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Journalist Daniel Pearl Confirmed Dead in Karachi as Pentagon Launches Propaganda Campaign Overseas

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Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl is dead. The news came yesterday afternoon as several U.S. officials and the Pakistani police confirmed that a videotape had been found showing scenes of Pearl’s murder. The tape was apparently delivered to Pakistani officials late Wednesday by someone posing as a journalist. It is currently being studied by local authorities and by FBI agents seeking to capture the kidnappers. While few additional details have been released, government officials have said that the undated videocassette contains graphic images of Pearl being stabbed, providing incontrovertible evidence of his death.

Pearl’s murder will likely impose new pressure on Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf, who has been under intense pressure over the past two months to crack down on so-called militant Islamic groups. In fact, Musharraf said last week during a visit to Washington that he believed that Pearl may have been kidnapped in response to the suppression. Pearl himself had done some critical reporting of Pakistan’s failure to crack down on Islamic groups like Jaish-e-Mohammed and Lashkar-e-Taiba. But he is also the same reporter who, back in 1998, reported critically on the U.S. bombing of the al-Shifa pharmaceutical factory in Sudan. An article he published just days after the bombing provided some of the first evidence that the U.S. had not attacked a chemical weapons plant, as it had claimed, but a medicine factory with a U.N. contract.

Now, almost four years after Daniel Pearl helped break this story, he is dead for trying to find what be believed to be the truth behind another story. As for the United States, it has launched a campaign to possibly distort the truth in other areas. According to an article published in last Tuesday’s New York Times, the Pentagon’s Office of Strategic Influence is “developing plans to provide news items, possibly even false ones, to foreign media organizations.” The goal is to help generate support for the United States’ so-called war on terror.

Today, we will discuss this new propaganda campaign with Rachel Coen, who is the communications director at Fairness & Accuracy in Reporting. But first we will speak with Rachel about the story of Daniel Pearl’s death.

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StoryNov 06, 2007Thousands Arrested in Pakistan Defying Musharraf’s Crackdown
Transcript
This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl is dead. The news came yesterday afternoon as several U.S. officials and the Pakistani police confirmed that a videotape had been found showing scenes of Pearl’s murder. The tape was apparently delivered to Pakistani officials late Wednesday by someone posing as a journalist. It’s currently being studied by local authorities and by FBI agents seeking to capture the kidnappers. While few additional details have been released, government officials have said the undated video cassette contains graphic images of Pearl being stabbed, providing incontrovertible evidence of his death.

Pearl’s murder will likely impose new pressure on Pakistani President General Pervez Musharraf, who has been under intense pressure under the last two months to crack down on so-called militant Islamic groups. In fact, Musharraf said last week, during a visit to Washington, he believed Pearl may have been kidnapped in response to the crackdown. Pearl himself has done some critical reporting of Pakistan’s failure to crack down on groups like Jaish-e-Mohammed and Lashkar-e-Taiba. But he is also the same reporter who back in 1998 reported critically on the U.S. bombing of the al-Shifa pharmaceutical factory in Sudan. An article he published just days after the bombing provided some of the first evidence that the U.S. had not attacked a chemical weapons plant as it had claimed, but a medicine factory with a U.N. contract. Now almost four years after Daniel Pearl helped break this story, he’s dead for trying to find what he believed to be the truth behind another story. As for the United States, it’s launched a campaign to possibly distort media truth in other areas.

We’re joined right now by Rachel Coen, communications director at Fairness & Accuracy in Reporting.

Before we talk about the whole issue of the new propaganda campaign of the U.S. Pentagon, first, can you talk about Daniel Pearl’s death, Rachel Coen?

RACHEL COEN: I think it’s, I mean, obviously, a terrible tragedy. And one of the things that it brought home and made clear to me was that for the Pentagon and the U.S. government to be openly implicating journalists in their disinformation campaigns, as they’re now doing through the Office of Strategic Influence, is unconscionable. It puts journalists’ lives at risk. Journalists in Afghanistan are already putting their lives on the line. But to have, you know, even the perception that they’re linked to U.S. security services is a matter of life or death for reporters.

AMY GOODMAN: Can you explain what you mean by that? Explain what is the new plan of the Pentagon that has been exposed this week?

