Civil Liberties

The FBI Says You're Fair Game On the Other Side of the Border



The Federal Bureau of Investigation held an American citizen for four months, harshly interrogated him, and finally released him without charges. That's the claim of Amir Meshal who, represented by the American Civil Liberties Union, is suing the U.S. government and specific individuals involved in his alleged mistreatment. For its part, the Department of Justice doesn't bother denying the charges—it just says that national security concerns preclude the case from even being considered.

According to the ACLU, which appears in court tomorrow on Meshal's behalf:

WASHINGTON – The American Civil Liberties Union will appear in court on Wednesday on behalf of a U.S. citizen who was illegally detained and mistreated by American officials in three east African countries in 2007. After fleeing unrest in Somalia, New Jersey resident Amir Meshal was arrested, secretly imprisoned in inhumane conditions, and harshly interrogated by FBI agents over 30 times before ultimately being released without charge four months later. …

In December 2006, Meshal was studying in Mogadishu when civil unrest broke out. He fled to neighboring Kenya, where he wandered in the forest for three weeks seeking shelter and assistance before being arrested. He was then repeatedly interrogated by FBI agents, who accused him of receiving training from al Qaeda, which Meshal denied. The American interrogators threatened him with torture and kept him from contacting a lawyer or his family.

Meshal was subsequently rendered to Somalia and then Ethiopia, where he was secretly imprisoned in filthy conditions with inadequate access to food, water, and toilets for more than three months, and again harshly interrogated by U.S. officials, who bore responsibility for his rendition and continued detention.

In response, Justice Department lawyers argue (PDF):

Counts I - III [Fifth Amendment claims] fail as a matter of law because special factors counsel hesitation and preclude the Court from creating the implied constitutional tort damages remedy sought in the new and sensitive context presented by this Complaint - extraterritorial national security operations… even if the Court recognizes a damages remedy without any statutory foundation, all Defendants are entitled to qualified immunity on Counts I - III , and Higginbotham and Hersem (the only defendants named) are entitled to qualified immunity for Count IV [alleging violation of the Torture Victim Protection Act].

Got that? Never mind what happened, because national security. And besides, the defendants are immune even to concerns about torture.

Whatever Amir Meshal's actual role, whatever the facts of his treatment by U.S. government officials, that's a chilling argument—unless you're the sort of creature who believes individual rights are a function of geography, rather than humanity.

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  1. New Republic writer decides he wants to be more manly, decides to climb a mountain, still kind of a pussy.

    "They look extremely serious," Steve said, as we fitted our Danner hiking boots and Boreas backpacks. "That's my main goal."

    Then he handed us each a flask filled with a smoked Manhattan. "On the non-hiking trips, we have a different cocktail each night," Steve said later at the campsite.

    "I'm trying to be more masculine," he said, as he painstakingly cataloged the designer hiking gear and sipped his cocktail.

    1. A smoked Manhattan, eh? That says it all.

    2. Danners are usually comfortable right out of the box but who is fucking stupid enough to wear brand new boots for something like this? I hope they got a good moleskin sponsor.

      Goddam hipsters.

    3. It's kind of weird how the REI shopping experience and the Bass Pro Shops shopping experience are so different--and the customers are so different.

      But the customers of both stores are going to the same place on vacation, they're doing a lot of the same stuff once they get there, and the two stores are selling a lot of the same stuff.

      Actually, those two stores are selling a lot of the same stuff that Wal*Mart sells for less.

      1. Great. Now the ads on the side bar are all for ultralight backpacks and tents at Bass Pro.

        Oooh. Nice mess kit!

        1. "Great. Now the ads on the side bar are all for ultralight backpacks and tents at Bass Pro."

          I'm getting the scam for the 101 year-old marathoner.
          Except there must be a lot of 'em; every time I look, it's a different guy.

          1. I keep getting Waldorf Astoria ads. Needz moar penus pillz!

  2. "The Federal Bureau of Investigation held an American citizen for four months, harshly interrogated him, and finally released him without charges."

    That's called "kidnapping".

    I used to think they would eventually try to stop average people like us from talking about this stuff, but now I'm starting to wonder if people have become so jaded that maybe they just don't care what the government does to us anymore.

    It seems like standing up for our rights has become quaint in polite society.

    "The American interrogators threatened him with torture and kept him from contacting a lawyer or his family."

    Look, there's somebody who thinks the government shouldn't hold people without charges for months and refuse them legal counsel...isn't that cute?

    1. "The Federal Bureau of Investigation North Korea held an American citizen for four months, harshly interrogated him, and finally released him without charges."

      There. Now it's outrageous.

    2. Ken, I seem to recall a conversation with you recently in which you thought the ACLU no longer does much in the way of civil liberties anymore. If that is correct, did you note who is bringing this case?

      1. Wanna know why people don't like you? This is why. Put your argument boner away and calm the fuck down.

      2. I brought up that the ACLU doesn't seem to care about the the free exercise portion of the First Amendment.

        What I think I wrote the other day is that the ACLU only seems to care about the constitutional rights their liberal supporters care about.

        It doesn't seem like they're going to let constitutional principles get in the way of generating donations--even if that means denigrating certain parts of the First Amendment.

