Saturday, December 29, 2012

Check out "Apocalypse Not Quite Yet," a look at the Middle East and North Africa for Newsweek Issues 2013

Newsweek Issues 2013: Apocalypse Not Quite Yet
The Middle East and North Africa are teetering on the brink.
(Written in early December for the special edition of Newsweek, "Issues 2013")

On a lighter note, for several recent snapshots check out these from Paris:

and these from Venice:

Onward Through the Holidays...

We're running a little behind on the holiday e-mails this year, since there was much to do for the #LastPrintIssue of Newsweek. But Carol and I did manage to get away for a weekend in Venice earlier this month and discovered the Santas we'd spotted there a year ago were back in action, albeit under cloudier skies. ...
Here's hoping you've had a very happy holiday season so far, and wishing you a great new year. (We'll try to ring it in with another photograph, most likely from Paris.) Xmas Cheers, Chris

My last piece for the print edition of Newsweek: Life on the Front Lines, and other recent articles

Newsweek: Life on the Front Lines, 24 Dec 2012
After decades in the trenches, a Newsweek correspondent reflects on the perils of war. By Christopher Dickey

Other stories and updates:

The Daily Beast: How a Hotel Maid Changed France, 11 Dec 2012
Nafissatou Diallo helped deny DSK the presidency of France—and changed the country's history, says Christopher Dickey.

The Daily Beast: Susan Rice's Personality 'Disorder,' by Lloyd Grove, 12 Dec 2012
Brusque. Aggressive. Undiplomatic. The adjectives used to describe the ambassador aren't kind. Lloyd Grove on Susan Rice's polarizing temperament—and why that may matter more than Benghazi. (To which I made a minor contribution.)

Newsweek: How to Save Syria?, with several other contributors, 10 Dec 2012

The Daily Beast: Condoleezza Rice on Chaos and Democracy in Egypt and Syria, 4 Dec 2012
Despite the chaos in Egypt and bleak outlook in Syria, 'we can't lose hope' for democracy, the former secretary of state said at Newsweek and The Daily Beast's first Women in the World conference in São Paulo, Brazil.

The Daily Beast - Reports: Dominique Strauss-Kahn Settles With Maid Who Claimed Sexual Assault, 30 Nove 2012
The disgraced former IMF chief has reached a settlement with Nafissatou Diallo, the maid who accused him of assaulting her in a Manhattan hotel, ending her lawsuit against him and his countersuit, The New York Times and AP report.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Recent work: The Fall of a General; the threat to a monarchy; crossing the Rubicon in Syria; Obama!; Romney's fade; plust radio and video


Newsweek: David Petraeus Scandal - The Fall of a General, 17 November 2012
Written by Dan Klaidman and Gail Sheehy with contributions by Christopher Dickey and others

The Daily Beast: The End of Absolute Monarchy, 14 November 2012
Riots erupt in Jordan, threatening one of Washington's most important allies in the Middle East. By Christopher Dickey.
(This drama still playing out ...)

The Daily Beast: Crossing the Rubicon in Syria, 11 November 2012
A new opposition coalition looks likely to win Western support, but can it win the war? Christopher Dickey on the umbrella organization that may change the battle against Assad.
(Written before Mouaz al-Khatib had been elected the leader of the new coalition)

The Daily Beast: Europeans React to Obama Win, 7 November 2012
Another four years? 'Meh,' say people in Paris. By Christopher Dickey
(Actually, the people and the article were a little more enthusiastic than the headline)

The Daily Beast: Unmentioned and Unmentionable: What Romney Left Out, 23 October 2012
In their final debate, both candidates' message on foreign affairs was clear: let's change the subject. Jordan, Lebanon, Europe—even Libya—were off the table. This is a big mistake, writes Christopher Dickey.


France 24: Four more years: Will a re-elected Obama be emboldened? 8 November 2012
After winning re-election, Barack Obama might just have a stronger hand as he negotiates a deal on the country's debt. So argues François Picard's panel, which points to a US election vote that favoured moderates over hardliners

France 24: The World This Week, 26 October 2012
Don't mess with Texas and don't send international observers to monitor the upcoming US presidential election. Also, the Emir of Qatar's Gaza visit, Berlusconi's swansong and when there's an earthquake in Italy, blame the seismologists.

France 24: Obama 1 - 1 Romney, 18 October 2012
Barack Obama rebounds in the second presidential debate, partly thanks to Mitt Romney's "whole binders full of women" remark, but uncertainty abounds in the homestretch of a race where both candidates look to energise their own supporters and convince the shrinking sliver of undecided voters.

Instagram: csdickey
Photographic collections on Blogger:

Monday, October 22, 2012

Check out "The Truth Behind the Benghazi Attack," related video, and Romney Redux on Foreign Policy

Newsweek: The Truth Behind the Benghazi Attack, 22 October 2012 1:00 AM EDT
The blow-by-blow of the killing of Ambassador Stevens and the attack on the CIA outpost.
With Jamie Dettmer in Benghazi and Eli Lake in Washington

Video: State Heard Libya Attack 'Minute By Minute', 22 October 2012 1:00 AM EDT
The big questions about Benghazi

The Daily Beast: The Return of Christine Lagarde, the Trillion-Dollar Woman, 16 October 2012 3:08 PM EDTChristine Lagarde, head of the International Monetary Fund, is once again trying to pull Europe back from the brink.

The Daily Beast: New York Terror Plot: Why Target the Fed? 18 October 2012, 1:54 PM EDTby Dan Gross with a contribution from Christopher Dickey
First he targeted the stock exchange, the U.S. says. But then the Bangladeshi whose bomb plot was foiled yesterday turned his aim to the New York Fed. Daniel Gross on the damage that could have been done.

And in case you missed them earlier:
Newsweek: Maajid Nawaz: The Repentant Radical, 15 October 2012 1:00 AM EDT
A former extremist warns of a resurgent al-Qaeda. But who is this man, Maajid Nawaz?

Daily Beast Column: Romney's Living in a Fantasy Land, 9 October 2012 
Romney's foreign-policy speech was a dramatic throwback to the glory days of the Cold War. Unfortunately, it was mostly nonsense. Christopher Dickey pokes holes in the candidate's vision.

