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A Few Missing Details

The New York Times neglects to explain who Binyam Mohamed really is.

7:12 AM, Sep 9, 2010 • By THOMAS JOSCELYN
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The New York Times reports that a federal appeals court has shot down a lawsuit against Jeppesen Dataplan Inc., a Boeing subsidiary that reportedly arranged flights for the CIA as part of the Agency’s extraordinary rendition program. The suit was brought by the ACLU and five former detainees. But in describing the plaintiffs, the Times leaves out some important details.

The Times explains:

The lead plaintiff in the case is Binyam Mohamed, an Ethopian citizen and legal resident of the United Kingdom who was arrested in Pakistan on immigration charges. He claimed he was turned over to the C.I.A., which flew him to Morocco and turned him over to the Moroccan security service, who held him for 18 months and subjected him to an array of tortures, including beatings, 24-hour subjection to loud music, and cutting his penis and other body parts with a scalpel and then pouring stinging liquid on the wounds.

Mr. Mohamed was later transferred back to the C.I.A., which flew him to one of its secret prisons in Afghanistan, where he said he was subjected to loud noise like the recorded screams of women and children 24 hours a day. He was later transferred to the military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, where he was imprisoned for nearly five years before he was released and returned to the United Kingdom. He is now free.

This is all the Times has to say about Binyam Mohamed. Here are three obvious points the Old Grey Lady missed.

First, Mohamed admittedly trained at al Qaeda’s notorious al Farouq camp in 2001. And, according to documents prepared by U.S. intelligence officials, he was recruited by senior al Qaeda terrorists to take part in an attack inside the U.S. in 2002. Some of the documents needed to piece together Mohamed’s story are, ironically enough, available on the Times’ web site.

Mohamed’s co-conspirator was Jose Padilla, a convicted al Qaeda terrorist. The two were most likely going to set an apartment building ablaze using a plan of attack devised by Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the mastermind of the September 11 attacks. This is why Binyam Mohamed was part of the rendition program in the first place – not because he was arrested solely on “immigration charges.”  

Second, Mohamed’s torture claims are bizarre, extreme, and entirely unproven. Journalists really haven’t dug into them at all; they simply repeat Mohamed’s claims verbatim.

But was Binyam Mohamed’s penis really cut with a scalpel repeatedly over 18 months? If that is true, then we can all agree it is unacceptable torture. But there is no evidence that it is true, and his allegations go way beyond anything the CIA or its allies are known to have done.

If the press was really interested in Mohamed’s story, then why not file a Freedom of Information Act request to obtain Mohamed’s medical records from his time in American custody? Surely there would be evidence in those files of Mohamed’s “torture.” The type of treatment he alleges would certainly leave scarring.

If Mohamed’s medical records say something else, that there is no evidence of his sexual organs being subjected to a year and a half of brutality, then the press could expose him as a fraud. And the least the press can do is note that Mohamed’s most outrageous allegations are not supported by the evidence that is currently available.

Third, the Times rightly notes that Mohamed “is now free.” What the Times does not say is that Binyam Mohamed was released from Gitmo without explanation by the Obama administration in 2009. Why? We still don’t know. The administration never provided any real explanation.

Thomas Joscelyn is a senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies.

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