Monday, August 30, 2010

Project Samosa, the media, and their sources

The publication ban on Project Samosa, the RCMP's latest salvo in the war on terror, has the media scrambling to get unnamed sources and security experts to augment and substitute for accounts of court proceedings. By a happy coincidence for war on terror fans, this allows for far more pants-pissingly terrorfying conjecture than mere straight news would allow.

So far, "sources" have told one security expert, an ex-RCMP and CSIS operative quoted at CTV, that the accused :
1) "would have targeted the Parliament buildings and Montreal's public transit system with bombs",
2) "that the ringleader went to Afghanistan and to Pakistan to receive training",
3) "some of their suspected accomplices could be in Iran or in Dubai."
4) "were assembling components for one or more bombs and had raised money for al Qaeda and the Taliban"
5) "the ringleader was about to take a trip abroad, maybe to deliver the money himself"

This last is the reported reason for the arrests. After a year of watching them :

"Police say a terror attack was likely still months away when they pounced on the plot, but they moved because they feared the men were about to start sending money to other terrorists in Afghanistan."
Last I heard "terrorists" in Afghanistan were already rolling in US tax dollars and drug money but whatever.

A year ago The Star ran an excellent piece on the media's relationship with their "sources" in the Arar case when he was the terrorist du jour :
Learning from media mistakes in Arar case

Canadian Press journalist Stephen Thorne quoted an official source that linked Arar to "a suspected member of Osama bin Laden's Al Qaeda terrorist network."

Robert Fife, CanWest's Ottawa bureau chief, "cited an anonymous official who described Arar as a "very bad guy" who had received training at an Al Qaeda base and that intelligence received from Syria had helped the CIA avert an attack on the U.S. embassy in Ottawa."

Craig Oliver at CTV News was "offered a photograph of Arar training in a camp in Afghanistan" Oliver :"The source wanted me to use the information without showing me the photograph. That was a very solid source... This experience has made me more skeptical... I knew these people very well."

Ottawa Citizen's Juliet O'Neill was fed a story that carried the lede "Canada's dossier on Maher Arar: The existence of a group of Ottawa men with alleged ties to Al Qaeda is at the root of why the government opposes an inquiry into the case."

Even after Arar's return to Canada, "Robert Fife was once more the vehicle that Canadian and U.S. intelligence officials used to inform the public that they were "100 per cent sure" that Arar trained at an Al Qaeda camp in Afghanistan."

Some of these reporters have since stated they were used and apologised to Arar; some have not. The point is they were all used to disseminate to the public false information from anonymous government and police sources. Something to bear in mind when "sources" are once again where we will be getting most of our information on this newest batch of alleged terrorists, given it will likely be months if not years before any actual trial.

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