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 9:59 AM
Updated: Aug 2, 2018 9:59 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."

Business and industry sectors

Business, economy and trade

Continents and regions

Donald Trump

Government and public administration

Government bodies and offices

International relations and national security

Journalism and news media

Media industry

Misc people

National security

North America

Osama Bin Laden

Political Figures - US

The Americas

United States

US federal government

White House

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."

Indiana Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 32078

Reported Deaths: 2004
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Marion9268539
Lake3320168
Cass15826
Allen130966
St. Joseph120534
Hendricks113067
Hamilton111592
Johnson1086104
Elkhart105728
Madison58258
Porter49021
Bartholomew48133
Clark46138
LaPorte41522
Tippecanoe3753
Jackson3671
Howard36519
Delaware35735
Hancock32127
Shelby31521
Floyd31438
Boone28835
Morgan26224
Vanderburgh2482
Montgomery23117
White2268
Decatur22431
Clinton2221
Grant19121
Noble18921
Harrison18721
Dubois1852
Greene16724
Warrick16426
Dearborn16421
Henry1619
Monroe16011
Vigo1477
Lawrence14423
Miami1391
Putnam1337
Jennings1274
Orange12422
Scott1183
Ripley1126
Franklin1068
Kosciusko941
Carroll922
Daviess8216
Steuben802
Marshall761
Newton7410
Wabash722
Wayne715
Fayette684
LaGrange602
Jasper581
Washington521
Fulton471
Rush452
Jay440
Randolph433
Jefferson411
Whitley402
Pulaski390
Clay391
Owen341
Brown331
Sullivan321
Starke313
DeKalb311
Perry260
Huntington262
Knox250
Tipton251
Benton250
Wells240
Crawford230
Blackford211
Switzerland190
Fountain182
Spencer171
Posey170
Parke170
Gibson142
Ohio130
Warren121
Adams121
Vermillion90
Martin90
Union80
Pike60
Unassigned0154
West Lafayette
Clear
70° wxIcon
Hi: 83° Lo: 68°
Feels Like: 70°
Kokomo
Clear
70° wxIcon
Hi: 79° Lo: 65°
Feels Like: 70°
Rensselaer
Clear
68° wxIcon
Hi: 87° Lo: 65°
Feels Like: 68°
Fowler
Clear
68° wxIcon
Hi: 79° Lo: 65°
Feels Like: 68°
Williamsport
Clear
70° wxIcon
Hi: 80° Lo: 66°
Feels Like: 70°
Crawfordsville
Broken Clouds
65° wxIcon
Hi: 80° Lo: 66°
Feels Like: 65°
Frankfort
Clear
69° wxIcon
Hi: 81° Lo: 66°
Feels Like: 69°
Delphi
Scattered Clouds
67° wxIcon
Hi: 83° Lo: 66°
Feels Like: 67°
Monticello
Scattered Clouds
67° wxIcon
Hi: 82° Lo: 65°
Feels Like: 67°
Logansport
Clear
70° wxIcon
Hi: 81° Lo: 65°
Feels Like: 70°
Some more storms ahead....
WLFI Radar
WLFI Temps
WLFI Planner

COVID-19 Important links and resources

As the spread of COVID-19, or as it's more commonly known as the coronavirus continues, this page will serve as your one-stop for the resources you need to stay informed and to keep you and your family safe. CLICK HERE

Closings related to the prevention of the COVID-19 can be found on our Closings page.

Community Events