Don’t get too excited by the Daily Telegraph allegations that someone working for the BBC may be part of an Al-Qaida “propaganda media network.”
The Telegraph raised the issue after obtaining a Wikileaks document which said that a telephone number associated with the BBC was found in numerous phone books and cell phones seized by coalition forces in Afghanistan.
The BBC’s director of global news, Peter Horrocks, responds:
The reference to “network analysis” seems more likely to be a suggestion that intelligence officers should look for other suspects in possession of the phone number than a suspicion that there were BBC employees sympathetic to the extremist cause. In that context, the suspected “propaganda media network” would clearly relate not to the BBC but to a network of extremists who have a BBC number in common.
The BBC Belfast newsroom, where I worked in the 1980s, used regularly to receive claims concerning terrorist violence from extremists. By any reasonable interpretation, if a number of those extremists were then caught in possession of the BBC newsdesk number an intelligence report on the subject would have been more likely to conclude that the extremists were part of a network rather than the BBC was part of such a network.
A reasonable explanation.
But I’m still curious who the contact person was.
After all, we’re talking about the British media, which has produced Fayad Abu Shamala (Hamas member at the BBC), Dilpazier Aslam (Hizb ut-Tahrir member at The Guardian), Lauren Booth (led the Free Gaza movement while a Daily Mail columnist) and Yvonne Ridley (covered Afghanistan for the Sunday Express, converted to Islam after being captured by the Taliban).
It may be indeed be nothing. But would you really put it past the BBC to employ someone Al-Qaida considers a useful idiot?