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U.S. teenager tortured in Kuwait and barred re-entry into the U.S.

A Somali-born US citizen was tortured in Kuwait. Glenn Greenwald interviewed him through telephone, what he found out was quite disturbing. You can hear the whole interview by clicking on this link.

U.S. teenager tortured in Kuwait and barred re-entry into the U.S.


(updated below)

Gulet Mohamed is an 18-year-old American citizen whose family is Somalian.  His parents moved with him to the U.S. when he was 2 or 3 years old, and he has lived in the U.S. ever since.  In March, 2009, he went to study Arabic and Islam in Yemen (in Sana’a, the nation’s capital), and, after several weeks, left (at his mother’s urging) and went to visit his mother’s family in Somalia, staying with his uncle there for several months.  Roughly one year ago, he left Somalia and traveled to Kuwait to stay with other family members who live there.  Like many teenagers who reach early adulthood, he was motivated in his travels by a desire to see the world, to study, and to get to know his family’s ancestral homeland and his faraway relatives.

At all times, Mohamed traveled on an American passport and had valid visas for all the countries he visited.  He has never been arrested nor — until two weeks ago — was he ever involved with law enforcement in any way, including the entire time he lived in the U.S.

Approximately two weeks ago (on December 20), Mohamed went to the airport in Kuwait to have his visa renewed, as he had done every three months without incident for the last year.  This time, however, he was told by the visa officer that his name had been marked in the computer, and after waiting five hours, he was taken into a room and interrogated by officials who refused to identify themselves.  They then handcuffed and blindfolded him and drove him to some other locale.  That was the start of a two-week-long, still ongoing nightmare during which he was imprisoned for a week in an unknown location by unknown captors, relentlessly interrogated, and severely beaten and threatened with even worse forms of torture.

Mohamed’s story was first reported this morning by Mark Mazzetti in The New York Times, who spoke with Mohamed by telephone, where he is currently being held in a deportation center in Kuwait.  I also spoke with Mohamed this morning, and my 50-minute conversation with him was recorded and can be heard on the recorder below.  Mazzetti did a good job of describing Mohamed’s version of events.  He writes that during his 90-minute conversation, “Mr. Mohamed was agitated as he recounted his captivity, tripping over his words and breaking into tears.”

That was very much my experience as well.  It may be difficult at times to understand all of what Mohamed recounts because he is emotionally distraught in the extreme, but it’s nonetheless very worth listening to what he has to say, at the very least to portions of it.  Mohamed says he was repeatedly beaten with a stick on the bottom of his feet and his palms, hit in the face, and hung from the ceiling.  He also says his captors threatened him with both the arrest of his mother and electric shock, and told him that he should forget his family.

He still does not know why he was detained and beaten, nor does he know what is happening to him now.  Indeed, although Mazzetti writes that he was detained and beaten by Kuwait captors, Mohamed actually has no idea who was responsible, and told me that at least some of the people interrogating him spoke English.  He has been told that he will be deported back to the U.S., but is now on a no-fly list and has no idea when he will be released.  American officials told Mazzetti that “Mr. Mohamed is on a no-fly list and, for now at least, cannot return to the United States.”  He’s been charged with no crime and presented with no evidence of any wrongdoing.

This event is significant for multiple reasons, many of them obvious.  The questions Mohamed was repeatedly asked — including two days ago by American embassy officials and FBI agents who visited him in the detention facility — focused on whether he knew Anwar al-Awlaki, the American cleric in Yemen who has become an obsession of the Obama administration, as well as why he went to Yemen and Somalia.  Kuwait is little more than a subservient American protectorate, and the idea that they would do this to an American citizen without the American government’s knowledge, if not its assent and participation, is implausible in the extreme.  That much of the information they sought from Mohamed is of particular interest to the U.S. Government only bolsters that likelihood.

Independent of all that, the U.S. Government has an obligation to protect its own citizens.  Mohamed described to me how both embassy officials and the FBI expressed zero interest in the torture to which he had been subjected during his detention.  The U.S. Government has said nothing about this matter, and refused to comment about Mohamed’s treatment to The New York Times.

All of this underscores the rapidly expanding powers the U.S. Government and law enforcement agents within the country are seizing without a shred of due process.  For the government to put an American citizen on the no-fly list while he’s traveling outside the U.S. is tantamount to barring him from entering his own country — a draconian punishment, involuntary exile, meted out without any due process.  In June, the ACLU filed a lawsuit on behalf of several citizens and legal residents who — like Gulet Mohammed — have been literally stranded abroad and barred from returning with no hearing, simply by being placed secretly on the no-fly list.  Add to that the growing seizures of the laptops and other electronic equipment of American citizens re-entering the country without any warrants — or even yesterday’s ruling from the California Supreme Court that police officers can search and seize someone’s cell phone without a warrant when arresting them — and (even leaving aside the administration’s ongoing due-process-free prison camps and assassination programs) these are pure police state tactics.

