Untold Stories

Rating: NNNNNSince 9/11 the mainstream news media have presented a waterfall of gripping human interests pieces, while tougher, more complex.

Rating: NNNNN

Since 9/11 the mainstream news media have presented a waterfall of gripping human interests pieces, while tougher, more complex stories were largely ignored. Here are five that deserved more play.

the spook who got away

in the weeks after the attacks, the U.S. put a lot of stock in the military government of Pervez Musharraf to help them weed out terrorists.

But in October, the Times of India reported that Indian intelligence had passed on a report to the U.S. revealing that money was transferred to hijacker Mohammed Atta from Ahmad Umar Sheikh at the insistence of then pro-Taliban Pakistani general Mahmoud Ahmad. Until shortly after September 11, Ahmad was the head of Pakistan’s military intelligence.

It was as a result of this alleged link, the Times of India reported, that Ahmad was quietly retired by Musharraf.

But no major media outlet in the U.S. picked it up. Time Magazine simply reported in October that General Ahmad, Musharraf’s “trusted friend,” was replaced because of his Taliban sympathies and Pakistani-intelligence-backed terrorist acts in Kashmir.

This alleged link between Pakistani intelligence and the hijackers is even more startling given that Ahmad was reportedly in Washington the morning of September 11, having breakfast with the chairs of the U.S. Senate and House intelligence committees. As well, a Pakistani news story on September 10 reported that Ahmad had already met with CIA director George Tenet, as well as “unspecified officials at the White House and Pentagon.”

If ever there was a spook story that should have been followed, this was it.

protecting the bin ladens?among project censored’s (the

media monitoring project at the University of Washington) list of the 10 most ignored stories in 2001 is a UK Guardian report last November about successive U.S. administrations stifling FBI investigations into the bin Laden family prior to September 11.

According to the Guardian, in the mid-1990s the FBI was thwarted from investigating Osama bin Laden’s brother for allegedly funding terrorists. As well, after Bush was elected, the Guardian reported, “The intelligence agencies had been told to back off from investigations involving other members of the bin Laden family, the Saudi royals and possible Saudi links to the acquisition of nuclear weapons by Pakistan.” It wasn’t until months later, when FBI agents came forward, that the U.S. media finally started to pay attention.

tobacco’s terrorist trystwhile george bush was trying to

shut down global terrorism, the U.S. media steered clear of reporting on American companies’ alleged ties to it.

In February, the European Commission, as part of its racketeering case against big tobacco, filed a memorandum of law with the United States District Court in New York alleging that U.S. tobacco companies, with the aid of a U.S.-designated terrorist group (the Kurdistan Workers Party), had sent billions of cigarettes to Iraq in contravention of trade sanctions against that state. The EU filing alleges that cigarette smuggling in Iraq is controlled by Saddam Hussein’s son Uday.

Despite the explosive allegations, the EU memo received hardly any play.

unlawful detaineesin the spring, u.s. media watch

dog FAIR charged that major American media outlets had practically accepted Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld’s arbitrary classification of al Qaeda and Taliban prisoners at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, as “unlawful combatants” instead of prisoners of war protected by international law.

FAIR noted that a Washington Post editorial simply attributed criticism of the policy to “America-bashers in the European press and human rights community.” FAIR also reported that a review of 20 network newscasts on “unlawful combatants” found only one mention of the guarantee of a hearing under the Geneva Conventions for a prisoner whose status is in doubt.

the report the media ignoredthere have been a lot of conspiracy theories following 9/11 about what U.S. government agencies knew and what could have been done, if not to prevent the tragedy, then at least to react better.

But in its November issue, the Columbia Journalism Review took the New York Times and Wall Street Journal, among other major media outlets, to task for all but ignoring a report put out by the Commission on National Security seven months prior to 9/11.

Created in 1999, the commission reported on the dire need for a national security overhaul.

But the CJR piece showed how the major media yawned at the commission’s recommendations, which co-chair Warren Rudman called “the first comprehensive rethinking of national security since Harry Truman in 1947.”

“The report was a devastating indictment of the “fragmented and inadequate’ structures and strategies already in place to prevent, and then respond to, attacks on U.S. cities, which the commissioners predicted,” the CJR reported, adding that “if (the commission report) had got the national attention it deserved, the administration almost surely would have moved sooner” after the attacks.

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