Magazine article Editor & Publisher

No Brilliant Disguise

Magazine article Editor & Publisher

No Brilliant Disguise

Article excerpt

With reporters facing increasing peril, the time has come for the CIA to forswear using journalist covers, forever

Two days before he would unleash the most destructive suicide bombing the world had ever seen, Osama bin Laden sent a pair of assassins on a mission in Afghanistan. The target was Ahmed Shah Massoud, the legendary resistance leader during the war with the Soviets, who had become the most credible foe of bin Laden's Taliban hosts.

But how could the killers get close to the Northern Alliance warrior? Osama's solution was a depressingly common one: The Algerian-born terrorists posed as journalists and blew Massoud up with a bomb hidden in their TV camera. With his Afghan enemies leaderless, bin Laden could set in motion the Sept. 11 attacks and all that followed: the war on terrorism, the killings of eight journalists covering the fighting in Afghanistan, and, as the world learned Feb. 21, the particularly horrific murder of Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl in Pakistan.

Pearl's killers claimed first that the reporter was a CIA agent and then that he worked for Israel's Mossad intelligence service. They were absurd accusations, but they obeyed a sinister logic: Our killers pose as the press, therefore, the forces of the Great Satan must use the same cover.

Worse, some highly publicized incidents in Western democracies make it hard to refute such suspicions. As recently as two years ago, Luxembourg police commandeered the equipment of a TV crew at the site of a hostage-taking. When the deranged man consented to an "interview" with these fake journalists, he was shot with a gun hidden in a camera. …

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