Is this How the Yemeni-American Partnership Works?

In my post on the government’s invocation of state secrets to hide the things national security officials have already leaked to the press, I linked to David Ignatius’ largely-overlooked report that Yemen first asked us to target Anwar al-Awlaki, and only thereafter did we get around to targeting him and telling courts they had no business asking why we had done so.

Last October, the Yemeni government came to the CIA with a request: Could the agency collect intelligence that might help target the network of a U.S.-born al-Qaeda recruiter named Anwar al-Aulaqi?

Keep that in mind as you read this story about a Yemeni woman trying to FOIA information about US involvement in her US citizen husband’s abduction in Yemen. (h/t Political Carnival)

As [Sharif Mobley] drank tea on a Sana’a street, eight masked men burst from two white vans and tried to grab him. Terrified, he ran, but was brought crashing to the ground by two bullets to his legs and bundled into one of the vans.

The method of abduction may have been brutal, but it was not the work of a rebel group or criminal gang. Instead, the armed men were Yemeni security agents, and in a set of legal documents seen by Al Jazeera, Mobley’s lawyers allege they were operating on behalf of the US government.

Now, the story only presents the Mobley’s family’s story, in which they claim that while Mobley had had contact with Anwar al-Awlaki, he never had any dealings or awareness of ties to al Qaeda.

“Sharif openly admits that he had been in limited contact with al-Awlaki,” says Cori Crider, Mobley’s  lawyer. “But he categorically denies that he was involved in or aware of any plot or link to al-Qaeda.”

Perhaps Mobley’s family is just spinning, downplaying more developed ties between Mobley and AQAP. Though note that any contact with al-Awlaki would have happened before Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula was designated a terrorist organization, and even then, the government claims that terrorist designation should not limit others’ First Amendment rights to associate with members of designated terrorist groups.

Whether or not Mobley’s story is correct or not, it doesn’t dismiss the other allegation: that someone apparently tied to the US embassy raided the Mobley family home, all while pretending that Yemen–not the US–had sole custody of Mobley.

When she realised her husband was missing, [Mobley’s wife, Nzinga Saba Islam] immediately reported his disappearance to the embassy, where she was told to file a report with Yemeni police.

That night, at 1am, as she lay worrying about what had happened to her husband, the documents say around 15 men burst into the family home. The family were held at gunpoint and searched, while the house was raided and items confiscated.

Nzinga has told lawyers that the following morning she returned to the US embassy. As she waited to file a report about what had happened, she insists that she saw the man who had led the raid on her home wearing a US embassy pass.

“He was, as far as Nzinga could tell, in charge of the raid on her home,” Crider says. “She asked the embassy about him and what he was doing there, but embassy officials never gave her a straight answer.”

The documents allege that embassy officials listened to what Nzinga had to say, and began to question her about her husband’s activities in Yemen. Amongst the items she says they showed her were photographs taken during the raid on the house.

Mind you, none of this would be new. By all appearances, the US has used Pakistan as a proxy for arresting US citizens to avoid granting those citizens the legal rights they otherwise would have.

But the move is troubling, given the appearance that Yemen pushed this crack-down before the US did, and given the US government’s refusal to make public their larger case against al-Awlaki.

Anwar al-Awlaki is very quickly becoming our next surrogate bogeyman in the war on terror (the one designed to distract from the continued freedom of the people who actually targeted us on 9/11). And along with that, the government seems intent on hanging a whole lot more terrorist designations on people–including American citizens–without ever showing the evidence that al-Awlaki himself was operational.

  1. Mary says:

    Wow – and after the guy was kept in alleged abused and then finally tried to escape, he killed a guard in his escape effort and now faces execution for that. Yeah – it would be kindasorta important to find out what was really going on. Mercenaries hang out there as an option too. But the fixation on rape – that seems such a CIA/US military fixation – threatening men with rape, raping men with objects, and outright rape of women and children. That, and threats to family that appear in the CIA IG report as well.

