Video: Kidnapped Journalist

updated 1/19/2006 10:16:17 PM ET 2006-01-20T03:16:17

Jill Carroll, a 28-year-old freelance reporter for “The Christian Science Monitor” was kidnapped 12 days ago in Baghdad.  A group calling itself the Revenge Brigade released this video of Carroll on Tuesday and now they’re threatening to kill her if the U.S. military doesn't release all Iraqi female prisoners by Friday. 

Bobby Ghosh is a senior correspondent for “TIME” magazine, who was recently reporting in Baghdad and Chris Whitcomb, former FBI special agent, counterterrorism analyst, hostage negotiator and author of the book “White” joined Dan Abrams on the ‘Abrams Report’ Wednesday to discuss the case.

To read an excerpt from their conversation, continue to the text below. To watch the video, click on the "Launch" button to the right.

DAN ABRAMS, HOST, ‘ABRAMS REPORT’:  Mr. Ghosh, let me start with you.  What do we know about this area where she was abducted? 

APARISIM “BOBBY” GHOSH, “TIME” MAGAZINE SENIOR CORR.:  Well, it is in an overwhelmingly Sunni neighborhood in Baghdad al-Adel.  It has been known for harboring many Sunni insurgent and terrorist groups. 

I've been there many times, but always exercising maximum caution. 

ABRAMS:  So it's known as a dangerous area, right?  If fact, someone else, a woman who was eventually killed was kidnapped in that same basic area, right? 

GHOSH:  That's correct.  Margaret Hassan was kidnapped not far from there.  We've known that various insurgent groups have bases there, operate out of there, and there are frequent Iraqi and American sweeps of that neighborhood to try and grab the bad guys. 

ABRAMS:  Let me read a little bit from this from an article that Jill herself wrote in February/March 2005 in “The American Journalism Review”.

In a place where keeping a low profile is the best way to stay alive, the small operations of a freelancer seems safer than those of big media organizations, which rent houses replete with armed guards.  Several freelance journalists have been kidnapped in Iraq, but most agree such attacks have more to do with bad luck than with freelancing.

Bobby, what do you know about this organization that claims to have kidnapped her? 

GHOSH:  Almost nothing.  This is a new name.  Very likely it is a fake one.  Quite often in kidnappings like this, they invent a name.  The nature in which this video has been released—you can't hear what she's saying.  A small snatch of videotape suggest that this is a relatively new organization. 

The experienced terrorists have a much sleeker operation.  They put the word out almost immediately after a grab.  They have a video in which you can hear the victim speaking, usually reading from some kind.  This suggests to me that this is a group that is not familiar with this kidnapping business. 

ABRAMS:  All right, Chris, with all that in mind, how does that effect the negotiations? 

CHRIS WHITCOMB, FORMER FBI SPECIAL AGENT:  Well, Dan, you only have two options.  One is negotiations, the other is a tactical resolution and I think that makes better sense.  If you don't have an open line of communication, all you can do is communicate through the media, and that's not very effective in any way.  Right now they want to gather as much information as possible and try to channel that to the tactical elements, meaning the military assets inside the country.  Yes, the FBI have 70, 80 people in country, the intelligence assets inside and try to do something to affect her release that way.  It's not as good a position here in terms of negotiations. 

ABRAMS:  Chris, what about working through the local clerics, et cetera?  It seems that's worked in the past. 

WHITCOMB:  Well that certainly is.  If you have an organization here that is not professional, quote-unquote “professional,” I think that very well may.  Remember Dan they're doing one of two things.  They're either trying to get something out of this financially, which is many times the case or they want to make a point. 

Those we've seen in the past where they're trying to make a statement, they issue a videotape and they kill the hostage because all they want to do is show the U.S. is a bad guy.  In this case we certainly hope that they want to get something besides that and that these clerics and the community leaders can shame them into giving her up.  And I think that's very good possibility in this case. 

ABRAMS:  Bobby Ghosh, I mean she is known as a reporter who went out there to get the story, maybe more than most, right? 

GHOSH:  Absolutely.  The one common thread in all of her journalism is you'll find when you read her reports is her effort to understand the lives of ordinary Iraqis.  She didn't confine herself to meeting the regular talking heads, the ministers and generals or going just to press conferences.  She always tried to make a connection with ordinary Iraqis, understand their lives, understand how they were living through this traumatic time and bring that out in her journalism.

ABRAMS:  Here's again more of what she said about covering this story. 

Only a story of this enormity, with nothing less than America's global credibility, the stability of the Middle East and countless lives at stake could be worth risking personal safety and financial solvency to cover it as a freelancer.

Bobby, I guess that sort of reflects her view on this.

GHOSH:  Absolutely.  That sounds exactly like Jill.  She's articulate, there's many times in conversations with other journalists.  She passionately believed in the story.  She enjoyed living there.  She enjoyed working with Iraqi people, to a degree that is very rarely seen. 

ABRAMS:  Chris, this “demand”, quote-unquote—and I put it in quotes because it seems to me to be sort of nonsense, this notion that oh the Americans have to release all the female Iraqis who are in custody.  This is fairly typical, right?  They make these demands that they know are not going to be met. 

WHITCOMB:  Right, Dan.  Like I said two things, they either want something out of this in terms of money or they're trying to make a statement.  Those in the past that we've seen where they issue a videotape, they're just trying to show the world that they're trying to get the United States government and coalition forces to do something. 

And then in the past, have ended in violence.  We hope this is not that, that this is something that they will see that she's a liability, see that they really are not going to come out of this on the winning end and that they will make some kind of arrangements either to get rid of her or to work something out with those community leaders and those clerics who have been speaking out. 

Watch the 'Abrams Report' for more analysis and interviews on the top legal stories each weeknight at 6 p.m. ET on MSNBC TV.


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