Transcript of October 11, 2001 interview of Gordon Mitchell by Tom Sussi, reporter for Fox 53 News (Pittsburgh affiliate) Selected portions of interview scheduled to air December 13, 2001 on Fox Television Network.
Tom Sussi (TS): Talk to me about the strategy behind releasing this videotape to the public.
Gordon Mitchell (GM): One thing I'm curious about is going back to October, when Condoleezza Rice pressured television networks nationwide to not show bin Laden videotapes. Two days ago, we get a statement from Ari Fleischer, spokesperson for the president, saying "We want to share all the information we can" with the American public. I'm a little puzzled by that. It appears to be somewhat of a double standard.
TS: What's the motivation behind that? What do you think is the motivation to allow the public to see this tape?
GM: I think the motivation is that the United States government is trying to convince, primarily the Muslim world, about the complicity of Osama bin Laden in the September 11 attacks. What is interesting is that there seems to be a double standard in terms of releasing bin Laden videotapes that speak conclusively to the question of guilt, yet holding back and trying to pressure American news outlets from releasing similar videotapes that speak to the question of cause of the attacks, or consequences of U.S. military reprisals.
TS: Do you think the public has a right to see this videotape? Was that taken into consideration, that we as a public have the right to see this?
GM: It's difficult to say. One thing that I'll be curious to see in coming days is explication of the context of what this videotape is, who made the videotape and how was it acquired by the U.S. government. Answers to those questions are pertinent to the larger question of whether the public has a right to know.
TS: You've seen the transcript. Does it say anything to you? What do you get out of it?
GM: Looking at the transcript, there are definitely some chilling statements that appear to support the U.S. government's position that Osama bin Laden knew about the attacks. One thing that is remarkable about the transcript is the frequent appearance of the word "inaudible." I was just reading new reports explaining that that is because the translators could not agree on a consensus interpretation of the audio, either because the English translation of Arabic was ambiguous, or because audio quality was not sufficient to arrive at a consensus interpretation. At this point it is probably wise to take Secretary Rumsfeld's advice and not "leap to judgment" about exactly what this videotape says, to give different interpretations time to settle.
TS: It's not a public relations ploy on behalf of the government to rally the country together, and basically keep our motivation in going after him and burn him at the cross?
GM: I think it's important to consider the different and shifting strategies. The United States government was not interested in releasing bin Laden videotapes before this point. In fact, Condoleezza Rice, the National Security Advisor, was pressuring American television networks to not show bin Laden videos. Now we have a turnabout in policy. It is important to ask the question: What does that mean in terms of United States information policy?
TS: What does that say to you, if anything?
GM: It says to me that the United States government may have a double standard in terms of information policy, using one standard for information that speaks to the question of guilt or complicity of Osama bin Laden, and then another standard that seems to cover information that deals with cause of the attack and consequences of U.S. military reprisals.