ISLAMABAD, Pakistan: Mar 11 (PNS) - Foreign journalists had to give their head a shake Monday when they attended a first-ever press briefing by Pakistan's Inter Services Intelligence (ISI), a dog-and-pony show to tout what they claim is their "independent" capture of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, said Bruce Kennedy, Jihad Unspun in his comments.
He said addressing journalists from CNN, ABC and other major media at the ISI headquarters in the Pakistani capital of Islamabad, in what appears to be an effort to counter growing US criticism of Pakistan's efforts to apprehend "terrorists", events immediately got off to a bad start.
Journalists were required to hand over cells phones at the door Monday morning which they gladly obliged but the further request to leave their notepads and pencils outside was another matter. After media members objected saying that these tools of the trade were necessary to ensure their story was told accurately, ISI officials reneged and allowed them to bring in their pens and papers.
In the just over one hour long briefing, a senior ISI official said that the raid that supposedly netted Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, billed by the US as the alleged mastermind of the September 11 terror attacks and the attacks' financier, Mustafa Ahmed al-Hawsawi, was an initiative "purely conducted by ISI" however later, another senior official said that the CIA provided "some electronic intelligence".
Then came the main event and what is poised to be the conflict, albeit maybe short-lived. Eight minutes of footage (in English) was shown of the arrest of Mohammed and al-Hawsawi. Broken doors, blood-stained walls and wrists in handcuffs were all shown but curiously, no face shots of these high profile individuals - not even the well publicized "arrest" photo of Mohammed that has been widely circulated and questioned. When one CNN reporter, Tom Minter asked why, the ISI said the tape had been edited but that the actual footage did record his face but had been edited out for the presentation.
At the close of the session, journalists asked for their customary "dups" - a copy of the tape for their networks which ISI officials laughed at. When journalists pressed, the tune changed and ISI officials said they "would look into it" however no tape has yet been released.
If this was the highest profile Al-Qaida arrest for the Pakistani's, why the missing head shots? Further, if this arrest footage does not show the identities of those captured and it has not been released, it begs the question, who is the person in the picture that has been aired morning, noon and night in America that has raised so many questions?
To date, we have not seen a single picture of any of the so-called high profile operatives that have allegedly been arrested. We have never seen Abu Zubaydah, said to be Osama Bin Laden's Operations Chief, allegedly captured March 28, 2002, either during his arrest or in captivity. Contradictory reports at the time countered that Zubaydah died in the raid.
The footage of the alleged arrest of Ramzi Bin al-Shibh did not show his face either nor have we seen his face since alleged capture. If these are such big catches and they are being held at "undisclosed locations" why not show us their faces instead of FBI most wanted photos? The party line is that this would compromise security. How, if they are in custody? Doesn't the public relations benefit far outweigh the risk?
Now when we see the ISI's arrest footage of Mohammed and al-Hawsawi, we once again can not identify these captives. Press reports a year ago said Mohammed was killed in the Bin al-Shibh raid however contradictory reports from Arab sources reported both were alive and well.
For at least a moment this morning, even mainstream reporters began to question these "capture reports" that continue to conveniently come at a time when the Bush administration most needs public support the most and then "sing like birds", proving the administrations ! progress in what is supposed to be their primary war - a war against Al-Qaida.
It has long been known that the ISI has affiliations with Muslim "fundamentalists" having supported initiatives throughout the Islamic world for decades, including acting as the paymaster on behalf of many countries, including America during the ten-year long Afghan-Russian conflict.
President Musharraf must satisfy both the US and the rising anti-American sentiment within his country if he is to continue to hold power. Are these so- called arrests simply for show to satisfy their US paymasters? If not, why not show a nervous public, worried that the invasion of Iraq will compromise the war on "terror", current pictures of all three of these individuals, along with footage of their arrests?
That's was the question today among some journalists at least, who openly questioned during their live reports Monday morning why Mohammed's face was omitted from the arrest tape. Unfortunately, most of these questions didn't last to the evening news.