Jeremy Scahill on CIA black sites in Somalia—and the pushback to disappear the story

One of the most under-reported stories of the past week is Jeremy Scahill’s CIA piece in The Nation. In essence, Scahill documented the ongoing presence of a CIA “black site” despite all the Obama-administration reassurances that the practice was ended.

And that’s just the start. The best way to get caught up is to listen to this great, tight interview with Scahill himself. (The questioner is Sam Seder of the new Majority Report, and he does nice, well-organized work here.)

For those who like having stuff to read, here are some links and quotes.

As noted, the original Scahill story is available online at Please do click through; it’s a great piece of reporting, and deserves the buzz it got.

The push-back was three-fold:

■ Officials like Leon Panetta denied the story:

The US has stopped running its global network of secret prisons, CIA director Leon Panetta has announced. ‘CIA no longer operates detention facilities or black sites,’ Mr Panetta said in a letter to staff[.]

■ Media voices made the denial the story, or ignored the story altogether. Glenn Greenwald:

Scahill’s discovery of this secret prison in Mogadishu — this black site — calls into serious doubt the Obama administration’s claims to have ended such practices and establishes a serious human rights violation on its own. As Harper’s Scott Horton put it, the Nation article underscores how the CIA is “maintaining a series of ‘special relationships’ under which cooperating governments maintain[] proxy prisons for the CIA,” and “raises important questions” about “whether the CIA is using a proxy regime there to skirt Obama’s executive order” banning black sites and torture.

Despite the significance of this revelation — or, more accurately, because of it — the U.S. establishment media has almost entirely ignored this story. Scahill thus far has given a grand total of two television interviews: on Democracy Now and Al Jazeera. No major television news network — including MSNBC — has even mentioned his story. Generally speaking, Republicans don’t care that the worst abuses of the Bush era are continuing, and Democrats (who widely celebrated Dana Priest’s 2006 Pulitzer Prize winning story about Bush’s CIA black cites) don’t want to hear that it’s true.

■ The CIA-administration nexus has organized “friendly” (compliant? operative-like?) voices in the media to sow confusion (a standard psyop practice). Glenn Greenwald again:

Meanwhile, the CIA has been insisting that discussion of this Mogadishu site could jeopardize its operations in Somalia, and while that typical, manipulative tactic didn’t stop Scahill from informing the citizenry about this illicit behavior, it has (as usual) led government-subservient American media stars to refrain from discussing it. Indeed, Scahill said that this site is such common knowledge in Mogadishu (where even ordinary residents call it “that CIA building”) that he’d be “very surprised” if international reporters who cover Somalia were unaware of it; he has confirmed with certainty that at least one correspondent covering East Africa for one of the world’s leading media outlets was aware of, but never reported, the CIA’s role at this secret prison.

While the establishment media has been largely ignoring Scahill’s revelations, a few particularly government-pleasing journalists have been dutifully following the CIA’s script in order to undermine the credibility of Scahill’s story. CNN’s long-time Pentagon correspondent Barbara Starr — one of the most reliable DoD stenographers in the nation (she actually announced that the real Abu Ghraib scandal was the unauthorized [emphasis by author] release of the photographs, not the abuse they depicted) — has been predictably tapped by the CIA to take the lead in this effort.

It’s the old old story — You can hope, but nothing will change. (Thanks to Team When You Gonna Learn? for the phrase.)

Writers like Scahill are genuine heroes though, and not at no risk. Hope he doesn’t have skeletons in his closet (or Wieners in his Tweets); he’s probably under surveillance even in the bathroom.


Gaius Publius is a professional writer living on the West Coast of the United States.

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