Video: Questions about Benghazi

Friday, October 19, 2012

Newsweek Global and the Future

My dear friends,
   Digital does not mean dead. Far from it. Think about the way you read these days. I know in my own case I get virtually all my news on line, and most of it on my iPad. I read books on my iPad -- and before that on my Kindle -- and in fact couldn't have begun to write my own new book without the incredible convenience of a digital library. Indeed, if I cannot get a book or a magazine on my tablet and on my phone (eye-straining experience though that may be) I feel rather resentful. And while I don't generally like to pay for things I read on my computer (not the most pleasant experience), I don't mind a reasonable price for good apps on handhelds. I'm not sure all of you feel the same way, but many, many people do, and more all the time, which is the tipping point that Tina and Barry have been talking about.
   As for my future, I am not only fully employed at Newsweek & The Daily Beast, and expect to remain that way, it's likely I will be writing more rather than less. The physical limitations of paper were such that as advertising declined over the last decade the space for stories shrank dramatically. You can't really present a publication with good long-form journalism and still offer variety in an issue that only has a few dozen editorial pages. Newsweek Global will not have those physical constraints, and should be able to present a much wider, richer menu each week than has been available for years.  Because we will still be producing a lot of content for our foreign-language and foreign-based Newsweek partners, I expect the "global" part of the magazine will be more important and more lively than ever. The Daily Beast, meanwhile, will be a 24/7 and minute-to-minute hot spot for breaking news and eye-catching coverage of culture, politics, business and, yes, foreign affairs.
  Of course there are no certainties in this business, or just about any other business these days. But it's a good guess that a whole lot of other magazines and newspapers will try to make the transition that we have chosen. Our advantage is that our parent company, IAC, is a digital powerhouse and pioneer, which gives us a better chance of getting it right.
  So, yes, wish me and Newsweek & The Daily Beast luck on this venture, but save the eulogies for now ... and for others.
  All the best, Chris

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Full FBI Statement on Arrest of Man Who Allegedly Tried to Blow Up the New York Federal Reserve

Joint Terrorism Task Force Arrests Man in Lower Manhattan After He Attempted to Bomb New York Federal Reserve Bank
Defendant Attempted to Strike New York’s Financial District on Behalf of al Qaeda

U.S. Attorney’s OfficeOctober 17, 2012
  • Eastern District of New York(718) 254-7000
BROOKLYN, NY—Quazi Mohammad Rezwanul Ahsan Nafis (Nafis), 21, was arrested this morning in downtown Manhattan after he allegedly attempted to detonate what he believed to be a 1,000-pound bomb at the New York Federal Reserve Bank on Liberty Street in lower Manhattan’s financial district. The defendant faces charges of attempting to use a weapon of mass destruction and attempting to provide material support to al Qaeda.
The arrest of Nafis was the culmination of an undercover operation during which he was closely monitored by the FBI New York Field Office’s Joint Terrorism Task Force (JTTF). The explosives that he allegedly sought and attempted to use had been rendered inoperable by law enforcement and posed no threat to the public.
The charges were announced by Loretta E. Lynch, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of New York; Lisa Monaco, Assistant Attorney General for National Security; Mary E. Galligan, Acting Assistant Director in Charge, Federal Bureau of Investigation, New York Field Office (FBI); and Raymond W. Kelly, Commissioner, New York City Police Department (NYPD).
According to the criminal complaint filed today in the Eastern District of New York, defendant Nafis, a Bangladeshi national, traveled to the United States in January 2012 for the purpose of conducting a terrorist attack on U.S. soil. Nafis, who reported having overseas connections to al Qaeda, attempted to recruit individuals to form a terrorist cell inside the United States. Nafis also actively sought out al Qaeda contacts within the United States to assist him in carrying out an attack. Unbeknownst to Nafis, one of the individuals he attempted to recruit was actually a source for the FBI. Through the investigation, FBI agents and NYPD detectives working with the JTTF were able to closely monitor Nafis as he attempted to implement his plan.
The complaint alleges that Nafis proposed several targets for his attack, including a high-ranking U.S. official and the New York Stock Exchange. Ultimately, Nafis decided to conduct a bombing operation against the New York Federal Reserve Bank. In a written statement intended to claim responsibility for the terrorist bombing of the Federal Reserve Bank on behalf of al Qaeda, Nafis wrote that he wanted to “destroy America” and that he believed the most efficient way to accomplish this goal was to target America’s economy. In this statement, Nafis also included quotations from “our beloved Sheikh Osama bin Laden” to justify the fact that Nafis expected that the attack would involve the killing of women and children.
During the investigation, Nafis came into contact with an FBI undercover agent who posed as an al Qaeda facilitator. At Nafis’ request, the undercover agent supplied Nafis with 20 50-pound bags of purported explosives. Nafis then allegedly worked to store the material and assemble the explosive device for his attack. Nafis purchased components for the bomb’s detonator and conducted surveillance for his attack on multiple occasions in New York City’s financial district in lower Manhattan. Throughout his interactions with the undercover agent, Nafis repeatedly asserted that the plan was his own and was the reason he had come to the United States.
Earlier this morning, Nafis met the undercover agent and traveled in a van to a warehouse located in the Eastern District of New York. While en route, Nafis explained to the undercover agent that he had a “Plan B” that involved conducting a suicide bombing operation in the event that the attack was about to be thwarted by the police. Upon arriving at the warehouse, Nafis assembled what he believed to be a 1,000-pound bomb inside the van. Nafis and the undercover agent then drove to the New York Federal Reserve Bank. During this drive, Nafis armed the purported bomb by assembling the detonator and attaching it to the explosives. Nafis and the undercover agent parked the van next to the New York Federal Reserve Bank, exited the van, and walked to a nearby hotel. There, Nafis recorded a video statement to the American public that he intended to release in connection with the attack. During this video statement, Nafis stated, “We will not stop until we attain victory or martyrdom.” Nafis then repeatedly, but unsuccessfully, attempted to detonate the bomb, which had been assembled using the inert explosives provided by the undercover agent. JTTF agents arrested Nafis immediately after he attempted to detonate the bomb. Throughout the morning, federal, state, and local law enforcement officials, working with the JTTF, closely monitored the movements of Nafis as he attempted to implement the attack, including assuring that the van was not stopped by NYPD counterterrorism units active in lower Manhattan.
“As alleged in the complaint, the defendant came to this country intent on conducting a terrorist attack on U.S. soil and worked with single-minded determination to carry out his plan. The defendant thought he was striking a blow to the American economy. He thought he was directing confederates and fellow believers. At every turn, he was wrong, and his extensive efforts to strike at the heart of the nation’s financial system were foiled by effective law enforcement. We will use all of the tools at our disposal to stop any such attack before it can occur. We are committed to protecting the safety of all Americans, including the hundreds of thousands who work in New York’s financial district,” stated United States Attorney Lynch. “I would like to thank our partners at the FBI, NYPD, the other agencies who participate in the JTTF, and the Department of Justice’s National Security Division for their hard work on this important investigation. I would also like to thank the security teams at the New York Federal Reserve Bank and the New York Stock Exchange for their assistance.”
“As alleged in the criminal complaint, Rezwanul Nafis devised this attack plan himself and came to the United States for the purpose of carrying out such an attack. I thank all those responsible for ensuring that his alleged plans never came to fruition,” said Assistant Attorney General for National Security Monaco.
FBI Acting Assistant Director in Charge Galligan stated, “Attempting to destroy a landmark building and kill or maim untold numbers of innocent bystanders is about as serious as the imagination can conjure. The defendant faces appropriately severe consequences. It is important to emphasize that the public was never at risk in this case, because two of the defendant’s ‘accomplices’ were actually an FBI source and an FBI undercover agent. The FBI continues to place the highest priority on preventing acts of terrorism.”
NYPD Commissioner Kelly stated, “Al Qaeda operatives and those they have inspired have tried time and again to make New York City their killing field. We are up to 15 plots and counting since 9/11, with the Federal Reserve now added to a list of iconic targets that previously included the Brooklyn Bridge, the New York Stock Exchange, and Citicorp Center. After 11 years without a successful attack, it’s understandable if the public becomes complacent. But that’s a luxury law enforcement can’t afford. Vigilance is our watchword now and into the foreseeable future. That’s why we have over 1,000 NYPD officers assigned to counterterrorism duties every day and why we built the domain awareness system. I want to commend the NYPD detectives and FBI agents of the Joint Terrorism Task Force for the work they did in the case and U.S. Attorney Lynch and her dedicated team in prosecuting it.”
The defendant has been charged with attempting to use a weapon of mass destruction, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 2332a; and attempting to provide material support to al Qaeda, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 2339B. His initial appearance is scheduled this afternoon before United States Magistrate Judge Roanne L. Mann, at the federal courthouse in Brooklyn. If convicted, the defendant faces a maximum penalty of life imprisonment.
The government’s case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys James P. Loonam and Richard M. Tucker, with assistance from Trial Attorney Bridget Behling of the Justice Department’s Counterterrorism Section.
The charges contained in the complaint are mere allegations. As in any criminal case, the defendant is presumed innocent until proven guilty in a court of law.
Quazi Mohammad Rezwanul Ahsan Nafis
Age: 21
Jamaica, New York

