Who Are the Terrorists in America’s Jails? Part 2

The USS Boxer, where Warsame was originally interrogated
The USS Boxer, where Warsame was originally interrogated (Photo: U.S. Navy)

There were 443 convicted terrorists imprisoned in the United States (as of April 2016), according to The New York Times. They are serving sentences for crimes ranging from sharing ISIS propaganda online to carrying out terror attacks on U.S soil.

We are taking a snapshot of some of those people and telling you their stories.

Part Two: Ahmed Abdulkadir Warsame

Warsame was a leading al-Qaeda operative who plead guilty to nine terrorism charges in 2011 but cooperated with the government and provided information about other terrorists. His official indictment lists the charges against him as “providing material support to al-Shabaab and al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP)—two designated foreign terrorist organizations—as well as conspiring to teach and demonstrate the making of explosives, possessing firearms and explosives in furtherance of crimes of violence.”

Warsame  was captured in 2011 from a fishing boat off the coast of Aden in Yemen by a U.S. Navy ship.

Pleading with the Navy Seals who captured him not to send him to Guantanamo Bay, he decided to cooperate. He went on to provide testimony that led to the capture and convictions of dozens of other terrorists.

He told the Americans he joined the Somali terrorist group al-Shabaab to fight against the Ethiopian invasion of Somalia. He fought there as a commander in 2009, leading hundreds of fighters. Warsame also traveled to Yemen in 2010 for explosives training.

The U.S. military’s High-Value Interrogation Group questioned him for two months while he was imprisoned in the brig on the USS Boxer. He was then transferred to FBI custody and read his Miranda Rights.

Finally, after agreeing to cooperate, he was charged in a New York federal court with attempting to broker a weapons deal between al- Shabaab and al-Qaeda.

Warsame’s cooperation has been extremely useful. Law enforcement officials who spoke to The New York Times on the condition of anonymity said he helped thwart a terrorist attack in Saudi Arabia. Information he provided also helped track down leading al-Qaeda operative and ideologue Anwar al-Awlaki.

Awlaki, a U.S. citizen, was killed in a drone strike in 2011.

“The capture of Ahmed Warsame and his lengthy interrogation for intelligence purposes, followed by his thorough questioning by law enforcement agents, was an intelligence watershed,” Manhattan U.S. Attorney Bharara said. “The handling of Warsame represents a seamless orchestration by our military, intelligence, and law enforcement agencies that significantly furthered our ability to find, fight and apprehend those who wish to do us harm. Warsame’s capture, cooperation, and prosecution is a major victory for the United States, for its citizens and for justice.”

“He ultimately proved to be one of the most important sources of intelligence,” James McJunkin, the FBI’s former counterterrorism chief, told The New York Times.

Warsame faces life in prison. Due to his cooperation, the government postponed sentencing him in 2013. His final sentence has seemingly not been published, if it has been handed down.



Who Are the Terrorists In American Jails? Part 1

Will Congress Stop Paying Terrorists?

Can Deradicalization Replace Prison For Terrorists?


Elliot Friedland
Elliot Friedland is a research fellow at Clarion Project.

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