    Meanwhile, Mobley says he was chained, blindfolded, to a hospital bed, being interrogated by two men who introduced themselves as “Matt and Khan” and said they worked for the US government. His lawyers say the two men told him that he would never see his family again and would be raped in Yemeni prison.

    • emptywheel says:

      Mary, I don’t know what you’re so hung up about. After all, Gitmo rulings tell us that rape threats–even when used against a teenager and implicitly including death thraets–don’t constitute torture or abuse.

      • DWBartoo says:

        As may be. Perhaps, “it” is all legal and proper and so forth, now, and possibly even enshrined as a major part of that ever-growing “everything” because of 911, has “changed” narrative? Yet it does not roll off the tongue like “truth” or “justice” however much it is now the new American “way”, it does not seem to have the cachet of “freedom” and one doubts the judges who have legitimized “it” brag loudly and overmuch to their spouses, significant others, or their children about “it”.

        One imagines that “it” is merely one of those many “hard” things that those who “practice” the law must, in good conscience, honestly, bravely and reverently do as part of their obligation to protect and defend the Constitution and uphold the rule of law.

        “It” must be really hard … sometimes.

        Or not.

        (More like utterly “pathetic”, well beyond reason and humanity … but it IS deferential.)


  2. powwow says:

    What a bombshell of an Al Jazeera story. Does it ever raise questions – questions that a functioning, independent Congress, if we still had one, would be jumping all over.

    The documents, part of a freedom of information request submitted by [U.S. citizen Sharif] Mobley’s legal team to US authorities, paint a disturbing picture of shadowy security cooperation between the US and Yemen in the wake of an alleged attempt by an al-Qaeda group based in the country to blow up an airliner over Detriot in December last year.

    In the weeks that followed, Yemen shot up the priority list for US counter-terrorism planners. This year alone, military aid from Washington to Sana’a has reached $155mn, more than 30 times the amount given in 2006, and American special forces are known to be training Yemeni troops to fight armed groups.

    Mobley’s story, his lawyers say, is an example of a more disturbing development in the relationship between the US and Yemen; the proxy detention of an American citizen by the Yemeni government, arranged and overseen by US agents in the country.

    No more “black sites”? No more “rendition to third country torture” at the behest of the U.S.? Oh, really?

    For starters, I hope these details are sufficient to serve as irrefutable proof that the United States is not “at war” with Yemen, and for that reason, cannot merrily trespass in that nation at will, without its permission. And I trust that even our power-mad Executive – even if only in filings to our power-serving judiciary – won’t attempt to claim, and if it does, won’t be allowed to get away with claiming that shooting and kidnapping an unarmed fleeing civilian found drinking tea on the street at a public cafe is somehow capturing an “enemy combatant” “on the battlefield.”

    Secondly, all indications certainly seem to point to the fact that the U.S. Executive has some form of “permission” from Yemen to conduct various campaigns of covert violence on sovereign Yemen territory, to which neither Yemen’s corrupt government, nor ours, will publicly admit. Nevertheless, Congress (its “Intelligence” Committees among others) is obviously absolutely obligated to demand to be kept informed of any such secret pacts between these corrupt governments, in order to keep the President’s men from inadvertently triggering a declaration of war by Yemen, or from otherwise stomping all over what’s left of the law of nations.

    My husband’s prolonged secret detention and abusive interrogation [that started in January, 2010] are directly responsible for the circumstances he is in now,” Nzinga says. “Our troubles began with a trip to the embassy. If we, as Americans abroad, cannot trust our embassy to help us, who can we trust?”


    While it is not possible to independently verify the account of Sharif Mobley’s arrest given by his legal team, few analysts in Yemen doubt that coordination on security operations is occurring at a senior level between US and Yemeni authorities.


    US state department officials contacted by Al Jazeera declined to comment on Mobley’s case, citing concerns over his privacy.

    “His privacy…” – oh, how rich. Never mind his life or liberty… “Authorities” in the USSR could not have said it better.