Sunday, October 14, 2012

October 9 State Department Backgrounder on Benghazi Attack

Office of the Spokesperson
Background Conference Call With Senior State Department Officials
Washington, DC
October 9, 2012

OPERATOR: Ladies and gentlemen, thank you for standing by. Welcome to the State Department call on Libya. At this time, all participants are in a listen-only mode. Later, we will conduct a question-and-answer session. Instructions will be given at that time. Should you require any assistance during the call, please press *, then 0.
I’d now like to turn the conference over to your host, [Moderator]. Please go ahead.
MODERATOR: Hey, everybody. Thanks for joining us on such relatively short notice, late on a Tuesday evening. You know that since the beginning, we’ve been working with Congress on trying to ascertain the facts and convey the facts of what happened on 9/11 in Benghazi. In the last 24 hours and in the next 24 hours, we’re going to be engaging with Congress, and we wanted to give you a sense, in the press, of what we’ve been telling them.
So joining us tonight are two Senior State Department Officials, and this will be on background, and they will be Senior State Department Official Number One, who is [Senior State Department Official Number One]; and Senior State Department Official Number Two, [Senior State Department Official Number Two].
So in any case, thank you for joining us, and I’m going to hand it over to Senior State Department Official Number One. And just a reminder before I do, again, this is on background. Thank you.
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL NUMBER ONE: All right. Let me proceed. I’m going to give you as much information as possible about the events of that night, but I am going to start with a scene-setter.
So let me set the stage. On April 5th, 2011, a small Department of State team headed by Chris Stevens arrives by chartered boat in Benghazi. They set up shop in a hotel. This is at a time when Benghazi was liberated, Qadhafi was still in power in Tripoli, the war was going on, our Ambassador had been expelled from Tripoli by Qadhafi, the Embassy staff had been evacuated because it was unsafe. So Chris Stevens coming back into Benghazi – coming into Benghazi on April 5th, 2011, is the only U.S. Government people in Libya at this time.
They set up shop in a hotel, as I mentioned. A few weeks later in June, a bomb explodes in the parking lot in front of the hotel. The group in Benghazi makes a decision to move to a new location. They move to a couple of places, and by August they settle on a large compound which is where the actual activity on 9/11 took place. So they’re in a large compound, where they remain.
The compound is roughly 300 yards long – that’s three football fields long – and a hundred yards wide. We need that much room to provide the best possible setback against car bombs. Over the next few months, physical security at the compound is strengthened. The outer wall is upgraded, its height is increased to nine feet.It is topped by three feet of barbed wire and concertina wire all around the huge property. External lighting is increased. Jersey barriers, which are big concrete blocks, are installed outside and inside the gate. Steel drop bars are added at the gates to control vehicle access and to provide some anti-ram protection. The buildings on the compound itself were strengthened.
The compound has four buildings on it, and you guys are going to have to get used to this, because I refer them to – as Building C, Building B, Tactical Operations Center, and a barracks. So Building C is a building that is essentially a large residence. It has numerous bedrooms and it is – it has a safe haven installed in it, and I’ll talk more about that in a minute. Building C ultimately is the building that the Ambassador was in, so keep that in your heads.
Building B is another residence on the compound. It has bedrooms and it has a cantina. That’s where the folks dine. The Tactical Operations Center, which is just across the way from Building B, has offices and a bedroom. That’s where the security officers had their main setup, that’s where the security cameras are, a lot of the phones – it’s basically their operations center. So I’ll call it the TOC from now on.
And then there was a barracks. The barracks is a small house by the front gate, the main gate of the compound. In that barracks is a Libyan security force which I’ll describe in a minute. Security on the compound consists of five Diplomatic Security special agents and four members of the Libyan Government security force, which I will henceforth call the 17th February Brigade. It is a militia, a friendly militia, which has basically been deputized by the Libyan Government to serve as our security, our host government security. In addition to all those, there is an additional security force at another U.S. compound two kilometers away. It serves as a rapid reaction force, a quick reaction security team – a quick reaction security team, okay?
Now we’re on the day of, and before I go into this discussion of the day of the events of 9/11, I’m going to be – I want to be clear to you all. I am giving you this – you my best shot on this one. I am giving you what I know. I am giving it to you in as much granularity as I possibly can. This is still, however, under investigation. There are other facts to be known, but I think I’m going to be able to give you quite a lot, as far as I know it. I have talked to the – to almost all the agents that were involved, as well as other people.
Okay. The Ambassador has arrived in Benghazi on the 10th of September. He does meetings both on the compound and off the compound on that day, spends the night. The next day is 9/11. He has all his – because it is 9/11, out of prudence, he has all his meetings on the compound. He receives a succession of visitors during the day.
About 7:30 in the evening, he has his last meeting. It is with a Turkish diplomat. And at – when the meeting is over, at 8:30 – he has all these meetings, by the way, in what I call Building C – when the meeting is over, he escorts the Turkish diplomat to the main gate. There is an agent there with them. They say goodbye. They’re out in a street in front of the compound. Everything is calm at 8:30 p.m. There’s nothing unusual. There has been nothing unusual during the day at all outside.
After he sees the Turkish diplomat off, the Ambassador returns to Building C, where the information management officer – his name is Sean Smith, and who is one of the victims – the information management officer – I’ll just call him Sean from now on, on this call – and four other – four Diplomatic Security agents are all at Building C. One Diplomatic Security agent is in the TOC, the Tactical Operations Center. All of these agents have their side arms.
A few minutes later – we’re talking about 9 o’clock at night – the Ambassador retires to his room, the others are still at Building C, and the one agent in the TOC. At 9:40 p.m., the agent in the TOC and the agents in Building C hear loud noises coming from the front gate. They also hear gunfire and an explosion. The agent in the TOC looks at his cameras – these are cameras that have pictures of the perimeter – and the camera on the main gate reveals a large number of people – a large number of men, armed men, flowing into the compound. One special agent immediately goes to get the Ambassador in his bedroom and gets Sean, and the three of them enter the safe haven inside the building.
And I should break for a second and describe what a safe haven is. A safe haven is a fortified area within a building. This particular safe haven has a very heavy metal grill on it with several locks on it. It essentially divides the one – the single floor of that building in half, and half the floor is the safe haven, the bedroom half. Also in the safe haven is a central sort of closet area where people can take refuge where there are no windows around. In that safe haven are medical supplies, water, and such things. All the windows to that area of the building have all been grilled. A couple of them have grills that can be open from the inside so people inside can get out, but they can’t be – obviously can’t be opened from the outside.
The agent with the Ambassador in the safe haven has – in addition to his side arm, has his long gun, or I should say – it’s an M4 submachine gun, standard issue. The other agents who have heard the noise in the – at the front gate run to Building B or the TOC – they run to both, two of them to Building B, one to the TOC – to get their long guns and other kit. By kit, I mean body armor, a helmet, additional munitions, that sort of thing.
