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Cold River: A case study

In June 2002 I wrote a column for the Minneapolis Star Tribune regarding Yasser Arafat’s responsibility for the 1973 assassination of two United States State Department officers — Ambassador Cleo Noel and charge d’affaires Curtis Moore — in Khartoum, Sudan. The column was based on accounts of the events in David Korn’s Assassination in Khartoum, Neil Livingstone and David Halevy’s Inside the PLO, and the testimony of former National Security Agency analyst Jim Welsh. Welsh has doggedly purused the story for over thirty years as a result of his personal involvement in disseminating a warning relating to the communications intercepted by the NSA in 1973.
While researching my column in 2002, I sought out a State Department spokesman for a comment. I sent an e-mail message with a draft of my column to State Department Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs deputy director of press affairs Gregory Sullivan. I wrote Sullivan:

I have been leaving messages with you and other department officers over the past day or two seeking any information about department efforts to bring to justice Yasser Arafat and others involved in the 1973 assassination of former American Ambassador to Sudan…Cleo Noel and his charge d’affaires, George Curtis Moore. Attached is the op-ed piece I have written on the subject, including criticism of the Department for its apparent inaction…regarding its own former officers. If my assertions regarding the Department’s inaction are wrong, I would like to rewrite the piece to make it accurate. I wonder if you would be willing to take a moment to review the piece and provide me with any information on behalf of the department if I am mistaken.

In response Sulllivan wrote:

I can’t say I’m impressed with your research or argumentation. You’re obviously writing a piece designed to elicit a certain reaction rather than one based on factual accounts or actual comments made by the U.S. government. I really don’t have the time to do the research for you, but I do find myself compelled to point out…Evidence clearly points to the terrorist group Black September as having committed the assassinations of Amb. Noel and George Moore, and though Black September was a part of the Fatah movement, the linkage between Arafat and this group has never been established.

Following the publication of my column in the Star Tribune, I filed a Freedom of Information Act request for State Department cables and reports on the assassination of Ambassador Noel. A year later

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