Shadowy media conceals bin Laden tape

by Chris Schafer

I tell you, freedom and human rights in America are doomed. The U.S. government will lead the American people in – and the West in general – into an unbearable hell and choking life.”

These vicious words seethed from the mouth of Osama bin Laden during an interview – his first since the Sept. 11 attacks – with Al-Jazeera, an Arabic-language television network. The interview was held in late October. In late January, an entire three months later, people of the United States heard about it after CNN obtained the videotape.

The mysterious manner by which the video fell into the hands of CNN has caused severe tension between CNN and Al-Jazeera and has ignited controversy regarding whether the major cable network had the right to air the tape. Al-Jazeera has stated it will sever ties with CNN while promising to “punish the organizations and individuals who stole this video and distributed it illegally.”

For Al-Jazeera, it is best to fan the flames of publicity towards its separation from CNN because it draws attention away from the most obvious question: Legal or not, why did CNN have to “obtain” the video in the first place? Why wasn’t it immediately given to a major news network – any news network?

CNN and Al-Jazeera are not competitors, they are affiliates – the Arabic-language network works through CNN. It shares a professional agreement with the Qatar-based network, giving CNN the right to use Al-Jazeera resources without limitation.

It appears Al-Jazeera’s goal was to hide the video from everyone. For three months, they withheld damning video footage of the most wanted man in the world, yet they showed it to no one. Why did they keep it a secret?

When confronted with this question the network became defensive, stating, “Al-Jazeera does not feel it is obligated to explain its position and its reasoning of why it chose not to air the interview.”

Their decision reeks of unethical journalism. By hiding this footage from the rest of the world, the Al-Jazeera network deprived the public of critical information simply because, they allege, it “did not meet their standards,” and it was not “newsworthy.”

Of course it wasn’t newsworthy. Why would anyone care about any tape featuring the FBI’s most wanted man? Just because he admits to masterminding the attack of the World Trade Center doesn’t make it newsworthy. Just because he prophesies mass death and destruction for the entire Western world doesn’t mean we should know about it. I suppose the Al-Jazeera television network doesn’t think the murder of more than 6,000 civilians on Sept. 11 was newsworthy either.

Osama bin Laden is the most dangerous individual in the world. His financial means and terrorist connections across the globe make anything within the span of his demented imagination a possible target for a terrorist attack.

But we don’t need to worry about one petty little interview, despite such ominous quotes as, “If inciting people to do that (the Sept. 11 attacks) is terrorism, and if killing those who kill our sons is terrorism, then let history be witness that we are terrorists.” And, “So we kill innocents, and I say it is permissible in Islamic law and logic.”

In a time when the United States was scrambling to verify Osama bin Laden as the evil mastermind of the Sept. 11 attacks, and in a time when the entire free world is struggling to identify future terrorist threats, anything that chronicles his thoughts or actions is newsworthy. It doesn’t matter if he’s talking, eating, sleeping or making shadow puppets; it’s still newsworthy.

While it’s a pathetic excuse for the Al-Jazeera network to claim the bin Laden video was not newsworthy, I can understand the tape wasn’t up to their standards. I mean, if their “standards” mandate that news organizations manipulate the public portrayal of a certain individual in order to cast him in a positive light for political reasons, then the interview with Osama bin Laden would certainly be “beneath their standards,” as it is incredibly damning footage.

The tape reveals the real Osama bin Laden. Not since O.J. Simpson has a man been so obviously guilty. This videotaped interview erases any reasonable doubt Osama bin Laden was behind the attacks of Sept. 11.

When the United States first discovered the video of a taped conversation between Osama bin Laden and an unknown sheik, both the skeptical and the delusional united to denounce its validity. They claimed the tape was doctored and their innocent Osama had words put into his mouth by the devilish Americans with their evil technology.

But the veracity of this tape is uncontestable. The clandestine manner in which this videotape was obtained only strengthens its legitimacy. Only through underground smuggling was the free world able to see what Al-Jazeera felt was all too unimportant.

What other “unimportant” gems might Al-Jazeera have locked in its little storage basements? Could there be other interviews, possibly more recent? After all, the Al-Jazeera reporter appeared to have a professional rapport with bin Laden. What other little tidbits of information are kept tied down by bolt and chain under the title of “not newsworthy”? Is it possible the network knew where Osama bin Laden was at certain times and shared it with no one?

As the United States scrambles to stay one step ahead of terrorists across the globe, every piece of information is critical. It appears Al-Jazeera might have quite a bit of information – even if they’d deny possessing it (as they did, initially, with the bin Laden video).

To stay ahead of the enemy, and prevent future tragedies, our country needs access to global information in all forms of communications media. It is America’s obligation to itself, and the rest of the free world, to leave no possibility unchecked in its search for al-Qaida and Osama bin Laden – starting with the Al-Jazeera network. Freedom of the press obligates journalists to obtain critical information and share it with the public, not hide it to serve their own political agendas.


Chris Schafer’s column appears
alternate Wednesdays. He welcomes
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