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Adam Gadahn on the media and more highlights from the bin Laden docs

One of the most intriguing highlights of the 17 documents released by West Point's Combating Terrorism Center from the trove captured at Osama bin Laden's Abbottabad compound is a discussion from al Qaeda's American media advisor, Adam Gadahn, on plans for the commemoration of the 10th anniversary of 9/11. Gadahn gives his impression of the major U.S. networks and seems pretty up to date on recent media news. Let's just say ABC probably won't be too happy with its description, but Fox News is no doubt already working on a new ad campaign. (Highlights mine): 

As far as the American channel that could be used to deliver our messages, whether on the tenth anniversary or before or after, in my personal opinion there are no distinct differences betweenthe channels from the standpoint of professionalism and neutrality. It is all as the Shaykh has stated (close to professionalism and neutrality) it has not and will not reach the perfect professionalism and neutrality, only if God wants that. From the professional point of view, they are all on one level except (Fox News) channel which falls into the abyss as you know, and lacks neutrality too.

As for the neutrality of CNN in English, it seems to be in cooperation with the government more than the others (except Fox News of course). Its Arabic version brings good and detailed reports about al-Sahab releases, with a lot of quotations from the original text. That means they copy directly from the releases or its gist. It is not like what other channels and sites do, copying from news agencies like Reuters, AP and others. I used to think that MSNBC channel may be good and neutral a bit, but is has lately fired two of the most famous journalists -Keith Olberman and Octavia Nasser the Lebanese - because they released some statements that were open for argument (The Lebanese had praised a Shia Imam Muhammad Husayn Fadlallah after his death and called him "One of the marvels of Hizballah" it seems she is a Shia.) (Page 3 of 21) CBS channel was mentioned by the Shaykh, I see that it is like the other channels, but it has a famous program (60 Minutes) that has some popularity and a good reputation for its long broadcasting time. Only God knows the reality, as I am not really in a position to do so. ABC channel is all right; actually it could be one of the best channels, as far as we are concerned. It is interested in alQa'ida issues, particularly the journalist Brian Ross, who is specialized in terrorism. The channel is still proud for its interview with the Shaykh. It also broadcasted excerpts from a speech of mine on the fourth anniversary, it also published most of that text on its site on the internet. In conclusion, we can say that there is no single channel that we could rely on for our messages. I may ignore them, and even the channel that broadcast them, probably it would distort them somehow. This is accomplished by bringing analysts and experts that would interpret its meaning in the way they want it to be. Or they may ignore the message and conduct a smearing of the individuals, to the end of the list of what you know about their cunning methods. But if the display -in the next anniversary for example- of a special type, like a special interview with Shaykh Usama or Shaykh Ayman, and with questions chosen by the channel, and with a good camera, we might find a channel that would accept its broadcasting. But they would accept this time, so as to get an exclusive press scoop: The first press interview of Shaykh Usama or Shaykh Ayman since 10 years ago! Particularly if the Shaykh is the one to be interviewed. This is because of the scarcity of his appearance during the last nine years. Because of the poor photographic quality of the last two releases -I do not know the photo quality this time- this led those believers in conspiracy theory to speculate if the person was the Shaykh, and you may have seen the program (Ben Ladin, alive or dead?) that was broadcast by Al Jazeera. Accordingly, a high quality speech (HD) may receive some interest by some channels in the tenth anniversary. If the quality of the new Shaykh's speech is high, relative to the two previous speeches, you may think to compress it or take some measures to decrease the quality, to be similar to the previous ones, and I am talking seriously. In general, and no matter what material we send, I suggest that we should distribute it to more than one channel, so that there will be healthy competition between the channels in broadcasting the material, so that no other channel takes the lead. It should be sent for example to ABC, CBS, NBC, and CNN and maybe PBS and VOA. As for Fox News, let her die in her anger.

Gadahn had his facts mixed up a bit. It was CNN, not MSNBC, that fired Octavia Nasr. 

Some other intriguing bits include bin Laden sounding like something of a corporate middle manager when discussing the recruitman of Anwar al-Awlaki: 

How excellent would it be if you ask brother Basir to send us the resume, in detail and lengthy, of brother Anwar al-'Awlaqi, as well as the facts he relied on when recommending him, while informing him that his recommendation is considered.

There's also a bit of Decline Watch fodder in bin Laden's currency preferences: 

Enclosed is the article attributed to our brother Sayf al-'Adl. -Regarding the money, I like for them to be in Euros.

Stay tuned for more.

