US war against the press
The War Against Al Jazeera and Sami al-Hajj
Pakistani authorities detained Al Jazeera journalist Sami al-Hajj on December 15, 2001 when he and a colleague attempted to leave Afghanistan as a result of the deteriorating security situation following Operation Enduring Freedom. The Pakistani police held him for a month before turning him over to U.S. forces as a suspected “enemy combatant.”
He was eventually sent to Guantanamo Bay, where he arrived on June 14, 2002. He then spent the next six years there, until he was cleared of all charges in 2008.
Al-Hajj was classified as an “enemy combatant” whose “access to senior terrorist leaders demonstrates his probable connections to the al-Qaida network and other militant jihadist organizations." He was presented as "a member of al-Qaida who is an expert in logistics with direct ties to al-Qaida leadership.”
However, new evidence has come to light that now shows the U.S. government hoped to use al-Hajj as an intelligence source, perhaps even an informant, to spy on Al Jazeera’s operations, or to track down Taliban and al Qaeda leaders.
Al-Hajj was viewed as a valued asset in the U.S. government’s efforts to keep tabs on the news outlet and, according to some, send a message to the agency over its allegedly anti-American coverage of the “War on Terror.”
Al-Hajj’s “prisoner profile,” signed off on by then-Guantanamo commander Rear Admiral Mark H. Buzby, rated al-Hajj’s “intelligence value” as “high” because during his employment with al-Jazeera, "he made numerous contacts with high-level extremists to include leaders of al-Qaida and the Taliban” and “he can probably provide information about al-Jazeera Media’s possible support to al-Qaida, the Taliban, and other Islamic militant groups.”
Until this year, no documentation surfaced regarding his arrest and imprisonment, other than a string of official U.S. statements that labeled him a security risk. But in April 2011 WikiLeaks released “The Guantanamo Files” to several news outlets. The 779 internal memos in the collection are profiles of detainees produced for Department of Defense and Joint Task Force Guantanamo officials. They chronicle multiple instances of mismanagement, abuse, and other questionable actions taken toward the detainees.