    • DWBartoo says:

      “His privacy…”

      That was the reason given for not revealing if federal prosecutors who behaved badly were disciplined … “their privacy”.

      Guess the only way the gummint protects “privacy” is if you are either a “government” criminal or someone the gummint decides, secretly or otherwise, is a criminal who DOESN’T work for said gummint.

      That’s prolly why executions, generally, aren’t public …yet.


    • bmaz says:

      Does it ever raise questions – questions that a functioning, independent Congress, if we still had one, would be jumping all over.


    • john in sacramento says:

      That seems to fold together pretty well with this from William Engdahl from last Jan.

      The Yemen Hidden Agenda: Behind the Al-Qaeda Scenarios, A Strategic Oil Transit Chokepoint


      What the world has been subjected to since is the emergence of a new target for the US ‘War on Terror,’ namely a desolate state on the Arabian Peninsula, Yemen. A closer look at the background suggests the Pentagon and US intelligence have a hidden agenda in Yemen.

      For some months the world has seen a steady escalation of US military involvement in Yemen, a dismally poor land adjacent to Saudi Arabia on its north, the Red Sea on its west, the Gulf of Aden on its south, opening to the Arabian Sea, overlooking another desolate land that has been in the headlines of late, Somalia. The evidence suggests that the Pentagon and US intelligence are moving to militarize a strategic chokepoint for the world’s oil flows, Bab el-Mandab, and using the Somalia piracy incident, together with claims of a new Al Qaeda threat arising from Yemen, to militarize one of the world’s most important oil transport routes. In addition, undeveloped petroleum reserves in the territory between Yemen and Saudi Arabia are reportedly among the world’s largest.

      The 23-year-old Nigerian man charged with the failed bomb attempt, Abdulmutallab, reportedly has been talking, claiming he was sent on his mission by Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), based in Yemen. This has conveniently turned the world’s attention on Yemen as a new center of the alleged Al Qaeda terror organization.


      The curious emergence of a tiny but well-publicized al Qaeda in southern Yemen amid what observers call a broad-based popular-based Southern Movement front that eschews the radical global agenda of al Qaeda, serves to give the Pentagon a kind of casus belli to escalate US military operations in the strategic region.


      More at the link

      And, what’s across the Sea from Yemen? … Somalia

      Where there was an attack by a mysterious helicopter yesterday. And if I were betting on it, I’d say the attack was carried out by these guys

  3. MadDog says:

    Some free Obama administration advice for the Yemenis in our Yemini/American partnership:

    US warned Pakistan after foiled attack: book

    The United States implied to Pakistan it would have had no choice but to hit terrorist havens in the country, had a New York car bomb plot succeeded in May, according to a new book published Monday.

    Obama’s national security advisor James Jones delivered a warning in person to Pakistani President Asif Al Zardari just after the failed Times Square attack on May 1, according to journalist Bob Woodward in his new book.

    Jones left Zardari in no doubt that Obama would have been forced to strike back had the bomb gone off, despite the anti-terror alliance between the new nations, Woodward said, in the book “Obama’s Wars.”

    Obama sent Jones, Douglas Lute, his top White House aide on Pakistan and Afghanistan and CIA chief Leon Panetta to Islamabad after the failed attack for frank talks with Zardari and top Pakistani officials.

    “The president wants everyone in Pakistan to understand if such an attack connected to a Pakistani group is successful, there are some things even he would not be able to stop,” Jones was quoted as telling Zardari.

    “Just as there are political realities in Pakistan, there are political realities in the United States.

    “No one will be able to stop the response and consequences. This is not a threat, just a statement of political fact,” Woodward quoted Jones as saying, adding that the US official warned “we are living on borrowed time…”

    • emptywheel says:

      …and he used that threat to coerce Zardari to detain Shahzad’s father, father-in-law, wife, and child, so as to in turn coerce Shahzad to cooperate, and repeatedly claim he didn’t want a lawyer and didn’t mind being kept awake 24-7.

