A CON JOB FROM AL-JAZEERA’S RIZ KHAN
Riz Khan of Al-Jazeera International made a dramatic appearance in Washington, D.C. on September 6, assuring an influential group presided over by conservative activist Grover Norquist that America has nothing to fear from the new channel being launched by the Arab regime of Qatar.
Accuracy in Media disagrees.
If the United States wants to win the war against Islamic terrorism, Khan and his Arab backers should be told in no uncertain terms that an English-language affiliate of Osama bin Laden’s favorite TV channel is not welcome on U.S. cable and satellite systems.
The stakes are high: If Al-Jazeera International gets access to American households, it is probable, if not inevitable, that we will lose the war, not only in Iraq but worldwide. Such a channel could not only further tilt global media coverage against the U.S. position in the world, but could incite Arabs and Muslims inside the U.S. to engage in jihad and commit terrorist acts. That is exactly what the Arabic version has done in Iraq, and that is why it is banned by the new democratic government there.
Khan attended the conservative meeting in the wake of very powerful speeches by President Bush and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld about the tremendous stakes in this war. Both say we are facing an enemy as determined as the fascists and Nazis of World War II. And both emphasized how al Qaeda uses the media and the Internet against our side.
Yet there was Khan, a former CNN journalist who wrote a fawning biography of the Saudi billionaire Prince Alaweed bin Talal, passing out a flier claiming that Al-Jazeera International will simply offer a “fresh perspective on global news and current affairs.”
His flier also made reference to his sister channel, the Arabic Al-Jazeera. Its “ground-breaking work” was said to have “changed the face of news within the Middle East and brought fair and free journalism to the region?” The flier said that Al-Jazeera International is part of “a growing network focused on accurate, impartial and fair reporting.” The words “accurate, impartial and fair reporting” were highlighted in bold.
If Riz Khan really believes this, then Al-Jazeera International is the danger we at AIM have been warning about, and Khan and perhaps his cohorts, David Frost and Dave Marash, are parrots of a company line. If Khan expects us to believe that rubbish about being fair and accurate, then he must think we are fools.
Al-Jazeera began in 1996, the same year bin Laden declared war on America. They have been working together ever since. In addition to the numerous al-Qaeda videos and statements aired by the channel, its anchors openly refer to suicide bombers as “martyrs” for the cause. In other words, it actively recruits Muslims to kill Americans and Israelis. Being a terrorist channel, however, does have its advantages. Al-Jazeera reporter Yosri Fouda was singled out to obtain exclusive interviews with the al-Qaeda architects of 9/11, who wanted credit for killing almost 3,000 Americans. Such terrorist “exclusives” are what Al-Jazeera specializes in.
However, this can get them in trouble. One Al-Jazeera employee is currently at Guantanamo Bay, facing charges of collaborating with al Qaeda and the Taliban, and a former Al-Jazeera Afghanistan correspondent is in prison in Spain, having been convicted of being an agent of al Qaeda. His legal bills continue to be paid by Al-Jazeera, which is funded by the emir of Qatar, supposedly a friend of America. On the U.N. Security Council recently, Qatar was the only member of the 15-member body voting not to require Iran to stop producing nuclear weapons. Some friend.
The channel’s first managing director was booted after evidence emerged that he was a lackey of the Iraqi dictator’s son Uday Hussein. Captured film footage shows him acting like a lapdog of the notorious murderer and sadist. All of this has been well-documented in the AIM DVD, “Terror Television,” which also shows captured terrorists saying they came to kill Americans in Iraq because of what they saw on Al-Jazeera.
No serious observer of the global media disputes the fact that Al-Jazeera has had an anti-American and anti-Israel bias and has been encouraging jihad against the West. The debate has been over what kind of approach the U.S. should take toward it. Bombing the channel’s headquarters in Qatar has obviously been ruled out because American troops are stationed there, and U.S. corporations have offices in the country and conduct extensive commercial relations with the regime. The founding members of the U.S.-Qatar Business Council include major U.S. oil companies as well as Al-Jazeera. But the U.S. presence doesn’t mean the regime is a friend of the U.S. After all, Saudi Arabia was a host to U.S. troops while al Qaeda was active there and producing most of the 9/11 hijackers.
While Rumsfeld used to regularly denounce Al-Jazeera, things seemed to change when Karen Hughes, an old friend of the President, was put in charge of “public diplomacy” at the State Department. She has been encouraging U.S. officials to go on the channel, as if they can persuade the Arab and Muslim audience that America wants to be their friend. That’s hard to do when the channel repeatedly emphasizes the blood and carnage that the U.S. is said to have brought to Iraq and other places around the world. The Hughes plan of being nice to Al-Jazeera is doomed to fail.
The Arabic Al-Jazeera has to be dealt with if America wants to win this war, but the immediate problem is to make sure the threat doesn’t get worse with Al-Jazeera International taking a place alongside CNN, Fox News, and MSNBC on your cable or satellite system.
