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September 30, 2004

Earlier Report on Tip to Islamic "Charity"

Apparently this story's been around for a little while; it just never got a lot of play.

The Chicago Sun Times reported on September 12th:

WASHINGTON -- A federal prosecutor is investigating whether two reporters for the New York Times were leaked information about a terror financing investigation that may have tipped off the targets of the probe, one of which was Bridgeview-based Global Relief Foundation.


'Plan went awry'

Fitzgerald, who also is investigating the leak of a CIA undercover officer's name to the media, is attempting to determine if anyone in the government tipped off the Times reporters about a plan in December 2001 to seize the assets of the Global Relief Foundation on suspicion that it was financing terrorism. Existence of the probe was first reported Friday by the Washington Post.

So, it does seem the government's main interest is in finding who leaked to Shenon, rather than if Shenon leaked to GRF. I argued with a left-wing poster about this; I was wrong.

According to a staff report from the independent commission that investigated the Sept. 11 attacks, the FBI had intended to obtain secret surveillance warrants to monitor the reaction of the charity in the United States after its overseas offices and those of another Islamic charity, the Palos Hills-based Benevolence International Foundation, were searched Dec. 13, 2001.

''This plan went awry,'' the report said, after word about government action was leaked to Global Relief, apparently when a Times reporter called a charity spokesman to ask whether he knew about a plan by the U.S. government to freeze its assets.

''FBI personnel learned that some of the targets of the investigations may be destroying documents,'' the Sept. 11 Commission report said, adding that the FBI then did a ''hastily assembled'' search of both charities' offices in Illinois.

Global Relief attorney Roger Simmons said he and Global Relief officials have been interviewed in detail about the matter by the FBI. Simmons said there was no destruction of evidence....

The Sept. 11 report says that ''press leaks plagued'' most actions to freeze assets in the United States taken by the Treasury Department's Office of Foreign Assets Control.

No criminal charges have been brought in the Global Relief case, although its founder has been deported. Through a spokesman, Fitzgerald declined comment on the leak investigation.

What annoys me is that many reporters, like Mike Wallace, say that their responsibilities as a journalist trump any responsibilities they might have as Americans-- and as human beings, for that matter.

Wallace famously declared that he would not avoid covering a story simply to save an American platoon he was travelling with:

But while Jennings and his crew were traveling with a North Kosanese unit [seems to be a made-up enemy country for the hypothetical-- Ace], to visit the site of an alleged atrocity by U.S. and South Kosanese troops, they unexpectedly crossed the trail of a small group of American and South Kosanese soldiers. With Jennings in their midst the Northern soldiers set up an ambush that would let them gun down the Americans and Southerners.

What would Jennings do? Would he tell his cameramen to "Roll tape!" as the North Kosanese opened fire? What would go through his mind as he watched the North Kosanese prepare to fire?

Jennings sat silent for about fifteen seconds. "Well, I guess I wouldn't," he finally said. "I am going to tell you now what I am feeling, rather than the hypothesis I drew for myself. If I were with a North Kosanese unit that came upon Americans, I think that I personally would do what I could to warn the Americans."

Even if it meant losing the story? Ogletree asked.

Even though it would almost certainly mean losing my life, Jennings replied. "But I do not think that I could bring myself to participate in that act. That's purely personal, and other reporters might have a different reaction."

Ogletree turned for reaction to Mike Wallace, who immediately replied. "I think some other reporters would have a different reaction," he said, obviously referring to himself. "They would regard it simply as another story they were there to cover." A moment later Wallace said, "I am astonished, really." He turned toward Jennings and began to lecture him: "You're a reporter. Granted you're an American" (at least for purposes of the fictional example; Jennings has actually retained Canadian citizenship). "I'm a little bit at a loss to understand why, because you're an American, you would not have covered that story."

Ogletree pushed Wallace. Didn't Jennings have some higher duty to do something other than just roll film as soldiers from his own country were being shot?

"No," Wallace said flatly and immediately. "You don't have a higher duty. No. No. You're a reporter!"

Jennings backtracked fast. Wallace was right, he said: "I chickened out." Jennings said that he had "played the hypothetical very hard."He had lost sight of his journalistic duty to remain detached.


After a brief discussion between Wallace and Scowcroft, Ogletree reminded Wallace of Scowcroft's basic question. What was it worth for the reporter to stand by, looking? Shouldn't the reporter have said something ?


[Wallace continued to say "No."]

A few minutes later Ogletree turned to George M. Connell, a Marine colonel in full uniform. Jaw muscles flexing in anger, with stress on each word, Connell said, "I feel utter contempt."

No kidding, huh?

And yet Shenon apparently thought very little at all about divulging secret information to a group widely known to be a terrorist-funding front -- which, to be fair, he shouldn't have had in the first place, and that's the fault of the loose-lipped government official.

The "Reporter's Code" won't let them tell American soldiers about an impending attack, but they don't hesitate to call up a terrorist-funding "charity" and tip them off about an ongoing secret government investigation, just to get some ridiculous comment about it.

"Hey, this is Philip Shenon of the New York Times. Did you know that the government plans to freeze your assets and is scrutinizing the hell out of your right now?"

"Umm, no, actually, I didn't."

"Care to comment?"

"Errr... got to go. I just remembered, I have some papers I need to shred."

Seems to me that, in this hypothetical, Mike Wallace could have, err, similarly "called the American platoon for comment" upon the impending ambush -- as Shenon did -- but gee willickers, seems he decided against doing so. Probably because that would be making news, rather than just reporting it.

This code of neutrality seems only to apply strictly to prevent any aid to fellow loyal law-abiding Americans. When it comes to enemies, foreign and domestic-- the rules suddenly get a little more relaxed.

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posted by Ace at 04:19 PM

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