Friday, September 5, 2014

Wall Street Journal reporter jokingly emails CIA: 'Just checking in on our al Qaeda friend...'

WSJ Intelligence Correspondent Siobhan Gorman often asked CIA Office of Public Affairs for "guidance" before filing stories; 2010 articles claiming French man once linked to 9/11 plotters was killed by US drone attack in Pakistan remain uncorrected on WSJ website

"Just checking in on our al Qaeda friend Naamen Meziche, who is now enjoying the hospitality of Pakistani authorities," a Wall Street Journal reporter jokingly wrote the CIA regarding "a French Man Linked to al Qaeda 9/11 Plotters," on June 20, 2012, apparently for a story that was updated on June 21, 2012 at 12:01 a.m. EST. The email was obtained through a FOIA request by The Intercept, and is one of many that show a friendly relationship between Siobhan Gorman and the CIA, whom she often looked to for "guidance" before filing stories or after discussing stories reported by her colleagues at the Wall Street Journal.

The WSJ story credited to Tom Wright and David Crawford - but also notes that Intelligent Correspondent "Siobhan Gorman contributed to this article" - added, "A U.S. official confirmed the capture of Mr. Meziche and described it as an important victory in the battle against al Qaeda. 'Meziche has a long history with al Qaeda and his capture deprives them of an operative whose experience living in Europe helped them plot against the West,' the official said." That quote doesn't seem to have been included in the initial report.

Gorman's letter to a CIA office of public affairs spokesperson continued, "Any perspective you can offer on his significance, the significance of picking him up, and whether this involved US-Pakistani cooperation would be much appreciated. Apparently he was reported dead (by a colleague of mine) in 2010, so any light you can shed on why he might have been dead then but not dead now would also be very helpful."

The email is intriguing, since the CIA, along with German and Pakistan sources appear to have used the media to over-hype a marginal supporting character - at best - into an "important" al Qaeda operative, and it's not the only time Gorman has used the term "friend" to jokingly refer to terror suspects before they were convicted of crimes or other subjects of interest.

"However," after Pakistan deported Meziche to France, the BBC reported on October 12, 2013, "analysts say there appears to be little evidence of his involvement in any attack and the case against him is unclear."

The BBC reported, "Naamen Meziche was considered an associate of al-Qaeda commander Younis al-Mauritani, who was believed to have been ordered by Osama Bin Laden to plan attacks in Australia, Europe and the US. 'This is a big fish, at the historic heart of al-Qaeda,' a French anti-terrorism official told AFP news agency."

Before Pakistan made the arrest, Souad Mekhennet reported for the New York Times on January 10, 2012, "Another European hiding in Iran is Namaan Meziche, 41, a German resident with dual French-Algerian citizenship, whom European and American security officials believe played a key role in recruitment for jihadist movements. They say that he was close to Mohammad Atta and other Sept. 11, 2001, operatives and spent time at terrorist camps in Afghanistan in the 1990s."

An unnamed US official told the Times that Meziche was a 'lower midlevel' commander and that he had "been involved in Al Qaeda external operations activities for some time now." Then living in Hamburg, Germany, his wife, Mariam Fizazi, claimed that Meziche denied any connection to the terror group, and had gone to Iran after moving to Pakistan to "live under Shariah law," the paper reported. "After he had reached Pakistan, he called and asked me to come over with the children and join him," Fizazi said. "I told him there was no chance."

"Meziche was questioned by German authorities in 2003 for purported links to the 9/11 attacks based on evidence it had on him having received a phone call a week prior to the event from the attack’s coordinator, Ramzi Binalshibh," Al Arabiya reported on June 20, 2012. "However, one year later, the case was suspended and Meziche was never indicted."

David Crawford reported on October 11, 2010 that a German intelligence official claimed Meziche was dead in an article co-written by Marcus Walker and by himself on October 16, 2010 that Meziche "was one of eight people" killed by a U.S. drone attack, according to unnamed Pakistan officials. Both articles remains uncorrected on the Wall Street Journal website.

"Ramzi Binalshibh, who allegedly helped to coordinate and finance the 9/11 attacks, placed a 34-second phone call on Sept. 5, 2001, to the home of Naamen Meziche," Crawford wrote in the second WSJ article from 2010. "That phone call and alleged contacts that followed represent a possible link between the attacks in the U.S. nine years ago and recent suspected terrorist plots to hit European cities, which the Oct. 5 drone strike was intended to disrupt."

