Thursday, October 28, 2004


Back in September I told you about a New York Observer story that said Dan Rather appeared to be working with Jonathan Keith Idema, the gung-ho bounty hunter and wannabe terror warrior who was recently convicted of running a torture prison in Afghanistan. Last week, New York magazine made CBS's connection to Idema even more explicit, and explained that Idema was peddling not-exactly-liberal nonsense to the eager network:

In January 2002, As U.S. Forces in Afghanistan were hunting down Al Qaeda suspects, the CBS news show 60 Minutes II got its hands on some sensational footage: seven hours’ worth of videotape showing Al Qaeda terrorists training in an Afghan camp. The source of the tapes, a former U.S. Special Forces soldier named Jonathan Keith Idema -- known familiarly as Keith -- was more than a little dubious. Idema claimed to be working as an adviser to the Northern Alliance, but he was also an ex-con who had served three years in federal prison for wire fraud and had a criminal record in three states. He was, in addition, a serial litigator who had once sued CBS. But the tape’s content -- featuring masked men in a bullet-scarred compound training to assassinate and kidnap world leaders -- proved a TV producer’s dream.

It may have also proved too good to be true. Mary Mapes, who famously vouched for the documents purporting to show that George W. Bush was given preferential treatment by the Texas Air National Guard, was the producer of the segment. CBS News arranged for Dan Rather to fly to Kabul for an interview with Idema. 60 Minutes II touted its footage with the promise that it was “the most intimate look yet at how the world’s deadliest terrorist organization trains its recruits and what it wants them to do to the West.”

Special Forces soldiers, other journalists, and Army Intelligence immediately questioned the tapes’ authenticity. Tracy-Paul Warrington, formerly a chief warrant officer with U.S. Special Forces who now advises American police forces on counterterrorism, says the tapes are not an intimate look at anything -- except clumsy military playacting. “Eighty-five percent of terrorists’ attacks in the last decade have been bombings,” Warrington says. “In this film we see raids. This was a method that went out in the seventies, when Idema was in the Army. I was looking at seven hours of tape of something that Al Qaeda doesn’t do.” Another retired Special Forces soldier, and a longtime acquaintance of Keith Idema’s, contacted CIA sources and learned the agency had similar concerns about the tapes’ authenticity. “The CIA ran voice analysis on the tapes and concluded they were staged,” he says, adding that the agency didn’t publicize its findings because it “didn’t want to waste its time on someone it considered harmless.” Contacted about this claim, CBS spokeswoman Kelli Edwards said the network “showed the tape to three former British Special Forces officers, who verified the tactics being practiced in the video were consistent with those of Al Qaeda, and to a top U.S. military official in Aghanistan, who told us that, in his opinion, the video was authentic.” In the terror-charged atmosphere of early 2002, in any event, there was no public outcry over the piece’s authenticity.

So there you go: The big liberals -- not just Dan Rather but Mary Mapes -- were working with this guy and retransmitting his nonsense. As I said a month ago, if you think their ongoing mission is to fight for the Left, this makes no sense. But if you think they're just more eager for scoops and thus more susceptible to bullshit, then their willingness to believe both Idema and the Guard documents makes perfect sense.

And lest you think Idema might be a Michael Moore fan under all that camo, there's this from New York:

According to [reporter Gary] Scurka, Idema called him a few weeks after the [9/11] terror attacks and announced he was going to Afghanistan to do humanitarian-aid work. Idema was intending to work with Knightsbridge International and the Partners International Foundation, two aid groups run by former military personnel...

Idema ... arrived in Afghanistan in November 2001.... According to Ed Artis, the former Army sergeant who heads Knightsbridge, Idema curtly announced on his arrival that he wanted “to kill every fucking Afghan I see.”

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