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U.S. Government Designated Prominent Al-Jazeera Journalist a 'Member of al-Qaida'

    Detail of a slide from "SKYNET: Courier Detection via Machine Learning," a top-secret NSA document dated June 5, 2012. (via The Intercept)


A top-secret document provided by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden shows that the U.S. government labeled a prominent journalist a member of al-Qaida and put him on a watch list of suspected terrorists.

Glenn Greenwald, Cora Currier and Andrew Fishman report at The Intercept:

The briefing singles out Ahmad Muaffaq Zaidan, Al Jazeera’s longtime Islamabad bureau chief, as a member of the terrorist group. A Syrian national, Zaidan has focused his reporting throughout his career on the Taliban and Al Qaeda, and has conducted several high-profile interviews with senior Al Qaeda leaders, including Osama bin Laden.

A slide dated June 2012 from a National Security Agency PowerPoint presentation bears his photo, name, and a terror watch list identification number, and labels him a “member of Al-Qa’ida” as well as the Muslim Brotherhood. It also notes that he “works for Al Jazeera.” …

In a brief phone interview with The Intercept, Zaidan “absolutely” denied that he is a member of Al Qaeda or the Muslim Brotherhood. In a statement provided through Al Jazeera, Zaidan noted that his career has spanned many years of dangerous work in Afghanistan and Pakistan, and required interviewing key people in the region — a normal part of any journalist’s job. 

“For us to be able to inform the world, we have to be able to freely contact relevant figures in the public discourse, speak with people on the ground, and gather critical information. Any hint of government surveillance that hinders this process is a violation of press freedom and harms the public’s right to know,” he wrote. “To assert that myself, or any journalist, has any affiliation with any group on account of their contact book, phone call logs, or sources is an absurd distortion of the truth and a complete violation of the profession of journalism.”

Continue reading here.

— Posted by Alexander Reed Kelly.

Alexander Reed Kelly
Former Associate Editor
In December 2010, Alex was arrested for civil disobedience outside the White House alongside Truthdig columnist Chris Hedges, Pentagon whistle-blower Daniel Ellsberg, healthcare activist Margaret Flowers and…
Alexander Reed Kelly

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