Detained American Says F.B.I. Pressed Him
Published: January 12, 2011
WASHINGTON — An American teenager detained in Kuwait said he underwent a heated interrogation by F.B.I. agents for several hours on Wednesday, in a case that has renewed debate over the Obama administration’s expansion of the no-fly list after the attempted bombing of a passenger plane bound for Detroit in 2009.
The interrogation grew steadily more hostile when the agents pressed the teenager, Gulet Mohamed, on his travels to Yemen and Somalia and began calling him an “embarrassment to his country,” accusing him of lying about his contacts with militants overseas, he said.
Detained American Says He Was Beaten in Kuwait (January 6, 2011)
Mr. Mohamed said the agents began yelling the name “Anwar al-Awlaki” at him, prompting Kuwaiti officials to intervene and request that the agents end the interrogation.
Mr. Awlaki, the radical cleric American officials have been trying to capture or kill for more than a year, is believed to be hiding in Yemen. In two telephone interviews from a Kuwaiti deportation facility, including one on Wednesday, Mr. Mohamed has said that he briefly traveled to Yemen in 2009 but never had contacts with militants and later spent several months in Somalia living with family members.
Mr. Mohamed, whom American officials said is on a no-fly list, said the F.B.I. agents interrogated him even after he refused to answer their questions without a lawyer, and after they gave him a paper listing his Miranda rights. He said the agents never presented evidence that he made contacts with militants.
“They wanted me to lie about myself, and pushed me to lie about things I had done,” he said.
Mr. Mohamed’s Washington-based lawyer called the actions of the F.B.I. agents “illegal” and on Wednesday wrote a letter to Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr.
“If law enforcement officials have concerns about Mr. Mohamed or his past actions, he should be allowed to return to the United States, where he may agree to being questioned in the presence of his attorney — free of the psychological pressures of his current detention,” wrote his lawyer, Gadeir Abbas of the Council on American-Islamic Relations.
Paul Bresson, an F.B.I. spokesman, declined to comment.
Mr. Mohamed, a 19-year-old of Somali descent who grew up in Alexandria, Va., has said he was taken into custody in late December while trying to renew his visa at the airport in Kuwait City. Over the next week, he said, he was severely beaten, deprived of sleep and questioned about his travels to Yemen and Somalia.
Philip J. Crowley, a State Department spokesman, last week denied that Mr. Mohamed was detained at the behest of the United States. “We are aware of his detention, we have provided him consular services, and we are ensuring his well-being, as we would for any citizen in detention,” Mr. Crowley said.
The American Civil Liberties Union has sued the government on behalf of more than a dozen Americans unable to return to the United States because of the no-fly list. Ben Wizner, an A.C.L.U. lawyer, said many clients were put on the list because they had traveled to Yemen.
Mr. Mohamed said that the F.B.I. on Wednesday did not say directly that he would be refused entry to the United States if he did not cooperate with them. But he said that one of the agents pledged to monitor his activities if he ever made it home.
“He said, ‘I will see you in Alexandria. I will see you at McDonald’s. I will come talk to you,’ ” Mr. Mohamed said.
Gulet Mohamed Says F.B.I. Interviewed Him - NYTimes.com