New WikiLeaks trove confirms Al Jazeera cameraman held at GITMO
Emily Badger: New WikiLeaks trove confirms Al Jazeera cameraman held at GITMO
27 Apr 11

The latest batch of revelations from WikiLeaks, a trove of more than 700 files on prisoners held at Guantanamo Bay in the US War on Terror, confirms that an Al Jazeera cameraman was detained for years in part for information he could provide about the television network and its contacts with Osama bin Laden.

The 11-page cable identifies Sami al-Haj, a Sudanese national, as being a member of al-Qaida, as well as a member of the Taliban leadership “who acted as a money courier and propagandist for the al-Qaida network under the cover of his employment with the Union Beverage Company (UBC) and al-Jazeera media.”

The document describes al-Haj’s own account of his travel throughout the Middle East and Central Asia as a journalist for Al Jazeera, at several points trying to gain access to cover events in Chechnya at the request of the network. He was detained in December of 2001 by Pakistan while on his way to report in Afghanistan. The leaked document adds that, in talking with interrogators, al-Haj was “careful not to implicate himself as a member of an extremist organization, or to have had any dealings with extremists beyond performing interviews as a journalist.”

Despite al-Haj’s own accounting of his career as a journalist, the government labeled him a “high risk” threat to the US. The document also identifies him as a detainee of “HIGH intelligence value” and says that he was transfered to Guantanamo in part to provide information on his employer UBC and “The al-Jazeera News Network’s training program, telecommunications equipment,and newsgathering operations in Chechnya, Kosovo, and Afghanistan, including the network’s acquisition of a video of UBL and a subsequent interview with UBL.”

The US government, which has lately embraced Al Jazeera during its coverage of uprising this spring throughout the Arab world, for years tarred the network as a close ally of terrorist groups and a mouthpiece for their propaganda.

Al-Haj was released from Guantanamo, after repeated demands by orgnisations like Reporters Without Borders (and after treatment his lawyer described as torture), on 1 May, 2008.