If Khan had washed his hands of the Arabic channel, his pitch for the English-language version might have been worth listening to. But the failure to account for the Arabic channel’s well-documented relationship with al Qaeda means that Khan simply does not want to be honest with his potential audience. At least Dave Marash was honest when he admitted to the New York Sun that the channel had inspired those who want to kill us. “Undoubtedly, some Al-Jazeera programs may have inspired some social misfits to undertake terrorism,” he said.
Khan’s deceptive public relations campaign can only mean that Al-Jazeera International is as potentially dangerous as its sister channel. That always figured to be the case, since they are funded by the same Arab government, which had connections to al Qaeda before 9/11, and personnel between the channels overlaps.
One conservative who heard Khan’s sales pitch in D.C. said that he came across as “slick”?perhaps as slick as the Arab petro-dollars paying his salary and the cost of the new network, which is said to be reaching a staggering $1 billion. The sheer cost means that the channel, despite reluctance by cable and satellite systems to carry it, could buy its way into the American media market.
Congress Must Act
Strangely, however, while Congress erupted in anger over an Arab-owned firm taking over some American ports, the prospect of an Arab-financed “news” channel directly broadcasting al-Qaeda propaganda into American homes has failed to make it on the list of top congressional priorities. But if the analogy to World War II is appropriate, we should take some time to consider that America’s “greatest generation” would never have tolerated the prospect of fascist and Nazi agents and sympathizers getting access to America’s airwaves. That would have been unthinkable, even treasonous. Americans knew that we had to win in the media and on the battlefield and that the enemy could not be permitted to use our own media against us.
After several delays, the channel is planning to launch in November.
MEDIA CAUGHT LYING ABOUT “SECRET PRISONS”
Led by the Associated Press (AP), the media have falsely reported that President Bush acknowledged the existence of CIA “secret prisons” in a September 6 speech. News flash! The President never used the term in the speech.
Type in the words “secret prisons” in the Google search engine for current news and see how many hits you get in connection with the Bush speech. Some say Bush “admitted” or “confirmed” the existence of “secret prisons.” But notice that Bush’s acknowledgement, admission, or confirmation is never presented in quotation marks. That’s the tip-off that he didn’t say what the media claim he said. Our media lied.
Telling The Truth
Leave it to Bob Schieffer, the former CBS Evening News anchorman, to state the truth as he was being interviewed about the speech by new anchor Katie Couric on the September 6 broadcast. “He never used the term ‘prison,'” said Schieffer.
But if the President didn’t use the word, then how can the media report that he did so? It’s called “interpretive reporting.” It’s been taught in journalism classes for decades.
Left-wing blogs, even some supposedly devoted to being media watchdogs, cited the erroneous news accounts of the Bush speech as “proof” that “secret prisons” existed. They didn’t bother to check the actual text.
All of this, however, is secondary to the fact that a secret CIA program to interrogate terrorists, including the architects of 9/11, did exist and should never have been the subject of stories in the media in the first place. But because of the exaggerated media coverage and attention given to the story, as well as a flawed Supreme Court decision about how to handle terrorists, the architects of 9/11 have now been transferred to the Guantanamo detention facility, once described by Amnesty International as the “gulag of our times” but which now serves Big Macs and offers first-class medical and dental care.
The distortions about what Bush said should be a lesson to news consumers to not accept what they see, read, or hear in the major media. Another lesson is not to trust the liberal blogs which accept anything negative about Bush they can find in that same media.
For the record, the President acknowledged that the CIA has maintained an interrogation “program” in which “a small number of suspected terrorist leaders and operatives captured during the war have been held and questioned outside the United States?” Bush said, “This group includes individuals believed to be the key architects of the September the 11th attacks, and attacks on the USS Cole, an operative involved in the bombings of our embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, and individuals involved in other attacks that have taken the lives of innocent civilians across the world. These are dangerous men with unparalleled knowledge about terrorist networks and their plans for new attacks. The security of our nation and the lives of our citizens depend on our ability to learn what these terrorists know.” He referred to them having been “held in CIA custody.”
Bush added, “Many specifics of this program, including where these detainees have been held and the details of their confinement, cannot be divulged. Doing so would provide our enemies with information they could use to take retribution against our allies and harm our country.”
Those details are precisely what Dana Priest of the Washington Post was trying to expose in her November 2, 2005, Pulitzer Prize-winning story alleging that the “secret prisons” existed. Priest was attacked on various grounds for that story. Some suggested she should never have revealed the existence of such a program. AIM contended, and still does, that the story was essentially false, and that her prize should be revoked on that basis.
In addition to using the phrase “secret prisons,” Priest’s tabloid treatment of the controversy included calling it a “covert prison system,” a “hidden global internment network,” and a “secret detention system.” At the request of the administration, the Post agreed to delete certain country names from her article, but she retained the rhetoric in the very first paragraph about some al-Qaeda captives being kept at “a Soviet-era compound in Eastern Europe.”