They turn around immediately and head back – or the two of them, from Building B, turn around immediately with their kit and head back to Villa C, where the Ambassador and his colleagues are. They encounter a large group of armed men between them and Building C. I should say that the agent in Building C with the Ambassador has radioed that they are all in the safe haven and are fine. The agents that encounter the armed group make a tactical decision to turn around and go back to their Building B and barricade themselves in there. So we have people in three locations right now.
And I neglected to mention – I should have mentioned from the top that the attackers, when they came through the gate, immediately torched the barracks. It is aflame, the barracks that was occupied by the 17thFebruary Brigade armed host country security team. I should also have mentioned that at the very first moment when the agent in the TOC seized the people flowing through the gate, he immediately hits an alarm, and so there is a loud alarm. He gets on the public address system as well, yelling, “Attack, attack.” Having said that, the agents – the other agents had heard the noise and were already reacting.
Okay. So we have agents in Building C – or an agent in Building C with the Ambassador and Sean, we have two agents in Building B, and we have two agents in the TOC. All – Building C is – attackers penetrate in Building C. They walk around inside the building into a living area, not the safe haven area. The building is dark. They look through the grill, they see nothing. They try the grill, the locks on the grill; they can’t get through. The agent is, in fact, watching them from the darkness. He has his long gun trained on them and he is ready to shoot if they come any further. They do not go any further.
They have jerry cans. They have jerry cans full of diesel fuel that they’ve picked up at the entrance when they torched the barracks. They have sprinkled the diesel fuel around. They light the furniture in the living room – this big, puffy, Middle Eastern furniture. They light it all on fire, and they have also lit part of the exterior of the building on fire. At the same time, there are other attackers that have penetrated Building B. The two agents in Building B are barricaded in an inner room there. The attackers circulate in Building B but do not get to the agents and eventually leave.
A third group of attackers tried to break into the TOC. They pound away at the door, they throw themselves at the door, they kick the door, they really treat it pretty rough; they are unable to get in, and they withdraw. Back in Building C, where the Ambassador is, the building is rapidly filling with smoke. The attackers have exited. The smoke is extremely thick. It’s diesel smoke, and also, obviously, smoke from – fumes from the furniture that’s burning. And the building inside is getting more and more black. The Ambassador and the two others make a decision that it’s getting – it’s starting to get tough to breathe in there, and so they move to another part of the safe haven, a bathroom that has a window. They open the window. The window is, of course, grilled. They open the window trying to get some air in. That doesn’t help. The building is still very thick in smoke.
And I am sitting about three feet away from Senior Official Number Two, and the agent I talked to said he could not see that far away in the smoke and the darkness. So they’re in the bathroom and they’re now on the floor of the bathroom because they’re starting to hurt for air. They are breathing in the bottom two feet or so of the room, and even that is becoming difficult.
So they make a decision that they’re going to have to leave the safe haven. They decide that they’re going to go out through an adjacent bedroom which has one of the window grills that will open. The agent leads the two others into a hallway in that bedroom. He opens the grill. He’s going first because that is standard procedure. There is firing going on outside. I should have mentioned that during all of this, all of these events that I’ve been describing, there is considerable firing going on outside. There are tracer bullets. There is smoke. There is – there are explosions. I can’t tell you that they were RPGs, but I think they were RPGs. So there’s a lot of action going on, and there’s dozens of armed men on the – there are dozens of armed men on the compound.
Okay. We’ve got the agent. He’s opening the – he is suffering severely from smoke inhalation at this point. He can barely breathe. He can barely see. He’s got the grill open and he flops out of the window onto a little patio that’s been enclosed by sandbags. He determines that he’s under fire, but he also looks back and sees he doesn’t have his two companions. He goes back in to get them. He can’t find them. He goes in and out several times before smoke overcomes him completely, and he has to stagger up a small ladder to the roof of the building and collapse. He collapses.
At that point, he radios the other agents. Again, the other agents are barricaded in Building C and – Building B, and the TOC. He radios the other agents that he’s got a problem. He is very difficult to understand. He can barely speak.
The other agents, at this time, can see that there is some smoke, or at least the agents in the TOC – this is the first they become aware that Building C is on fire. They don’t have direct line of sight. They’re seeing smoke and now they’ve heard from the agent. So they make a determination to go to Building C to try to find their colleagues.
The agent in the TOC, who is in full gear, opens the door, throws a smoke grenade, which lands between the two buildings, to obscure what he is doing, and he moves to Building B, enters Building B. He un-barricades the two agents that are in there, and the three of them emerge and head for Building C. There are, however, plenty of bad guys and plenty of firing still on the compound, and they decide that the safest way for them to move is to go into an armored vehicle, which is parked right there. They get into the armored vehicle and they drive to Building C.
They drive to the part of the building where the agent had emerged. He’s on the roof. They make contact with the agent. Two of them set up as best a perimeter as they can, and the third one, third agent, goes into the building. This goes on for many minutes. Goes into the building, into the choking smoke. When that agent can’t proceed, another agent goes in, and so on. And they take turns going into the building on their hands and knees, feeling their way through the building to try to find their two colleagues. They find Sean. They pull him out of the building. He is deceased. They are unable to find the Ambassador.
At this point, the special security team, the quick reaction security team from the other compound, arrive on this compound. They came from what we call the annex. With them – there are six of them – with them are about 16 members of the Libyan February 17th Brigade, the same militia that was – whose – some members of which were on our compound to begin with in the barracks.
As those guys attempt to secure a perimeter around Building C, they also move to the TOC, where one agent has been manning the phone. I neglected to mention from the top that that agent from the top of this incident, or the very beginning of this incident, has been on the phone. He had called the quick reaction security team, he had called the Libyan authorities, he had called the Embassy in Tripoli, and he had called Washington. He had them all going to ask for help. And he remained in the TOC.
So at this point in the evening, the members of the quick reaction team, some parts of it, go to the TOC with the Libyan 17th Brigade – 17th February Brigade. They get him out of the TOC. He moves with them to join their colleagues outside of Building C. All the agents at this point are suffering from smoke inhalation. The agent that had been in the building originally with the Ambassador is very, very severely impacted, the others somewhat less so, but they can’t go back in. The remaining agent, the one that had come from the TOC, freshest set of lungs, goes into the building himself, though he is advised not to. He goes into the building himself, as do some members of the quick reaction security team.
