Science Monitor and Daily Telegraph (London) correspondent Philip
Smucker (right) and his Afghan translator Lufullah "Mashal"
pose February 28, 2002 in the Khyber Pass, Pakistan
The best newsman
Those who read Philip Smucker of the Christian Science Monitor know
the most about the failed U.S. campaign to capture Osama bin Laden -
more than what the U.S. government and major news organizations have
told readers so far.
While the Pentagon was telling the American public it had no idea where
bin Laden went, Smucker found out. Based on interviews with Al Qaeda
prisoners, warlords and residents of Pakistan and Afghanistan, Smucker's
articles from December to March reveal that bin Laden was in Jalalabad,
Pakistan, on Nov. 10, where he rallied followers at the Islamic Studies
Center. The next day, Smucker reported, bin Laden was seen in a white
Toyota Corolla, part of a convoy that split up when it reached Tora
Captured Al Qaeda fighters told Smucker that bin Laden appeared in
the caves of Tora Bora on Nov. 26, with "a warm glass of tea in
his hand." More local sources told Smucker that bin Laden had left
the caves around Dec. 1, heading for the Parachinar area of Pakistan,
and that he had exchanged Kalashnikov rifles with local tribesmen to
pay his way out of Afghanistan. Bin Laden later phoned the enclave,
urging his men to keep fighting. U.S. officials say they probably heard
bin Laden's voice on a short-wave transmission on Dec. 10.
Smucker's articles also showed how local warlords and militias
cut deals to help Al Qaeda fighters escape, how they didn't effectively
attack Tora Bora, and how the United States might have caught bin Laden
had it sealed the border with Pakistan in November.
On April 17, The Washington Post reported that U.S. civilian and military
officials concluded that bin Laden was in Tora Bora but escaped in the
first 10 days of December, that U.S. reluctance to put troops on the
ground was a large mistake and that the military had misjudged its Afghan
allies in the fight for Tora Bora.
By the way, Smucker only has a freelance job with the Monitor.
"I saved this
On March 8, the San Diego Union Tribune published an interview
with California Governor Gray Davis scrutinized his performance
during some of the darkest days (literally) that California has
ever known. Replying to criticism that he signed long-term energy
contracts at exorbitant costs, Davis said, "If I didn't panic,
you wouldn't be able to put out your paper. I saved this friggin'
paper. I kept the lights on in this state. Do you understand that?
I kept the lights on."
Hunting bin Laden
That an attack such as Sept. 11 had been brewing for decades and
had been incited by deep conflicts between radical Muslims and
specific elements of U.S. culture and foreign policy - including
the stationing of troops in Saudi Arabia - was not lost on
PBS' Frontline. The
network's 1999 special, "Hunting bin Laden," appeared
in updated form on Sept. 13, 2001. Featuring a Pulitzer-nominated
team of New York Times reporters and Frontline's Lowell Bergman
(a UCB lecturer and a contributor to The Big Story), the special
offered a comprehensive historical perspective of radical Islam,
as well as new details about bin Laden's alliances with other
terrorist organizations and their common vision to destroy the
Cable modem snoops
On Nov. 28, Wired News reported that the Department of Justice
was already using the anti-terrorism powers of the USA Patriot
Act to monitor cable modem users without obtaining a judge's
In separate stories published on Nov. 4, The Washington Post and the
Los Angeles Times uncovered a U.S. Justice Department investigation
that was widely aimed at preventing another terrorist attack, rather
than finding out accomplices of the September 11 hijackings. Both stories
divulged details for the widespread campaign of racial profiling and
severe civil liberties abuses, such as detainees waiting in prison for
more than a month to obtain legal representation, and Arabs picked up
at airports - even though they were employees.
The New York Times rang in loudly with an Oct. 21 feature story in
its magazine about a Saudi doctor in Texas, incarcerated and held on
During a time of patriotism, the stories stirred a national debate
about civil liberties, and all three news organizations continued to
break stories on the investigation despite much of it being held in
secrecy. In May, one federal judge ruled to suppress evidence collected
in an investigation of a Jordanian student because the student was held
without probable cause. The ruling may strike a blow to the Justice
Department's use of a material witness law to detain suspects without
Intelligence Online promises to "evaluate emerging risks -
terrorism, proliferation, organised crime, money laundering, political
instability - around the globe."
The site has made good on its promise. In January, Intelligence Online
reported that U.S. officials had set up a meeting between oil companies
and interim Afghani president Hamid Karzai. The site has advanced stories
on the pro-Iranian business lobby in the European Union, Al Qaeda's
connections in Malaysia, and the French nuclear industry's presence
If you can spring for the service, think of it as another source whispering
in your ear. www.intelligenceonline.com
Back to Magazine contents