Pearl Jam

Kidnapped Reporter Stirs Hearts and Minds

The second rule: It's the reporter who makes the call, not the editor. "Whatever detailed plans you and I work out, if on the ground you think this is a really stupid thing to be doing, then don't do it," the Sun editor tells reporters. Nevertheless, Ruby doubts that many correspondents will be chastened by the Pearl case. "We all think we're never going to die and that we're never going to make a mistake or be unlucky."

If Pearl isn't a spy, why was he taken hostage? One war correspondent speculated that Pearl is "paying the price for U.S. hubris"—that is, for a government that pursues foreign policies based entirely on self-interest, while forgetting that unilateralism has consequences and can "piss people off."

Another theory making the rounds is that Pearl's kidnappers were angered by the Journal's recent announcement that it had shared intelligence with the U.S. government. In December, Journal reporter Alan Cullison bought a computer from a merchant in Afghanistan, then discovered that the hard drive contained Al Qaeda files. The Journal shared the files with the U.S. government for verification and then reported on the contents. The discovery was soon followed by the indictment of alleged "shoe bomber" Richard Reid, and the Times reported on the Journal's decision to cooperate with the government on January 21. Pearl disappeared two days later.

Did the Journal inadvertently put Pearl at risk? Insiders believe Pakistani hatred for Americans is already so intense that the paper's actions probably had nothing to do with it. "I think these knuckleheads saw kidnapping Danny as a way to wound the United States," one reporter said, "and I think they will kill him out of rage."

At press time, hope springs eternal.


ccotts@villagevoice.com

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