Bandar Threatens U.S. and Foreign Journalists Who Exposed Syrian Rebel Role in Chemical Attack
September 23, 2013 • 5:20PM
The two journalists who authored the August 29, 2013 story, “Syrians in Goutha claim Saudi-supplied rebels behind chemical attacks,” published by Mint Press, have been threatened with having their careers “ended” if they do not disavow the story, and both journalists have told Mint Press that they believe that the pressure comes from Saudi Arabia. One author, Yayha Ababneh, who conducted the interviews on the ground that were the guts of the story, told MintPress that he received threats from the Saudi Embassy in Jordan, his home country. Dale Gavlak, the other reporter, an American, has been suspended by Associated Press, and further subjected to “immense amounts of pressure,” according to Mint Press, which said she believes the source of pressure to be Prince Bandar bin Sultan, the head of Saudi intelligence.
Bandar, the former Ambassador to the United States at the time of the 911 attacks, left that post after exposes that showed his wife had provided funding for 911 hijackers through a Saudi Arabian intelligence operative living in the U.S., and after exposes that he had received bribe funds in the range of $2 billion from BAE (formerly called British Aerospace) for arranging the Al Yamamah defense contract deal with Saudi Arabia. Bandar is also a major figure in the suppressed “28 pages” of the report on the 911 attack produced by the U.S. Congress. The “28 pages” were “classified” and pulled from distribution because of their detailed information about the role of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, its charities, bank accounts and nationals in the funding of the 911 attack.
On September 21, MintPress which was founded earlier this year and is edited by Mnar Muhawesh, a Palestinian American journalist, put out a lengthy statement in response to Gavlak’s claims that she had not authored the August 29 story.
MintPress editor Ms. Muhawesh wrote:
“Dale [Gavlak] is under mounting pressure for writing this article by third parties. She notified MintPress editors and myself on August 30th and 31st via email and phone call, that third parties were placing immense amounts of pressure on her over the article and were threatening to end her career over it. She went on to tell us that she believes this third party was under pressure from the head of the Saudi Intelligence Prince Bandar himself, who is alleged in the article of supplying the rebels with chemical weapons.
“On August 30th, Dale asked MintPress to remove her name completely from the byline because she stated that her career and reputation was at risk. She continued to say that these third parties were demanding her to disassociate herself from the article or these parties would end her career. On August 31st, I notified Dale through email that I would add a clarification that she was the writer and researcher for the article and that Yahya was the reporter on the ground….
“Yahya [Ababneh] has recently notified me that the Saudi embassy contacted him and threatened to end his career if he did a follow up story on who carried out the most recent chemical weapons attack and demanded that he stop doing media interviews in regards to the subject.”
The statement from MintPress adds, “We are aware of the tremendous pressure that Dale and some of our other journalists are facing as a result of this story, and we are under the same pressure as a result to discredit the story. We are unwilling to succumb to those pressures for MintPress holds itself to the highest journalistic ethics and reporting standards….”
In terms of Gavlak’s role, MintPress says:
“Gavlak pitched this story to MintPress on August 28th and informed her editors and myself that her colleague Yahya Ababneh was on the ground in Syria. She said Ababneh conducted interviews with rebels, their family members, Ghouta residents and doctors that informed him through various interviews that the Saudis had supplied the rebels with chemical weapons and that rebel fighters handled the weapons improperly setting off the explosions.
“When Yahya had returned and shared the information with her, she stated that she confirmed with several colleagues and Jordanian government officials that the Saudis have been supplying rebels with chemical weapons, but as her email states, she says they refused to go on the record.
“Gavlak wrote the article in its entirety as well as conducted the research. She filed her article on August 29th and was published on the same day.” [all emphasis in the original]