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Al Qaeda magazine returns with two new issues

Today, al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula's media arm, al-Malahem Media, has recently released two new issues of the group's English-language magazine, Inspire.  The release is significant since the magazine was thought to be defunct since the September 2011 drone attacks that killed Anwar al-Awlaki and Samir Khan in Yemen. The two U.S.-raised jihadists were Inspire's best-known contributor and editor, respectively. See terrorism analysts and FP contributors J.M. Berger and Evan Kohlman  for the best takes put up so far on their contents. 

After the deaths of Kahn and Awlaki last year, I looked back over the publication's full run from an editor's perspective. How do the new issues of the world's most notorious magazine stack up?

Issue 8 is a little odd in terms of timing. Though it's only coming to light today, it's billed as the fall 2011 issue. However, Issue 7 was also supposed to be the fall 2011 issue. Berger speculates on Twitter that this issue "looks like it might have been the last work of Samir Khan, as it does not mention either man's death."

There are some new features, including a quiz in the table of contents. A help-wanted notice suggests the magazine is looking for web help, researchers, translators, and "sisters who can write on women-related issues." There's also a long feature on the Pakistani army and its "role in the crusades." The regular humor feature, the Mad Magazine-esque "A Cold Diss," mocks the late Libyan leader Muammar al-Qaddafi and refers to the famous "Zenga Zenga" YouTube video. (They're presumably unaware it was made by an Israeli.) The instructional "open-source jihad" feature gives some helpful hints on handgun training.

The most chilling feature is an article by Awlaki himself justifying the killing of civilians in jihadist attacks. "If combatants and non-combatants are mixed together and integrated, it is allowed for the Muslims to attack them even if women, children, the elderly, farmers, merchants and slaves get killed but this should only be done with the intention of fighting the combatants," he writes.

Issue 9 discusses Khan and Awlaki's deaths in detail, and the new editor, Yahya Ibrahim, begins with some words for all the doubters:

"To the disappointment of our enemies, issue 9 of inspire [sic] magazine is out against all odds al-Hamdolillah. The Zionists and the crusaders thought that the magazine was gone with the martyrdom of Shykh Anwar and brother Samir, may Allah have mercy upon their souls. Yet again, they have failed to come to terms with the fact that the Muslim ummah is the most fertile and most generous mother that gives birth to thousands and thousands of the likes of Shaykh Anwar and brother Samir. They will be displeased to know that we have been inundated with emails and requests by young inspired Muslims who are persistently offering their help, not just intellectually, but with whatever the mujahideen need in the West.

It has to be said that the quality of copyediting and translation has gone downhill since the deaths of the two American contributors. One article, teased on the cover, is bafflingly headlined, "It is of your freedom to ignite a firebomb." The layout is still pretty slick, though, and one writer claims in a eulogy for Khan that the late editor "taught me everything he knew about presentation of certain material."

With a stunning lack of self-awareness, the editors condemn the killing of Awlaki's son. "The only thing why Abdur-Rahmaan Bin Anwar Al Awlaki was 'guilty' was the fact that he was a son of Shaykh Anwar al Awlaki," they write. "But can we blame somebody because of being somebody's son?" (Perhaps they should refer to Awlaki's justification for the killing of innocent children in the previous issue.)

As usual, the issue is heavy on tactics and suggested operations, including attacks on "main political figures" in the West and "large strategic economic targets such as: The Stock Exchange, power and oil installations, airports, harbors, railroad systems," etc.

It is not only "your freedom to ignite a firebomb," as it turns out, but a great idea! Having seen the damage wrought by forest fires in the United States and Australia in recent years, Inspire suggests a number of ways an enterprising young jihadist could go about starting one.

The most intriguing piece may be an essay making the case for why Al Qaeda's violence is more justifiable than attacks by Christian extremists like Anders Behring Breivik. According to Inspire, "The right wing extremists apparently can kill their own people for as a ridiculous reason [sic] as ‘waking them up'. This is extremism at its peak." It really says something when al Qaeda thinks a group's methods are a bit severe.

In what may be his last written statement, an article by Awlaki titled "Spilling Out The Beans" discusses his radicalization in the United States and persecution by U.S. authorities. It includes this strange anecdote:

"In 1996 while waiting at a traffic light in my minivan a middle aged woman knocked on the window of the passenger seat. By the time I rolled down the window and before even myself or the woman uttering a word I was surrounded by police officers who had me come out of my vehicle only to be handcuffed. I was accused of soliciting a prostitute and then released. They made it a point to make me know in no uncertain terms that the woman was an undercover cop."

The story of Awlaki's two busts on prostitution charges has been told before and he denied them. It's a little odd that the current editors of Inspire would include a discussion of this incident in what may be Awlaki's final posthumous statement. In general, the editorial standards seem to have gone downhill since his death.