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CNN Said It So It Must Be True, Or Not?

The shifting sands of online message boards are a notoriously unreliable place to find information. Yet today just such a source has been quoted by CNN for a report that Al Qaeda has claimed responsibility for the Bali bombings on October 12th. Mo Abbas and Alastair Thompson investigate.

In what appears to be a scoop report today CNN claims it has translated an Al-Qaeda website message in which Al-Qaeda claims responsibility for the Bali bombing.

CNN do not give the URL for the website where the message appeared.

The following is what they say about the message, and its authenticity:

“The Web site has been used in the past by al Qaeda to claim responsibility for attacks, including the synagogue fire in Tunisia in which mainly German tourists died, and strikes on two ships in Yemen.

The al Qaeda message read: ‘By attempting to strike a U.S. plane in Saudi Arabia and by bombing a Jewish synagogue in Tunisia, destroying two ships in Yemen, attacking the Fialka base in Kuwait, and bombing nightclubs and whorehouses in Indonesia, al Qaeda has shown it has no qualms about attacking inside Arab and Islamic lands.’

"This is provided that the target belongs to the Jewish-Crusader alliance," it continues. “

Interestingly while New Zealand’s state broadcaster Radio New Zealand used the CNN scoop as its lead item today, even getting comment from the Prime Minister in reaction to it, the BBC and other international news agencies do not appear to have followed up the story. The story has been picked up in the Australian media where it is being sourced back to CNN.

And perhaps the absence of genuine follow-ups to CNN’s scoop is due to the near impossibility of authentication.

In support of its contention that the message is genuine CNN quotes U.S. Deputy Defence Secretary Wolfowitz saying he too has read a translation of the message.

Scoop notes however that even in translation the message seems rather odd as it refers to Al Qaeda in the third person. “Al Qaeda has shown it has no qualms”, it reads, a manner of speech more commonly associated with reportage than with official statements.

A possible hint as to where the story may have come from lies in CNN’s second big scoop of the day, a story sourced to “coalition intelligence sources” saying that “several top terrorist operatives met recently on borders of Argentina, Brazil and Paraguay to plan attacks against U.S. and Israeli targets in the Western hemisphere.”

Possibly this is true too. And possibly also, and Scoop is only surmising here, these same “coalition intelligence sources” also provided CNN with the URL of the mysterious Al Qaeda message board.

Discussion found on the Internet about websites used by Al Qaeda in the past is illuminating on the questions around the authenticity of CNN’s latest scoop.

USA Today for example reports that drasat.com and alneda.com have been used by Al Qaeda in the past.

The latter of these two websites has been hacked and turned into a ‘discussion forum’ seemingly for right wing nutcases with postings that include photos of decapitated heads with the caption “America AKABAR (America is the greatest) little Islamist terrorist”. (See… itshappening.com if you wish to be deeply offended.)

It may seem extremely unlikely that this is the source CNN’s Scoop. But since they do not acknowledge what their source is, it remains a moot point.

In August CNN interviewed the hacker of a claimed Al Qaeda website, and coined a new title for him, “porn patriot” .

For its part USA Today has reported that Al Qaeda websites appear and reappear frequently under different addresses in order to escape detection.

Even if a verifiable AQ website is found by the FBI - according to USA Today, it is kept secret by US intelligence agencies for further investigations. USA Today claim to have seen a website under investigation and say they have been prohibited from publishing its address.

Meanwhile Scoop’s inquiries into Arabic language media today have thus far found no mention of CNN’s latest scoop on the Bali Bombing.

It is not mentioned on Arabic language Al Jazeera, nor on the English Language jihadunspun.net, nor on Waaqiah.Com the source of the last claimed communication from Osama bin Laden, a letter to Americans that appeared in late October.

Interestingly the authenticity of even this Al Qaeda communication, (which, incidentally, does not claim responsibility for the Bali Bombing) has also been questioned.

After it appeared jihadunspun.com published it in full, but included a note doubting its authenticity. Waaqiah.Com has since responded with a liturgical dissertation on their faithfulness to the truth see… Statement from Azzam Publications About Jihadunspun.com .

All of which proves that even statements with quite convincing providence sourced to Al Qaeda have serious questions around them. None of which is acknowledged in CNN’s report.

Meanwhile notes on message boards written in the third person, which have since disappeared, most probably make for extremely dubious scoops indeed.

Finally if you remain interested after all this in what Al Qaeda really have to say, to view Osama bin Laden’s September 11th anniversary message – the authenticity of which is generally accepted (i.e. both the Arabic Media and the State Department seem to believe in it) see:
http://www.jihadunspun.net/articles/10152002-To.The.Islamic.Ummah/.


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