Report: CIA Operating Secret Detention Prison in Somalia
The Nation has released an investigative report with details of a walled compound completed four months ago in Somalia, and a secret basement prison at the Somalia’s National Security Agency (NSA) headquarters. The CIA maintains an aircraft at the new compound, and CIA agents conduct interrogations of prisoners in the basement prison, some of whom are plucked off the streets. The U.S. is footing the bill for the salaries of the Somali intelligence agents.
At the facility, the CIA runs a counterterrorism training program for Somali intelligence agents and operatives aimed at building an indigenous strike force capable of snatch operations and targeted “combat” operations against members of Al Shabab, an Islamic militant group with close ties to Al Qaeda.
As part of its expanding counterterrorism program in Somalia, the CIA also uses a secret prison buried in the basement of Somalia’s National Security Agency (NSA) headquarters, where prisoners suspected of being Shabab members or of having links to the group are held. Some of the prisoners have been snatched off the streets of Kenya and rendered by plane to Mogadishu. While the underground prison is officially run by the Somali NSA, US intelligence personnel pay the salaries of intelligence agents and also directly interrogate prisoners.
Conditions at the prison:
According to former detainees, the underground prison, which is staffed by Somali guards, consists of a long corridor lined with filthy small cells infested with bedbugs and mosquitoes. One said that when he arrived in February, he saw two white men wearing military boots, combat trousers, gray tucked-in shirts and black sunglasses. The former prisoners described the cells as windowless and the air thick, moist and disgusting. Prisoners, they said, are not allowed outside. Many have developed rashes and scratch themselves incessantly. Some have been detained for a year or more. According to one former prisoner, inmates who had been there for long periods would pace around constantly, while others leaned against walls rocking.
The Nation reports that a U.S. official confirmed both sites, saying:
“It makes complete sense to have a strong counterterrorism partnership” with the Somali government.
Human Rights Watch and Reprieve have confirmed many cases of renditions. They located Ahmed Abdullahi Hassan, age 25, who was kidnapped from the streets of Kenya in July 2009, and flown there. A habeas petition is being prepared for him.
The US official interviewed for this article denied the CIA had rendered Hassan but said, “The United States provided information which helped get Hassan—a dangerous terrorist—off the street.”
Human Rights Watch and Reprieve have documented "scores" of renditions performed by Kenyan security and intelligence forces for the US and other governments. In 2007, 85 people were rendered to Somalia.
“Hassan’s case suggests that the US may be involved in a decentralized, out-sourced Guantánamo Bay in central Mogadishu.”
The underground Somalian prison has a dark history:
The underground prison where Hassan is allegedly being held is housed in the same building once occupied by Somalia’s infamous National Security Service (NSS) during the military regime of Siad Barre , who ruled from 1969 to 1991. The former prisoner who met Hassan there said he saw an old NSS sign outside. During Barre’s regime, the notorious basement prison and interrogation center, which sits behind the presidential palace in Mogadishu, was a staple of the state’s apparatus of repression. It was referred to as Godka, “The Hole.”
The U.S. says the CIA agents are only assisting Somali agents:
“When CIA and other intelligence agencies—who actually are in Mogadishu—want to interrogate those people, they usually just do that.” Somali officials “start the interrogation, but then foreign intelligence agencies eventually do their own interrogation as well, the Americans and the French.” The US official said that US agents’ “debriefing” prisoners in the facility has “been done on only rare occasions” and always jointly with Somali agents.
The U.S. military is also involved. This is not surprising considering the recent Congressional testimony of US Special Operations Command chief William McRaven. He said at his confirmation hearing:
“From my standpoint as a former JSOC commander, I can tell you we were looking very hard” at Somalia. McRaven said that in order to expand successful “kinetic strikes” there, the United States will have to increase its use of drones as well as on-the-ground intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance operations.
Which brings us to Ahmed Abdulkadir Warsame, the Somalian captured by JSOC in the Gulf of Aden in April, held incommunicado on a Navy ship for two months and then flown to New York where he is charged with terrorism offenses and will be tried in federal court. His indictment is here.
It seems the U.S.is intent on creating and maintaining international Guantanamos, and even though those captured have committed no acts against the U.S., flying them to the U.S. to detain and try them. New York courts have repeatedly rejected claims of manufactured jurisdiction, from the DEA African Adventures cases to the case of suspected Russian arms dealer Victor Bout.
As the ACLU says, "the administration continues to assert worldwide war detention authority wherever terrorism suspects are found."
In June, the Senate Armed Forces Committee approved $75 million for counterterrorism assistance directed at Shabab and Al Qaeda in Somalia.
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