Jonathan Keith Idema

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Jonathan Keith Idema, commonly referred to as Keith Idema, is a former U.S. soldier who was sentenced in September 2004 in an Afghan court to a ten-year prison term.

Idema was convicted on "charges of entering the country illegally, running a private prison, and torture. Idema had been accused of operating a detention–cum–interrogation center in concert with another former U.S. soldier and a TV cameraman, who were sentenced alongside him the same day." [1]

Writing in the Columbia Journalism Review (CJR), Mariah Blake described Idema as "a self-proclaimed terror-fighter who has served time for fraud, Idema took a willing media by storm, glorifying his own exploits, padding his bank account, and providing dubious information to the American public." [2]

Idema in Afghanistan

In early July 2004 the US military command issued a media advisory disavowing any relationship with Idema. "U.S. citizen Jonathan K. Idema has allegedly represented himself as an American government and/or military official. The public should be aware that Idema does not represent the American government and we do not employ him." [3]

Before his arrest Idema sold video footage and still photos to a range of media outlets which he said was of Al Qaeda training camps in Afghanistan. Some media outlets were deterred from using the tapes by the cost - Idema sought to auction them off for over $150,000. CNN declined to bid for the tapes on the basis of Idema's past record.

The CJR reported that the "ABC, MSNBC, NBC, and the BBC subsequently paid thousands of dollars to air the training-camp footage, according to Idema’s bank records." [4] Idema's explanations of how he obtained the videos vary from having bought them to having found some of them in the house of the training camp commander and obtained others from captured soldiers.

Writing in the New York Metro, Stacy Sullivan wrote that after CBS aired some of the material from the tapes "Special Forces soldiers, other journalists, and Army Intelligence immediately questioned the tapes’ authenticity." [5]

CBS told Sullivan that the network "showed the tape to three former British Special Forces officers, who verified the tactics being practiced in the video were consistent with those of Al Qaeda, and to a top U.S. military official in Afghanistan, who told us that, in his opinion, the video was authentic." [6]

Other journalists also insist that the tapes are authentic. Eric Campbell, a journalist with the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, wrote of "the logistical impossibility of them being faked either while the village was under Taliban control or after the Taliban and their Arab allies fled."

Campbell challenges the assessment of Tracy-Paul Warrington who told the CJR the tapes were forgeries. Warrington should, Campbell wrote in response to another media outlet, "be asked whether he had considered the logistical impossibility of an American filming a staged video with Arab extras in a village under Taliban control." [7]

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