Thursday, August 12, 2004

Yahoo! News - Al-Qaida planning major assassination to disrupt US vote

Yahoo! News - Al-Qaida planning major assassination to disrupt US vote

Time for a little news analysis, kids. Because apparently the AP isn't doing it.

WASHINGTON (AFP) - Al-Qaida is reportedly planning a high-level assassination against a US or foreign leader to disrupt the US presidential election, that will be set in motion by a new tape from its leader Osama bin Laden. Quoting from unnamed US intelligence officials, The Washington Times said besides the United States, two possible places where the assassination would take place are Saudi Arabia and Yemen. The assassination would signal the launch of more terrorist attacks involving "multiple targets in multiple venues" across the United States, the officials said. They said the "very detailed" plans were found on a laptop computer of suspected Al-Qaida computer expert Naeem Noor Khan, arrested in Pakistan last month. "The goal of the next attack is twofold: to damage the US economy and to undermine the US election," an intelligence official said, referring to the November 2 presidential election pitting Republican President George W. Bush and Democrat John Kerry. "The view of Al-Qaida is 'anybody but Bush,'" said the official. The officials said the likely trigger for Al-Qaida's new terrorist campaign would be a new video and audio message from bin Laden, which they expected to surface soon. "The message likely will be the signal for the attack to be launched," one official said.

First things first. Unnamed sources. The NY Times' public editor wrote an excellent piece on the use of unnamed sources. If you're at school you can probably find the article on Lexis Nexis or something along those lines. It's no mystery that the vast majority of the unnamed sources are merely Washington bureaucrats who are making a statement they don't want to be held accountable for. I'm not going to rant on this. This isn't Deep Throat Nixon-era anonymity.

It is not holding our political leaders and our journalists accountable.

For seconds. In this instance, we have an unnamed source making a statement directly to the Washington Times, which should already be setting off bells. That is to say, sooooomebody in Washington has chosen an extremely conservative publication to speak to anonymously, as opposed to, say, a respected news outlet.

The other thing that really set me off about this article was the really insightful comment: "The view of Al-Qaida is 'anybody but Bush,'" said the official. I shouldn't have to spell this one out either. An anonymous official in Washington has said that Al-Qaida's goal is to elect anyone but Bush. id est, a vote for Kerry is a vote for Osama. Yeeeeeah. This is not news, folks. Nothing of value to the American public was reported in this article.

You mean Al-Qaida has thought about killing people? Yes. Yes, they've done that. The article says that specific information was found on this Noor fellow's computer. The information was not provided in the article, which is fine. Intelligence is intelligence, security is security. However. Unless you are an American, Saudi or Yemeni politician, I don't think this article is going to help you much. And on the off chance that you are such a politician, well, you'd better watch out because Al-Qaida doesn't like YOU.

If valuable intelligence has been passed on to American intelligence agencies because of Noor's arrest, I am certainly glad. I would also be glad if we all knew why Noor's cover was blown at just the moment when the press was criticizing the apparently convenient timing or Ridge's last terror spook. That is, why was a valuable Al-Qaida insider's name released to the press while he was still helping American and Pakistani police locate and arrest more Al-Qaida. Would the Bush administration give up a rare turncoat in Al-Qaida to save some skin in an election year? I don't know! I just don't know. I certainly hope not.

So anyway, here's my challenge to you: Start reading the news twice. Unfortunately Fox News and the Washington Times aren't the only GOP mouthpieces. The AP, major papers and major TV outlets spit this stuff out all the time - not necessarily maliciously, but merely through sloppy reporting. Clearly, it's time to start holding our politicians accountable. That's the first step. The second, and equally important step is to start holding our journalists accountable. They're our front line, and when they know people are watching, they work harder to present the real news through all this miscellanea.