    • powwow says:

      Political realities” are now justification for this nation – no doubt without consulting Congress – to commit an act of war against a nuclear power, because one of its citizens living in this country, and unallied with his own government, attacked us??

      This is insane talk, as far as I’m concerned (how does it differ from Richard Armitage’s juvenile, bullying threats to foreign government officials during the Bush administration?). And it ties right in with Jim White’s diary today, detailing our government’s latest corrupt dealings with the dictatorial, nuclear-armed semi-client state of Pakistan:

      We are approaching the one year anniversary since Jeremy Scahill disclosed the extensive JSOC-Blackwater secret war effort within Pakistan and yet there is no indication that either Barack Obama or David Petraeus sees a need to shut down the rogue operators there. Despite the occasional attempt to portray the US military as providing crucial relief efforts in the massive floods in Pakistan (such as in the accompanying photo), the reality is that US military relief to Pakistan has been derided as but a tiny fraction of the military relief provided in other recent world catastrophes. Last week’s sentencing of Aafia Siddiqui to eighty-six years in jail provoked massive protests across Pakistan. And now we are learning that NATO (which really means US) helicopters have killed over 50 people in air raids on the Pakistan side of the border with Afghanistan over the weekend.

      “Rogue operators” is putting it mildly.

      If you fund and protect dictatorial client states, are you not a dictatorial state yourself? [Who doubts that we’re helping Yemen to repress the latter grassroots group, in the name of covertly chasing the “tiny” former group, in John’s excerpt @ 14: “The curious emergence of a tiny but well-publicized al Qaeda in southern Yemen amid what observers call a broad-based popular-based Southern Movement front that eschews the radical global agenda of al Qaeda…”]

      Again, as with Yemen, we’re acting in Pakistan with the “permission” (bought at obscene cost to the U.S. taxpayer) of what passes for the government there. Even as that government nominally helps us track down the true targets of the 2001 force authorization. Thus, we are not in fact “at war” with Pakistan itself. Whatever U.S. forces are secretly doing in Pakistan, it isn’t fighting “a war with Pakistan.” But now the saber-rattlers in the administration think a car bomb in New York is worth risking a nuclear attack, (and a failed attack is worth threatening Pakistan with war), while Congress snoozes amidst its lobbyist largesse? I mean… Where does this end?

      As we know all too well, our wildly-mistargeted and disproportionate response to 9/11 began with an Authorization for the Use of Military Force quickly rubberstamped by Congress back in 2001. A never-revisited (and, thus, apparently-permanent “military force, not law enforcement, authorization”) AUMF which the Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit has of late interpreted so broadly that this is how legitimate targets of that AUMF (and thus legitimate wartime-“protected” detainees in that conflict) are now legally defined in America (quoting Judge Reggie Walton’s recent summary of the lay of the land in his denial of the Sulayman habeas petition):

      In AI-Bihani I, the petitioner relied on the international laws of war in arguing that his detention was unlawful because he was essentially a “civilian contractor,” and, pursuant to the laws of war, he could not be detained because anyone not “belonging to an official state military is a civilian, and civilians … must commit a direct hostile act, such as firing a weapon in combat, before they can be lawfully detained.” Id. at 871. The circuit rejected this argument, reasoning that “[t]here is no indication” from Congress that it “intended the international laws of war to act as extra-textual limiting principles for the President’s war powers under the AUMF.” Id. Rather, the circuit concluded that the appropriate sources for determining the scope of the President’s authority under the AUMF to detain an individual “are the sources courts always look to: the text of relevant statutes and controlling domestic caselaw.” Id. at 871-72.


