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Confirmation bias: Why would anyone uncritically accept Yosri Fouda's story of his "KSM" interview? [View All]

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JackRiddler Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Mar-21-07 01:50 AM
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Confirmation bias: Why would anyone uncritically accept Yosri Fouda's story of his "KSM" interview?
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Edited on Wed Mar-21-07 01:57 AM by JackRiddler
March 20, 2007:

In his long career as a terrorist, according to the official histories of 9/11, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed decided to grant his first and only interview as a free man to a journalist a few months before his capture. This happened in April, May or June of 2002, according to the conflicting accounts given by Yosri Fouda, the London correspondant for Al Jazeera who received the privilege of interviewing not just "KSM," the alleged 9/11 mastermind, but also Ramzi Binalshibh, the putative number two in the 9/11 plot. (Binalshibh is best-known as the man who was dispatched by al-Qaeda to organize the "Hamburg Cell" under Mohammed Atta.)

According to Fouda's original story, he was contacted by the two terrorists and taken in June 2002 to an undisclosed location in Pakistan, where the interview was filmed. Fouda says "KSM" and Binalshibh revealed much the same details about the 9/11 plot as have been reiterated in the latest confession transcript issued by the Pentagon, after its secret proceedings this month against "KSM" at the Guantanomo Bay prison camp.

The terrorists forced Fouda to leave the videotape of their interview behind, however, telling him to later insist that they looked just like the pictures of them published in the papers, says Fouda. After returning to London, Fouda says he received in the mail a CD with the audio of the interview, however with the voices distorted. Fouda in his book says he first spent some time trying to remove the distortion of the audio and reclaim the genuine voices of "KSM" and Binalshibh. But soon enough he (or his employers at Al Jazeera) decided this property was simply too hot to brook further delays. The distorted audio interview was first broadcast on September 9, 2002.

(For those who can read German, a good refresher course with images from a Spiegel-TV documentary on Fouda's interview CD and other terror-confession videos broadcast by Al Jazeera, as well as long passages from Fouda's book with Nick Fielding, here )

Later, as described in the excerpts below from an article by Chaim Kupferberg, Fouda changed his story about when the "KSM" interview actually took place. June 2002, his original claim, happened to coincide with the US government's public roll-out of "KSM" as the 9/11 mastermind, coupled with the claim that the US had learned of his role through Abu Zubaydah, who had been captured in March 2002. (Zubaydah as presented by the US government is another thoroughly suspect figure, but we'll leave the deconstruction of his legend for a future piece.) This coincidence may have seemed to compromise Fouda as the possible actual source of the US revelation. Whatever his thinking may have been, he suddenly switched the date of his purported interview with KSM to May 2002, explaining that he, quote, "lied" about the date he had originally claimed. Later, Fouda shifted the date of the event again, to April 2002.

Before we go on with the "KSM" story, this seems like the right point to ask: Why would anyone serious believe uncritically in Fouda's story of the "KSM" interview, given the dubious details, the distorted audio tape as the only record, and Fouda himself copping to having lied about the date? At the very least, a researcher properly versed in skepticism would have to take an agnostic stance on the interview's authenticity, and avoid using it as anything other than an unconfirmed assertion of "KSM's" importance in the 9/11 plot, useless on its own. And yet many serious writers cite the interview as though it were self-evidently authentic.

The answer may lie in a phenomenon of the mind that psychologists call "confirmation bias." We humans have a powerful tendency to favor evidence, no matter how outlandish, that confirms our pre-existing ideas, so that we "see what we want to see."

The existence of dubious 9/11 whistleblowers who come forward with claims supporting an "inside job" provides us with a kind of controlled experimental illustration of this process. When a Sgt. Laurio Chavez claims to have witnessed elements of an air-defense "standdown" from CENTCOM on September 11th, those who support the official story of the day's events rightly scrutinize the claims and declare them unconfirmable, as they also do with the testimony of a self-described "New Jersey EMT" who has so far appeared only in the form of an e-mail claiming that he was at Ground Zero on the afternoon of 9/11 and that he witnessed evidence that explosives were used to demolish WTC 7. Yet the same self-proclaimed skeptics who dismiss Chavez and "New Jersey EMT" do not seem to take pause when confronted with the all-too convenient claims of a Yosri Fouda, apparently because these serve to confirm their idea that committed Islamist extremists must have masterminded the 9/11 operation. Perhaps scientists will one day learn more about the biochemistry of confirmation bias, and find ways to counteract its legend-generating effects.

