Sanders claim about Osama bin Laden's phone use and journalists is untrue

White House press secretary Sarah Sanders on Wednesday falsely blamed journalists for thwarting US spying on...

Posted: Aug 2, 2018 8:59 AM
Updated: Aug 2, 2018 8:59 AM

White House press secretary Sarah Sanders on Wednesday falsely blamed journalists for thwarting US spying on Osama bin Laden just years before the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

"The media routinely reports on classified information and government secrets that put lives in danger and risks valuable national security tools," Sanders said Wednesday as she answered a question about threats and insults reporters have faced from Trump supporters. "One of the worst cases was the reporting on the US ability to listen to Osama Bin Laden's satellite phone in the late 90s. Because of that reporting, he stopped using that phone and the country lost valuable intelligence."

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That assertion is false and it has previously been debunked years ago.

Sanders did not respond to CNN requests asking which article she was specifically referring to, but Sanders appeared to be drawing on a claim by former President George W. Bush and the 9/11 Commission.

Bush and the commission in 2005 blamed an August 1998 article in The Washington Times for revealing that the US government had the ability to monitor bin Laden's satellite communications.

The story in question did not claim that the US government was monitoring the phone, instead merely reporting that bin Laden used a satellite phone -- something that was widely known at the time. Further, a Washington Post article from the time of Bush's accusation points out that the Taliban, and bin Laden himself, not the US government, were the sources of information about bin Laden's phone usage.

Several media reports, including one from CNN, around the time of the August 1998 Washington Times story also noted that bin Laden used a satellite phone, including to conduct media interviews. Only a USA Today story from around that time quoted a former US official noting that bin Laden "had a fondness for his cell phone."

Despite the lack of reporting about the US government monitoring that phone, some national security officials at the time later claimed bin Laden's stopped using that satellite phone because of the Washington Times report -- and the 9/11 commission later parroted that assertion.

On September 7, 1998 a US newspaper, the Los Angeles Times, reported on US government monitoring of bin Laden's satellite phone -- but in that same article they noted that bin Laden could be scaling back use of the devices.

Sanders made the false claim on Wednesday as she attempted to rebut questions about whether it is appropriate for Trump supporters to jeer at, insult and threaten reporters who are covering Trump rallies after reporters at a Tuesday night rally once again faced that kind of behavior.

Sanders said that the President "does not support violence against anyone," but said "when it comes to the media, the President does think that the media holds a responsibility."

"We fully support a free press, but there also comes a high level of responsibility with that," Sanders said.

Trump supporters jeering at journalists covering Trump rallies are rarely focused on national security reporting in the press, instead telling reporters they believe they are unfairly covering Trump and his administration and often parroting slurs used by Trump himself. Trump has, since the start of his candidacy, attacked, disparaged and demeaned journalists. Since assuming the presidency he has also, on occasion, referred to journalists as the "enemy of the people."

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

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Cases: 479326

Reported Deaths: 9353
CountyCasesDeaths
Harrison32779484
Hinds30924582
DeSoto30319353
Jackson23542341
Rankin21235366
Lee14803219
Madison14120271
Jones13327223
Forrest13078236
Lauderdale11501303
Lowndes10377176
Lamar10163130
Pearl River9008217
Lafayette8193137
Hancock7404111
Oktibbeha6909122
Washington6900150
Monroe6459159
Neshoba6441201
Warren6387163
Pontotoc623093
Panola6203125
Bolivar6072144
Marshall6068121
Union571386
Pike5574135
Alcorn533289
Lincoln5283131
George466072
Scott454796
Leflore4444140
Prentiss443377
Tippah442180
Itawamba441599
Adams4376116
Tate4327101
Simpson4313112
Wayne430766
Copiah429587
Yazoo419686
Covington413292
Sunflower4123104
Marion4073104
Leake395486
Coahoma391098
Newton367274
Grenada3543104
Stone350359
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Attala324286
Jasper313162
Winston303091
Clay294173
Chickasaw286265
Clarke279890
Calhoun263940
Holmes261387
Smith248048
Yalobusha219647
Tallahatchie217550
Walthall209958
Greene206845
Lawrence205732
Perry198553
Amite197651
Webster195042
Noxubee177739
Montgomery171654
Jefferson Davis167442
Carroll161437
Tunica150834
Benton141533
Kemper138039
Claiborne126134
Choctaw126026
Humphreys125937
Franklin116328
Quitman103426
Wilkinson101536
Jefferson87333
Sharkey62320
Issaquena1926
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Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 778549

Reported Deaths: 13665
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson1105871747
Mobile704651206
Madison49152610
Baldwin35946479
Shelby35796302
Tuscaloosa33410532
Montgomery32906672
Lee22231216
Calhoun20791397
Morgan19605326
Etowah18837449
Marshall17465272
Houston16452368
St. Clair15233293
Limestone14376182
Cullman14348246
Elmore14241256
Lauderdale13298278
Talladega12699230
DeKalb12036233
Walker10430323
Autauga9568133
Blount9555152
Jackson9235146
Coffee8728169
Colbert8426179
Dale8410170
Escambia6526114
Tallapoosa6501172
Covington6396163
Chilton6293141
Russell598555
Franklin5719100
Chambers5315133
Marion4734115
Dallas4665182
Clarke457076
Pike456294
Geneva4315116
Winston417192
Lawrence4086108
Bibb401680
Barbour341968
Marengo323183
Butler314988
Monroe314652
Pickens300470
Randolph299955
Henry298356
Hale289383
Cherokee284652
Fayette275672
Washington244848
Crenshaw235168
Clay225163
Macon217657
Cleburne217149
Lamar192140
Conecuh179646
Lowndes170158
Coosa166432
Wilcox155736
Bullock147742
Perry136036
Sumter124136
Greene120142
Choctaw72826
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