Amir Mohamed Meshal, of Tinton Falls, New Jersey is suing the FBI.
Meshal was arrested in Kenya in 2006, after crossing the border into that country from Somalia, then under invasion by Ethiopian troops coming to the aid of the United Nations (U.N.)-recognized Transitional Federal Government, which was under siege from the Islamic Courts Council, a coalition of militias allied with al Qaida.
In Kenya, Meshal was interviewed by the FBI, and was subsequently transferred to Ethiopia, where he was imprisoned for over three months. For a one-sided and superficial account of what happened next, Amy Goodman of the radical Democracy Now! network provides a report designed to put the FBI in a less than favorable light:
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has filed suit on behalf of a US citizen over the FBIâ€™s alleged role in his imprisonment and mistreatment abroad. Amir Mohamed Meshal was detained in Kenya, transferred to Somalia, and then sent to Ethiopia, where he was jailed for three months without charge. Meshal says US interrogators held him in inhumane conditions and threatened him with torture, forced disappearance and execution unless he confessed to belonging to a militant Islamic group. He was ultimately released and has returned to the United States. Meshal is the first US citizen to seek damages for the practice of so-called â€œextraordinary rendition.â€
The practice of extraordinary rendition, which Goodman mentions without defining at the close of her piece, is the transfer of individuals suspected of involvement in terrorism to detention and interrogation to third countries. The policy began in the early 1990s under the administration of President Bill Clinton, and began being used with greater frequency after the 9/11 al Qaida terrorist attacks by Islamic extremists.
So what brought Meshal to the attention of the FBI in the first place?
Difficult to glean from Goodmanâ€™s account, but some of these facts may have raised the suspicions of those in law enforcement working hard to prevent further Islamic terror attacks by al Qaida and its admirers. By his own admission, while he was in Somalia, Meshal:
â€¢Worked towards the goal of making it an Islamic state;
â€¢Spent some of his time in Somalia in an al Qaida training camp;
â€¢Tried to fire his AK-47 assault rifle (which jammed) at foreign (Ethiopian) troops during a clash in the south of that war-torn country (later recounting that he recalled wondering: â€œhow such a reliable gun could misfire at such an inopportune momentâ€;
â€¢Spent time in the al Qaida training camp in the company of Daniel Joseph Maldonado (a/k/a Daniel Aljughaifi ), the first American charged with conspiring to use a weapon of mass destruction and receiving military-type training from a foreign terrorist organization in Somalia, now serving a 10-year sentence;
In their lawsuit on Meshalâ€™s behalf, the ACLU claims that the government agents violated Meshalâ€™s constitutional rights to due process and against unreasonable search and seizure. The suit names two FBI officials and two unknown agents of the U.S. government and seeks unspecified compensation and punitive damages.
“These threats are shocking and inexcusable,” said Nusrat J. Choudhury, an ACLU attorney. “American citizens abroad who seek refuge from hostilities deserve the assistance of their government in getting home safely.”
Yes they do, but most American citizens abroad are not spending their free time in Somali terror camps either.