Accuracy in Media

The New York Times reports that CIA officials paid for the services of an alleged con man who claimed to be able to find coded messages hidden in broadcasts by Al-Jazeera, and that his technology could decipher them to identify specific threats. Now, the Times says, U.S. officials are trying to cover up the fact that they were duped.

The threat represented by Al-Jazeera has not been in any supposed “coded messages” but in its overt propaganda. As we have been reporting since 2006, it has been a mouthpiece for terrorist groups, starting with al-Qaeda. Indeed, one of its correspondents was jailed in Spain after being convicted of being an agent of al-Qaeda.

Al-Jazeera English, supposedly different than the Arabic version but funded by the same source, the Emir of Qatar, has promoted the Islamic Army in Iraq by featuring an “exclusive interview” with its spokesperson and sending a correspondent to travel secretly with the terrorist group. This is typical of Al-Jazeera. It has a habit of finding anti-American terrorist groups and giving them publicity. The Islamic Army of Iraq, which includes former members of Saddam Hussein’s Baath party, has its own website, where it highlights the Al-Jazeera coverage of its activities. Such coverage is seen as a stamp of approval.

Al-Jazeera’s bias against the U.S.-supported government of Iraq was evident from the start, as shown in our “Terror TV” documentary, which included captured videotape showing its first managing director, Mohammed Jasem al-Ali, telling Uday Hussein that Al-Jazeera was at the service of the Saddam Hussein regime. Captured documents from Iraq linked him to Saddam’s intelligence service.

Al-Jazeera’s offices in Iraq were closed by the new government that replaced Saddam’s regime after it became obvious that the channel did not want to see this particular experiment in democracy succeed.

That Al-Jazeera’s original intention never was to spread democracy can also be seen in its failure to subject the authoritarian regime in Qatar, where it is based and where it gets its money, to serious media scrutiny.

In regard to Egypt, a column by Sultan Sooud Al Qassemi, a non-resident fellow at the Dubai School of Government, puts the current Middle East conflicts in perspective. “Qatar was perhaps the only Gulf state that was happy to see the end of the Mubarak regime,” he notes, in a column on Al-Jazeera’s own website. “After all, Egyptian born anti-Mubarak religious scholar Sheikh Yousef Al Qaradawi, considered to be amongst the most influential Islamic scholars and highly regarded by the Qatari Emir himself, now serves as Dean of Islamic Studies at the University of Qatar. Sheikh Al Qaradawi has been instrumental through his sermons—and Al Jazeera Arabic—in encouraging Egyptians to revolt against the Mubarak regime.”

Some American reporters are paying attention as well.

Dan Murphy of the Christian Science Monitor notes that al-Qaradawi has been “popularized by Al Jazeera.” Indeed, Al-Qaradawi’s show, which has been on the air for 15 years, is titled “Sharia and Life.”

Back in 2004, Al-Jazeera reported that al-Qaradawi “ruled out the possibility of assuming the leadership of Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood,” primarily because an association with a political movement “might constrain my actions.” However, he went on to say that the Muslim Brotherhood is the group “under whose umbrella I grew and which I so defended.”

On Friday, upon his return to Cairo from Qatar, al-Qaradawi told an estimated 1-2 million Egyptians that he prays for the conquest of Jerusalem in Israel.

David Kirkpatrick of The New York Times covered the speech, but managed to miss that part of it.

This and other omissions led William A. Jacobson, an Associate Clinical Professor at Cornell Law School and a prominent blogger, to write a piece, “NY Times Whitewashes Return of Anti-Semitic Egyptian Cleric.”

This kind of conduct by the Times seems just as bad as the CIA being duped by a con man. Or perhaps worse since it involves deliberate deception by a paper that promises “All the News That’s Fit to Print.”

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