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NBC Takes a Former Gitmo Detainee's Side

12:30 PM, Jan 19, 2011 • By THOMAS JOSCELYN
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Tuesday morning, NBC News broadcast an interview with Saad Iqbal Madni, a former Guantanamo detainee. Madni’s story is an old one and there is no real “news” here. The New York Times published basically the same story more than two years ago. (You can read my analysis of the Times piece here.)

NBC Takes a Former Gitmo Detainee's Side

Like the Times, however, NBC did not bother to scrutinize Madni’s claims. The result was a hopelessly biased and one-sided segment.

NBC’s journalists should have investigated Madni’s background further before reporting. Madni’s claim of innocence is difficult to square with transcripts of his own testimony during hearings held at Guantanamo. Even while denying any wrongdoing during those hearings, Madni conceded that he repeatedly met with terrorists who were plotting against Americans in Indonesia in late 2001. Officials at Guantanamo clearly thought that Madni was, in fact, conspiring with these terrorists when he was detained. Even though the U.S. government’s declassified files are freely available online, however, NBC did not inform viewers of the files’ contents.

Similarly, Madni’s claims of torture were not scrutinized in any way. Madni’s tale often takes a turn into the bizarre and is completely unsupported by any independent evidence. But NBC accepted Madni’s torture story at face value even though parts of it, at the very least, are quite obviously fabricated.

Allegedly Plotted Against Americans

The U.S. government’s declassified files on Madni are available on the New York Times’s web site and contain a number of startling revelations. During his hearings, Madni told military officials at Gitmo that he traveled from Pakistan to Indonesia to attend to family business in 2001. Madni claimed that he just happened to find himself in the company of terrorists who were conspiring to commit terrorist attacks against Americans and others on or around New Year’s Day 2002. When he learned what these terrorists were up to he tried to get away from them, Madni claimed.

But Madni’s story is difficult to believe given the circumstances Madni himself described. And intelligence professionals at Guantanamo clearly did not believe Madni’s claims of naiveté.

Here is a summary of Madni’s story:  

Madni was detained at Guantanamo because he was allegedly involved in an al Qaeda plot against an American official working in Jakarta. He was apparently fingered as the accomplice of a known al Qaeda agent. In its summary of evidence memos for Madni, the U.S. government alleged that he “asked an unidentified confidant where and with whom a United States government official would be on New Year's Eve.” Madni “wanted to know if there were protective officers with the government official and if they were American,” because he stated “it was better to kill one U.S. Government Official than 100 Americans.” The U.S. government claimed that Madni “speculated that something big was going to happen during a meeting with other al Qaeda operatives” in December of 2001.

Madni denied the government’s allegations, but made a number of admissions in the context of his denials that are, in fact, damning.

Madni admitted he was “introduced to four terrorists in Indonesia,” including Habib Rizq, the president of an organization called the Islamic Defense (or Defenders) Front (IDF), which is affiliated with al Qaeda. The IDF is known to attack nightclubs, bars, brothels, or any other establishment that offends the organization's deep Islamist sensibilities. According to BBC, Rizq has stated publicly that his organization has accepted Osama bin Laden’s call “for a Jihad for the truth” because, Rizq says, there is no evidence tying the terror master to the September 11 attacks.

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