The agent makes a couple of attempts, cannot proceed. He’s back outside of the building. He takes his shirt off. There’s a swimming pool nearby. He dips his shirt in the swimming pool and wraps it around his head, goes in one last time. Still can’t find the Ambassador. Nobody is able to find the Ambassador.
At this point, the quick reaction security team and the Libyans, especially the Libyan forces, are saying, “We cannot stay here. It’s time to leave. We’ve got to leave. We can’t hold the perimeter.” So at that point, they make the decision to evacuate the compound and to head for the annex. The annex is about two kilometers away. My agents pile into an armored vehicle with the body of Sean, and they exit the main gate.
Here it’s a little harder to understand because I don’t have a diagram that you can show – that I can show you. But in a nutshell, they take fire almost as soon as they emerge from the compound. They go a couple of – they go in one direction toward the annex. They don’t like what they’re seeing ahead of them. There are crowds. There are groups of men. They turn around and go the other direction. They don’t like what they’re seeing in that direction either. They make another u-turn. They’re going at a steady pace. There is traffic in the roads around there. This is in Benghazi, after all. Now, they’re going at a steady pace and they’re trying not to attract too much attention, so they’re going maybe 15 miles an hour down the street.
They come up to a knot of men in an adjacent compound, and one of the men signals them to turn into that compound. They agents at that point smell a rat, and they step on it. They have taken some fire already. At this point, they take very heavy fire as they go by this group of men. They take direct fire from AK-47s from about two feet away. The men also throw hand grenades or gelignite bombs under – at the vehicle and under it. At this point, the armored vehicle is extremely heavily impacted, but it’s still holding. There are two flat tires, but they’re still rolling. And they continue far down the block toward the crowds and far down several blocks to the crowd – to another crowd where this road t-bones into a main road. There is a crowd there. They pass through the crowd and on – turn right onto this main road. This main road is completely choked with traffic, enormous traffic jam typical for, I think, that time of night in that part of town. There are shops along the road there and so on.
Rather than get stuck in the traffic, the agents careen their car over the median – there is a median, a grassy median – and into the opposing traffic, and they go counter-flow until they emerge into a more lightly trafficked area and ultimately make their way to the annex.
Once at the annex, the annex has its own security – a security force there. There are people at the annex. The guys in the car join the defense at the annex. They take up firing positions on the roof – some of them do – and other firing positions around the annex. The annex is, at this time, also taking fire and does take fire intermittently, on and off, for the next several hours. The fire consists of AK-47s but also RPGs, and it’s, at times, quite intense.
As the night goes on, a team of reinforcements from Embassy Tripoli arrives by chartered aircraft at Benghazi airport and makes its way to the compound – to the annex, I should say. And I should have mentioned that the quick reaction – the quick reaction security team that was at the compound has also, in addition to my five agents, has also returned to the annex safely. The reinforcements from Tripoli are at the compound – at the annex. They take up their positions. And somewhere around 5:45 in the morning – sorry, somewhere around 4 o'clock in the morning – I have my timeline wrong – somewhere around 4 o'clock in the morning the annex takes mortar fire. It is precise and some of the mortar fire lands on the roof of the annex. It immediately killed two security personnel that are there, severely wounds one of the agents that’s come from the compound.
At that point, a decision is made at the annex that they are going to have to evacuate the whole enterprise. And the next hours are spent, one, securing the annex, and then two, moving in a significant and large convoy of vehicles everybody to the airport, where they are evacuated on two flights.
So that’s the end of my tick-tock.
MODERATOR: Great. Thank you so much. Given the length of that tick-tock, I would just ask before we turn it over to questions that you keep your questions very concise. And again, a reminder that this is an on-background briefing.
So, Operator, go ahead and open it up for questions.
OPERATOR: Certainly. Ladies and gentlemen, if you would like to ask a question, please press * then 1. You’ll hear a tone indicating you’ve been placed in queue, and you may remove yourself at any time by pressing the # key. If you are using a speakerphone, please pick up the handset before pressing the numbers. Once again, if you have a question, press * 1 at this time. And we will limit you to one question, and you may re-queue after that. It’ll be just one moment.
First question is from the line of Anne Gearan with the Washington Post. Please go ahead.
QUESTION: Hi. You said a moment ago that there was nothing unusual outside, on the street, or outside the gates of the main compound. When did the agents inside – what – excuse me, what did the agents inside think was happening when the first group of men gathered there and they first heard those explosions? Did they think it was a protest, or did they think it was something else?
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL TWO: The agent in the TOC heard the noise, heard the firing. Firing is not unusual in Benghazi at 9:40 at night, but he immediately reacted and looked at his cameras and saw people coming in, hit the alarm. And the rest is as I described it. Does that help?
MODERATOR: Great. Next question?
OPERATOR: The question is from Andrea Mitchell, NBC News. Please, go ahead.
QUESTION: Hi. When did you finally find Ambassador Stevens? And do you know now how he got to the hospital? Was it definitely Libyans? Were they the militia, the February 17th militia? What can you tell us about it?
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL TWO: We do not know exactly how the Ambassador got to the hospital. That is one of the issues that we are – that we hope to resolve in the ongoing reviews and the information we are still seeking. We know he got to the hospital at some point. The hospital picked a cell phone out of his pocket, and we believe just started calling numbers that were on the cell phone that had received calls, and that is how we got the information that he was there.
MODERATOR: Okay, next question.
OPERATOR: The next question is from the line of Michael Gordon with the New York Times. Please, go ahead.
QUESTION: Yes. Could you tell me, please – and I know you mentioned this – when was the Tripoli reinforcements requested? How long did it take them to get to Benghazi, how many of them were there, and did it represent all of the available security personnel from Tripoli?
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL NUMBER TWO: The calls were made to Tripoli at the moment that the – at the same time the agent in the TOC sounded the alarm and then proceeded to make calls. I’m not going to go into any details about the number of security personnel who moved.
MODERATOR: Okay. Next question, please.
OPERATOR: The question is from the line of Eli Lake, with Newsweek’s Daily Beast. Please, go ahead.
QUESTION: Hi, thanks so much for doing this. Do you have any response from the charge from Erik Nordstrom, the Regional Security Officer who left this summer, who is set to testify tomorrow to say that it was a mistake to begin to normalize security operations and reduce security resources in accordance with an artificial timetable? That’s from a letter he sent earlier this month to the oversight committee.
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL TWO: I don’t know what Erik is going to fully testify on tomorrow. That’s something that will come out in the hearing. We could have a different discussion about all the security measures we had taken, but that’s a different question.
MODERATOR: Okay, next question, please.
OPERATOR: The next question is from the line of Margaret Brennan, CBS News. Please, go ahead.
QUESTION: Hi, thanks for doing this. The timeline here begins around 8:30 p.m., but we had heard in response to some reports where reporters had found paperwork documents on the grounds of the compound that secure materials, that confidential paperwork had actually been secured earlier in the day, therefore there wasn’t any compromised material found at the compound. When did that occur? At 8:30 at night? When were those documents secured or shredded or burned or whatever?
