- The Washington Times - Monday, February 25, 2002

The murderers of reporter Daniel Pearl want to limit freedom of the press and divert us from the war against terrorism. They cannot be allowed to do either of these things. Before September 11, passengers on hijacked airliners were only in for a long and uncomfortable ride. Now, they are weapons in suicide missions. Before that day, terrorists regarded reporters as more valuable alive than dead. Terry Anderson, for example, was held for five years by the terrorist group Islamic Jihad before being released. Mr. Pearl's murderers, like the September 11 suicide hijackers, have changed the equation for all time.
Pakistan's President Pervez Musharraf promised to crack down on these terrorists with an iron hand. While his forces try to do that, both the White House and the press must consider how to deal with this added threat. Reporters must change the way they seek information in situations where terrorists may be present. Anyone going to a meeting with terrorist sources cannot operate as Mr. Pearl did. Although he was a skilled reporter, Mr. Pearl had no training in self-defense, escape and evasion or ways to avoid being kidnapped. No one accompanied him to the meeting at the Village Restaurant where he was seized. Reporters can and must be able to seek out information wherever it may be, but they will have to be better equipped to handle the threats they face. They require training, support and protection. Reporters will still choose to take the risks he took, but now they and we have a different understanding of what those risks really are.
Reporters, like the rest of us, are facing an entirely ruthless enemy. Mr. Pearl's murderers, according to a Reuters report, are using his cell phone to threaten the families of the investigators pursuing them. To them, this is a no-quarter battle. In this way, it must also be for us. There will be more Americans kidnapped for political ransom. But what shall we do about these incidents when they happen? That we will neither concede to terrorist demands nor buy our people back is a given. Diplomacy is not enough, and America's options for direct action are limited. Our intelligence apparatus is not good enough to find hostages in time for rescue operations to be mounted.
Even if it were, we cannot take overt military action inside countries with which we are not at war without permission. Asking for permission isn't an option, because telling anyone outside the immediate chain of command guarantees failure and risks the lives of the rescuers. There are other options. Recently, the CIA took direct action in Afghanistan, its operatives firing a missile at a group of al Qaeda members, killing many. If the CIA is once again in the business of covert direct action, creating an American version of the Israeli Mossad should be considered. The secretive Mossad, over more than a decade, doggedly hunted down and killed the terrorists who killed Israeli athletes at the 1972 Munich Olympics. This is an ugly solution to an ugly problem. But it is one the president should be considering right now.

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