      Thus, under the law of this [D.C.] circuit, the government may establish the lawfulness of the petitioner’s detention by showing that he “engaged in hostilities … against the United States,” that he “purposefully and materially supported hostilities against the United States or its coalition partners,” or that he “is part of the Taliban, al Qaeda, or associated forces.” AI-Bihani, 590 F.3d at 871. And, the determination of whether an individual is “part of’ the Taliban, al Qaeda, or associated forces is one that “must be made on a case-by-case basis by using a functional rather than a formal approach.” Bensayah, _ F3d at _2010 WL 2640626, at *5. […] But, the government must do more than just prove that the detainee was an “independent … freelancer.” Bensayah, _ F3d at _,2010 WL 2640626 at *5.

      Judge Reggie Walton, July 20, 2010

      How does merely being a “part of” the Taliban (once and apparently thus forever, however flimsy the evidence, unless you’re now part of our puppet Afghanistan government), al Qaeda, or “associated forces” (whatever that means) make one a “combatant” in an “armed conflict” with the United States under the 2001 AUMF, which identifies its targets as the perpetrators of 9/11 and their accomplices?? Never mind under the definition of an armed conflict under the law of war – which, of course, the two radicals on the Circuit who created the Al Bihani precedent threw out the window as inapplicable to government actors in the U.S. (according to their likeminded colleagues, via mere dicta, but according to Judge Walton’s interpretation, as part of their binding precedent)?

      Don’t ask me. Ask federal district Judge Lewis Kaplan (a fitting New York colleague of Judge Richard Berman’s, it would appear), who had no trouble in July declaring that the “speedy trial” rights of Ghailani (whose federal trial began today), after years of post-indictment U.S. detention and torture (first in CIA custody abroad for two years, and then in military custody at Guantanamo) without trial, were neither here nor there. Meaning that his Constitutionally-guaranteed speedy trial rights were not abridged, according to Judge Kaplan (who had his conclusion, and was in desperate need of a justification), because Ghailani – charged with acts committed in Africa in 1998 – could lawfully have been swept up in 2004 under the 2001-authorized armed conflict as an “enemy combatant” merely for being a member of al Qaeda – and thus held indefinitely, whether or not he was ever prosecuted, or treated humanely, or provided POW protections, or, or, or… (‘whatever the guvmint says, Sir’).

      My contempt for incumbent Members of Congress, for letting our nation reach this deeply deplorable and dangerous state of affairs, is off the charts.

      • bmaz says:

        Well, really, come on, Ghailani IS getting a speedy trial in relation to the date he was formally charged you know.

        Oh, wait, that is not quite right either now is it?? Because the official case docket number on ECF is 1:98-cr-01023-LAK. Yes, that’s right, the indictment in this case was filed on December 16, 1998, and a superseding indictment filed on February 3, 1999. so, yes, this pretty makes a complete mockery of speedy trial rights when Ghailani was taken into US custody on July 25, 2004 and intentionally prevented from receiving criminal due process until June 9, 2009 and not given a trial until now.

  4. MadDog says:

    OT but related – from WaPo’s Jeff Stein:

    Intelligence authorization bill finally within sight

    …Key congressional Democrats confirmed Monday that Senate and House Intelligence committee leaders and the White House have agreed on measures that would require the White House to share more information on covert operations with them.

    According to a draft authorization bill that the House sent the Senate on Friday, Sept. 24, the White House would be required to expand notification of presidential covert action “findings,” or directives, from the so-called “Gang of Eight” to the entire membership of both congressional intelligence committees.

    But according to Congressional Quarterly’s Tim Starks, who first reported the breakthrough Monday, the new language still gives the White House plenty of wiggle room.

    The notification need not be timely, for starters. The draft bill gives the president 180 days before he’s required to notify all 22 House and 15 Senate intelligence committee members of a finding…

  5. fatster says:

    O/T, w apologies. They even rounded up a Nepalese Buddhist.