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL TWO: Because of the – this was a post and not a – and we – this post held no classified documents. They had computer communications with Washington, but the material would arrive on the screen and you would read it on the screen, and then that was it. There was no classified paper, so there was no paper to burn.
MODERATOR: All right, thank you. Next question, please.
OPERATOR: The next question is from the line of Brad Klapper with AP. Please, go ahead.
QUESTION: Hi, yes. You described several incidents you had with groups of men, armed men. What in all of these events that you’ve described led officials to believe for the first several days that this was prompted by protests against the video?
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL TWO: That is a question that you would have to ask others. That was not our conclusion. I’m not saying that we had a conclusion, but we outlined what happened. The Ambassador walked guests out around 8:30 or so, there was no one on the street at approximately 9:40, then there was the noise and then we saw on the cameras the – a large number of armed men assaulting the compound.
MODERATOR: Okay, thank you. We’re ready for the next question, please.
OPERATOR: The next question is from the line of Toby Zakaria with Reuters. Please, go ahead.
QUESTION: Hi. Do you know what the threat level for Benghazi was the day before the attack? And also, did anyone suggest to the Ambassador that it might not be prudent to go to Benghazi on 9/11?
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL TWO: Taking your questions in reverse order, ambassadors travel, ambassadors must travel, ambassadors must get out and meet with a variety of individuals, especially in countries that have multiple centers of energy or power. That’s just – it just must happen.
But secondly, as Official Number One said earlier, the Ambassador did events in the city on the 10th. He had plans to do events in the city later in the week. But on the 11th, he remained in the compound.
As in terms of the – of any kind of security threat, the – both ODNI spokesman and the DNI have been correctly quoted as saying that there was no actionable intelligence of any planned or imminent attack.
MODERATOR: Okay. Thank you. Next question, please.
OPERATOR: The next question comes from the line of David Lerman with Bloomberg News. Please go ahead.
QUESTION: Hi. Did the Ambassador – before the attack, did the Ambassador request that security be increased in Benghazi? And if so, did anything ever come of it?
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL NUMBER TWO: The – when the Ambassador traveled to Benghazi, he traveled with two additional security agents over and above the complement of three who were assigned to post. So there were five agents with him there rather than the two who are normally assigned there – the three who are normally assigned. So they were up two.
MODERATOR: Okay. Thank you. Next question, please.
OPERATOR: The next question comes from the line of Jo Biddle with AFP. Please go ahead.
QUESTION: Thank you very much. The two people who died in the compound – in the annex, excuse me – were they part of the five security agents you’ve mentioned, or were they separate to that? And how many people did you have to evacuate that night from the annex?
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL NUMBER TWO: Because – since unfortunately we couldn’t fit everything on one compound, we had two – the principle compound and the annex. We had – therefore, had our security professionals divided between the two compounds.
MODERATOR: Okay. Thank you. Time for just a few more questions.
OPERATOR: The next question comes from the line of Jonathan Karl with ABC News. Please go ahead.
QUESTION: Yeah, hi. Just two quick follow-ups – I want to be clear on one thing. You said as soon as they heard the noises outside, they went to look and saw armed men assaulting the compound. That was the very first thing that they saw after hearing the noise outside?
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL NUMBER ONE: They heard noises, firing, and an explosion. The agent in the TOC looked at his camera and saw people coming through the front gate.
QUESTION: Okay. So there was --
MODERATOR: Okay. Thank you. Next question, please.
OPERATOR: The next question --
MODERATOR: Sorry, we’re trying to keep it moving along here.
OPERATOR: -- from the line of Kim Ghattas with BBC. Please go ahead.
QUESTION: Yes, thank you for taking the call. I just wanted to clarify a little bit whether – with the rundown that you just gave us, whether it is possible to now say clearly that this was very much a preplanned attack, and if so, whether you can explain why there was no actionable intelligence.
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL NUMBER TWO: This – that subject is now under review by both the FBI and potentially the Accountability Review Board based on whatever information the FBI or the intelligence community collects.
MODERATOR: Right, okay. Thank you. Just a couple more questions.
OPERATOR: The next question is from the line of Shaun Waterman, Washington Times. Please go ahead.
MODERATOR: Shaun? Let’s go to the next question, and maybe Shaun can go next. Maybe he’s not off mute.
OPERATOR: The next question is from Dion Nissenbaum with Wall Street Journal. Please go ahead.
QUESTION: Thanks for taking the call. I was – just wanted to get a little more clarity about the annex attack and when the attack started on the annex. Was it before the convoy arrived or as they arrived or --
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL NUMBER ONE: It started after they arrived and went on intermittently for several hours.
MODERATOR: Okay. Thanks. I think we have one more question, then. Time for one more question.
OPERATOR: Certainly. Our next question is from the line of Chuck Todd, NBC News. Please go ahead.
QUESTION: Can you at least explain the process by which if a request for more security comes in, how that’s – how you go about determining resources, so in the instance of the reports that more security was requested by the folks in Libya, can you sort of walk through how that process works?
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL NUMBER TWO: Certainly. The – this is sort of an iterative process, a discussion between the field and Washington, back and forth; the field identifying what their needs are, Washington working very, very closely with them. We always attempt to mitigate our risk. We cannot eliminate them. Sometimes the post – any post in the world might come in and say, “We need A, B, and C,” there would be a dialogue, and instead of sending them A, B, and C, we would send them B, C, and D because in this discussion process, we go to functionality, and when we determine the functionality that gets us the maximum – a maximum possible security, then we – that is what we deliver to the post.
MODERATOR: Okay. Thank you. I feel like I just ignored Shaun. I know you dropped off. If you’re still on, you get last chance here, buddy.
OPERATOR: And our last question does come from Shaun Waterman, Washington Times.
MODERATOR: Yes, Shaun. Go ahead, buddy.
QUESTION: Oh, hey. Okay. Thanks, man. So could – I mean, just in view of what you are now saying about the attack and the intensity of it and the numbers of people involved, what – can you say what kind of security presence might have been needed to repel an attack like that? I mean, what – I mean, if the criticism is there wasn’t enough security, how much would you have needed to protect the compound from this attack?
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL NUMBER TWO: It is difficult to answer hypothetical questions, but let me just put it this way. The lethality and the number of armed people is unprecedented. There had been no attacks like that anywhere in Libya – Tripoli, Benghazi, or elsewhere – in the time that we had been there. And so it is unprecedented. In fact, it would be very, very hard to find a precedent for an attack like that in recent diplomatic history.
MODERATOR: Okay. Thank you, and glad we got that question in. Thanks to all of you for joining us so late this evening. We do appreciate it, and we will keep in touch with all of you as we move forward. Again, thank you.

