sitting Democratic president was ignored, circumvented and deliberately sabotaged by the fanatic fifth column of right wing reactionary conservative traitors who remain embedded throughout the entire government apparatus, including State, the CIA and the military.

    To whatever extent Obama may be proven explicitly complicit, they have no doubt forced, tricked or sucked him into it, more or less.  

    I say this not to imply that Obama is above reproach, but merely to point out that if the right wing reactionary conservative traitors were not in such a pervasive, dominant position, their influence and practice would certainly be far less prevalent.

    Of course, the bottom line is that the right must be purged and suppressed from all levers of power, to the greatest extent possible, democratically, electorally, in 2012.

    "...a printing press is worth 10,000 rifles..." Ho Chi Minh

    by Radical def on Fri Jan 07, 2011 at 02:34:50 PM PST

  •  Obama = Bush on nat. security and civil liberties (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    glitterscale, Hayate Yagami, Blizzard

    Plain and simple. An exaggeration? I think not.

    NSA spying program: Bush created it, Obama has not investigated it. Obama also voted for telecom immunity. Probably means that the program is still in full swing right now.

    Extraordinary Rendition: Bush created the policy, Obama has endorsed and continued it.

    Indefinite Detention: Bush created the policy, Obama has endorsed and continued it.

    Torture: Called "enhanced interrogation techniques" or something similar under Bush. Despite being widely used on "enemy combatants", Obama has refused to prosecute for it, and is even indirectly continuing it via the proxy detentions in countries whose special services DO use torture (talked about in this diary).

    Assassination Program: I remember hearing rumors that Cheney set up a such a program during the Bush administration. It recently was revealed that a similar program (or maybe the same one) is currently being used by the Obama administration. Even more worryingly, it now has authorization to assassinate even US citizens without due process.

    State Secrets Argument: Created by the Bush administration to justify extensive criminal acts during Bush's two terms. Now formally adopted in a number of legal cases by the Obama DoJ (google "state secrets argument obama"). Recently used to justify not revealing anything about the assassination program beyond its existence and authorization to assassinate US citizens who are considered to be terrorists.

    Afghanistan: While we're technically out of Iraq, we're still in Afghanistan even though the situation seems to be virtually unchanged, i.e. we're still losing and wasting tons of money at the same time. Obama keeps postponing the withdrawal with no damn good reason. Sounds a lot like what Bush did with Iraq, eh?

    ------------

    I'm sure there are probably others, but you get the idea. On all major national security and civil liberties issues, Obama thinks and behaves like Bush. Quite a turnaround from his campaign rhetoric - he denounced many of the policies he has now endorsed and continued as President.

    And there are some here who wonder why so many of us are hopping mad at Obama and want to see him primaried (not that a primary challenge would succeed, unfortunately). Well, look no further for seven good reasons why, listed above. Then add in all the outrages concerning his domestic policy (extremely weak HCR and FR, tax cut deal, compromising constantly with Republicans), as well as his chosen circle of advisors (Daley, Sperling, Geithner, Emanuel, Summers) and it should be pretty clear.

    Banksters: a bunch of mindless jerks who will be the first against the wall when the revolution comes. (With apologies to Douglas Adams.)

    by Revy on Fri Jan 07, 2011 at 03:54:23 PM PST

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