    Ashcroft’s Post-9/11 Roundups Spark Lawsuit

    “Hundreds of people who believe they were falsely detained and imprisoned by the Department of Justice in the wake of the Sep. 11, 2001 attacks are now seeking redress through the U.S. courts.
    . . .
    “Some of the abuse included beatings, repeated strip searches and sleep deprivation. The allegations of inhumane and degrading treatment have been substantiated by two reports of the Justice Department’s Office of the Inspector General, and several defendants in the case have been convicted on federal charges of cover-ups and beatings of other prisoners around the same time period.”


  6. eCAHNomics says:

    I used to think that O just got his rocks off watching snuff drone films. Now I think he ❤ him some torture flicks. No wonder Mrs. O hates being First Lady.

  7. jdmckay0 says:

    This reminds me a bit of a Scott Horton article a few days ago:
    Eileen Nearne and the Times Torture Policy

    Briefly… Eileen Nearne, a woman who served as a British spy in Nazi-occupied France during World War II.

    As she related in postwar debriefings, documented in Britain’s National Archives, the Gestapo tortured her — beating her, stripping her naked, then submerging her repeatedly in a bath of ice-cold water until she began to black out from lack of oxygen. Yet they failed to force her to yield the secrets they sought: her real identity, the names of others working with her in the resistance and the assignments given to her by London. At the time, she was 23.

    Horton makes the point:

    As Andrew Sullivan notes, these lines must have escaped Bill Keller’s blue pencil, because they can’t be squared with existing Times policy on the word “torture.” Here’s how those lines might read, if they were brought into conformity with Mr. Keller’s policies:

    As she related in postwar debriefings, documented in Britain’s National Archives, the Gestapo subjected her to enhanced interrogation techniques, sometimes referred to as “torture” by critics of the German government. She was beaten, stripped naked, and then submerged repeatedly in a bath of ice-cold water until she began to black out from lack of oxygen.

    I don’t know, sometimes some context sheds light on this stuff. We’ve slipped a long ways here in go ‘ole USA.

  8. rbleier says:

    Anwar al-Awlaki is very quickly becoming our next surrogate bogeyman in the war on terror (the one designed to distract from the continued freedom of the people who actually targeted us on 9/11).

    I gather I’m in the minority here (of one?) but who does ew think actually targeted us on 9/11? Steel framed buildings don’t fall down in their own footprints at the speed of gravity other than by controlled demolition, whether the fires are hot or whether, as in the Twin Towers and Building 7 they were going out pretty fast.

    Nor is there any independently verified evidence of wreckage at any of the four “crash” sites; nor is there any ditto evidence of highjackers, nor DNA of “plane” victims.


    • Synoia says:

      That’s the most moronic post I’ve read today.

      Let’s just take one tiny part controlled demolition.

      It would take months of “construction” work to place the explosives and run the miles of wire for a CD of the WTC towers.

      All visible to the tenants of the buildings.

      So here’s my offer: Produce one tenant who was a witness to this work, and can name the demolition company, and I’ll pay you $1,000.

      Idiotic, moronic, uninformed stupidity, with complete ignorance of the strength of steel under heat, and the latent energy contain is kerosene.

      The steel structure did not have to melt to fail – it just needed to reach dull read heat, about 350 deg C to 400 deg C.

      And yes ALL engineering failures happen quickly. Too fast for humans to react.

  9. b2020 says:

    Something related came up in connection to US drone assassinations on Pakistani territory: there were reports that the Pakistani government was able to hand in their own kill lists, with an apparent quid-pro-quo of “you can target yours if you also take out ours”. In other words, the JSOC and CIA+PMC death-from-above assasination mills are actually partially a “for hire” service offered to foreign governments – a bargaining chip to a foreign policy focused on extending the reach of that same assasination mill.

    That’s one Racket-22 you have there, worthy of the constitution. Apparently, “target yours” now also includes citizens. Maybe somebody from the US asked the Yemeni government to provide a convenient request? The “secrecy” aspect is just an artifact of the incompetent blundering of the Obama administration in implementing illegal acts without anticipating legal challenges, the “quid pro quo” is where it gets ugly beyond belief.

    Hostis humanis generis.