Obama’s War on Journalists Yemeni Style

(2 pm. – promoted by ek hornbeck)

Cross posted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

Since he took office, President Barack Obama has prosecuted six whistleblowers using the Espionage Act of 1917, something no other president has done. In recent months, with total disregard for the First Amendment and freedom of the press, he has now gone after journalists with secret subpoenas and warrants, but this is nothing new. Huffington Post‘s Ryan Grim would like you to meet Abdulelah Haider Shaye:

James Rosen got off easy. After searching his email and tracking his whereabouts, the Department of Justice has not jailed or prosecuted the Fox News journalist, which the Obama administration says reflects its deep respect for the role of a free press. On Thursday, a DOJ spokesperson said in a statement that “the Department does not anticipate bringing any additional charges. During the Attorney General’s tenure, no reporter has ever been prosecuted.”

The Obama administration gave no such leniency to Abdulelah Haider Shaye, a Yemeni journalist who had access to top officials in the militant Islamist group Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) and reported on evidence that the United States had conducted a missile strike in al Majala for which the Yemeni government had claimed credit.

After Shaye was initially imprisoned for alleged involvement with AQAP in 2010, supporters pressed for his release, and word leaked that the Yemeni president was going to issue a pardon. In early 2011, Obama personally intervened. “President Obama expressed concern over the release of Abd-Ilah al-Shai, who had been sentenced to five years in prison for his association with AQAP,” reads a summary of the call posted on the White House website.

At his discussion of his new book and documentary, “Dirty Wars,” Jeremy Scahill spoke about about Shaye. In an article for The Nation in March 2012, he wrote about Shaye’s risks to interview Al Qaeda leaders, his interviews with the radical cleric Anwar al Awlaki and his reporting on the US bombing of al-Majalah, a impoverished Yemeni village killing 46 people mostly women and children.

Unlike most journalists covering Al Qaeda, Shaye risked his life to travel to areas controlled by Al Qaeda and to interview its leaders. He also conducted several interviews with the radical cleric Anwar al Awlaki. Shaye did the last known interview with Awlaki just before it was revealed that Awlaki, a US citizen, was on a CIA/JSOC hit list. “We were only exposed to Western media and Arab media funded by the West, which depicts only one image of Al Qaeda,” recalls his best friend Kamal Sharaf, a well-known dissident Yemeni political cartoonist. “But Abdulelah brought a different viewpoint.”

Shaye had no reverence for Al Qaeda, but viewed the group as an important story, according to Sharaf. Shaye was able to get access to Al Qaeda figures in part due to his relationship, through marriage, to the radical Islamic cleric Abdul Majid al Zindani, the founder of Iman University and a US Treasury Department-designated terrorist. While Sharaf acknowledged that Shaye used his connections to gain access to Al Qaeda, he adds that Shaye also “boldly” criticized Zindani and his supporters: “He said the truth with no fear.”

While Shaye, 35, had long been known as a brave, independent-minded journalist in Yemen, his collision course with the US government appears to have been set in December 2009. On December 17, the Yemeni government announced that it had conducted a series of strikes against an Al Qaeda training camp in the village of al Majala in Yemen’s southern Abyan province, killing a number of Al Qaeda militants. As the story spread across the world, Shaye traveled to al Majala. What he discovered were the remnants of Tomahawk cruise missiles and cluster bombs, neither of which are in the Yemeni military’s arsenal. He photographed the missile parts, some of them bearing the label “Made in the USA,” and distributed the photos to international media outlets. He revealed that among the victims of the strike were women, children and the elderly. To be exact, fourteen women and twenty-one children were killed. Whether anyone actually active in Al Qaeda was killed remains hotly contested. After conducting his own investigation, Shaye determined that it was a US strike. The Pentagon would not comment on the strike and the Yemeni government repeatedly denied US involvement. But Shaye was later vindicated when Wikileaks released a US diplomatic cable that featured Yemeni officials joking about how they lied to their own parliament about the US role, while President Saleh assured Gen. David Petraeus that his government would continue to lie and say “the bombs are ours, not yours.”

Shortly after that article was published, Scahill and Mohamed Abdel Dayem, coordinator of the Middle East and North Africa Program at the Committee to Protect Journalists, appeared in this segment of Democracy Now with Amy Goodman and Juan Gonzalez, questioning Obama’s motives for keeping Shaye imprisoned.

Grim hopes that with the release of the documentary “Dirty Wars,” the start of PVT Bradley Manning’s trial and the Rosen issue, that Shaye’s case will get some attention.

Shaye’s trial in Yemen was widely considered a farce. Without the Obama administration presenting its own evidence, it’s difficult to know what President Obama meant by Shaye’s “association” with AQAP. Al Mawri said that Yemen’s former president was furious at Shaye for exposing the civilian deaths at al Majala and fed the United States false information to implicate him as a terrorist. Now, Yemen’s current president has reportedly promised to pardon Shaye, but the White House is still relying on what the past president told them. [..]

Shaye is not an obscure journalist. He contributed reporting to The Washington Post and other major media outlets regularly, including with regard to al-Awlaki. He was often critical of al Qaeda, the U.S. government and the Yemeni government.

Despite the reports of a possible pardon, Shaye’s family and supporters remain doubtful.

This is just some of what Wikileaks had exposed about our government and our so-called Democratic president.


  1. TMC
  2. terryhallinan

    though that is vanishingly small.

    Thanks, Obama.

    You trying to make Dubya look good?

    Best,  Terry

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