Accuracy in Media

Beginning on February 14, with an article in the Christian Science Monitor, several news organizations finally discovered Project Bojinka. This was the code name for a plot discovered in Manila in January 1995 that involved bombing eleven American airliners as they flew over the Pacific, assassinating the pope when he visited Manila and crashing planes into the CIA headquarters and other buildings. We publicized this right after we read an Australian newspaper story about it two days after the Nine/Eleven attacks.

Our intelligence agencies had been informed about this by Philippine authorities, but they had either forgotten or not taken seriously the plan to use planes to attack important buildings in this country. The Washington Post ran a major story about this several days later, but even that was not enough to get other media to pay attention to it. The sudden interest in it six months later is a little strange, but it is welcome if it focuses more attention on the failure of the CIA and the FBI to pay attention to the information they were given by the Philippine police in 1995.

The recent stories, especially the ones on CNN, Fox News and MSNBC, which credited its story to the Associated Press, provided additional detail about Bojinka that was not reported earlier. None of these stories, however, used the code name Bojinka.

The Chief Superintendent of the Philippine police, Avelino Razon, made the connection between the Nine/Eleven attacks and Bojinka. He said the plot was discovered after the arrest of Abdul Hakim Murad in Manila. Razon said that Murad was “part of a terrorist cell established by Ramzi Yousef under the direction of Osama bin Laden,”. The plot was discovered after Yousef and Murad had started a fire in their Manila apartment while making a chemical bomb. The CNN story reported that Yousef, who had been involved in the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center, told Murad that he planned to attack the WTC again. It said Murad was a commercial pilot, trained in the U.S. and other countries, who had been recruited by Yousef for a suicide mission.

CNN quoted Col. Rodolfo Mendoza, an intelligence investigator who had interrogated Murad for nearly four months, as saying that Murad had told him that Yousef’s idea was to dive commercial planes into the CIA headquarters, the Pentagon, the Sears building in Chicago and the Transamerica Building in San Francisco. The MSNBC report, which was attributed to the AP, had a different version. It said Murad had told authorities that he had proposed the suicide hijacking to Yousef. They had not developed a specific plan, but they discussed targets like the CIA building and the Pentagon.

One transcript shows Murad suggesting to Yousef that they “dive to CIA building” and Yousef, saying, “OK, we will think about it.” The interrogator asked Murad, “You are willing to die for Allah or for Islam?” Murad replied, “Yes” Later, he said, “All my thinking was that I should fight the Americans. I should do something to them that…we could stay in their face.” He and Yousef are now serving life sentences in a federal prison.

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