In June last year, a Google Alert notified Abdiwali Warsame that his Web site had been mentioned in a document posted on the Internet. An investigation into the Minneapolis man's postings by a private contractor made its way to a federal file posted on opensource.gov.
From there, Warsame found himself ensnared in a propaganda battle he didn't know he was fighting against the U.S. government, and FBI agents visited the U.S. citizen at home two days later.
That's the fascinating tale exhaustively peeled back in the Washington Post, which uses Warsame's story as a glimpse into a "shadowy Defense Department counterpropaganda operation" that has been subcontracted out.
In investigating somalimidnimo.com – Warsame's site that translates to "united Somalia" – the Virginia-based private contractor Navanti Group wrote a report in a federal dossier that called the Web site “extremist” and asserted that its “chief goal is to disseminate propaganda supportive” of al-Shabab, an Islamist militia in Somalia that the U.S. government considers a terrorist group.
Warsame openly supports – at least rhetorically on the site – al-Shabab. But, the Post reports, Navanti’s dossier does not specify any instances in which the Web site may have crossed a line by recruiting al-Shabab followers or inciting violence.
Warsame has not been charged with a crime, according to the Post, and it is unclear whether he is under formal investigation by the FBI.
Kyle Loven, a spokesman for the bureau in Minneapolis, declined to comment to the Post.