Days after Last American Journalist Expelled from Yemen, Ray Davis-Like Story Breaks

On Monday, the last remaining American journalist in Yemen, Adam Baron, got kicked out.

Baron’s ordeal began at midnight Monday with a phone call from a security officer ordering him to report to an immigration office the following day because of missing papers in his residency file. Fearing that he was being set up by Al Qaeda – the phone call came a day after a French guard was killed in Sanaa – Baron’s friends refused to let him go. Instead, they sent a Yemeni to check the validity of the request; he found it to be true and said Baron had to report to the authorities.

At about noon on Tuesday, Baron appeared at the immigration office, where he was promptly stripped of his passport and cellphone and was told, “You’re no longer welcome in Yemen.” He was then kept in a holding cell and was told he would remain there until his associates could bring a plane ticket for his exit.

Baron’s friends immediately began calling officials on his behalf, but the politicians and sheikhs turned out to be powerless to reverse the order. A senior military figure told Baron’s friends that the deportation was because officials were worried about his safety, an explanation they dismissed as untrue.

Baron’s reporting has served as a crucial check to a lot of the officially sanctioned journalism from Yemen, not least on the actual outcome of drone strikes.

Which is why I find it interesting that this story — of one JSOC and one CIA official killing attempted abductors in Yemen, similar to the Ray Davis episode in Pakistan  — is only breaking now, several weeks after it happened.

Exactly what the two Americans were doing at the time of the shooting on April 24 is unclear. Some American officials said they were merely getting a haircut in a barbershop on Hadda Street in Sana, in an upscale district frequently visited by foreigners, playing down any suggestions that they were engaged in a clandestine operation.

Late Friday, both the Pentagon and C.I.A. declined to comment on the shooting, and referred all questions to the State Department.


American officials refused to identify the Americans or their jobs in Yemen, where the Pentagon and the C.I.A. have been training Yemeni security forces in addition to carrying out the drone strikes. But a senior American official said one individual involved in the shooting was a lieutenant colonel with the elite Joint Special Operations Command and the other was a C.I.A. officer.

This is precisely the kind of story on which Baron has been critical in the past. But he won’t be around to put more local context on it.

Update:  WSJ’s Ellen Knickmeyer is apparently in Yemen right now; she’s based in the Gulf. Yemen tried to deny her entry when she arrived 2 weeks ago. Here’s her account of the killing:

The Yemeni Interior Ministry officials said the Yemeni attackers approached the barber shop as one American was inside. Meanwhile, a Western-looking man standing on the sidewalk shot and killed both attackers, two Yemeni shop workers who witnessed the confrontation from an adjoining, glass-fronted store said.

“He didn’t move” from where he was standing while he pulled out a handgun and shot, said one of two Yemeni witnesses of the Westerner who fired. The second witness, in the same shop, gave a similar account.

One of the Yemeni attackers was carrying what witnesses said was a machine gun, the witnesses said. The other carried only an electric stun-gun, witnesses said.


Shopkeepers surrounding the barbershop said Westerners took away the shop’s barber the day after the shooting. The shop remained closed in early May, when two Wall Street Journal reporters came to speak to shopkeepers at the site.

Marcy has been blogging full time since 2007. She’s known for her live-blogging of the Scooter Libby trial, her discovery of the number of times Khalid Sheikh Mohammed was waterboarded, and generally for her weedy analysis of document dumps.

Marcy Wheeler is an independent journalist writing about national security and civil liberties. She writes as emptywheel at her eponymous blog, publishes at outlets including the Guardian, Salon, and the Progressive, and appears frequently on television and radio. She is the author of Anatomy of Deceit, a primer on the CIA leak investigation, and liveblogged the Scooter Libby trial.

Marcy has a PhD from the University of Michigan, where she researched the “feuilleton,” a short conversational newspaper form that has proven important in times of heightened censorship. Before and after her time in academics, Marcy provided documentation consulting for corporations in the auto, tech, and energy industries. She lives with her spouse and dog in Grand Rapids, MI.

6 replies
  1. Snoopdido says:

    This latest targeting of the CIA officer in Yemen has a distinct similarity to that which occurred in Benghazi (and no, I’m not channeling Fox News).
    In both instances, it appears that the attackers had been conducting surveillance of CIA operatives and operations on the ground, and were fully aware of who were the CIA folks in country.
    Doesn’t speak well for CIA tradecraft. The only place they seem to remain covert is with the American public.

    • chronicle says:

      quote”The only place they seem to remain covert is with the American public.”unquote


      dang, that was perfect.

  2. Don Bacon says:

    “both the Pentagon and C.I.A. declined to comment on the shooting, and referred all questions to the State Department.”
    As in Pakistan and Benghazi. State accedes to covering for Pentagon and CIA activities in every country, and then gets stuck with the ‘splanin’ about events that State had little or nothing to do with.
    Of course as with in the Stevens affair in Benghazi, one can argue that State, Pentagon and CIA are unitary, one and the same.

    • Michael Murry says:

      “We came We saw. He died,” cackled the then-head of the U.S. State Department, You-Know-Her (and you know that you do), regarding the jihadi mob murder of Libyan leader Moammar Gaddafi. Following in the moral-midget footsteps of former Secretary Madeleine Halfbright, “Why even have this superb military you’re always talking about if you won’t use it?” has long since become the operative slogan for the Junior War Department of the U.S. Government. The entire world knows that the so-called “State Department” only functions as a lame official cover for military Special Oops (not a misspelling) and Can’t Identify Anything assassins. The U.S. Government does war bungling as its only surviving activity, increasingly domestic as well as foreign.

      As George Orwell predicted in 1984, the Party at the top of the pyramid wages permanent war not against foreign enemies but against its own subjects. This it does by using up the capacity of the economy in unproductive war-spending so that no rise in the general standard of living can occur. The 1% olicgarcy does not wage permanent war-bungling by accident but as a matter of conscious policy. Thus, the different-sounding names which the Party gives its various departments only serve to mask their unitary war function by destroying the very meaning of words that critical thought requires to expose the official Manufactured Mendacity and Managed Mystification.

      “The Party seeks power for its own sake,” Orwell wrote, and permanent war-bungling constitutes the principal device employed by the oligarchical collective to accomplish this self-aggrrandizement. Government labels mean nothing — by design.

  3. chronicle says:

    quote”Of course as with in the Stevens affair in Benghazi, one can argue that State, Pentagon and CIA are unitary, one and the same.”unquote

    Yeah, the cesspool stench smells the same no matter what shore you stand on.

  4. Snoopdido says:

    More details tonight from the New York Times: Yemen Shooting Opens Window on U.S. Clandestine Operations –
    If as reported earlier that the JSOC officer was a Lieutenant Colonel, and unlike Ray Davis who was only a former enlisted member of the US Army Special Forces, one would not expect the rank of LTC to be operating as a bodyguard or part of the security detail for a CIA officer, so it is likely that the duo were peers and not out for a haircut.
    As the latest Times article reports, with the presence of around 100 or so Special Operations troops in Yemen, a Lieutenant Colonel JSOC officer would be near or at the top of the US military food chain in Yemen.

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