Archive for the ‘Investigative’ Category


The Washington Post reports intelligence officials have found Bin Laden’s handwritten and electronic journals as part of the intelligence treasure trove recovered during the Abbottabad raid. The article is well worth reading in full, but here’s an excerpt:

Osama bin Laden was preoccupied with attacking the United States over all other targets, a fixation that led to friction with followers, according to U.S. intelligence officials involved in analyzing the trove of materials recovered from the al-Qaeda leader’s compound.

In handwritten journals and long-winded compositions saved on computer hard drives, the officials said, bin Laden always seemed to be searching for a way to replicate the impact of al-Qaeda’s most devastating strike.

He exhorted followers to explore ways to recruit non-Muslims “who are oppressed in the United States,” in the words of one official — particularly African Americans and Latinos — and to assemble a plot in time for the 10th anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks.

First of all, from a historical perspective, those journals will probably be a fascinating read. If they are ever released by the U.S. government, I’m sure someone like Peter Bergen would have a field day with that material and crank out another book or two. I’m currently reading “The Osama bin Laden I Know,” which is a fascinating first-hand oral biography of OBL collected from people who have met and dealt with him over the years that was published in 2006. Obviously, a lot has happened since then… It would be interesting to compare this (and Bergen’s previous book, Holy War, Inc.) with what’s in the journals. Hopefully with the passage of time and a few FOIA requests, some of this material can see the light of day for journalists and historians to study.

Second, if the account about OBL’s idea to recruit African Americans and Latinos to attack the United States is correct, it would show his complete misunderstanding of American society and culture, where immigrants, foreigners, and minority groups tend to assimilate and gain acceptance fairly quickly, in comparison to Europe, where they remain segregated due to social, political, and economic circumstances. That’s not to say that Al Qaeda wouldn’t have been able to find an occasional misguided soul here and there, but if he really believed this would work, he had definitely been drinking too much of his own Kool Aid.

H/T to Chuck Todd for the idea for the title of this post

Update: ProPublica has more details about the contents of the Bin Laden documents. Although it’s unclear as to what stuff is from journals and what isn’t, the whole thing is worth a read. Big surprise: bin Laden himself personally vetoed an offer from Al Qaeda’s leader in Yemen to let Anwar al-Awlaki take over, because he knew and trusted the Yemeni and didn’t want to change the status quo. If this is accurate, it will probably lead to a reassessment by experts of Awlaki as a viable option to succeed bin Laden and lead al Qaeda.

Not making this up – An FCC commissioner who voted to approve the NBC/Comcast deal is taking a new job lobbying for… the new NBC/Comcast conglomerate.

Would-be modern day saint Greg Mortenson got hit by a devastating one-two journalistic punch courtesy of Jon Krakauer and 60 Minutes pointing out his nonexistent loose relationship with the truth as it relates to some anecdotes and details in his best-selling books.

In making the comparison between Mortenson and James Frey, Krakauer notes, “Frey, unlike Mortenson, didn’t use his phony memoir to solicit tens of millions of dollars in donations from unsuspecting readers.”

Beyond the literary embellishment or outright fabrication alleged in both reports, the charges that Mortenson has mismanaged or used CAI funds for personal use, or claimed credit for building nonexistant schools raise even more troubling questions.  The fact that President Obama gave $100,000 of his Nobel Peace Prize money to Mortenson’s charity will bring even more scrutiny to what he’s done with the millions of dollars he’s raised over the years.

Again, I quote the Beatles: “Sexy Sadie what have you done / You made a fool of everyone.”

If you only read one story today, it should be this report from the Center for Public Integrity (via the Daily Beast):

Some journalists develop a delicate relationship with law-enforcement officials as they try to obtain sensitive information without getting too close to the government.

But a once-classified FBI memo reveals that the bureau treated a senior ABC News journalist as a potential confidential informant in the 1990s, pumping the reporter to ascertain the source of a sensational but uncorroborated tip that the network had obtained during its early coverage of the Oklahoma City bombing.

The journalist, whose name is not disclosed in the document labeled “secret,” not only cooperated but provided the identity of a confidential source, according to the FBI memo—a likely breach of journalistic ethics if he or she did not have the source’s permission.

The ABC employee was even assigned a number in the FBI’s informant database, indicating he or she was still being vetted for suitability as a snitch after providing “highly accurate and reliable information in the past” and then revealing information the network had obtained in the hours just after the terrorist attack by Timothy McVeigh.

The journalist “advised that a source within the Saudi Arabian Intelligence Service advised that the Oklahoma City bombing was sponsored by the Iraqi Special Services who contracted seven (7) former Afghani Freedom Fighters out of Pakistan,” an April 17, 1996 FBI memo states, recounting the then-ABC journalist’s interview with FBI agents a year earlier on the evening of the April 19, 1995 bombing. (The Iraqi connection, of course, never materialized.)

This story has profound ethical questions for journalists and ABC News in particular. Journalists are supposed to get information from government sources, not the other way around. Obviously, until we know more about the identity of the reporter, it would not be useful or productive to speculate on his or her motives. But this revelation puts reporters, particularly investigative reporters who cover law enforcement, intelligence, or military beats, on the defensive. Don’t be surprised if at least one reporter, if not several, comes out publicly and says he or she has never been a government informant.

Update: Gawker is identifying the mole as current CBS News Washington Bureau Chief Christopher Isham.

Isham declined to comment when reached by Gawker. A CBS spokeswoman responded, “This is a matter for ABC News.”

Update II: Isham has released a statement denying he was the mole.

The suggestion that I was an informant for the FBI is outrageous and untrue. Like every investigative reporter, my job for 25 years has been to check out information and tips from sources. In the heat of the Oklahoma City bombing, it would not be unusual for me or any journalist to run information by a source within the FBI for confirmation or to notify authorities about a pending terrorist attack. This is consistent with the policies at every news organization. But at no time did I compromise a confidential source with the FBI or anyone else. Mr. Cannistraro was not a confidential source, but rather a colleague – a paid consultant to ABC News who had already spoken to the FBI about information he had received.

If you only read one news article today, it should be this New Yorker piece about the murder of Guatemalan attorney Rodrigo Rosenberg.