Check out Newsweek: The Repentant Radical and BBC Weekend talking sexism, Syria, Nobel prizes, Muslim comedy and more

Newsweek: Maajid Nawaz: The Repentant Radical, 15 October 2012
A former extremist warns of a resurgent al-Qaeda. But who is this man, Maajid Nawaz?

From the article: This Pakistani-British kid Maajid Nawaz started identifying with hip-hop groups like Public Enemy and N.W.A, moving from "F--k tha police" to "F--k all y'all," from "rebellious rap to political rap to political activism," as Nawaz puts it, and then to Islam—or, rather—Islamism. And if that sounds like an odd transition, it's not. "I am no longer—I never was—-devout," says Nawaz. The movement that attracted him was "a political revolution with religious connotations rather than a religious one with political ones." The point for many young jihadists, driven by testosterone and the hunger for a certain kind of fame, is not so much to worship Allah, but, yeah, to f--k all y'all.

Audio: BBC World This Weekend, 13 October 2012
Talking w/ Lindsey Hilsum and Julian Worricker on BBC World Weekend Talking Nobel (EU?), sexism in Australia, Turkey's Syria problem, US Decline (I say no), Muslim comedy (hilarious)
(NOTE: The BBC put a time limit on this clip. It expires on October 19.)

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Check out "Romney's Living in a Fantasy Land", plus video: The World This Week on France 24 last Friday, talking Syria, Obama debacle, etc.

Daily Beast Column: Romney's Living in a Fantasy Land, 9 October 2012
Romney's foreign-policy speech was a dramatic throwback to the glory days of the Cold War. Unfortunately, it was mostly nonsense. Christopher Dickey pokes holes in the candidate's vision.

France 24, The World This Week, 5 October 2012
The Syria spillover becomes all too real for Turkey, but how far can retaliation go when Ankara's already actively serving as rear base for Syria's rebellion? Also, the run on Iran's currency, Obama flops at the first presidential debate, and 50 years of James Bond and the Beatles.
Craig Copetas, Correspondent-at-large, Quartz/The Atlantic Group; Claude Guibal, Senior Correspondent, France Culture; Christopher Dickey, Newsweek Paris Bureau Chief / Mideast Editor; Paul Taylor, European Affairs Editor, Reuters.
Part 1:
Part 2:

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Video: Muslim Rage as "The Clash of Cynicisms"

See, particularly, the segment of conversation beginning about 7:30 minutes into the broadcast where I talk about shouting fire in a crowded world, and the clash of cynicisms:

Video: France24, The World This Week, 14 September 2012
A Friday of rage across the Muslim world follows the September 11th killing of the US ambassador to Libya, but how significant are the protests and how much of an impact will they have on the US presidential race? Also, the Germans buy more time for the euro and China's heir apparent goes missing.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Public Worship and European Asylum for Christians

This from Dignitatis Humanae Institute:

Landmark Ruling For Oppressed Christians

For Immediate Release

Rome, 14th September 2012

In what could prove a landmark ruling for oppressed Christians, the European Court of Justice has ruled that people who are persecuted in their native countries due to their religion have the right to apply for asylum in Europe.

Confirming the ruling of a German court, the European Court of Justice - the highest court within the EU - decided that if a person's right to public worship was 'gravely infringed' - they should be granted asylum.

Furthermore, the Court ruled that being limited to private prayer was not a legitimate alternative to the inherent right of public worship - rejecting the notion that religious minorities should limit their profile in the public sphere.

The case in question began when two Pakistani's of the Ahmadi denomination fled their homeland when faced with increasing threats and state repression. Attention should now turn to other oppressed religious minorities within Pakistan and the wider area, in particular the beleaguered Christian communities, whose plight was recently highlighted by Lord Alton, Chairman of the British Parliament's Cross-Party Working Group on Human Dignity.

Following the court ruling, Lord Alton told the Institute of the potential consequences: "For too long European nations have continued with a policy of apathy towards the persecution of Christian minorities in distant lands. However, with the possibility of religious communities now fleeing to Europe for asylum, Western governments may finally be spurred into tackling the root cause.

While the question of asylum is a matter that should be properly handled by sovereign national governments (not least because of the additional load to the taxpayer), and not a panel of international unelected judges, the ECJ should be congratulated for recognising the importance of persecuted minorities - and the figures of which are growing.

We have already seen a trend of Christians being forced to flee their homelands. Over 100,000 Coptic Christians fled Egypt last year, while Iraq has seen its own Christian population decrease from 1.4 million in 1987 to fewer than 150,000 today. In addition, the continued violence in Syria is beginning to turn Christian populations away from the Levant.

I would encourage all European governments to recognise that the consequences of inaction are no longer limited to the villages of Pakistan or the streets of Cairo. Failure to act now will result in a greater burden of responsibility for us all further in the future."

When the Story Was Christian Rage Against Martin Scorsese's "Blasphemous" Film About Jesus Christ

Just came across this interesting catalogue copy from the University of Kentucky Press:

Cover may differ from image shown

In the late 1980s, the major conservative Christian groups suffered a series of public setbacks. In Hollywood Under Siege: Martin Scorsese, the Religious Right, and the Culture Wars, Thomas R. Lindlof asserts that the Christian right realigned itself and tried to solidify its self-appointed role as moral regulator of the entertainment industry in response to Martin Scorsese’s The Last Temptation of Christ. The film, which was banned from release at some theaters and publicly protested at many others, became a tipping point for the American culture wars. At stake was the freedom of artistic expression from government and religious intervention. The Last Temptation of Christ did not simply alienate audiences of the Christian right but incited them. Lindlof chronicles the many setbacks the filmmakers experienced, from production problems to the uproar following the film’s release and the launch of a crisis control plan at the studio. Lindlof conducted interviews with major players behind the movie—including Martin Scorsese, Paul Schrader, Willem Dafoe, Jeffrey Katzenberg, and Michael Ovitz—and explores the film’s effect on the American cultural and political landscape. Combined film study, studio history, and cultural analysis, Hollywood Under Siege closely examines the film that jeopardized and reenergized Martin Scorsese’s career and served as flash point for the ongoing ideological conflicts between Hollywood and the religious right.