        Sure, there are some rights I care about more than others, but just 'cause I care more about free exercise than they do, that doesn't mean I'm going to go around arguing against the First Amendment rights of pornographers. I actually support the free speech rights of pornographers--even I'm not too fond of what they do!

        I'm pretty consistent that way.

        The ACLU, however, seems to be actively arguing against people's free exercise, First Amendment rights. And, yeah, I'm gonna call 'em out for that every time.

        Don't pick and choose which parts of the First Amendment you're gonna defend, then hold the parts up you like as absolute, all the while denigrating the rest of the First Amendment? ...and expect me to watch quietly?

        Ain't gonna happen.

        If they happen to agree with me on this one, so what? Doesn't change their hypocrisy on the rest of the First Amendment one bit.

      3. I will be a supporter of the ACLU when they defend second amendment rights as vociferously as they do their pet causes.

        1. So never, in other words.

        2. It's really hard for me, anyway, to see them as principled defenders of the First Amendment, much less the Constitution, when they're actively opposing free exercise.

          And it isn't just that they're not emphasizing it. They're actively suing the government to try to get the courts to stop people from exercising their First Amendment right.

          And, you know, once they start persuading people that our First Amendment rights should only be protected in certain respects, that misconception will start to bleed into other areas.

          If free exercise is only important when the ACLU says so, then what makes our establishment rights so absolute? They're turning it into a popularity contest, whether they intend to or not.

  3. "fail as a matter of law because special factors counsel hesitation"

    With all due respect, WTF does this even mean?

    1. What due respect?

    2. FYTW

    3. "With all due respect, WTF does this even mean?"

      There is no controlling legal authority!

  4. just says that national security concerns preclude the case from even being considered.

    Due process is for peacetime.

  5. The constitution is the entirety of the legal basis for the US government's existence. The Bill of Rights is binding upon all American officials, at all times, in all places. The FBI has broken the law, and everyone involved in this crime should be behind bars awaiting trial for kidnapping, false imprisonment, and other civil rights violations.


    1. I'm sure they'll be held responsible for their actions,right after they deal with the ATF

      1. Oh, I have no illusions that they'll ever face justice.


  6. "The FBI Says You're Fair Game On the Other Side of the Border"

    The FBI pretty much considers you fair game on this side of the border, too.

    1. I was about to tell this joke;

      Blonde goes hiking. Comes to a river. Tries to figure out how to cross but cant. Finally, seeing another blonde across the river she asks "Hey! How do I get to the other side?"

      Second blonde answers " You dumb blonde! You ARE on the other side!"

      1. I was about to tell this joke:

        Well...what's stopping you?

        1. Oh, C'mon, it wasnt that bad.....was it?
          I have more if you want.

          1. I have a pretty sweet dumb blond joke playing on the dual meaning of a word. Unfortunately it is in Hungarian so it would be wasted on ya'll.

  7. I don't know what's scarier. The fact that the government does this kind of thing, or the fact that their legal argument is likely 100% correct, and current law and judicial precedent allows them to do this kind of thing without any repercussions.

    1. See John C Randolf above.

  8. I thought that the FBI's jurisdiction stopped at the borders. It looks like I was mistaken.

  9. Your business is the government's business, but the government's business is none of your business.

  10. I didn't see this addressed:
    WIH is the FBI doing on the other side of the border?

    1. Kidnapping and torture.

      Didnt you read the article?

  11. The laws of the United States only apply outside of the country when the government wants them too.

    It's simple:

    A Russian selling weapons to Colombians in Thailand? Violation of US law.
    A Colombian transporting drugs to Mexico? Violation of US law.
    An American touching an RPG in Syria? Violation of US law.

    US government agents arrest, hold, and torture anyone for any reason outside of US? Outside jurisdiction of US law.
    Dropping bombs in the middle of populated villages in countries we aren't at war with? Outside jurisdiction of US law.
    US military base in Cuba? Outside jurisdiction of US law.

    1. I think we have a Royal Decree coming on some of those issues.

  12. All snark aside, it is easy to see why they would be suspicious of this guy, but they royally fucked this up by not following the law. Now they are being sued.

    I foresee a day when the families of everyone who was held without trial or charge or council, everyone who was renditioned or tortured will be suing and winning. The war on terror is as big a fuckup as the war on drugs and for the same reasons.

  13. Well, that dude shouldn't have had a terrorist-y name. He's lucky they didn't drone his dumb ass.

    If this saved even one life. Or if it didn't. Either way - A-OK.


  14. I see. You're a citizen when you're outside of the country for tax purposes only.

    Other than that, you're on your own.

  15. I look forward to the day when world leaders refuse to shake hands with the U.S. president.

    1. Why? The vast majority of world leaders are just as bad as, if not worse than, the U.S President.

  16. This is a tricky article. The guy claims he was held by the FBI. But, he wasn't. He was found illegally in a foreign country and imprisoned by the foreign country, where in prison he was interrogated? Talked to? By FBI. But, it wasn't an FBI prison.

    He was eventually released without charges being laid. He should be suing Kenya.

    The FBI would have had little say over the prison. They talked to him 30 times though when he was there. Maybe? They threatened him. Maybe?

    I think if an American citizen goes to Mogadishu to study, leaves that country and goes to another country illegally, and gets arrested it is his own dumb fault!

    Now he's suing. Of course. Why not? America is rich, and full of lawyers.

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