Al Qaeda’s Favorite Networks

Yesterday the federal government made available some of the correspondence that was captured in the raid that killed bin Laden. I am still working my way through it; one of the more entertaining dispatches is from al-Qaeda spokesman Adam Gadahn and was written in late January 2011. Gadahn, you may remember, is the American convert who is prized by the organization for his knowledge of American media and culture. The most interesting part of Gadahn’s letter is where he discusses the news outlets al Qaeda can use to disseminate its message:

The Issue of preparing for the Tenth Anniversary, and how it will be marketed in the Media, and How to Exploit the Media in General:

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 between the 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.) [Actually, it was CNN that fired Nasser.]

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 al-Qa’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.

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.

Remember the aftermath of 9/11, when many journalists argued that they were obliged to remain neutral between the U.S. and its terrorist enemies? Al Qaeda appreciates their scrupulousness. Gadahn also identified some individual journalists who he thought would be helpful in getting out the group’s message. Note an old acquaintance to whom we have paid little or no attention in recent years in the first sentence:

As for the second method, which I suggest, it is close to what the Shaykh mentioned of communicating with ‘Abd-al-Bari Atwan [editor-in chief of the London-based pan-Arab newspaper Al-Quds Al-Arabi] and Robert Fisk. I suggest that we send the material-or materials-to a group of writers and professional or independent journalists, who have shown interest in al-Qa’ida issues, from different countries. In Britain, the two journalists Atwan and Fisk, and probably others, in America Brian Ross, Simon Hirsh [Seymour Hersh?] and Jerry [possibly Matthew?] Van Dyke and others, in Canada Eric Margolis and Gwynne Dyer. In Europe, the Norwegian journalist who spent some time with the students in Kroner and released a film that was condemned in the West because he shows that the students are humans that have families and children and that they laugh and eat as the rest of the people.

It was also interesting to see how closely al Qaeda followed the 2010 midterm elections:

Irrespective of the passing of the mid-term elections, the timing now is very suitable for the Shaykh to show with this speech. This is because all the political talk in America is about the economy, forgetting or ignoring the war and its role
in weakening the economy. Just as what a Pakistani journalist residing in America has said, that the press conference held by
Obama after the midterm elections, all the questions were on the bad economy, and the means to get out of the crisis.

Nevertheless not one of the journalists dared to embarrass Obama by questioning him about the influence on the American budget
and the national economy of spending the billions yearly on the two wars of Afghanistan and Iraq.

Actually, Obama and the Democrats referred frequently to the “two wars” as excuses for the administration’s economic performance. The information that Gadahn passed on to his confederates was not particularly accurate, presumably because he was a little out of touch during his years hiding in Yemen.

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