Human Events Blog

The Somali Pirate Interrogation

Ahmed Abdulkadir Warsame is a Somali national, captured by U.S. forces in the Gulf of Aden over two months ago.  For most of that time, he was held without trial and interrogated “humanely” aboard a U.S. Navy ship.  Now he’s in New York, preparing to face federal charges of providing support to two terrorist organizations, al-Qaeda and its Somali doppelganger al-Shabab, along with weapons and explosives offenses.

The Washington Post describes this situation as “the Obama administration’s attempt to find a middle ground between open-ended detentions in secret prisons, as practiced by the George W. Bush administration, and its commitment to try as many terrorism cases as possible in civilian courts.”

So that’s the “middle ground” between Obama’s childish ignorance about trying terrorist enemies in civilian court, and treating them as illegal combatants in a time of war?  Sitting them on a boat for a while so they can be quietly interrogated, then whisking them off to a courtroom for the big million-dollar dog-and-pony show?  Don’t the vaunted Geneva Conventions say the exact opposite – that prison ships are unlawful?

Does that seem consistent with the rhetoric deployed by Democrats against the Evil Bush Regime’s horrifying terrorist dungeons?  Secret prisons are OK, provided they float?  The only mistake Bush made was putting them on dry land?

The Post notes that “In flying Warsame to New York before announcing his capture, the administration circumvented likely congressional objections to his transfer here.”  Those objections would arise because “Congress has barred the administration from moving detainees held at the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, to the United States for trial.”  Solution: store the terrorist on a boat, instead of an island.

Over at the New York Times, former Bush Justice Department official Kenneth Wainstein hailed the Obama Administration’s “flexibility” in developing this new detention strategy: “From the government’s perspective, it’s better to maintain options for custody and prosecution and in each case to select that option that best fits the needs of a particular case.”

Personally, I’d rather give the military and intelligence communities “flexibility” to defeat America’s enemies.  I’m much less worried about the comfort level of politicians.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) was much less impressed with the Administration’s strategy: “The administration’s actions are inexplicable, create unnecessary risks here at home, and do nothing to increase the security of the United States.”

For a taste of just how incomprehensible this all is, consider the Times’ description of the nuanced Administration posture towards the Somali franchise of al-Qaeda:

While Mr. Warsame is accused of being a member of the Shabab, which is focused on a parochial insurgency in Somalia, the administration decided he could be lawfully detained as a wartime prisoner under Congress’s authorization to use military force against the perpetrators of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, according to several officials who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss security matters.

But the administration does not consider the United States to be at war with every member of the Shabab, officials said. Rather, the government decided that Mr. Warsame and a handful of other individual Shabab leaders could be made targets or detained because they were integrated with Al Qaeda or its Yemen branch and were said to be looking beyond the internal Somali conflict.

“Certain elements of Al Shabab, including its senior leaders, adhere to Al Qaeda’s ideology and could conduct attacks outside of Somalia in East Africa, as it did in Uganda in 2010, or even outside the region to further Al Qaeda’s agenda,” said a senior administration official. “For its leadership and those other Al Qaeda-aligned elements of Al Shabab, our approach is quite clear: They are not beyond the reach of our counterterrorism tools.”

(Emphasis mine.)  Rest easy, Shababniks.  We’re only at war with some of you.  Keep a bit of tasteful distance from bin Laden’s old outfit, and your Gulf of Aden cruises will continue to end in New York City courtrooms.

Remember the movie Tombstone, where Kurt Russell’s Wyatt Earp told Ike Clanton that his red-sash-wearing gang was washed up?  “The Cowboys are finished, you understand?  I see a red sash, I kill the man wearing it!  So run, you cur… run!  Tell all the other curs the law’s comin!”  This is pretty much the opposite of that.  Their lawyers will probably advise the Cowboys to refrain from wearing their red sashes in court, while they face charges of supporting an organization the United States is partially upset with.

Listening to all the lusty Democrat denunciations of the Bush Administration’s heartless cruelty toward terrorists, did you ever imagine that Obama the Lightworker would end up tip-toeing through forest of legalistic mousetraps, trying to figure out a way to satisfy his ideological bullet points without touching off a national security disaster? 

You’d almost think the lofty principles of their beloved “international laws” mean nothing to this bunch, and they mostly enjoy using those laws to bludgeon political opponents when they’re out of power.  Of course, if Obama actually behaved in accordance with his 2008 campaign rhetoric, this would all rapidly degenerate from face to tragedy.


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