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Once Again, We Prove Roger Ailes Is Divorced From Reality Of FOX News' Fairness And Balance

Reported by Ellen - May 9, 2005

Last December, I reported that Roger Ailes told C-Span's Brian Lamb that Ailes requires his reporters to "present the news, if there is more than one side, make sure you have it. If you think there's something else you don't agree with make sure it's in the story."

Allegations of mistaken identity in the capture of reported "Number 3 man in Al Qaeda" is a perfect example of how that dictum is not followed on FOX News.

Over the weekend, I came across three different FOX News reports extolling the importance of the capture of "Number three Al Qaeda member" Abu Faraj al-Libbi. But, as of this writing, I can find no information on the FOX News website about the report in the The Sunday Times that the capture is a case of mistaken identity.

On Saturday night's FOX Report, anchor Page Hopkins gushed that a notebook belonging to Al-Libbi "has been SEIZED" (her emphasis). Reporter Steve Centanni said that the fact that Al-Libbi tried to destroy the notebook is "another indicator of how valuable it might be."

Steve Pomerantz, former assistant FBI director confirmed this with the convoluted logic that Al-Libbi did not expect to be picked up, "therefore you have to assume that he didn't expect his notebook, which he believed to be secure, to fall into our hands. It is very logical to conclude - certainly to assume - that there is significant intelligence to be gleaned from that notebook."

Meanwhile, in a FOXNews.com video report called "Interrogation Tactics," Cofer Black, of Blackwater Security, tells Jim Angle and the FOX News audience that the capture is a "tremendous success... a big catch... clearly number 3 in Al Qaeda." Another video report called "Questioning Al-Libby" (sic) has Molly Henneberg telling us that Al-Libbi's arrest "sends a message" to Al Qaeda.

If the Sunday Times is correct, that message may be rather different from the one Henneberg thought.

According to the Times:

Bush called (Al-Libbi) a "top general" and "a major facilitator and chief planner for the Al- Qaeda network". Condoleezza Rice, secretary of state, said he was "a very important figure". Yet the backslapping in Washington and Islamabad has astonished European terrorism experts, who point out that the Libyan was neither on the FBI's most wanted list, nor on that of the State Department "rewards for justice" programme.

Another Libyan is on the FBI list - Anas al-Liby, who is wanted over the 1998 East African embassy bombings - and some believe the Americans may have initially confused the two. When The Sunday Times contacted a senior FBI counter-terrorism official for information about the importance of the detained man, he sent material on al-Liby, the wrong man

"Al-Libbi is just a 'middle-level' leader," said Jean-Charles Brisard, a French intelligence investigator and leading expert on terrorism finance. "Pakistan and US authorities have completely overestimated his role and importance. He was never more than a regional facilitator between Al-Qaeda and local Pakistani Islamic groups."

...Even a senior FBI official admitted that al-Libbi's "influence and position have been overstated". But this weekend the Pakistani government was sticking to the line that al-Libbi was the third most important person in the Al-Qaeda network.

So, apparently, is FOX News.

Incidently, immediately following the FOX Report story about Al-Libbi was a report on the capture of a reportedly high-level Al-Zarqawi aide. Inspiring music played by way of introduction. The screen said, "Iraq a new era."

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