Canadian journalists on al-Qaeda mailing list: U.S. counterterrorism centre report

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Sheila Dabu Nonato


Karen Bleier/AFP/Getty Images

A journalist in Washington, D.C. views al-Qaeda documents found at Osama bin Laden’s compound in the raid that killed the terrorist a year ago. According to the declassified documents, two Canadian journalists were to receive “special media material” on the 10th anniversary of 9/11.

Two Canadians were among a select group of international journalists singled out by al-Qaeda to receive “special media material” on the 10th anniversary of 9/11, according to declassified documents captured during the raid that killed Osama bin Laden last year.

Eric Margolis and Gwynne Dyer were to have been provided with a password and site address to download information provided by the terrorist group “at the right time,” according to the documents, released Thursday in a report by the Combating Terrorism Center (CTC) at the West Point military academy.

Messrs. Margolis and Dyer were among a dozen journalists named in one of the letters, including renowned British war correspondent Robert Fisk and American Pulitzer prize-winning investigative reporter Seymour Hersh. It also named journalists from Norway, Pakistan, Egypt and Jordan.


Postmedia News

Journalists Gwynne Dyer, left, and Eric Margolis were to receive “special media material” from al-Qaeda on the 10th anniversary of 9/11, according to declassified documents.

Mr. Margolis said the documents need to be approached with caution “because there have been a lot of bogus reports, documents and videos that have come out of that area.”

“It’s hard to tell. I’m not sure they’re authentic to start with. We have no way of knowing,” he told Postmedia News, adding they are “bad translations.”

Mr. Margolis said he was “mildly surprised” that he was mentioned as part of a group of independent journalists “not affiliated with news networks” who have an extensive background in the area. “We don’t follow government policy, but we don’t follow that of its enemies, either. We try to keep a neutral position,” he said.

Mr. Margolis said he received none of the al-Qaeda documents mentioned in the letter and that his last contact with the group was in 1986 when he interviewed its founder, Abdullah Azzam in Peshawar, Pakistan.

‘I’m not sure
they’re authentic
to start with.
We have no way
of knowing’

In that interview, he said, Azzam, who was running an Afghan information centre, spoke about the Afghan war against Soviet occupation.

Mr. Margolis said he has been a “fierce critic” of al-Qaeda and was once a Pentagon consultant on the region. He has never been sympathetic to the group, he said.

The report detailed 17 declassified documents of internal al-Qaeda communications written by several of its leaders, including bin Laden and American spokesman Adam Gadahn.

The documents consisted of electronic letters or draft letters from September 2006 to April 2011, totalling 175 pages in Arabic and 197 pages in the English translation, with some incomplete or missing their dates. Not all of the letters explicitly attributed their author or indicated the addressee.

The documents were saved on thumb drives, memory cards or bin Ladin’s computer, CTC said.

With the exception of letters addressed to bin Ladin, “it cannot be ascertained whether any of these letters actually reached their intended destinations,” the report said.

In one of the letters, Gadahn wrote to an unknown recipient in late January 2011 with the headline “The Issue of preparing for the Tenth Anniversary, and how it will be marketed in the Media, and How to Exploit the Media in General.”


Mian Khursheed/Reuters

A man uses a phone to photograph friends on the site of Osama bin Laden’s demolished compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan.

Postmedia News May 4, 2012 – 2:18 AM ET | Last Updated: May 4, 2012 2:20 AM ET

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