Saturday, August 23, 2014

Global Post, the employer of freelancer James Foley, fails to pass smell test - Wayne Madsen

Global Post, the employer of freelancer James Foley, fails to pass smell test

National news media operations based in Boston are almost like musicals that run "off Broadway."

We can add Global Post to the off-Broadway journalistic hit parade. Global Post is the Boston-based website that employed freelance photo journalist James Foley in Syria, recently beheaded by his Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) guerrillas in Iraq, appears to be a subsidized operation with an agenda that matches up nicely with that of international hedge fund tycoon George Soros.

National media operations not based in New York or Washington, DC are usually subsidized by interests with agendas. One Boston-based media operation that has a clear agenda is The Christian Science Monitor, a church-owned operation, which has become increasingly neo-conservative in its coverage since it scrapped its print edition and became an exclusively web-based operation. The other Boston-based national media operation is CAMERA  - the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America -- which serves as the Israel Lobby's often rabid media watchdog.

Foley, who was kidnapped on November 22, 2012 in northern Syria, near Idlib, by Syrian guerrillas who were not members of ISIL for the simple reason that ISIL did not yet exist. Foley was originally captured by an Islamist group that took its orders from the Central Intelligence Agency-organized and trained Free Syrian Army (FSA), whose leaders led their "army" not from the battlefield but from posh Istanbul hotel suites paid for by the Turkish, Saudi, and Qatari governments.

In early 2013, ISIL took over the rebel group holding Foley and other kidnap victims. Foley, like other journalists, was offered up for ransom by ISIL, which is now said to have some 4000 members who are Europeans, Australians, North Americans, and even a few Japanese, who have no Muslim or Middle Eastern familial backgrounds. In fact, the British citizen who beheaded Foley on video is said to go by the first name of "John," which is certainly not a Muslim name.

Ransom payments for kidnap victims like Foley have turned into a big business for ISIL and other terrorist groups. France, Italy, and Spain have paid large ransom amounts for its nationals taken hostage in Syria, West Africa, and Somalia. It is stated U.S. and British policy not to pay ransoms for hostages, however, as witnessed in the Iran-contra scandal, the U.S. is known to have traded arms to Iran for the release of hostages held by Shi'a groups in Lebanon.

In the case of Foley, ISIL had been in email communication with his family and Global Post to work out a ransom deal. However, ISIL said it beheaded Foley in retaliation for U.S. air strikes against ISIL guerrillas who were advancing toward the Kurdish capital of Erbil in northern Iraq.

There are reports that ISIL has even purchased kidnapped Westerners from other groups as far afield as Kashmir, Somalia, and Yemen in order to trade them for cash. Al Qaeda's reputed leader, Dr. Ayman al Zawahiri, is said to have called for Islamist groups to seize Western hostages in return for freeing Islamists held in prisons around the world.

The focus on Global Post yields some interesting connections. Foley had previously covered other U.S.-led wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Libya. Foley was always embedded with U.S. troops, as was the case in Iraq and Afghanistan, or U.S.-supported militias in Libya and Syria. During the 2011 CIA-initiated Libyan rebellion against Muammar Qaddafi's government, Foley was taken captive by Qaddafi army loyalists and held for 44 days.  Foley preferred being embedded with those fighting on the side of the United States rather than cover wars from different perspectives. Such wartime journalism would lead some believe that Foley was performing non-journalistic tasks on U.S.-created battlefields, that is, espionage.

President Obama interrupted his summer vacation on Martha's Vineyard to condemn Foley's beheading. Obama also phoned Foley's parents who live in New Hampshire. Subsequently, it was reported officially that U.S. Special Forces had attempted a rescue mission in Syria to free Foley and other American hostages but it failed. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said that normally such operations would not be revealed but that in the case of Foley an exception had been made because the information on the failed rescue operation had already been "leaked" to the press. One could ask why an administration that is intent on putting some journalists in prison for publishing leaks of classified information would make such an exception, itself involving classified special forces operations, for Foley?

There has long been a debate within the U.S. intelligence community as to whether it is proper to use intelligence agents operating abroad under journalistic cover. Past administrations, including those of Jimmy Carter and Gerald Ford, banned the use of journalists and missionaries by the CIA. Others, including the Ronald Reagan, George H. W. Bush, Bill Clinton, and George W. Bush administrations were not so adamant against the use of journalists as spies. The Obama administration's leeway given to the CIA for all sorts of operations previously prohibited or inhibited opens the door for journalists, once again, being used as agents in hot spots like Syria, Libya, and Iraq.

Which brings us back to Global Post. The media operation has not been around long. It was initiated on January 12, 2009, a week before the inauguration of Barack Obama as president, by two Boston businessmen, Charles Sennott and Philip Balboni. The new website claimed it was going t
o "redefine international news for the digital age." Originally charging an annual subscription of $199 a year, Global Post cut its annual rate to $30 a year, which has been WMR's unchanged annual subscription rate since 2005. However, Global Post's subscribers' base only stood at around 400. Yet, Global Post could boast of 65 worldwide correspondents, albeit, many of whom, like Foley, were freelancers. But how does an on-line media with subscribers only in the hundreds manage to finance reporters in war zones like Syria and Libya while maintaining a worldwide network of correspondents?

Global Post, with its lackluster business revenues, was able to cut syndication agreements with the Public Broadcasting System (sometimes mockingly referred to as the "Pentagon Broadcasting System"), the Sumner Redstone-owned CBS, and the Mort Zuckerman-owned New York Daily News. Oddly, just two years after its start-up, Global Post had garnered Peabody, Polk, and Edward R. Murrow awards for its "On Location" video coverage. Clearly, someone wanted to increase Global Post's street credentials through an "award washing" campaign.

Owned by
Global News Enterprises, LLC and headquartered on Boston's affluent waterfront, Global Post's board of directors and management includes those who have had only a glancing encounter with actual journalism: former cable television executives, a former chairman of C-SPAN, a former member of the board of The Boston Globe, a former publisher of The Boston Globe, an assistant to the CEO of the Hearst Corporation, a public relations flack for PBS, and a board member of the Boston public television station WGBH.

But even more suspicious is the presence on the staff of Global Post of two former editors for The Cambodia Daily, a CIA-connected publication officially owned by Cambodian orphanage "aficionado" Bernard Krisher; a former senior correspondent for the CIA- and Soros-linked Radio Free Europe in Prague; a graduate of the CIA-linked Sasin Business Institute in Bangkok; a former Boston Globe Jerusalem bureau chief, a former editor for the CIA-connected Tico Times of Costa Rica, and a former editor for the hard-neocon publication The Atlantic. Global Post's team of international correspondents are steeped in neocon credentials, from The Daily Beast and Kyiv Post to The New Republic and The Daily Telegraph.

While the White House and journalists mourn the death of Foley, it is important to point out that his photo reporting seldom departed from the confines of U.S. military units or irregular rebel forces supported by the CIA. It is tragic that one of those CIA rebel forces ultimately would subject Foley to a gruesome videotaped beheading. However, as much blame for that rests with those who supported the rebellion against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, individuals like CIA director John Brennan and national security adviser Susan Rice, as with the rebel executioners themselves.

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