Journalism in the Public Interest

The Best Reporting on Detention and Rendition Under Obama

Obama pledged more oversight of rendition and detention of terror suspects. We round up the best reporting on what’s known about the programs.

A U.S. captain looks on during a media tour of Bagram prison, north of Kabul, Afghanistan, on Nov. 15, 2009. (Massoud Hossaini/AFP/Getty Images)

When Barack Obama took office, he banned torture, shut down the CIA's network of black-site prisons and pledged to close Guantanamo. But exactly where terror suspects should go continues to be a legal and political challenge for the administration. So we've rounded up some of the best reporting on rendition and detention under Obama. Got others? Add them in the comments.

Why Obama Hasn't Closed Guantanamo Camps, Foreign Affairs, January 2012
Miami Herald's Guantanamo reporter Carol Rosenberg analyzes the combination of political, security and bureaucratic obstacles that have thwarted Obama's plans to shut down the prison. ProPublica has also covered the dilemma of indefinite detention at Guantanamo.

Terror Suspect Secretly Held for Two Months, Los Angeles Times, July 2011
Ahmed Warsame was the first known terror suspect to be held by the Obama administration outside the legal system, on a Navy ship. Administration officials said Warsame was interrogated "humanely" and not by the CIA. Wired's Danger Room confirmed the ship where Warsame was held, calling it the administration's floating alternative to Guantanamo.

Iraq and Afghanistan

Secret Prison Revealed in Baghdad, Los Angeles Times, April 2010
In a secret prison in Baghdad, hundreds of Sunnis were allegedly held and tortured under the jurisdiction of Iraqi prime minister Nouri Maliki's military office. About a year later, a second secret prison was uncovered in the Green Zone, raising concerns about human rights abuses as the U.S. diminishes its role in Iraq.

U.S. Had Advance Warning of Abuse at Afghan Prisons, Officials Say, Washington Post, October 2011
Were CIA officials aware of torture inside Afghan prisons prior to a United Nations investigation? This piece explores whether U.S. officials failed to act on early evidence of detainee abuse at facilities run by an Afghan intelligence force funded by the U.S.

2 Afghans Allege Abuse at U.S. Site, Washington Post, and Afghans Detail Detention in 'Black Jail' at U.S. Base, New York Times, November 2009
Some of the first revelations about U.S. Joint Special Operations Command secret jail at Bagram Air Force Base emerged from these interviews with Afghans who said they had been held for months, and in some cases beaten. A few months later, the Red Cross confirmed the site to the BBC, but the U.S. continued to deny its existence.

Afghanistan Secret Prisons Confirmed by U.S., The Associated Press, April 2011
The Pentagon confirms a network of secret "temporary" detention centers in Afghanistan, but former detainees claim they were held weeks at a time. The AP also reports new details about JSOC's secret jail at Bagram, where, according to human rights groups, detainees were forced to strip naked and kept in solitary confinement in windowless cells.

Detainees Are Handed Over to Afghans, but Not Out of Americans' Reach, New York Times, May 2012
As detainees are transferred from Bagram to new, nominally Afghan-controlled prisons, Americans still have de facto control over their fate, as "no detainee can be released unless the Afghans consult with the Americans and consider their views favorably."

Reports of Proxy Detention, Mother Jones, the Nation, and the New York Times
Several individuals who were detained overseas and held by local security forces under harsh conditions allege U.S. officials were complicit in their arrests. This April, Mother Jones wrote about a Muslim American man who claims he was interrogated and beaten by local police in the United Arab Emirates. He claims the questions were "eerily similar" to those asked by American officials when he was earlier interrogated in Sudan. In March 2010, The Nation chronicled the experience of a Lebanese man and naturalized U.S. citizen questioned by U.A.E. officials in the suspected presence of an American interrogator. In January 2011, the New York Times reported on a Somali-American teenager who claims he was held in a Kuwaiti detention cell and interrogated about contacts with terrorist suspects in Yemen. He said he was visited by American officials while in detention. In each case, the U.S. has declined comment.

The CIA's Secret Sites in Somalia, The Nation, July 2011
This report describes a secret CIA counterterrorism training facility and an underground prison in Mogadishu. While the prison is run by the Somali National Security Agency, former prisoners and Somali officials say the CIA regularly conducts interrogations there and keeps local intelligence workers on the payroll.

Somalia's Prisons: the War on Terror's Latest Front, Daily Beast, June 2012
The U.S. acknowledged it has a military presence in Somalia just last month. The warden at an overcrowded Somali prison says the Americans have sent him sixteen prisoners since 2009. A Pentagon spokesman says only that the U.S. has handed prisoners "back over to where they came from."

