If you fly into Washington, D.C., via Dulles International Airport on a regular basis, chances are you encountered a Somali expat who’s been living not too far from the nation’s capital for the past 20 years. Until recently, Yusuf Abdi Ali worked as a security guard for the airport, guarding terminal entrances and exits from atop a comfy chair. Thanks to a recent CNN investigation, however, Ali has been placed on administrative leave. No, he didn’t do anything detrimental to airport or national security recently, but he might have lied about a thing or two on his application’s work history page.
That’s because Ali is the same Yusuf Abdi Ali who’s been accused of war crimes during his time as a military commander in Somalia’s violent civil war in the ’80s. He’s not the only one, as CNN recalls a troubling statistic that “more than 1,000 accused war criminals [are] living and working in the United States.” But Ali’s case is far more troubling due to the nature of his chosen (and approved) line of work after emigrating from Somalia to escape retribution for his alleged crimes — crimes that he’s being sued for in U.S. civil court litigation that labels him a “war criminal” responsible for committing “crimes against humanity.”
The case has bounced back and forth between various courts since 2006. It concerns the torture and attempted murder of a particular plaintiff, but it dovetails into Ali’s service “as a commander in the [Mohamed Siad Barre] regime and is accused of terrorizing the Isaaq people, torturing clan members, burning villages and conducting mass executions.” In 1992, a CBC documentary investigated Ali and several other surviving members of the regime by interviewing Somalis who either lost relatives to the civil war’s mass murders, or were themselves attacked by troops:
“He tied (my brother) to military vehicle and dragged him behind. He said to us if you’ve got enough power, get him back,” the villager said. “He shredded him into pieces. That’s how he died.”
Following the documentary’s premiere date, Ali was deported from Canada to the United States, where he found work at Dulles and remained until CNN’s recent investigation turned him up again. Despite the fact that he passed a “full, federally mandated vetting process” that included the involvement of the FBI and, later, the TSA, Ali’s past was never disclosed. Since CNN pointed out these concerns to Ali’s employer, Master Security — who was “unaware of the pending litigation” against its employee — the aged Somali expat has been placed on administrative leave and had his airport clearance revoked.