(NEW YORK) — The terrorist who was held in secret and interrogated on a U.S. Navy ship for two months before being flown to the U.S. has pleaded guilty to terrorism-related charges, federal officials said on Monday.
Ahmed Abdulkadir Warsame, a Somali national and a suspected leader of the al Qaeda-linked al-Shabaab terror group, was captured by U.S. special forces off Africa’s eastern coast in April 2011 and was taken to a nearby Navy ship where he was questioned by the U.S. High Value Detainee Interrogation Group (HIG) for intelligence purposes.
The HIG is a group of interrogation experts composed of experts from the CIA, FBI and Defense Department and other security agencies.
Warsame, who officials said also acted as a go-between for his group and al Qaeda affiliate al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) in Yemen, was interrogated “on all but a daily basis by certain U.S. officials, who were acting in a non-law enforcement capacity,” prosecutors said.
He was later advised of his Miranda rights, which he waived, and began speaking to law enforcement agents. He arrived in the U.S. in July 2011 and pleaded guilty to nine terrorism-related charges in December that year, federal officials said on Monday.
When his indictment was made public in July 2011, Warsame’s unusual path to a U.S. court raised questions about the judicial process through which suspected terrorists are taken and the Obama administration’s support for trying terror suspects in civilian courts rather than military tribunals.
Vice Adm. William McRaven, then the chief of the military’s secretive Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC), told a Senate committee in 2011 that temporarily holding terror suspects aboard ships was not an uncommon practice.
“That is always a difficult issue for us,” McRaven said then. “In many cases, we will put them on a naval vessel and we will hold them until we can either get a case to prosecute them in U.S. court…or we can return him to a third party country. …If we can’t do either one of those, then we’ll release that individual and that becomes the unenviable option, but it is an option.”
Warsame has yet to be sentenced and a date for a sentencing hearing has not been set, officials said.
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Elise Labott, Kevin Liptak and Patrick Oppmann, CNN
Julia Horowitz, CNN
Jason Hanna, CNN