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Reporters’ Notebook

3 minute read

TIME’s cover story this week could be crafted only with the work of many journalists. The thoughts of three:

–MICHAEL WARE, our reporter in Kabul, delved into the violent Afghan prelude to Sept. 11, 2001:

“In Afghanistan, every Westerner is a spy until proved otherwise. I remember approaching an Afghan intelligence general for an interview. He fingered my business card, then turned to my translator and said, ‘I haven’t decided who he is yet. I’ll watch him and make inquiries. Then I’ll decide whether to talk.’ Sensitive questions can provoke accusations of espionage. After I made a couple of inquiries, another Afghan intelligence operative accosted me, saying, ‘The cia asked the same questions. Which agency do you work for?’ Sometimes a rendezvous with an Afghan spook means sneaking into his house so that his own heavily armed men won’t know he’s talking to someone who might be a spy. But it’s all part of the fun.”

–DOUGLAS WALLER, who is based in Washington, tapped several of his old reliable sources:

“They say spies never really leave the business. Well, I’m beginning to think reporters who cover spies never really leave the beat, either. Though I’m the congressional correspondent, I’ve spent most of my time since Sept. 11 back on my old beat, covering national security, the intelligence community and terrorism. For the past 10 months, I have been ringing up a lot of old contacts whom I hadn’t talked to in several years to piece together this cover story. Reporting on intelligence and terrorism is like assembling a complex mosaic. No one source knows the whole story. Each person you talk to usually has a small piece of it that you have to put together painstakingly with other pieces to get the complete picture. I also know from past experience that in covering terrorism, many of the fantastic stories you hear–and there have been many of them since 9/11–are going to turn out to be untrue. Unsubstantiated rumors and false leads flood the terror beat, so you have to check everything you get with multiple sources to come up with the truth.”

–BRUCE CRUMLEY, one of our Paris correspondents, weighed in with European intelligence gathering:

“I established contacts with the anti-terror officials of France when I covered that country’s crackdown on Algerian-based Islamic radicals. In 1994, that group had hijacked a passenger plane that it intended to crash into the center of Paris. The French thwarted that dress rehearsal for 9/11. Since then, the same counter-terrorism officials have provided me and the magazine with much exclusive information, including their pre-emptive sweeps of al-Qaeda networks and their warnings that al-Qaeda was establishing bases in North America. They’ve been invaluable to TIME’s coverage of al-Qaeda terror in the U.S., Asia and around the world.”

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