The BBC could be a part of a ‘possible propaganda media network’ for al-Qeada, according to the leaked U.S. files on the Guantanamo detainees, published by WikiLeaks.
A phone number of someone at the BBC Bush House, the headquarters of the BBC World Service, was found in phone books and programmed into the mobile phones of a number of militants seized by the U.S. forces.
“The London, United Kingdom, phone number 0044 207 XXX XXXX was discovered in numerous seized phone books and phones associated with extremist-linked individuals,” according to the assessment on one of the detainees at the Guantanamo camp, dated 21 April 2007. “The number is associated with the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC).’
The U.S. assessment file said forces had uncovered many ‘extremist links’ to the BBC number – indicating that extremists could have made contacts with employees at the broadcaster who were sympathetic to extremists or had information on ‘ACM’ (anti-Coalition militia) activities.
It says: “Analyst Note: Numerous extremist links to this BBC number indicates a possible propaganda media network connection. Network analysis might provide leads to individuals with either sympathetic ties to extremists or possibly possessing information on ACM operations.”
The BBC number appears in the file of Turki Mishawi Zaid Alj-Amri, a Saudi who was “assessed to be a member of al-Qaeda, who travelled to Afghanistan to participate in jihad.”
The leaked U.S. file says Alj-Amri had “stayed at al-Qaeda facilities, received training at an al-Qaeda camp, and served under al-Qaida leadership in Tora Bora, AF. Detainee’s pocket litter links him to significant Anti-Coalition Militia (ACM) personnel and groups.”
It says: “Many of the telephone numbers in his pocket litter have been associated with multiple ACM personnel, indicating he may have played a greater role in multiple activities than previously assessed.” He was repatriated to Saudi Arabia in November 2007, along with 13 other men.
In February 2009 the Saudi Government published a list of the 85 most wanted suspected terrorists, which included an individual named Turki Mashawi Al Aseery.
The BBC number listed on the file is now dead, according to the Daily Telegraph (UK), but the revelation could further dent the broadcaster’ reputation for impartiality. It has for years faced claims it is biased towards the left.
But this is the first time the BBC has been linked to Islamic extremism. In September 2006, BBC chairman Michael Grade held an ‘impartiality summit’ to assess whether there was a left-wing bias.
A leaked account of the meeting showed that executives admitted they would broadcast an interview with Osama Bin Laden, the founder of al-Qaeda. They said they would give him a platform to explain his views, if he approached them.
Former BBC political editor Andrew Marr later said that “BBC is not impartial or neutral. It’s a publicly funded, urban organisation with an abnormally large number of young people, ethnic minorities and gay people. It has a liberal bias not so much a party-political bias. It is better expressed as a cultural liberal bias.”
A spokesman for the BBC said: “Independence and impartiality are at the heart of all BBC World Service output. The service has interviewed representatives of organisations from all sides involved in the Afghan conflict so it would not be surprising that a number believed to relate to the BBC Pashto service was in circulation.” [via Daily Mail (UK) and The Telegraph (UK)]