Wonky Muse
Wonky Muse

July 13, 2004

Osama's Brother

Fox News is a joke, but the rest of the so called "liberal media" is guilty of, at the very least, sloppy reporting.

One prime example is the interview conducted by Matt Lauer of Dateline NBC with one of Osama Bin Laden's half-brothers (he's got 53 of them), Yeslam Bin Laden. There was a marked contrast between this interview and the one he conducted with Michael Moore, the director of Fahrenheit 9/11. With Moore, Lauer can hardly hide his venom; it was not an interview, it was a hostile interrogation. With Yeslam, he was civil, almost deferential.

Why the difference? Simple. Fahrenheit 9/11 was as much a searing criticism of the complacent media as it was of George W. Bush. Dateline made it a point to mention that Yeslam agreed to be interviewed to answer the claims of Fahrenheit 9/11. The following is the heart of the interview:

Lauer: "Michael Moore leaves the impression that 23 members of the bin Laden family were given special treatment, at the very least, by U.S. officials, to leave the United States in the days immediately following Sept. 11.

Bin Laden: "That is not true. The airplane landed in Geneva. I went to the airport."

Lauer: "What day?"

Bin Laden: "It was Thursday the 20th of September."

Lauer made it seem like he caught Moore in a lie. The problem is, Moore did not lie. He used the carefully worded phrase "Michael Moore leaves the impression". Who cares? Impressions are subjective. Let's deal with the facts. This is actually what the movie said and the corresponding supporting evidence as stated in Moore's web site:

FAHRENHEIT 9/11: “At least six private jets and nearly two dozen commercial planes carried the Saudis and the bin Ladens out of the U.S. after September 13th. In all, 142 Saudis, including 24 members of the bin Laden family, were allowed to leave the country.”

After the airspace reopened, six chartered flights with 142 people, mostly Saudi Arabian nationals, departed from the United States between September 14 and 24. One flight, the so-called Bin Ladin flight, departed the United States on September 20 with 26 passengers, most of them relatives of Usama Bin Ladin. National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States, Threats and Responses in 2001, Staff Statement No. 10, The Saudi Flights, p. 12.


In the voiceover, Lauer further stated that "in a preliminary report, the independent, bipartisan Commission investigating the 9/11 attacks found the FBI adequately checked out the bin Laden relatives before letting them go."

The Commission did release that finding and Richard Clarke, the White House's former chief of counterterrorism, did claim responsibility for clearing the flights, but according to Craig Unger, author of The House of Bush, House of Saud, Clarke based his decision on the soundness of the FBI's recommendation:

When first interviewed on this subject in 2003, Clarke said that his approval for evacuating the Saudis had been conditional on the FBI’ s vetting them. “I asked [the F.B.I.] to make sure that no one inappropriate was leaving. I asked them if they had any objection to Saudis leaving the country at a time when aircraft were banned from flying.” He noted that he assumed the F.B.I. had vetted the bin Ladens prior to September 11. Then he added, “I have no idea if they did a good job. I'm not in any position to second guess the FBI.”

Did the FBI perform due diligence in investigating the Bin Laden family aboard that flight? It doesn't seem like it, based on the report by The Hill:

FBI spokeswoman Donna Spiser said, “We haven’t had anything to do with arranging and clearing the flights.”“We did know who was on the flights and interviewed anyone we thought we needed to,” she said. “We didn’t interview 100 percent of the [passengers on the] flight. We didn’t think anyone on the flight was of investigative interest.” [emphasis mine].

This is supported further by Unger:

I interviewed two FBI agents who participated in the Saudi evacuation and they made it clear that they did not subject the passengers to a formal criminal investigation. One rather astonishing finding of the 9/11 Commission is that though the rubble was still very much ablaze at the World Trade Center a few days after the attacks, the FBI did not even bother to check the Saudi passenger lists against its terror watch lists.

Of course, Lauer did not bother to find out all these, which makes it doubtful that he was interested in giving an objective, informative report as opposed to just refuting Fahrenheit 9/11.
Perhaps the most jaw-dropping portion of the interview was this exchange:

Lauer: "Are you cooperating with the United States authorities?"

Bin Laden: "I have never been asked."

Excuse me?! Never been asked? Why not? Again, Lauer failed miserably. I expected him to interview someone from the FBI to answer such a relevant question and he didn't.

This glaring omission became more outrageous after this last exchange:

"I guess a question that most people would want me to ask you would be that if by some strange occurrence, you were to find out where Osama was now, would you turn him in?"

...

Bin Laden: "What do you think? Would you turn in your brother? Or
half-brother. Tell me. I put the question back to you."

Lauer: "I think-- I guess, if he were accused of murdering thousands of people, you'd have to let him have his day in court. Let me throw the question back at you."

Bin Laden: "I think he should have his day in court."

Lauer: "Would you turn him in?"

Bin Laden: "Which court? And we'll go in circles. We will go in circles if you want to continue the question."

Does this sound like the "liberal media"to you? As for Lauer, he should stick to his day job.

posted at 9:06 PM by Wonky Muse

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ABOUT

"Sapere Aude."
(Dare to Know)
-- Epistularum Liber Primus, Horace

Wonk (noun): def. A political nerd. Know spelled backwards.

Wonky Muse is the other Filipino American female political blogger. The sane, liberal one.


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