Military contractor reportedly proposed "psy-ops" against Mpls Somali's "extremist" website
A report written by a defense contractor described Warsame (pictured) as "a young man who lives in Minnesota, is known for his extremist believes [sic] by Minneapolis Somali residents."
A U.S. Defense Department contractor branded a widely read Minneapolis-based Somali news site as "extremist," with its "chief goal" characterized as "to disseminate propaganda supportive" of the al-Shabab Islamist militia, according to a Washington Post report.
The contractor, the Northern Virginia-based Navanti Group, later proposed waging a psychological operations, or "psy-ops," campaign against the Somali- and English-language site (somalimidnimo.com, or United Somalia), which is run by 30-year-old Minneapolis bus driver Abdiwali Warsame. In a May 2012 report, Navanti suggested it could repeatedly repost reader comments critical of al-Shabab in order to discredit Warsame's viewpoint, the Post reports.
Though the Pentagon is legally prohibited from conducting psy-ops (now officially known as "Military Information Support Operations") within the country, the May 2012 report that was sent to the FBI contained Warsame's Minnesota address and phone number. The Post reports that days later, federal agents were at his door.
Representatives of Navanti, which contracts with the Defense Department to perform "research and analysis" about al-Qaeda and affiliated groups in Africa, claim that the company stopped looking into Warsame and his website as soon as it found out he lived in the United States.
When Navanti discovered Warsame lived in Minnesota, "we immediately turned that information over to the U.S. Government and to relevant law enforcement agencies, as both regulations and our own guidelines dictate," the company told the Post in a statement.
The Post report describes the content on Warsame's site that raised red flags with federal authorities:
It takes only a cursory glance at the Web site to see that Warsame views the world through the lens of a fundamentalist Muslim. He strongly opposes military intervention in Somalia by the United States, Ethiopia, Kenya and other countries. He features material portraying al-Shabab as freedom fighters, not terrorists. He also says that he welcomes dissenting views.
But Warsame said he steers clear of posting anything that could be construed as fundraising or recruiting followers for al-Shabab. Such activities are prohibited by U.S. law and have been under scrutiny by the FBI.
The Justice Department has prosecuted several Somali Americans in Minnesota on charges of providing material support to al-Shabab. Warsame has closely covered their cases on his Web site and advocated for their defense.
But in an interview with the Post, Warsame said the Pentagon -- and, by extension -- Navanti -- had no good reason to be concerned with him.
"I'm an American citizen," he said. "I don't support al-Qaeda. I don't support al- Shabab. I don't send them money. I'm not supporting killing anyone."
"I just want the community to know what's going on," Warsame continued. "My job is to allow people to express their views. It's news. It's public information. People want to know what the professors are saying, students are saying, what the single moms are saying, what al-Shabab are saying."
Warsame refused to talk to FBI agents when they showed up at his house last summer. The feds initially told him he was under criminal investigation, but after he got a lawyer, they stopped calling him, the Post reports.
A different Somali named Abdi Warsame is currently running for Minneapolis City Council against incumbent Robert Lilligren.
-- Follow Aaron Rupar on Twitter at @atrupar. Got a tip? Drop him a line at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Get the This Week's Top Stories Newsletter
Every week we collect the latest news, music and arts stories — along with film and food reviews and the best things to do this week — so that you’ll never miss City Pages' biggest stories.