The Bush-era torture scandal was as much about its use of torture-administering allies as it was the torture regime which the U.S. itself created.  In the face of these credible allegations — just listen to this American teenager talk and assess how credible he is — the Obama administration, at the very least, has the obligation to inform the public about whether this is true, what its role was, if any, and what it’s doing to investigate and protest this abuse of its own citizen.

My discussion with Mohamed can be heard by clicking PLAY on the recorder below.  I’m posting it in its entirety without edits, except for the last minute or so where we discussed how we came to speak, information I’m withholding at his request:

UPDATE:  Mohamed’s family has now secured a lawyer for him, Gadeir Abbas of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, who has written a letter to the DOJ raising all the right questions and demanding all the right assistance.  Nobody should have to ask the government to provide this form of assistance to an American citizen under these circumstances.

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  • Your Fat Mom

    Oooh, wait, I see, I see, national security is only okay if YOU do it, right?

    Fuck off.

  • Abdulmajid

    Indeed I am very afraid that for having thus freely expressed my opinion if they’d track me down or if I ever travel to some Muslim country (to Syria, Morocco or Bosnia for example) they’d arrest me and try to do me in teh same way and force me through torture – and there are some very subtle and insidious methods of torture that do not leave any physical trace on the human body but reduce the victim to a state of toatal abject helplessness; as George Orwell expressed it: “We will empty you of your personality and then we will fill you with ourselves” – to admit to any heinous crime they’d like, for example having taken part in the Sept. 11th attempts. Or trying to blow up the President. Or anything they like. Never mind that the last time I was in the USA was in April 1981, that I have never since returned, and that all the terrorists (yes, those were terrorists) perished in the attacks. Like the Stalinists and the Holy Inquisition of old their only goal is to exercise control through intimidation. I have indeed repeatedly say some reactionary neocons how they like the way the Peoples’ Republic of China (or Singapore) keep their subjects (for they don’t treat them as citizens, so it’s all right to call them subjects) in line, and that they wish they coud also keep their own employees in line that way. Or think of Putin’s “guided democracy” and “dictatorship of the law”. Well, it’s not limited to Russia you know. I think more and more of those neocons think “if we support authoritarian and dictatorial regimes worldwide to further our goals then why not have a little (or a lot of) authoritarianism here as well?”
    Oh, what horrible times where we must see attempts to roll back and abolish the freedoms and human rights that “our fathers” fought for since 1776 (or 1789) getting more and more successful! Indeed I see mankind regressing to a second Middle Ages (at least what “ancien régime”, feudalism, authoritarianism, absolutism and lack of individual freedom, human rights and rule of law are concerned!) And why does President Obama do nothing? Well he never did much, did he, excetpt to say nice words; but I still think this is mostly due not so much to an incapacity of his to act but rather to the neocons and other reactionaries throwing sticks and stones in his path at every opportunity. And not to forget that the Peoples’ Republic of China, the coming superpower and (if we are unlucky) world dominator has very clearly demonstrated that unfettered Manchester capitalism and Stalinist totalitarianism can very well coexist. If that is the future of Mankind then I can only say that I don’t want it and that now I regret having begotten children who will likely suffer under its yoke. I am already worse off than my father was, as he correctly predicted and my children will be worse off than I am. And not because we are lazy, but because the system does not see us as citizens and human beings but only as an economic factor(and too often only as a cost factor). Or as a danger if we don’t keep our mouths shut, or open them only to thank our oppressors for kicking our behinds. And the fact that the mighty of this world, especially – again – the Chinese (but the Americans as well), refuse for purely economic or power motives to do anything about the climate change like at least trying to reduce their CO2 emissions a bit, shows also clearly enough that they are not merely evil but stupid as well – the most destructive combination in a human being that exists. Again, if that is the way the future will be, then I DON’T WANT IT!!! As more and more people will realize this and see that it will absolutely not be worth living in such a world I can only hope that more and more will be ready to stand up and fight against it! And not be afraid to risk their lives for freedom! Just as in 1776.

  • Abdulmajid

    To those evil idiots who thought up and carry out the ridiculous evil and unjustified “War on terror” it does not matter if anybody who has the misfortune to fall in their hands actually did something or not. It is all about presenting “the criminal”, “the culprit” like the Inquisition of the 16th century and like the Stalinists that he “cooperates” and “admits his guilt” and “plays his role” in a show trial. The “war on teror” is nothing but the establishment of a totalitarian regime through the back door.

  • eslaporte

    QUOTE: “For the government to put an American citizen on the no-fly list while he’s traveling outside the U.S. is tantamount to barring him from entering his own country…”

    Also read this, and adsorb it – from the Universal Declaration of Human Rights:

    Article 13.

