Monday, July 13, 2009

Supermax prison blocked Obama books requested by detainee

by Ed Pilkington

Officials at the Florence, Colorado supermax prison deemed the bestsellers 'potentially detrimental to national security'

He has been president of the United States for 172 days, yet it appears that Barack Obama is still deemed capable of producing writing that is "potentially detrimental to national security".

That peculiar judgement was made following a request by a high-security prisoner to read Obama's two bestselling books, Dreams from My Father and The Audacity of Hope. The plea was made by Ahmed Omar Abu Ali, who is being held at a supermax prison in Florence, Colorado which applies the toughest security restrictions to some of the country's most dangerous prisoners.

Abu Ali, a US citizen, was found guilty on 25 November of helping al-Qaida and plotting to assassinate the then US president George Bush. He was sentenced to 30 years.

The prisoner asked to see Obama's two books last August, at a time when the US presidential elections were entering the home stretch. Such was the sensitivity of his al-Qaida connections that the request was sent to the FBI for consideration. Later, the prison authorities turned down permission for him to read the books on the grounds that they contained material "potentially detrimental to national security".

Details of the rejection are contained in court documents prepared for a hearing involving Abu Ali later this month and seen by Associated Press. According to the news agency, the documents refer to one page in Dreams from My Father and 22 pages from The Audacity of Hope. Most of those pages deal with foreign affairs, though it is unclear which precise passages are considered problematic.

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