Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Al-Jazeera Harassment of US Politicians Rings True

About a week ago, I featured a story on al-Jazeera having called a Republican congressional candidate’s office asking for a last minute interview to take place later that night. The caller also asked for the candidate’s home address and said that they would pick him up and bring him to their location for interview, a location that they did not disclose.

In this case the candidate was Lt. Col. Allen West, one of the most eloquent and well spoken GOP candidates in the nation. He’s crystal clear on the need to fight terror and on the critical importance of energy independence. It’s well known that if elected, he would automatically be the GOP’s most clear cut, succinct and honest spokesman on conservative positions and values.

But he was not the only US politician to be confronted with similar requests. It turns out that al-Jazeera requested a similar interview from the Democratic mayor of Birmingham, Alabama, Mayor Larry Langford. He refused because of the network’s ties to terrorists. But what was not reported is that they offered the same strange invitation, to be picked up and brought by them to some untold location.

To be clear, I have no doubt that the harassment of elective candidates was not a network decision. As I stated in my last column, my cause for concern was that al-Jazeera hires many interns directly from the Middle East with little known about their background.

It only takes one extremist to use that as an opportunity to harm a US politician. And while doing so would have terrible effects on al-Jazeera and would fan flames against the extremists, such considerations seem to be of little concern to the terrorists whose messages al-Jazeera broadcasts (ignoring the concerns of American security agencies in doing so) or to the terrorists whose acts of beheading al-Jazeera has seen fit to publicize. Such concerns were of little care to the kidnappers and murderers of Daniel Pearl who was kidnapped on his way to conducting an alleged interview.

Simply put, if a couple of rogue extremists want to hurt a US politician as part of some miscalculated plan, we cannot expect to predict their moves. That’s why getting into a van at the invitation of a network that hires Mideast interns with little in the way of background checks isn’t a smart thing to do. One campaign facing a similar request, that wishes to remain anonymous, actually contacted a federal agency and they seemed to agree with the above assessment.

A reporter at The New Republic, one of the longest running magazines that are aligned with the Democratic Party, made fun of the original story and of the allegations. Yet the federal agency contacted by one of several campaigns facing such an interview request considered the matter to be serious and worthy of their attention.

The problem is that the left and the Democratic Party in general are too apathetic when it comes to terror threats, just as they were in the past with regard to the nature of the Soviet Union. Being apathetic on such matters is not only naïve. When such naïveté is brought to the national level and serves as a basis for policy proposals, as has been the case with many prominent Democrats, it becomes a dangerous lack of regard for national security.

Special thanks to Tom Anderson for research assistance.

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