WASHINGTON -- Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld and his top military adviser said yesterday they have evidence the Arab television news organizations Al-Jazeera and Al-Arabiya cooperated with Iraqi insurgents to witness and videotape attacks on American troops.
Rumsfeld said the effort fit a pattern of psychological warfare used by remnants of the Ba'athist government, who want to create the impression that no amount of US firepower can end the insurgency.
"They've called Al-Jazeera to come and watch them" attack American troops, "and Al-Arabiya," he said at a Pentagon news conference. " `Come and see us, watch us; here is what we're going to do.' "
Pressed for details, Rumsfeld and General Richard Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, both indicated that US forces in Iraq had collected more than just circumstantial evidence that one or both of the Arab news organizations might have cooperated with the attackers.
Neither Rumsfeld nor Myers provided details of any evidence. "I opined accurately that from time to time each of those stations have found themselves in very close proximity to things that were happening against coalition forces -- before the event happened and during the event," Rumsfeld said.
The question about Al-Arabiya and Al-Jazeera arose when Rumsfeld was asked about a videotape that surfaced in Baghdad showing a man firing a surface-to-air missile at a DHL cargo plane. The tape appeared to record an insurgent operation Saturday in which a missile struck the wing of the cargo plane, forcing the aircraft to make an emergency landing at Baghdad's airport. It was the first time insurgents struck a civilian plane in Iraq.
Rumsfeld said he had been told of the videotape but did not know enough about it to comment, beyond saying, "It doesn't take a genius to fire off a shoulder-fired missile at an airplane."
On Monday, the US-appointed Iraqi Governing Council in Baghdad raided the offices of Al-Arabiya television, banned its broadcasts from Iraq and threatened to imprison its journalists. Media groups said the action called into question the future of a free press in the country.
Al-Arabiya said it would not fight the ban and would report on Iraq from its headquarters in Dubai.
Asked about the ban, Rumsfeld said he had no opinion because he had not seen the details.