June 4, 2002








Scott Peterson/Getty Images

Christian 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 in Afghanistan

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 Bora.

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.

No kidding.

By the way, Smucker only has a freelance job with the Monitor.

"I saved this paper"
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 United States.

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 permission.


Just reporting...
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 mere suspicion.

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 evidence.

Smart sources...
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 in Kazakhstan.

If you can spring for the service, think of it as another source whispering in your ear. www.intelligenceonline.com

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