"Three of the eight drone victims were part of a group of jihadists who left Hamburg in early 2009 for military training in Pakistan and to fight on behalf of the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, a terrorist organization with ties to al Qaeda, a German intelligence official said.

The eldest, Mr. Meziche, a 40-year-old French citizen of Algerian descent and longtime German resident, had been under investigation for nearly nine years in connection with the Sept. 11 plot, court records show, though he was never charged with a crime, a spokesman for the office of Germany's Federal Prosecutor General said.

German authorities began investigating Mr. Meziche in late 2001 after they discovered telephone and email communications he maintained with suspected members of al Qaeda. Police asked dozens of witnesses to provide evidence against Mr. Meziche. Ultimately the investigation went nowhere, a spokesman for the office of Germany's Prosecutor General said."
"In statements to police in 2002, Mr. Meziche denied he was home on that day and said he didn't receive a phone message from Mr. Binalshibh," Crawford reported. "He also disavowed being in contact with Zacarias Moussaoui, who is serving a life sentence at a Colorado federal prison after pleading guilty to involvement in the Sept. 11 attacks, though a cell-phone number used to phone Mr. Meziche's home in August 2001 was found on a piece of paper among Mr. Moussaoui's belongings after his arrest."

On May 22, 2013, during a hearing before the Subcommittee on Counterterrorism and Intelligence of the Committee of homeland Security for the House of Representatives, Thomas Joscelyn - a Senior Fellow from the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies and senior editor of The Long War Journal - stated, "Initial reports indicated that Meziche was killed in the same drone strike, but he survived it and was sheltered by the Iranians before being captured inside Pakistan."

The Wall Street Journal reporter's emails to the CIA "were included in hundreds of pages of documents that the CIA turned over in response to two FOIA requests seeking records on the agency’s interactions with...ten national security reporters sent from March to July 2012," Ken Silverstein reported for The Intercept yesterday. "That request turned up correspondence between the press office and [Ken] Dilanian, then at The Los Angeles Times and now at the Associated Press, Adam Goldman, then at the AP and now at The Washington Post, Matt Apuzzo, then at AP and now at The New York Times, Brian Bennett of The Los Angeles Times, Scott Shane of the New York Times, and David Ignatius, a Washington Post columnist."

"It’s impossible to know precisely how the CIA flacks responded to reporters’ queries, because the emails show only one side of the conversations. The CIA redacted virtually all of the press handlers’ replies other than meager comments that were made explicitly on the record, citing the CIA Act of 1949, which exempts the agency from having to disclose 'intelligence sources and methods' or 'the organization, functions, names, official titles, salaries, or numbers of personnel employed by the Agency.' The contents of off-the-record or background emails from CIA press handlers clearly don’t disclose names, titles, or salaries (which can easily be redacted anyway); they may disclose sources and methods, depending on whether you view manipulation of American reporters as an intelligence method. (The Intercept is appealing the redactions.)"
Other emails from Gorman to the CIA included many requests for "guidance" and a "heads up" that WSJ was going to publish an article using something reported by the whistleblowing website WikiLeaks.

On May 8, 2012, Gorman wrote, "I appreciate all the work you and your colleagues do to guide the accuracy of our reporting and these intense periods are tough for everyone to manage."

Gorman was sent an invitation to an off the record dinner with then CIA director David Petraeus in March of 2012, and when she was asked if she had any food allergies the WSJ Intelligence Correspondent replied, "Nope. I eat pretty much anything."

In this exchange, Gorman passes on a tip that the editor of The Wall Street Journal received, and claimed that "tips from our top boss often don't pan out" or "aren't always accurate." Gorman appears to have been referring to Robert James Thomson, who was the managing editor of the Wall Street Journal from May 2008 to December of 2012, before leaving to become the Chief Executive for Rupert Murdoch's News Corp. in January of 2013.

All emails obtained by The Intercept can be seen at this pdf link, at this text link or viewed online here.

Another interesting exchange suggests that the Wall Street Journal dropped a story on alleged intel obtained from the Osama bin Laden raid after the CIA responses she obtained - which were mostly redacted - appear to have been at odds with military sources. And one in which Gorman weakly complains about how a "guest" had excused himself "suddenly", but then decides to discuss late night host Jimmy Kimmel instead. Here are screenshots of many of Gorman's emails asking for "guidance", sharing info, and joking with the CIA.