28 March 2005

Just who do you think is in charge here, me or the President?

[source, source]

A lone U.S. ambassador compromised America’s hunt for Osama bin Laden in Pakistan for more than two years,The New York Sun has learned.

Ambassador Nancy Powell, America’s representative in Pakistan, refused to allow the distribution in Pakistan of wanted posters, matchbooks, and other items advertising America’s $25 million reward for information leading to the capture of Mr. bin Laden and other Al Qaeda leaders.

Instead, thousands of matchbooks, posters, and other material - printed at taxpayer expense and translated into Urdu, Pashto, and other local languages - remained “impounded” on American Embassy grounds from 2002 to 2004, according to Rep. Mark Kirk, Republican of Illinois.

[…]

Mr. Kirk discovered Ms. Powell’s unusual order in January 2004 and, over the past year, launched a series of behind-the-scenes moves that culminated in a blunt conversation with President Bush aboard Air Force One, the removal of the ambassador, and congressional approval for reinvigorating the hunt for Mr. bin Laden.

[…]

A single matchbook helped lead to the capture of Mir Amal Kansi, who gunned down several CIA employees at the front gates of the agency’s Langley, Va., headquarters in 1993. Kansi was arrested in Pakistan in 1995 when a local fingered him for the $5 million reward. Mr.Kirk pointed out the similarities between the Kansi and bin Laden cases. “Both are cases gone cold in Pakistan,” he said.

In response to Kirk’s direct question, the ambassador apparently replied that she was very busy with a number of different priorities, of which bin Laden was only one. Why ordering the halt of the distribution was more work than not issuing the order isn’t clear. And of course, one wonders about an organization where managers feel free to simply disregard policies they don’t like.

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Old Media cerebral function watch

[source]

The Sydney Morning Herald reports that a prisoner expected to give evidence in the Schapelle Corby smuggling case in Bali fears for his life if he is identified by Australian drug gangs:

A senior member of Corby’s legal team, Vasu Rasiah, said the prisoner, John Patrick Ford, could face retribution when he returned to Australia after testifying that the former Gold Coast beauty student had been wrongly accused.

“We are worried for his safety and if the cameras are going to flag his face all over Australia, by the time he gets back he will be a dead man,” Mr Rasiah said. “We will apply [to close the court].”

So what does the Sydney Morning Herald do? It immediately runs a picture of Ford (and a smaller shot on the front page of the SMH site). So does Brisbane’s Courier Mail, and presumably several other papers in their print editions.

UPDATE. Also in the Daily Telegraph.

Sadly, I think this kind of things falls under the hueristic “never attribute to malice what can be adequately explained by stupidity”. If only these people had editors!

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