RACHEL COEN: Well, apparently, this new Office of Strategic Influence, the OSI, which was created shortly after September 11th, is meant to improve America’s public image abroad. But this plan that they’ve floated is to openly feed disinformation to foreign media outlets. Now, as I said, that puts journalists’ lives at risk, very clearly. It’s undemocratic. And it may even be illegal, because it is illegal for the U.S. government to propagandize to its own people. And we know that it’s almost certain that disinformation planted in foreign media would get back to U.S. media. American journalists, you know, they rely on foreign media for a lot of work.

AMY GOODMAN: So you mean quoting from a foreign media source, it’d actually be quoting a planted story from the Pentagon, a kind of blowback to the United States.

RACHEL COEN: Exactly. I mean, Afghanistan made clear there was a while where we were relying on Al Jazeera, for instance, because there were no other reporters in there. That’s a foreign media outlet. We run Reuters articles in the Times. You know, that’s a British media outlet.

AMY GOODMAN: And explain when you say that reporters would be held responsible. Can you talk about the connections? I mean, Daniel Pearl, when he was alive, they were saying, “Oh, he’s working for the CIA. He’s working for some intelligence agency.” Those were the rumors that were being put out from Pakistan. It’s not an uncommon rumor for a journalist to be charged with something like that as they go around snooping. That’s their job.

RACHEL COEN: Exactly. And, you know, as you said, Pearl was accused of working with the CIA. It’s a common rumor and fear that journalists have to deal with. Every journalist knows, you know, they have to be extra careful to be completely independent. So, when you have the Pentagon openly saying that it is going to be using media in, essentially, psychological warfare campaigns against other countries, that creates a strong perception that media would be involved or working with the Pentagon. Whether or not they actually are, that’s going to put people’s lives at risk.

AMY GOODMAN: Back on Danny Pearl, this story that he broke of the al-Shifa pharmaceutical plant in Sudan, can you talk about that? Now we know it was a drug plant, a plant for pharmaceuticals for more than half the population of the Sudan. But at the time, it was President Clinton. It was the time of the Monica Lewinsky grand jury testimony. Many said he was trying to take attention away from what was going on at home, and chose a target to bomb where there wouldn’t be much media interest, no matter what he did.

RACHEL COEN: Yeah, and the initial media coverage in the U.S. was very much accepting of the line that this plant was probably linked to terror and terrorism in some way. And Daniel Pearl was one of the first and only U.S. reporters, in The Wall Street Journal, to cover the story that, in fact, the owner of the plant did not seem to have links to terrorists and that there were serious questions about how this decision to target the plant was made.

AMY GOODMAN: Can you explain psyops here at home, psychological operations, and what this has to do with the Pentagon’s propaganda plan?

RACHEL COEN: Yeah. One of the things The New York Times revealed is that psyops division of the U.S. Army is one of the entities that’s going to be working with this new OSI office. One of the things the Times did not mention was that psyops has been accused of operating domestically — in other words, illegally manipulating U.S. public opinion — as recently as the Kosovo War. Thanks to Dutch and French media, actually, the story was broken that psyops so-called interns were interning at CNN in CNN’s Atlanta headquarters. This was a huge story. I know Democracy Now! covered it, but very few other U.S. media outlets did, despite the sort of magnitude of the fact that, you know, the U.S. Army’s psychological warfare people were infiltrating a major news operation.

AMY GOODMAN: In fact, they also were at NPR, as well, the psyops people —

RACHEL COEN: That’s right.

AMY GOODMAN: — interning there.

RACHEL COEN: Yeah, that’s right.

AMY GOODMAN: Can you talk about psychological operations and their history?

RACHEL COEN: Yeah, there’s a long track record of psychological operations. You know, they’re always used by the Pentagon in wars abroad. This new plan would extend them to countries where we’re not at war, throughout the Middle East, Asia, even Western Europe. And the fourth psychological — the 4th Brigade of psyops, which is the brigade working with OSI now, was the brigade at CNN, was also the brigade involved in the Office of Public Diplomacy during the 1980s under Reagan, which one government official described as a massive psychological warfare campaign of the kind you would conduct on enemy territory, except it was done in the U.S. to manipulate opinion on Reagan’s Central America policies. Otto Reich headed that up. President Bush recently appointed him, in a recess appointment, to be, I think, assistant secretary of state for Western Hemisphere affairs.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, Rachel Coen, I want to thank you very much for being with us, at FAIR. And that website is fair.org. And finally, the Associated Press is reporting a U.S. Army helicopter has crashed in the sea early this morning in the Philippines with 10 Americans aboard. Witnesses said the Special Operations helicopter appeared to be burning when it went down. Three bodies have so far been recovered. There are more than 600 U.S. soldiers in the Philippines.

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