On July 12 The Nation published a lengthy article by Jeremy Scahill exposing a secret CIA prison in Mogadishu, Somalia. Scahill’s report was based on an in-person investigation of the allegations, undertaken at great personal risk.
With President Barack Obama having issued an executive order banning secret Central Intelligence Agency prisons and then-CIA Director Leon Panetta having stated that “CIA no longer operates detention facilities or black sites,” one might think a credible report that the CIA is still operating such a prison would make the front page of every newspaper in the country and be covered on all major television news programs. Alas, in 21st-century America, where the news media are the handmaidens of the state, the story has largely been ignored; and those outlets that have deemed it worthy of coverage have done so in such a way as to play down its revelations and play up the government’s denials.
Scahill found that the CIA is using “a secret prison buried in the basement of Somalia’s National Security Agency (NSA) headquarters, where prisoners suspected of being [Somali militant group Al] Shabab members or of having links to the group are held.” The prison houses not just suspects captured within Somalia but also those picked up in Kenya (and possibly other countries) and rendered to Somalia for interrogation.
The conditions inside the prison are deplorable, says Scahill:
According to former detainees, the underground prison, which is staffed by Somali guards, consists of a long corridor lined with filthy small cells infested with bedbugs and mosquitoes…. The former prisoners described the cells as windowless and the air thick, moist and disgusting. Prisoners, they said, are not allowed outside. Many have developed rashes and scratch themselves incessantly. Some have been detained for a year or more. According to one former prisoner, inmates who had been there for long periods would pace around constantly, while others leaned against walls rocking.