The media needs to be reminded that freedom comes with responsibility. Having a free press does not mean they should be reckless with what they print, because there are things more valuable than breaking a good story. The reason I am saying this is because of Anwar al-Awlaki’s recent statement that The Washington Post is an unwitting co-conspirator in his crimes.
“They shut down my website following Nidal Hasan’s operation. I had posted an article of mine in support of what Nidal Hasan did, and so, they shut down my website. Then I read in the Washington Post that they were monitoring my communications. So I was forced to stop these communications. I left that region, and then the American air strikes took place.”
For those that don’t remember, Anwar al-Awlaki is one of the leaders of Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula and is hiding in Yemen. He is exerting an increasingly high profile in terrorist operations, especially those involving attacks on the U.S. and the recruitment of Americans. He is believed to be connected to the Fort Hood shooting and the failed Christmas Day underwear bomb plot. A Senate report says that up to 36 Americans that have been in prison have gone to Yemen, ostensibly to learn Arabic but in reality likely have been recruited by Al-Awlaki’s branch of Al-Qaeda.
To be fair, one would have thought that al-Awlaki would have assumed he was being tracked by now and so the Washington Post’s disclosure wouldn’t affect the effort to capture or kill him. However, if there’s one thing we shouldn’t think we are capable of, it’s that we can step into the mind of a top terrorist and know what’s going on in his head.
This is a reminder that the media has to run stories like this by people with access in the intelligence community to receive feedback on if it will harm our national security. On the bright side, at least the newspapers know they can always count on terrorists as reliable customers.