CNN uncritically reported disputed claim that Zubaydah interrogation led to Khalid Shaikh Mohammed

››› ››› SIMON MALOY

CNN's Kelly Arena uncritically reported U.S. government officials' claim that the interrogation of Al Qaeda operative Abu Zubaydah and terrorism suspect Ramzi bin al-Shibh led to the capture of Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, the alleged mastermind of the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. But Arena failed to note evidence indicating that the interrogation of Zubaydah and bin al-Shibh had little to no impact on Mohammed's capture.

During a "Security Watch" segment on the September 22 edition of CNN Newsroom, CNN justice correspondent Kelly Arena uncritically reported U.S. government officials' claim that information provided by Al Qaeda operative Abu Zubaydah during interrogation led to the capture of terrorism suspect Ramzi bin al-Shibh and that information obtained through interrogation of Zubaydah and bin al-Shibh led to the capture of Khalid Shaikh Mohammed (KSM), the alleged mastermind of the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. Arena failed to note, however, that there is evidence indicating that the interrogation of Zubaydah and bin al-Shibh had little to no impact on KSM's capture.

Arena reported: "During questioning, officials say Zubaydah provided information that led to the capture of another Al Qaeda lieutenant, Ramzi bin al-Shibh, the intermediary from Yemen." As Media Matters for America documented, however, The New York Times reported on September 8 that the government "had identified Mr. bin al-Shibh's role in the attacks months before Mr. Zubaydah's capture." Also, investigative journalist Ron Suskind wrote in his recent book, The One Percent Doctrine: Deep Inside America's Pursuit of Its Enemies Since 9/11 (Simon & Schuster, June 2006) that information gleaned from Al Jazeera reporter Yosri Fouda and the emir of Qatar provided crucial leads regarding his location. In a September 6 interview with Salon.com, Suskind said that the emir -- not Zubaydah -- provided the "key break" that led the CIA to bin al-Shibh.

Notably, Arena's report featured comments by Fouda but did not mention reports of his key role in the capture of bin al-Shibh.

Arena went on to report: "U.S. officials say the combined information from Zubaydah and bin al-Shibh next led to the most significant terrorist captured so far. His name: Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, the mastermind, known simply as KSM." CNN did not describe what information from Zubaydah purportedly led to KSM's capture. As Media Matters noted, President Bush said that Zubaydah disclosed that KSM "used the alias 'Mukhtar.' " However, the 9-11 Commission report noted that the government knew of KSM's alias before the 9-11 attacks. Suskind, in The One Percent Doctrine, documented how the CIA did not know KSM's location until a $25 million reward led an Al Qaeda operative -- not Zubaydah or bin al-Shibh -- to tip them off.

From the September 22 edition of CNN Newsroom:

ARENA: During questioning, officials say Zubaydah provided information that led to the capture of another Al Qaeda lieutenant, Ramzi bin al-Shibh, the intermediary from Yemen. Bin al-Shibh was a student in Hamburg, Germany, in 1998, where he became close friends with three of the 9-11 hijackers. Intelligence officials say the four young men traveled to Afghanistan in 1999, joined Al Qaeda, and pledged loyalty to Osama bin Laden.

PAT D'AMURO (former FBI assistant director): Bin al-Shibh was also supposed to be one of the 9-11 hijackers but could not get a passport into the United States.

FOUDA: This is why he ended up being the coordinator of the operation.

ARENA: U.S. officials say the combined information from Zubaydah and bin al-Shibh next led to the most significant terrorist captured so far. His name: Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, the mastermind, known simply as KSM.

Posted In
National Security & Foreign Policy, Intelligence, Terrorism
Network/Outlet
CNN
Person
Kelli Arena
Show/Publication
CNN Newsroom
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