How Obama personally intervened to keep a Yemeni reporter in jail

Investigative journalist Jeremy Scahill has been following the case of a Yemeni journalist Abdulelah Haider Shaye who uncovered a story in which a US air attack in 2009 in that country killed 14 women and 21 children. His story ran contrary to the US government’s usual bland assertion that the victims were ‘al Qaeda militants’, which was then dutifully repeated by the mainstream US media.

Shaye was then arrested, beaten, and held in solitary confinement as an al Qaeda operative by the security forces of our client government in Yemen, although human rights organizations have said that there is no evidence that he is anything but a journalist. His ‘crime’ was reporting things that were unpalatable to the US and Yemeni governments.

After protests in that country forced the government to make plans to release him, Obama personally called the Yemeni leader and made him reverse course. So as the air attacks in Yemen escalate, a reporter who could have given us first-hand information is being abused in a Yemeni prison, no doubt to discourage any other Yemeni journalist who thinks of being anything other than a propagandist or apologist.

Glenn Greenwald provides further background on this story and on the reaction it provoked.

Update: Jeremy Scahill talks about this case on Democracy Now.


  1. ash says

    So depressing. Part of me, the irrational part, still hopes he has something up his sleeve for the next term. I know his ratings are very low, and that statistically (with given corelatives) he should lose, but my impression is that if he wins, his outlier explanation will be that although his ratings are low, they are not being counter-balanced by an enthusiastic uptick in support for his opponents. As disappointed as I am in him, I certainly don’t see the republicans as a polemic. I’m sill obligated to vote for him in the next election. I’m 48 years old, I’ve never seen such mistrust and antagonism toward the government ever. And deserved antagonism. The whole OWS effect really has warmed my heart this past year. I’m still hopeful

  2. ollie says

    Mano, as the Mother Jones article reported, it was already common knowledge that innocents were killed in that attack; this had already been reported in the mainstream media.

    The idea that this reporter was jailed for reporting what is already known makes no sense at all.

  3. says

    Here is another great example of the genuine evil of Obama that is routinely missed by those who decide what we are allowed to know. Our local newspaper is currently obsessed with a recent “desecration” of the U.S. flag code by an Obama flag flying over the local Democratic Party office. Their readers lap up this simple-minded gesture politics. But the real affront to American values – the shredding of the Due Process Clause, the suppression of information “harmful to national security” – goes generally unreported. Let’s all miss the point together.

  4. Mano Singham says

    Kevin Drum’s piece in MJ was rebutted by Greenwald in the second of the links I gave, where he also links to Adam Server also of MJ. FAIR points out that what was ‘reported’ in the mainstream media had nothing close to the detail that Shaye provided.

  5. ollie says

    I read Greenwald’s response and still have the question: yes, what was reported had more details, but it had nothing that made the reports any worse to the public. Jailing him for that makes no sense at all.

  6. Mano Singham says

    There is a lot sense to it. When governments do things like this, they are sending a warning message to anyone else thinking of doing the same thing that this is what they can expect. This is why they so vigorously prosecute whistleblowers and why they treated Bradley Manning so harshly. The basic message being sent is this: We will make your life hell if you cross us.

  7. Holli Smith says

    This runs deeper than Obama. Comes thru those who control the presidents ie those whose money elects the presidents. Bush/Cheney Republicans were no different. How can anyone seriously believe the world trade centers came down by planes. They were controlled demolitions. (Note the 3rd world trade center bldg #7 which was not even hit by a plane which also came down on 9/11.) One can see this for yourself… go online and watch the burning of buildings vs controlled demolitions. Come on folks we all had some science…. think for yourselves!!! Ron Paul can’t be elected only because he is not controlled by this money.

  8. ollie says

    About Bradley Manning: I served in the armed forces, and you are warned to never leak classified material. You are warned that if you do so, you risk jail time.

    Of course, one might argue (correctly) that some material is classified not for national security reasons but for state embarrassment reasons (e. g., that horrible video of a U. S. helicopter killing armed civilians who were NOT belligerents). But some stuff is classified for genuine national security reasons.

    Please understand: I do not see President Obama as an angel; I can’t think of a single President who has NOT abused power (or of a single head of state of a powerful country) and he isn’t that different from the others in that regard.

  9. Mano Singham says


    The point is not that he was arrested but the way he was treated after being arrested.

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