In 1988, director Martin Scorsese fulfilled his lifelong dream of making a film about Jesus Christ. Rather than celebrating the film as a statement of faith, churches and religious leaders immediately went on the attack, alleging blasphemy. At the height of the controversy, thousands of phone calls a day flooded the Universal switchboard, and before the year was out, more than three million mailings protesting the film fanned out across the country. For the first time in history, a studio took responsibility for protecting theaters and scrambled to recruit a “field crisis team” to guide The Last Temptation of Christ through its contentious American openings. Overseas, the film faced widespread censorship actions, with thirteen countries eventually banning the film. The response in Europe turned violent when opposition groups sacked theaters in France and Greece and caused injuries to dozens of moviegoers. Twenty years later, author Thomas R. Lindlof offers a comprehensive account of how this provocative film came to be made and how Universal Pictures and its parent company MCA became targets of the most intense, unremitting attacks ever mounted against a media company. The film faced early and determined opposition from elements of the religious Right when it was being developed at Paramount during the last year the studio was run by the celebrated troika of Barry Diller, Michael Eisner, and Jeffrey Katzenberg. By the mid-1980s, Scorsese’s film was widely regarded as unmakeable—a political stick of dynamite that no one dared touch. Through the joint efforts of two of the era’s most influential executives, CAA president Michael Ovitz and Universal Pictures chairman Thomas P. Pollock, this improbable project found its way into production. The making of The Last Temptation of Christ caught evangelical Christians at a moment when they were suffering a crisis of confidence in their leadership. The religious right seized on the film as a way to rehabilitate its image and to mobilize ordinary citizens to attack liberalism in art and culture. The ensuing controversy over the film’s alleged blasphemy escalated into a full-scale war fought out very openly in the media. Universal/MCA faced unprecedented calls for boycotts of its business interests, anti-Semitic rhetoric and death threats were directed at MCA chairman Lew Wasserman and other MCA executives, and the industry faced the specter of violence at theaters. Hollywood Under Siege draws upon interviews with many of the key figures—Martin Scorsese, Paul Schrader, Michael Ovitz, Jeffrey Katzenberg, Jack Valenti, Thomas P. Pollock, and Willem Dafoe—to explore the trajectory of the film from its conception to the subsequent epic controversy and beyond. Lindlof offers a fascinating dissection of a critical episode in the embryonic culture wars, illuminating the explosive effects of the clash between the interests of the media industry and the forces of social conservatism.
Thomas R. Lindlof is professor in the School of Journalism and Telecommunications at the University of Kentucky.

Check out "A Petty Criminal Sparks a Meltdown" about the sources of Muslim protest; A controversial NPR appearance; MSNBC Video-A World of Trouble, etc.

by Christopher Dickey September 14, 2012 03:20 AM EDT
Meth-cooker Nakoula Bassely Nakoula's low-budget movie denigrating the Prophet Muhammad has led to anti-American protests in the Middle East and a manhunt in Libya, but the unrest is fueled as much by politics in each country as by religious fury.

An hour-long discussion about events in Libya and the Arab world. I note the principle that shouting fire in a crowded theater is not protected by free speech and raise the question of how to deal with those who shout fire in a crowded world. This provoked some lively reaction, including hundreds of comments on the "On Point" site.

September 12, 2012 04:21 PM EDT
As the attacks in Egypt and Libya confront Americans with a roiling Middle East, Paris bureau chief and Middle East editor Christopher Dickey joins MSNBC Live host Thomas Roberts...

by Christopher Dickey September 12, 2012 10:32 AM EDT
Amb. Chris Stevens was killed by an act of senseless violence—and now Obama has an impossible task ahead. By Christopher Dickey.

Sunday, September 02, 2012

The Role of the Press: The Best It's Ever Been Defined

In 1852, when the Times of London was accused of trying to usurp the powers of statesmen without assuming their responsibilities, it ran a series of editorials spelling out its position: "The Press lives by disclosures; whatever passes into its keeping becomes a part of the knowledge and the history of our times; it is daily and for ever appealing to the enlightened force of public opinion--anticipating, if possible, the march of events--standing upon the breach between the present and the future, and extending its survey to the horizon of the world." It was the newspaper's purpose to seek out "the earliest and most correct intelligence of the events of the time, and instantly, by disclosing them, to make them the common property of the nation." It was the journalist's job "to investigate truth and to apply it on fixed principles to the affairs of the world."
-- As cited by Alan Hankinson in "Man of Wars: William Howard Russell of The Times"

Saturday, September 01, 2012

Check out UnSafe Havens in Syria, a quake in the Philippines, flashbacks to Kurdistan '91 and Lady Di '97

Daily Beast Column: Syria Safe Haven? Bad Idea, 1 September 2012
Christopher Dickey on the strategy's disappointing and dangerous record.

Flashback - Newsweek: A Nation In The Valley Of The Three Frontiers, issue date 5 May 1991

Fred Cuny and others creating a safe haven for Kurds in Iraq

Daily Beast News Item: Earthquake Shakes the Philippines, 31 August 2012
Most tsunami warnings were canceled, but the damage's extent isn't clear, says Christopher Dickey.

Flashback - Newsweek: Time to Brace for the Next 9/11, 4 September 2011
The biggest threat to America isn't terrorism. It's the wrath of Mother Nature.

Flashback - Newsweek: Horror in the Night, issue date 7 September 1997 (published 1 September 1997)
The death of Princess Diana reported from the scene

Check out my latest brief sketch: U.N. Syria Envoy Lakhdar Brahimi’s Tough Assignment

Newsweek: U.N. Syria Envoy Lakhdar Brahimi's Tough Assignment, 26 August 2012
A brief sketch of a thankless job and the man who felt duty bound to take it.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Check out "The Savage Wars of Peace" and my other recent articles on Syria, France, and Iran

  • The Savage Wars of Peace

     August 16, 2012 04:15 AM EDT
    Christopher Dickey on why calls for military intervention in Syria should be resisted.
  • Nights of Rage in France

     August 14, 2012 12:24 PM EDT
    Christopher Dickey on whether the French riots will spread.
  • Syria: There Goes the Neighborhood

     August 10, 2012 04:45 AM EDT
    Christopher Dickey on the threat of the Syrian war to neighboring states.
  • How Iran Is Losing The Shadow War

     August 07, 2012 01:22 PM EDT
    In Syria and around the world, Iran’s covert operatives are in trouble.
  • Wednesday, August 08, 2012

    Check out "Iran's Spies Losing the Shadow War" and background on alleged Iran/HB plots this year from NYPD

    Daily Beast Column: How Iran's Spies Are Losing the Shadow War With U.S. and Israel, 7 August 2012
    In Syria and around the world, Iran's covert operatives are in trouble.
    (The vitriolic comments on this one are a little hard to follow, I confess.)

    Shadowland Journal: NYPD: Suspected Iranian and/or Hezbollah-linked Plots against Israeli or Jewish Targets: 2012 Chronology. Date 18 July 2012

    Check out "Our Man in Syria?"; "New York's New Tech Hub"; and a crazy debate about Romney in Israel

    Newsweek: Manaf Tlass—Our Man in Syria? 6 August 2012
    by Christopher Dickey and Mike Giglio
    Who is Manaf Tlass and why do western and regional powers pin their hopes on him?
    (This is from Newsweek International. A shorter version ran in the US Newsweek)

    Newsweek: New York's New Tech Hub, 30 July 2012
    Will New York's latest dream spawn the next Mark Zuckerberg?
    (The unique partnership among NY's City Hall, Cornell University and Technion-Israel Institute of Technology.)

    Video on France24 Debate: Romney stirs controversy on bumpy foreign trip, 1 August 2012
    Gaffe-prone, wannabe or savvy statesman, Western media has slammed Mitt Romney's tour of American allies, but US opinion polls tell a different story. Laura Baines and her panel discuss the Republican candidate's choice of destinations and what they mean.
    (Warning: Some of this debate with a Republican spokesman and an Israeli analyst verges on the surreal.)