ACLU Sues Government Officials on Behalf of American Citizen Illegally Detained in Africa

Today, the ACLU filed a lawsuit on behalf of Amir Meshal, an American citizen who was arrested and secretly imprisoned in Kenya, Somalia and Ethiopia for four months. He was held in secret, without access to a lawyer or any process to contest his detention, and was never charged with a crime. He endured more than 30 harsh interrogations by U.S. officials during his detention.

A New Jersey native, Mr. Meshal was studying Islam in Mogadishu, Somalia, in December 2006 when hostilities broke out. Unable to flee the country by air because the airport had been disabled due to bombing, Mr. Meshal fled to neighboring Kenya by boat and wandered in the forest for three weeks seeking shelter and assistance before being arrested by a joint U.S.-Kenyan-Ethiopian task force. He was detained and turned over to U.S. officials, who interrogated him and sought to coerce him to confessing that he was connected to or had supported al Qaeda — connections and actions that Mr. Meshal steadfastly denied. One FBI agent threatened to send him to Egypt, where the Egyptians “had ways of making him talk.” Another FBI agent threatened to send Mr. Meshal to Israel, where, the interrogator said, the Israelis would “make him disappear.”

Mr. Meshal’s lawsuit charges that four U.S. government officials violated his Fifth Amendment right to due process and Fourth Amendment right against unreasonable search and seizure. Mr. Meshal also claims that two of these officials — agents of the Federal Bureau of Investigations — threatened him with torture and disappearance in violation of his rights under the Torture Victim Protection Act of 1991. His complaint states:

The Constitution does not permit U.S. officials to threaten American citizens with forced disappearance, torture, and other serious harm, or otherwise to interrogate them coercively. Nor does the Constitution permit U.S. officials to evade the elementary commands of due process simply by directing, conspiring, and/or actively and substantially participating with a foreign state to detain, interrogate, or render U.S. citizens in a manner that would be patently unlawful if carried out by those U.S. officials themselves.

Nusrat Choudhury, a staff attorney with the ACLU’s National Security Project stated in a press release today:

American citizens abroad who are seeking refuge from hostilities deserve the assistance of their government in getting home safely. It is inexcusable that U.S. officials instead threatened Mr. Meshal with torture, participated in detaining him in secret and inhumane conditions and denied him the chance to contest his detention or contact his family.

The harsh treatment that Mr. Meshal endured should never be experienced by anyone, let alone an American citizen at the hands of his own government. American citizens don't relinquish their constitutional rights or their right to be protected from threats of torture and disappearance by U.S. officials when they're overseas.

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Let me get this straight - The FBI questioned this man overseas? I thought the FBI was domestic and the CIA was overseas? Also why is the US responsible for the prison conditions, they are prisons in another country? How much money are you asking for?

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Maggie - The FBI operates overtly in the US and overseas. The CIA operates covertly overseas and, perhaps, in the US. The FBI could have had the man released or brought to the US.

Have you no concern for what happened to this US citizen. Do you think it can't happen to you? Don't forget Obama is President, has an enemies list, and is setting up secret detention camps.


Roald - I understand your first paragraph but the 2nd does not sound like you.


The second paragraph was intended to be sarcasm. You were right to call me out on it. It was beneath me when I write to you. I apologize.

I hope that things are beginning to improve for you.


Maggie - there I go again, putting your name in as the author. I need to be more careful. My apologies, yet again.


Roald - no problem

Anonymous American smelling the stink of terrorism...deserves anything they get... no matter where they are in the world. The aura of being politically correct is over. The Asian Americans who got caught in N Korea..they should have stayed there.
They didn't notice the river bwtween the countries..the 3 a reporter. ..they can stay in Iran..they didn't know they were in war zone..& didn't know where the border was..How about the American/Iranian reporter picked up in Iran. What a moron... not my problems.


did anyone ask what the victims of 9/11 thought? lives cut off in the name of allah! is the aclu stupid? please seek life elsewhere. insa islam and insa aclu.

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