But let us return to the subsequent stages in the "KSM" legend. Writing in October 2003, Chaim Kupferberg deconstructed the fortuitous promotion of "KSM's" role by Al Jazeera and Yosri Fouda in his article, "The June 2002 Plan to Market a New 9/11 Mastermind."

If habitual coincidence is the mother of all conspiracy theories, then one must surely raise a discerning eyebrow at the revelation that, around this time - after more than a decade of staying hidden in the shadows - Khalid Shaikh Mohammed suddenly was stricken with an urge to conduct his very first interview, with none other than Ramzi Binalshibh at his side. The journalist chosen for this honor was the London bureau chief of Al-Jazeera, Yosri Fouda...

...On September 9, 2002, the die was cast. Al-Jazeera was broadcasting Part I of Fouda's historic interview with Khalid Shaikh Mohammed and Ramzi Binalshibh. For the first time, millions would hear - from the planners themselves - exactly how the September 11 plot was put in motion. It was al-Jazeera's version of VH1's Behind The Music, featuring guest commentaries from Vincent Cannistraro and Lyndon LaRouche. Unfortunately, viewers would only get the audio feed of Khalid and Binalshibh, as Binalshibh and Khalid purportedly had confiscated from Fouda his videotape of the proceedings before he had taken leave of them back in June. (...)

...It was practically a seamless propaganda extravaganza, except for one small detail - Fouda had gone on record as dating the interview to June of 2002, thereby raising the prospect of two plausible scenarios. Scenario One: Khalid and Binalshibh's respective roles in the plot were first discovered solely due to Fouda's contact with them; or Scenario Two: The decision to send Fouda on his interview errand was made at the same time that a decision was made to market Khalid as the new 9/11 mastermind. Of the two scenarios, the first one was far more palatable - from a propaganda perspective - as at least it could be kept within the borders of plausible deniability, and only Fouda would get burned by it. The second scenario, however, would raise the prospect of one of those uncomfortable coincidences that could conceivably expose the 9/11 Legend as a pre-fabricated set-up.

Only two days after the initial broadcast of Fouda's interview with Khalid and Binalshibh - on the first anniversary commemorating the 9/11 attacks - Pakistani forces, accompanied by FBI agents, raided an apartment complex in Karachi. After a "four hour" gun battle involving "hundreds" of Pakistani soldiers and policemen, the authorities captured, among a few others, Ramzi Binalshibh himself. Their original target, however, had been Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, whom they had been tracking for months throughout Karachi. While Khalid had just barely slipped away only a few hours before Pakistani forces had arrived at his door, the authorities were reportedly "surprised" to discover that they had netted Binalshibh in the process. At least that is now the official version of the day's events...

News reports in the months that followed held that Khalid Sheikh Mohammed was killed in the September 2002 raid that captured Ramzi Binalshibh. These are ably brought together by DU's own Paul Thompson at "The Complete 9/11 Timeline," hosted by the Center for Cooperative Research:

Kupferberg conjectures that Fouda tried to solve his dilemma by admitting he had lied about details.

...With the well-timed arrest of Ramzi Binalshibh in September 2002, journalist Yosri Fouda was in a bind. Only days before, he had gone on record - repeatedly - as dating his interview with Khalid and Binalshibh to June 2002. Up to the time of Binalshibh's arrest, the official legend had it that Khalid's pivotal role as 9/11 mastermind was revealed to U.S. authorities through their interrogation of Abu Zubaydah, who was captured in March 2002. Now, in the aftermath of Binalshibh's capture, word was circulating that perhaps authorities had learned of Khalid's true role by way of Fouda. That contention, of course, would remain most plausible if Fouda's interview could definitively be back-dated to a time before early June 2002 - that is, to a time before Khalid was first publicly announced as 9/11 mastermind. The alternative scenario quite simply pointed to a conclusion that would have to be denied at all costs - that the decision to out Khalid publicly as the 9/11 mastermind was coordinated with the decision to send Fouda on his interview errand with Khalid. Had Fouda erred, then, by initially claiming that his historic interview had taken place in June 2002? Had he possibly exposed a seam pointing the way to a coordinated set-up?

