Don't blame the Times for the satphone "leak."

Media criticism.
Dec. 21 2005 7:03 PM

Don't Blame the Washington Times

For the Osama Bin Laden satellite phone "leak."

(Continued from Page 2)

And globalization, through its rapid spread of technologies, also super-empowers them to do just that. It makes it much easier to travel, move money or communicate by satellite phones or Internet. Ramzi Yousef kept track of all his plots on a Toshiba laptop. Osama bin Laden was running a multinational JOL, Jihad Online.

Daniel Benjamin, who was a National Security Council staffer from 1994 to 1998, says he's willing to believe that the information wasn't leaked, but adds, "In our office and our sphere of operations this [the Washington Times piece] was understood to be the story responsible for him turning off his phone."

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Perhaps the intelligence establishment has conclusive evidence up its sleeve that proves the Washington Times article caused Bin Laden to abandon his satphone. But that would mean that 1) Bin Laden and his people didn't read about it in either Time article; and 2) they didn't hear Peter Bergen make reference to it on CNN the day before the Washington Times published its story. Also, by 1996 your garden variety terrorist already knew from reading press accounts that he could be tracked—and killed, as Chechen leader Dzhokar Dudayev was—by the signal emitted by his satphone.

Any way you look at it, the satphone facts were in the public domain the week the Washington Times published its story. For Bush—or anybody else—to blame the story on a leak just doesn't hold water.

Addendum, Dec. 22, 12:26 a.m.: Glenn Kessler of the Washington Post digs up more on this subject in "File the Bin Laden Phone Leak Under 'Urban Myths.'  "

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If you haven't read the aforementioned doubting piece about the satphone connection by Glenn Kessler in the Washington Post, do it now. Then drop me an e-mail at slate.pressbox@gmail.com. (E-mail may be quoted by name unless the writer stipulates otherwise.)

Jack Shafer was Slate's editor at large. You can follow him on Twitter or email him at Shafer.Reuters@gmail.com.