Thursday, April 20, 2006
Most Underreported Story of the Day
This ran yesterday as the top story in the British gossip column "Pandora" by Guy Adams—
Shades of Watergate as raid rocks al-Jazeera
Here's a tale to launch a thousand conspiracy theories: al-Jazeera, the Islamic TV station George Bush wants to nuke, has been the victim of a Watergate-style burglary.
On Thursday, intruders broke into Al-Jazeera's Knightsbridge offices and pinched several items of highly sensitive computer equipment.
The haul included a dozen laptops and several hard drives. They belong to the English-language al-Jazeera International, which launches this summer employing Sir David Frost and Rageh Omar, right.
According to insiders, the nature of the burglary, which occurred when staff were celebrating the Easter bank holiday at a nearby restaurant, caused police investigators to suspect foul play.
"Firstly, the items pinched were not what a normal burglar would take," I'm told. "Valuable stuff was left behind, and several brand-new laptops weren't even touched. They only took the most commercially sensitive kit."
"We lost several contacts books and hard drives containing email records and details of things like what people like Frost and Omar will be doing, and how much they're being paid."
As a result, there are dark rumours of industrial espionage, and police reckon the timing of the raid, when al-Jazeera's offices were unexpectedly empty, points to an "inside job".
Says the firm's official spokesman: "There was indeed a break-in, but we are unable to say anything more while police are investigating."
Industrial espionage? Is al-Jazeera International being harrassed by the BBC or Rupert Murdoch? The media really are getting out of hand, aren't they?
On the other hand, as reporter Adams subtly suggests in the headline, this burglary has the fingerprints of (take your pick!) MI5, MI6, the CIA, the DIA, or the FBI all over it.
Adams was the first reporter to mention the break-in, and I'll be very surprised if he's not the last. Even al-Jazeera doesn't seem to want to talk about it.