One week ago, a little-noticed tweet announced that Mahdi Hashi, a British-Somali young man who disappeared from his home in Somalia in mid-2012 and suddenly appeared in a Brooklyn Federal Court last December on terrorism-related charges, had been on a hunger strike and hospitalized with jaundice and potential of liver damage. Shortly before Hashi disappeared (and rendered, as it turns out), the British government stripped Hashi of his citizenship on the grounds that he was engaged in “Islamicist activities.” (See links below to read more about Hashi’s situation).
In a phone call, Arnaud Mafille, a caseworker at Cage Prisoners, indicated that Hashi’s strike is in protest of the extreme Special Administrative Measures (SAMs) imposed on him, including restricted contact with his family. According to Saghir Hussain, the lawyer for Hashi’s family,
“The information was provided by MH to his father over a short telephone conversation, which was interrupted by the authorities after “60 seconds or so.”
SAM’s often consist of extreme conditions, such as daily 23-hour solitary confinement, and with extremely restrictive contact or communication with anyone, including family members. SAM’s have also been imposed upon Muslim prisoners for “infractions” such as praying in a language other than English, or even praying with an open mouth. SAM’s have become de rigeur for most, if not all, men suspected of giving material support to organizations or individuals themselves suspected of terrorism. Laura Rovner and Jeanne Theoharris have written extensively about SAM’s here; Theoharis also describes the horrific details of SAM’s in relation to one of her former students, Fahad Hashmi.
Four days after news of Hashi’s hunger strike, CBS News reported that a new letter was “quietly dropped” into the files of Mahdi Hashi and two others who had been indicted alongside hime, Ali Yasin Ahmed, and Mohammed Yusuf’s files. The letter alleges that Hashi had substantial knowledge was chemical weapons expert and was helping Al-Qaeda build a chemical weapons factory. The story itself is a fascinating confirmation of the thesis that the press is the government’s helper. The document “alleges,” but the press believes the allegations unconditionally.
I can’t get the video to embed, so here’s the link:
Notice the “critical” comments by CBS “This Morning” host, Charlie Rose, as he and Norah O’Donnell consult with CBS Senior Correspondent, former assistant CIA Direct, John Miller.
The last few weeks have been filled with reports about chemical weapons being used in Syria, but this morning a new filing in an obscure terrorism case is confirming something long feared: a chemical weapons program run by Al-Qaeda.
Miller, the canny investigative reporter that he is, notices that a new letter was “quietly dropped” into Mahdi Hashi’s, Ali Yasin Ahmed and Mohammed Yusuf’s files, which point to their expertise in helping Al-Qaeda develop a chemical weapons program!
The causal overdeterminations made in this short segment are fascinating: The letter, dated September 18, 2013, was written by US Attorney Loretta Lynch. According to Rose and Miller, it confirms the existence of a chemical weapons program by Al-Qaeda, which had been LONG FEARED.
In fact, the letter confirms nothing of the sort, except that this is what the US Government is claiming in order to restrict Hashi, Ahmed, and Yusuf from any access to the outside world, and perhaps other untold, more extreme, measures. Lynch’s letter also specifies that the SAM’s restrict their access to “each other” (presumably because they might conspire to…something(?). I suspect that Lynch’s phrase indicates that they also have no contact with anyone, i.e., they are each being held in solitary confinement, though I have found no explicit evidence of this yet.
Neither Rose, O’Donnell, nor Miller question the timing of the letter—nor do they explain the purpose of the letter–in making this causal connection.
Let’s consider the October and November superseding indictments of Hashi and his alleged co-terrorists, and Lynch’s letter. Up until today, all three had been indicted on fairly general charges: (1) a “conspiracy to give material support to terrorism,” which by most measures is an extremely weak charge, usually indicating little concrete evidence, if any, that can convincingly link a person to terrorist activity; (2) Material support to a foreign terrorist organization; and (3) Firearms.There is no mention of chemical weapons or counterterrorism intelligence expertise in initial indictment.
Now, the thrust of Lynch’s letter was to request separate appearances for all three defendants. Lynch does so presumably on the same grounds by which Special Administrative Measures were ordered for them (also mentioned in the letter), namely because
The Attorney General, in directing that such restrictions be implemented, previously found that “[b]ased upon information provided to me of [the defendants’] proclivity for terrorism . . . there is substantial risk that [the defendants’] communications or contacts with persons could result in death or serious bodily injury to persons, or substantial damage to property that would entail the risk of serious bodily injury to persons.
Indeed in the last part of the letter, Lynch states that separate appearances are requested because of the above grounds and
To minimize the potential for violations of the defendants’ SAMs during their appearance in Court and for the safety of the defendants themselves.
The safety of the defendants themselves?? From whom? Each other? From Al-Qaeda? They, like the rest of us, are already aware that these three are in prison..
Even a vegan can recognize red herring when they see one. Consider the timing of this letter. It is filed
-after ten months of silence in Hashi’s et al’s cases, and only five days after word of his hunger strike.
– fewer than 2 months after the news about chemical weapons attack in Syria, which tempted the Administration to launch a military attack in Syria.
-fewer than 4 months since Edward Snowden leaked documents confirming extensive NSA surveillance of all American citizens, non-citizens, foreigners—EVERYONE. Those revelations prompted renewed calls for transparency and accountability on the part of the Obama Administration, which has been reeling defensively and searching for new ways to make the case that the US MUST spy on everyone for the purposes of national security.
Claiming “Al-Qaeda!” will surely remind us of the need for spying. And sure enough, CBS News responded appropriately about the “confirmation” of a chemical weapons program developed through “commercial” and widely available ingredients.
Nor does CBS question why, after extremely vague charges filed despite months of interrogations, there are suddenly such specific allegations such as,
(2) the defendants have extensive weapons and combat training and were formerly members of an elite al-Shabaab suicide bombing unit.
(4) the defendants are dangerous and influential foreign al-Shabaab fighters who have previously employed operational tradecraft and counter surveillance techniques to avoid detection by law enforcement authorities.
One wonders how sophisticated Hashi could have been in avoiding detection by law enforcement authorities if he was scooped up as easily as he was.
I could be mistaken, but I believe this is the first time that allegations associating Hashi with chemical weapons or countersurveillance expertise have ever been made.
The rhetorical use of “expert” is fascinating given that the chemicals that are being used are most likely elementary. Household bleach thrown at a group of people can be a chemical weapons attack. It doesn’t have to be sarin gas (as Charlie Rose evokes in the segment in connection to the subway sarin attacks in Japan).
Are Hashi et al chemical weapons experts? Or are they new faces to map on convenient chemical weapons and countersurveillance accusations in support of the general War on Terror?
Other stories about Mahdi Hashi: