If a high-ranking member of the Taliban told Al-Jazeera that the recent attempted assassination of Vice President Dick Cheney was devised by Osama bin Laden, would you expect the media to report it?
In reality, after this interview, the claim was largely discredited. However, one has to wonder why Mullah Dadullah’s (the believed leader of the Taliban in southern Afghanistan) statement made last Wednesday went largely ignored.
Was this an attempt by a media seemingly always interested in downplaying the war on terror to keep the public from even considering that bin Laden could have been involved?
Allah be praised, [bin Laden] is alive, and we have information about him. Allah be praised, he formulates the plans in Iraq and Afghanistan. You may recall the martyrdom operation in the Baghram base, which targeted a senior American official. No Afghan can reach the Baghram base. This operation is the result of his blessed planning. He is the one who formulated the details of this plan and who instructed us. The operation was successful, and, Allah willing, you will hear him speaking. As the operations intensify, a video statement by him will be released, Allah willing. We have information that he is alive, and that he is in constant contact with the mujahideen.
One of the few print media outlets to report this was the Journal Gazette of Indiana via the Associated Press (emphasis added):
A top Taliban commander said al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden was behind the February attack outside a U.S. military base in Afghanistan during a visit by Vice President Cheney, according to an interview shown Wednesday by Arab broadcaster Al-Jazeera.
Deputy White House press secretary Dana Perino said it was “an interesting claim, but ... I haven’t seen any intelligence that would support that.”
A U.S. counterterrorism official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the information’s sensitivity, said al-Qaida would likely have used more than a single explosion outside the base’s main gate if it were targeting Cheney.
In addition, the official said, it takes bin Laden significant time to communicate from where he is hiding. That wouldn’t offer him the flexibility to order an attack on Cheney, whose stop at Bagram was kept secret, the official said.
Furthermore, the Malaysia Star covered an April 26 Reuters report on this matter: “Al Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden is orchestrating militants' operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, a senior Taliban commander said in remarks broadcast on Wednesday.”
Yet, American media largely ignored this. Why?
Now, in fairness, CNN did several reports on this story, in particular on April 28’s “This Week at War.” Correspondent Nic Robertson downplayed Dadullah’s claims:
Tom. Look, there's a propaganda war going on here. The Taliban and al Qaeda are very good at playing it. That's definitely the assessment of military officials we talked to in Afghanistan. Look at what was happening in the days before Mullah Dadullah made that statement. NATO had said they had Dadullah surrounded by 200 NATO troops. There was an indication maybe that this was black operation, psychological operations against Dadullah, against the Taliban. What does he do? He retaliates. He says hey, guess what? That attack a few weeks Osama bin Laden initiated it. The assessment at the time was no one could have known that Vice President Cheney was going to be at Bagram. The best assessment, security assessment at the time that the Taliban quickly put a suicide bomber in play who was in the area, sent him as close as he could get into the base, not coming nowhere near the vice president but I think to say Osama bin Laden was actually involved in that. It looks like what we've got here is a real propaganda war going on.
However, ABC, CBS, NBC, MSNBC, and Fox News all ignored this story. And, from what I can tell, of the major newspapers, only the Los Angeles Times covered it, albeit with 85 words in a World News recap on page A9 on April 26.