That phrase provided an important insight into her motivation. She was trying to compare U.S. treatment of terrorists to Soviet mistreatment of dissidents. In fact, when Priest later gave an interview on the subject, she did not dispute the use of the term “secret gulags” in referring to the “secret prisons.”
What Priest did was pull a Dick Durbin, the liberal Illinois senator who earlier, in June 2005, had compared Guantanamo to the Soviet gulags and suggested that U.S. personnel interrogating suspected terrorists were acting like Communists, Nazis and Pol Pot. While Durbin eventually apologized for his remarks, Priest won an award for her story, which caused European leftists to go crazy with investigations of the CIA.
Some might say that it doesn’t matter whether the terrorists were held at prisons, detention facilities, camps, or whatever. But it does matter if accuracy in the media is to be upheld and for Priest to retain her Pulitzer. This Dick Durbin-style of journalism is a disgrace.
The word “prison” in the American context suggests something like Alcatraz, the federal penitentiary with guards and towers that was closed in 1963. It held as many as 300 inmates. The number of detainees in the “secret prison” system, according to the Post itself, was about 100 “at various times,” meaning the figure was usually much lower, and only 14, now transferred to Guantanamo, had remained. Bush referred to a “small number” in the CIA program. So how big of a “global internment network” was this anyway? A European politician investigating the matter told a Washington news conference earlier this year that he had heard reports that some of the terrorists may have been held in hotels or private homes.
The basic disclosures from Bush were not a surprise. The issue wasn’t whether CIA flights with suspected terrorists had landed in some foreign countries and that terrorists were detained on foreign soil. The issue is whether these constituted some “network” of “secret prisons” that rivaled those of the Soviet era. Priest exaggerated the program into something it was not, in order to kill it.
One current factor in the distorted coverage was the desire to make Bush look bad by suggesting he has finally come clean about a controversial counter-terrorist program. Another factor was to salvage the reputation of Dana Priest herself, whose coverage had come under searing attack. Priest became an embattled reporter whose marriage to a prominent anti-Bush activist, and alleged use of a pro-John Kerry fired CIA officer named Mary McCarthy as a source, had become a matter of public interest. It is still not clear what role that rogue elements in the CIA played in her “scoop.” Did they feed Priest disinformation? Or did she get the story wrong on her own?
If Priest had simply reported that the CIA was holding a few terrorists and moving them around the globe, the reaction would have been ho-hum. She would have been lucky to have gotten the story on page 15. But when the issue became “secret prisons” like the Soviet gulags, that got page-one treatment and helped to create an international controversy. Priest, in short, had created a stink. And that’s apparently what Pulitzers are for. But it’s the story that stinks.
Lies From AP
Another stinker was the first story AIM noticed erroneously reporting that Bush had “acknowledged Wednesday the existence of previous secret CIA prisons.” It was written by Associated Press writer Nedra Pickler and AIM editor Cliff Kincaid called to ask about her claim. “My story speaks for itself,” she said. “I don’t want to do any interviews on what went into writing the story.” This exchange then ensued:
Kincaid: I’m asking you where the term prisons came from because it’s not in the speech. The term secret prisons just isn’t there.
Pickler: I don’t want to discuss this any further but if you want to talk to some of our spokespeople you can but this isn’t something I do?conduct interviews about what’s in my stories.
Kincaid: Can you just tell me where the term secret prisons came from in his speech? That’s all.
Pickler: I don’t want to discuss how my stories were written. No.
Kincaid: Well, your story is wrong. I think you ought to have the integrity to admit it. He did not use the term secret prisons. Why don’t you just report the facts? That’s all I’m asking you.”
Pickler: (Silence. Hangs up the phone).
The truth will, of course, never catch up with the original erroneous reports, and our suspicion as the story developed was that even some anonymous administration officials would begin to be cited as confirming the use of “secret prisons.” This is how “conventional wisdom” based on media misinformation develops, even though the facts may be something else entirely.
In fact, Sandy Johnson, Washington bureau chief for AP, later informed AIM that they checked the Pickler story with somebody at the White House, who said that the report about the President confirming the “secret prisons” was “just fine.” But the identity of the White House official, she said, will just have to remain secret.
AP seems to have perfected a method of reporting that avoids the facts and the need to correct mistakes. This bad journalism shows that AP can’t be trusted.
What You Can Do
Please send the linked postcard in an envelope to AIM with a generous contribution so we can accelerate our campaign against Al-Jazeera. And please send the other postcards or cards and letters of your own choosing to Democratic Party leaders Howard Dean and Rep. Rahm Emanuel, asking them to disavow the views of a Democratic House candidate in Florida who promotes the view that 9/11 was an “inside job.”