Terrorism

Meet Al Qaeda's Press Whiz, U.S.-Born Adam Kadahn, Fan of ABC, CBS, & Olbermann

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The Washington Post's David Ignatius writes up Adam Kadahn, the 33-year-old U.S.-born media whiz for al Qaeda. In 2010, Kadahn, who was born in Oregon and whose birth name is Adam Silverman, wrote a long memo to Osama bin Laden outlining how the terrorist-on-the-run could get the best news coverage as the anniversary of the 9/11 attacks approached. Ignatius summarizes the document, which was pulled from bin Laden's final lair in Pakistan.

Kadahn hated Fox News ("falls into the abyss"); he liked MSNBC but complained about the firing of Keith Olbermann; he had mixed feelings about CNN (better in Arabic than in English) and made flattering comments about CBS and ABC. Basically, he wanted to play them all off to al-Qaeda's best advantage. He also mentioned print journalists, most prominently Robert Fisk of The Independent of Britain. He cites three Americans ("Brian Russ," "Simon Hirsh" and "Jerry Van Dyke"), though it's uncertain whom he meant…

Gadahn discusses how to game the coverage. Bin Laden could offer "an exclusive press scoop" to one network; but better to spread the material "so that there will be healthy competition." As for the print journalists, he suggests informing 30 to 50 of them that they've been selected to "receive special media material" for the 9/11 anniversary. If just a third of them respond, he notes, al-Qaeda will have 10 journalists who "will display our mission."…

Gadahn argues that the aftermath of the November 2010 U.S. elections is "very suitable" for new video: "All the political talk in America is about the economy, forgetting or ignoring the war and its role in weakening the economy." He says bin Laden shouldn't worry about being overexposed, because he can reach "millions of admirers" in the Muslim world, and "raise the morale" of al-Qaeda fighters who are "facing disaster after disaster."

The al-Qaeda spinmeister didn't like Fox News ("let her die in her anger"), but it's hard to understand why. Surely Rupert Murdoch's network, with its saturation coverage of the war on terror, did more to elevate bin Laden's profile than any other news outlet.

Whole article, which offers an interesting window into how not just terrorists but all groups seeking coverage think of the media. And how the messages folks seek to send are not necessarily addressed to the audiences of the media carrying them. That is, al Qaeda's use of American and European media is not about reaching Western minds as much as people in other parts of the world.

Kadahn has been on the FBI's most wanted list for years and has appeared in various al Qaeda videos. Read more about him and his conversion to Islamic terrorism.

Ignatius recently wrote of bin Laden's contempt for Joe Biden, who really just can't keep from being a global punch line.