    * (1) Everyone has the right to freedom of movement and residence within the borders of each state.
    * (2) Everyone has the right to leave any country, including his own, and to return to his country.

    Know this: THIS IS A VIOLATION OF THIS TEENAGER’S HUMAN RIGHTS! The American “no fly” lists, along with other impediments to freedom of movement of presumed innocent individuals both in America and outside it by the US government – are outright violations of human rights – including against Americans!

    This is especially true with an “aviation security” regime of so-called “homeland security.” When you have a situation where a secret methodology is being deployed in the bowels of the J. Edgar Hoover Building that restricts the freedom of movement of innocent individuals, especially their choice of travel equal to other innocent people – we no longer live in a free and democratic society that respects the rule of law and individual liberty!

    What is worse is that we have other nations like Kuwait, but especially in the European Union, participating in these abuses.

    And – as I have written before – EU Member States, like Germany, are participating in the violation of the human rights of American citizens, as well as non-Americans. Amnesty International has refereed to the US as an human rights “accountability-free zone” – and the US is attempting to spread this “accountability free zone” to the European Union. In turn, EU Member States, like Germany, willingly participate in the violation of the human rights of especially American citizens in especially honoring American “watchlists” and phony arrests for dubious criminal charges, like what happened to Julian Assange.

    We need to demand that the EU and other nations of the international community STOP participation in American’s immoral and dehumanizing “war on terror” – and there should be real consequences against countries that participate in this “war on terror” rubbish:

    1. For example, there should be vigorous and timely court action in European courts, the human rights courts, against EU Member States that participate in US-led, human rights abuses.
    2. There should be some pressure on other international organizations, like the African Union, in the positive of human rights.
    3. We should also demand that at summits, like the EU summits with international actors, there should be some confrontation about the loss of human rights in the EU-US relationship.
    4. There should be actions against the US and its “allies” in the positive for human rights in the United Nations. A nation that participates in these abuses should be called out at the US for such abuses!

    We need vigorous actions in the international level to end this “war on terrorism” (war on human rights) nonsense and abuses and the participation of the European Union and other US “allies.” The costs to a nation in participation in these “war on terrorism” abuses must be so high that it acts as a deterrent to a country, European or not, and the leaders of such a country actually think twice when Uncle Sam comes banging on their doors.

    Put this teen on an airplane – NOW – as it is his human right to return to his own country!

  • SeeThis?

    I’ve been trying to tip you guys off for a while now. There’s a new video out that shows that Wafa Sultan lied about her niece’s age at which she was married and the time she committed suicide. This inconsistency points at the fact that she never had a niece that went through all that garbage. Please have a gander:

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  • Awesome

    Given that they asked him about Anwar al-Awlaki, it sounds like his travel and short stay in Yemen, while having a “Mohamed” in his name, might be what attracted these kidnappers to him, and why they put him on their ridiculous “no-fly” list.

  • Justin

    This is what creates terrorism.

  • Blah

    Why don’t we see the Tarek fatahs of the world talk about this? they can bash CAIR all they want for being too soft on conservatives, yet who else tackles the issue of muslim civil rights? Seems no other group will.

  • Lo

    This is so devastating. As we were celebrating Christmas and wishing each other Happy New Year, this poor boy was being tortured. Hell, he spent his birthday in captivity. I really hope Obama is clueless about this, otherwise it’d make him a sick man for taking that family vacation to Hawaii when all this is going down.

  • Mosizzle

    More human rights abuses from the country that loves to pester other countries about their human rights abuses.

  • Farlowe

    He was processed by the “Ministry of Love” (which was set up through the “Ministry of Peace”). To find out what really happened to him we should ask the “Ministry of Truth”. Maybe he committed a “thought crime”.

  • Crow

    Very disturbing…

  • Dawood

    That sounds awful! I hope everything manages to get dealt with effectively and sorted out. :(

  • Tarig

    @ Mindy: It happened because he is a young Muslim who had the nerve to go out and take a look at the real world, beyond the boarders of IHOP’s and skyscrapers unlike over 80% of his ‘compatriots’. Contrary to what they may like you to believe, western governments are no more civilized than those in the 3rd world, there just better at masking their evil as righteousness! Just ask Maher Arar or Khalid El-Masri how the ‘land of the free and home of the brave’ treated them. For the record, this is in no way directed at the people of the USA, but their government.

  • NassirH

    I have a friend from Kuwait. I was talking to his dad about the Iraqi invasion and the first Gulf War; he said that Kuwaiti soldiers dropped their guns and ran upon first sight of Saddam’s army.

  • TheRex

    Im for Kuwait and I have heard nothing about this, our so called partially-democratic state has been in an Orwellian state of mind, in every literal meaning of the word, for some time now. But, I assure you we will gather and do our utmost to seek justice. That much you can count on.

  • mindy1

    DOES anyone know why this happend???? It sounds awful :(

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