Conflict & Justice

Somali is indicted in NYC on terrorism charges after secret detention by U.S. on Navy ship

A Somali terrorism suspect was captured by the U.S. military in the Persian Gulf region in April and interrogated for more than two months aboard a U.S. Navy ship before being flown this week to New York, where he was indicted on federal charges.

The nine-count indictment charges Ahmed Abdulkadir Warsame with conspiracy and supporting two groups that are considered terrorist organizations by the U.S.: Al Shabab, a militant Islamist group opposed to the Somali government, and Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, an Al Qaeda branch based in Yemen, according to the Washington Post.

The Los Angeles Times wrote:

In the last year, U.S. intelligence officials have seen signs of increasing cooperation between the two organizations, based in two of the world's poorest, least-stable countries. Somalia and Yemen are linked by traditional sea trade routes across the Gulf of Aden, which Al Qaeda in recent years has been able to use for the movement of arms and fighters, according to a U.S. intelligence official who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the information.

Warsame is the first foreign terrorism suspect captured by the Obama administration outside the U.S. and then brought to the country for trial, according to the Washington Post.

According to the New York Times:

The decision to fly the man to New York for trial, after interrogating him for months aboard a United States naval vessel, is likely to reignite debate about the detention and prosecution of terrorism suspects.

By handling Warsame's capture and interrogation in the way that it did, the Obama administration may have circumvented objections from Congress to the Somali's transfer to the U.S. Congress hasn't allowed detainees to be moved from the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, to the U.S. for trial.

The Wall Street Journal explained:

Criticized by congressional Republicans and abandoned by Democrats, the Obama administration earlier this year dropped plans to move the alleged Sept. 11 conspirators to New York for trial in federal court.

But Attorney General Eric Holder, citing the Justice Department's nearly unbroken string of convictions, has said civilian courts remain the preferred venue for terrorism prosecutions.

The Obama administration sees advantages in trying terrorist cases in civilian courts, which generally hand out more-severe sentences for charges like those that Warsame faces, and provide more flexibility with terrorism-related charges than military commissions do, according to U.S. officials. Warsame could face mandatory life imprisonment if he is convicted in a civilian courtroom.

Republicans in Congress criticized the administration's actions regarding Warsame, referring to the dangers of bringing terrorists into the U.S. and urging that Warsame be brought to Guantanamo Bay and tried by a military commission.