TO OUR READERS: Yesterday's front-page article reporting that Osama bin Laden has fled into Pakistan should have been more clear about the circumstances of the reporting. The key interview with the Al Qaeda operative named in the story was not obtained firsthand by the reporter. Rather, the reporter's translator - a local Afghan and reporter himself - conducted the interview, then recounted the interview to Monitor special correspondent Philip Smucker, who wrote the story based on that information.
The Monitor did discuss the circumstances of how this story was obtained in this column in Thursday's edition. But that information should have been contained in the story itself.
War zones pose challenging circumstances for reporters, ones where gaining reliable information through conventional means can be extremely difficult. In this case, the Monitor found the information credible and worth reporting. The Afghan who conducted the interview, Lutfallah Mashal, has worked for the past couple of months for Mr. Smucker and has consistently been reliable, professional, and well-connected with Taliban and Al Qaeda sources. His interview provided one of the most detailed and internally consistent accounts yet published of Mr. bin Laden's whereabouts.
Paul Van Slambrouck