Inez Sylvester

July 14, 2012, 8:48 a.m.

The US has found itself in this dilemma by not entering fully into the community of nations.  That’s why the International Criminal Court was formed.

Given the report on torture at Guantanamo, why are prisoners there still?

The US cannot act as an incubator of terrorists and then say there are terrorists invading the planet.  Also, the US cannot be selective in the groups that it defines as terrorists organizations.

As it stands right now, the US needs to rebuild its human rights record in the world.  Leaders do not measure themselves by what the next man/country is doing, they just do it and others would have to play catch up.

Why does the US think it has to compete in being the worst of behaviors that the world community has decried and is seeking to put behind.  The US has a rich history of leaders who believed in equality, freedom and justice for all men.  However, it continues to allow such ideals to be overtaken by men of greed.

Great compilation!

Now we know that, just like Bush, Obama renditions and tortures. More war crimes on top of the drone murders.

I bet very few Obamabots are going to touch this one. They’re too mesmerized by Obama’s Bain Capital smoke screen.

I think it’s highly amusing that ‘blind-partisan Democrats’ (as Bill Moyers calls them) now find themselves in the very same position that blind-partisan Republicans found themselves in when Bush ran for re-election.

They are forced to pretend ignorance of blatant war crimes and deception on the part of their ‘heroic leader’ in order to rationalize a vote for him.

Scared little rabbits!

James M Fitzsimmons

July 14, 2012, 12:02 p.m.

Killed by Drone attack/Dirty work outsourced v. enhanced interrogation and subsequent incarceration at GITMO: The difference in the collective MSM/Celebrity/Left wing response to this administration’s aggressive counter-terrorism tactics versus the response to the previous administration’s approach is stark. Both administrations have judged that terrorist suspects continue to covertly plot the mass murder of innocents for the purpose of sending a political message.

I have been reporting on the U.S. torture scandal for some time. Some of this work is pertinent to the subject matter of this article.

In particular, I would suggest that the following be considered by readers at ProPublica:

“Torture Confirmed at Guantanamo; Army Field Manual Codified Abuse” by Jeffrey Kaye at Firedoglake, 1/4/2010

“Soros’ Foundation Links AFM’s Appendix M to U.S. Torture in Afghanistan” by Jeffrey Kaye at Firedoglake, 1/18/2010

“Obama Interrogation Official Linked to U.S. Mind Control Research” by Jeffrey Kaye at Firedoglake, 1/23/2010

And for those put off by the reference to “mind control research,” please note the article takes such reference word-for-word from an “instruction’ from the Secretary of the Navy (3900.39D) regarding its ‘Human Research Protection Program.’”

The article mainly focuses on the issues of rendition and detention in the Middle East.  The geography of this topic reaches home too, where it potentially affects everyone.  Here’s a few more for your list:

POLICE STATE AMERICA: FEMA Camp Rendition Hubs Discovered

CIA advisor: Extraordinary rendition legal

Rendition and the “Global War on Terrorism”: 28 Nations Have Supported the US in the Detention and Torture of “Suspects”

Federal court enjoins NDAA: Obama-appointed judge rules its indefinite detention provisions likely violate 1st & 5th Amendments

Obama Issues ‘Policy Directive’ Exempting American Citizens From Indefinite Detention

Obama seeks to institutionalize indefinite detention

Secret Detention, Extraordinary Rendition, & Torture: New Evidence of DOD Cooperation with CIA Ghost Detention Program

I’d also note a story that looked at US backing of renditions from Kenya to Uganda, and allegations of FBI involvement with torture by Ugandan police in my Aug. 23, 2011 Truthout story, “Allegations FBI and British Intelligence Tortured Kenyan Rendition Victim.” (

This story was a follow-up, with original additional reporting, of a UK Guardian article also worthy of note written by Ian Cobain on Aug. 17, 2011, “Terror suspect claims abuse by British officer” (

Both the Cobain article, and my own Truthout article, are germane to the excellent reporting ProPublica did recognize in Jeremy Scahill’s Nation article on ersatz CIA black sites and rendition pertaining to Somalia.

By extending the story to Kenya and Uganda, and linking to “the largest FBI deployment since the 2000 USS Cole bombing in Yemen”(according to FBI Agent Don Borelli’s bio), not to mention relevant oil politics in the region, the Guardian and Truthout stories, along with the Nation piece, significantly expand our knowledge of what is happening with proxy detention and rendition under Obama in the entire East Africa region.

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