Soon after the Binalshibh arrest, Fouda took the opportunity to revise the date of his interview for the record, revealing to Abdallah Schleifer of the Kamal Adham Center For Journalism:

Fouda: "Actually, this question of dates is very important for another reason. All of these Islamist websites that were denouncing me alluded to my interview as taking place in June. That's what I mentioned both in my article in The Sunday Times Magazine and in my documentary - that I met them in June."

Schleifer: "So?"

Fouda: "I lied."

Schleifer: "Really?"

Fouda: "Yeah."

Schleifer: "But you're going to come clean with , right?"

Fouda (laughter): "Yes, of course. I lied because I needed to lie. I'll tell you why. Because I thought, maybe even expected, that if something when wrong and I needed to get in touch with them through a website or a statement or a fax ... they would be the only ones who would know that I had met them one month earlier than I let on, and so I'd know I was talking to the right people.

So after the first wave of denunciations a pro-Qa'ida website "" put up a statement online in the name of Al-Qa'ida clearing me of any blame or connection with Ramzi's arrest and I knew this was an authentic communique because it alluded to the interview taking place in May."

Note that here, as with the much-pilloried "conspiracy theorists," an anonymous Internet-only publication is taken seriously as a source on Fouda's word.


Apparently, Fouda had lied again, for on March 4, 2003 (i.e. a few days after Khalid's eventual arrest), Fouda offered up this newest version of his 48-hour encounter to The Guardian:

"It was late afternoon, Sunday 21 April 2002, when I packed my bags before joining Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and Ramzi bin al-shibh for a last prayer before saying goodbye."

That, as they say in legal parlance, is a very definite recollection. In short, Fouda had impeached his own testimony through these two explicitly detailed, contradictory dates. Fouda, through this compounded lie, was now calling into question the very credibility of his entire interview with Khalid and Binalshibh...

...Recall that, back in June 2002, the "official" legend at the time had it that it was Abu Zubaydah, back in March 2002, who had spilled the goods on Khalid. Yet with Khalid's March 2003 apprehension, this one aspect of the legend was duly revised. As revealed by Keith Olbermann in a March 3, 2003 item: "Ironically, it would be (Fouda's) interview that would point out, to U.S. intelligence, that (Khalid Shaikh) Mohammed and Binalshibh were the brains behind the 9/11 attacks"...

So much for the credibility of London Al Jazeera reporter Yosri Fouda, his supposed meeting with "KSM" and Ramzi Binalshibh, and his shifting accounts of how it happened. The clumsiness of the latter suggests that Fouda did not have a privileged position vis--vis an intelligence agency, such as might allow him to better coordinate his story with the US government's and avoid having to twice change it. A betting man might speculate that the "interview" came to be simply because Fouda and his partner Fielding seized a well-timed opportunity to fabricate a journalistic blockbuster, but perhaps it is wisest to just place the Fouda story in a bin labeled "unconfirmable and dubious," and leave it there.

Pakistani and US authorities later claimed to have captured "KSM," alive after all, in March 2003. "He" has been held ever since as an enemy combatant - waterboarded, as per the government's admission. The precious intelligence that "KSM" supposedly provided under torture was used as an example by Bush himself, in a speech justifying his administration's detainment and interrogation policies.

For the four years of his detainment, "KSM" has been kept from receiving any visitors at all, let alone seeing a defense counsel. The 9/11 Commission was denied its requests to see "KSM," Binalshibh and Abu Zubaydah, but nevertheless based large sections of its best-selling report on the supposed testimony of these three men, as provided by the US government in the form of transcripts from Guantanomo. The Moussaoui defense was also denied requests to see "KSM" or Binalshibh, even to receive audio or videotapes of the supposed prisoners.

And he has provided his confessions, delivered to the public in the form of transcripts and transcripts only. These confessions, much in line with Fouda's interview, describe an astonishing range of acts for which "KSM" claims responsibility, including, most recently, the beheading of Daniel Pearl (an act otherwise credited to Omar Saeed Sheikh, who is still sitting on death row in Pakistan after his conviction for it).

Is it any wonder that now, finally, even Time magazine is joining the Pearl family in casting doubt on the authenticity of the "KSM" confessions?


For a further collection of "KSM" stories, in the form of choice quotes taken from corporate and mainstream media reports, with links to originals, see here.
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