- By Joshua Keating
Joshua Keating is associate editor at Foreign Policy and the editor of the Passport blog. He has worked as a researcher, editorial assistant, and deputy Web editor since joining the FP staff in 2007. In addition to being featured in Foreign Policy, his writing has been published by the Washington Post, Newsweek International, Radio Prague, the Center for Defense Information, and Romania's Adevarul newspaper. He has appeared as a commentator on CNN International, C-Span, ABC News, Al Jazeera, NPR, BBC radio, and others. A native of Brooklyn, New York, he studied comparative politics at Oberlin College.
One of the most intriguing highlights of the 17 documents released by West Point’s Combating Terrorism Center from the trove captured at Osama bin Laden’s Abbottabad compound is a discussion from al Qaeda’s American media advisor, Adam Gadahn, on plans for the commemoration of the 10th anniversary of 9/11. Gadahn gives his impression of the major U.S. networks and seems pretty up to date on recent media news. Let’s just say ABC probably won’t be too happy with its description, but Fox News is no doubt already working on a new ad campaign. (Highlights mine):
As far as the American channel that could be used to deliver our messages, whether on the tenth anniversary or before or after, in my personal opinion there are no distinct differences betweenthe channels from the standpoint of professionalism and neutrality. It is all as the Shaykh has stated (close to professionalism and neutrality) it has not and will not reach the perfect professionalism and neutrality, only if God wants that. From the professional point of view, they are all on one level except (Fox News) channel which falls into the abyss as you know, and lacks neutrality too.
As for the neutrality of CNN in English, it seems to be in cooperation with the government more than the others (except Fox News of course). Its Arabic version brings good and detailed reports about al-Sahab releases, with a lot of quotations from the original text. That means they copy directly from the releases or its gist. It is not like what other channels and sites do, copying from news agencies like Reuters, AP and others. I used to think that MSNBC channel may be good and neutral a bit, but is has lately fired two of the most famous journalists -Keith Olberman and Octavia Nasser the Lebanese – because they released some statements that were open for argument (The Lebanese had praised a Shia Imam Muhammad Husayn Fadlallah after his death and called him "One of the marvels of Hizballah" it seems she is a Shia.) (Page 3 of 21) CBS channel was mentioned by the Shaykh, I see that it is like the other channels, but it has a famous program (60 Minutes) that has some popularity and a good reputation for its long broadcasting time. Only God knows the reality, as I am not really in a position to do so. ABC channel is all right; actually it could be one of the best channels, as far as we are concerned. It is interested in alQa’ida issues, particularly the journalist Brian Ross, who is specialized in terrorism. The channel is still proud for its interview with the Shaykh. It also broadcasted excerpts from a speech of mine on the fourth anniversary, it also published most of that text on its site on the internet. In conclusion, we can say that there is no single channel that we could rely on for our messages. I may ignore them, and even the channel that broadcast them, probably it would distort them somehow. This is accomplished by bringing analysts and experts that would interpret its meaning in the way they want it to be. Or they may ignore the message and conduct a smearing of the individuals, to the end of the list of what you know about their cunning methods. But if the display -in the next anniversary for example- of a special type, like a special interview with Shaykh Usama or Shaykh Ayman, and with questions chosen by the channel, and with a good camera, we might find a channel that would accept its broadcasting. But they would accept this time, so as to get an exclusive press scoop: The first press interview of Shaykh Usama or Shaykh Ayman since 10 years ago! Particularly if the Shaykh is the one to be interviewed. This is because of the scarcity of his appearance during the last nine years. Because of the poor photographic quality of the last two releases -I do not know the photo quality this time- this led those believers in conspiracy theory to speculate if the person was the Shaykh, and you may have seen the program (Ben Ladin, alive or dead?) that was broadcast by Al Jazeera. Accordingly, a high quality speech (HD) may receive some interest by some channels in the tenth anniversary. If the quality of the new Shaykh’s speech is high, relative to the two previous speeches, you may think to compress it or take some measures to decrease the quality, to be similar to the previous ones, and I am talking seriously. In general, and no matter what material we send, I suggest that we should distribute it to more than one channel, so that there will be healthy competition between the channels in broadcasting the material, so that no other channel takes the lead. It should be sent for example to ABC, CBS, NBC, and CNN and maybe PBS and VOA. As for Fox News, let her die in her anger.
Gadahn had his facts mixed up a bit. It was CNN, not MSNBC, that fired Octavia Nasr.
Some other intriguing bits include bin Laden sounding like something of a corporate middle manager when discussing the recruitman of Anwar al-Awlaki:
How excellent would it be if you ask brother Basir to send us the resume, in detail and lengthy, of brother Anwar al-‘Awlaqi, as well as the facts he relied on when recommending him, while informing him that his recommendation is considered.
There’s also a bit of Decline Watch fodder in bin Laden’s currency preferences:
Enclosed is the article attributed to our brother Sayf al-‘Adl. -Regarding the money, I like for them to be in Euros.
Stay tuned for more.