NEW YORK, Dec 28: It was a story CNN’s Wolf Blitzer hoped he would never have to report — an email sent through an intermediary to him by Benazir Bhutto complaining about her security. Conditions of use: only if she were killed.
Ms Bhutto wrote to Wolf Blitzer that if anything happened to her, “I would hold (President Pervez) Musharraf responsible.”
Mr Blitzer received the email on Oct 26 from Mark Siegel, a friend and long-time Washington spokesman for Ms Bhutto. That was eight days after she narrowly escaped an attempt on her life on Oct 18.
Benazir Bhutto wrote to Blitzer: “I have been made to feel insecure by his (Musharraf’s) minions,” that specific improvements had not been made to her security arrangements, and that the president was responsible.
Blitzer agreed to the conditions before receiving the e-mail. He said on Friday that he called Siegel shortly after seeing it to see if there was any way he could use it on CNN, but was told firmly it could only be used if she were killed. Siegel could not say why she had insisted on those conditions.
Blitzer reported on the e-mail late on Thursday. He noted that Ms Bhutto had written a piece for CNN.com that mentioned her security concerns and that American politicians had tried to intervene on her behalf to make her feel safer. “I didn’t really think that it was a story we were missing out on,” he said. “I don’t think the viewers were done any disservice by my trying to hold on to this.”
Wolf Blitzer was the only journalist sent such a message, Siegel said. He also sent the e-mail to Representative Steve Israel, a New York Democrat.
Siegel said he did not believe Ms Bhutto’s opinions had changed since she wrote the e-mail. Her message specifically mentioned she had requested four police vehicles surrounding her vehicle when travelling; Siegel said it seemed evident from pictures taken at the assassination scene that the request was not fulfilled.
Ms Bhutto did not necessarily believe that President Musharraf wanted her dead, but felt many people around him did, he said.
Her husband contacted Siegel on Thursday to remind him about the e-mail message and to make sure it got out, he said.
Wolf Blitzer said he had no regrets about the way he handled the story. To report about it while she was still alive would have meant going back on his word, he said. “I don’t think there is a clear black-and-white in this situation,” he said. “I did what I think was right.”—AP