The story below is an excerpt from one that was published in 2004 by U.S. based media watch group Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting. The report was an analysis of Fox News, a conservative media outlet in the U.S. where Ijaz made frequent appearances post September 11 as an expert on terrorism. (Special Report was a featured program on Fox News). The FAIR report raises valid questions about Ijaz’s credibility as well as his agenda. It seems Mr. Ijaz has a long history of making “vaguely sourced claims”, that cannot be substantiated or verified. Given that Ijaz is the only real “witness” in the memogate proceedings his credibity is a critical issue to probe.
SIDEBAR: Special Report’s Special Guest
One of Special Report ’s favorite guests is Fox News analyst Mansoor Ijaz, an American investment manager of South Asian heritage. Neither a conservative nor a Republican, Ijaz plays a special role on Special Report . Leading all other guests with five appearances during the period studied—he’s appeared on Fox more than 100 times on other occasions—Ijaz regularly echoes Bush White House and neo-conservative claims about global threats, ignoring evidence while citing only shadowy, unnamed sources.
For instance, when anchor Brit Hume (11/10/03) asked Ijaz if there was “evidence of any consequence” linking Saddam Hussein to the September 11, 2001 terror attacks, Ijaz replied, “Absolutely.” But the remainder of Ijaz’s answer contained nothing even vaguely suggesting such evidence. The segment ended with Ijaz criticizing Democrats for questioning the White House’s case for war.
If Ijaz’s support for official policy is central to his current role on the show, it’s not what first made him a star onSpecial Report (and several other Fox shows). Ijaz came into heavy rotation as a Fox guest after charging in theLos Angeles Times (12/5/01) that President Bill Clinton blew a chance to capture Osama bin Laden in the 1990s. Ijaz claims to have brokered a deal in which Sudan would have produced Osama bin Laden in exchange for the lifting of sanctions on the African country—a deal Ijaz says Clinton failed to act on.
It was a questionable claim—in fact, the September 11 Commission later found no “reliable evidence” to support it (Hearing 8, 3/23/04)—and other news outlets noted that the Clinton administration flatly denied the allegations.Salon.com reported (8/16/02) that “the Clinton administration says there was no deal and that Ijaz never had a role in diplomatic discussions,” and quoted Clinton’s National Security Adviser Sandy Berger calling Ijaz’s claims “ludicrous and irresponsible.” Even Clinton critic Richard Miniter, in his book Losing Bin Laden: How Bill Clinton’s Failures Unleashed Global Terror, saw fit to include a Clinton official’s assessment of Ijaz as “a Walter Mitty living out a personal fantasy.” But when Ijaz repeated his Clinton-let-Bin-Laden-get-away story on Special Report (11/6/03), Hume simply ended the segment, “Got you. Mansoor Ijaz, great to have you. Thanks very much.”
Rarely naming his sources or even identifying them by nationality or occupation, Ijaz insists on their reliability. When asked by Hume about the whereabouts of Osama Bin Laden (11/20/03), Ijaz replied: “Well, Brit, tonight I can report from my intelligence sources, I consider unimpeachable intelligence sources, that we have eyewitness accounts that both Osama bin Laden, in a modified, disguised form, as well as Ayman al-Zawahiri, the number two in Al Qaeda, are, in fact, in Iran.” This is less than airtight evidence, but Hume apparently needs little convincing; that night, as on many segments featuring Ijaz, the anchor introduced him with lavish praise for his connections: “He is an American businessman by trade, but few people on Earth have better connections and sources in the Mideast than Mansoor Ijaz.”
While many of Ijaz’s claims are so vaguely sourced as to be uncheckable, some have been questioned by other reporters. According to the New York Times (2/4/02), Ijaz once “confirmed” for Fox (2/3/02) an inaccurate report that the body of Wall Street Journ al reporter Daniel Pearl had been found. While Pearl’s body wouldn’t turn up for another three months, and the erroneous story was called a hoax by U.S. and Pakistani officials, Foxinvited Ijaz on less than a week later (On the Record , 2/8/02) to speculate again about Pearl’s condition and kidnappers.
Last summer Ijaz told the British Guardian (8/23/03) that the White House had reached a secret agreement with Pakistan not to capture or kill bin Laden in late 2001, following the U.S. war in Afghanistan. Nerves were too raw right after the war, said Ijaz, and the immediate capture or death of bin Laden might inflame unrest in Pakistan and incite attacks on the West elsewhere. “There was a judgment made that it would be more destabilizing in the longer term,” Ijaz told the paper. “There would still be the ability to get him at a later date when it was more appropriate.”
If true—an important qualifier—this story would obviously be huge news. But Ijaz did not repeat his dubious bombshell on Special Report when he next appeared on the show (9/10/03), perhaps because he knew that stories that reflect badly on the Bush White House are not received well there. —S.R. and J.H.