From a letter in yesterday’s Houston Chronicle:
James Foley (we just called him Jim) was my teammate at the USAID Tatweer project in Baghdad, Iraq in 2008-2009. He helped us to write our reports, took our pictures during all events and was very outgoing, nice and easy-going guy, always ready to help and to share a smile. Today, my Facebook page is full of pictures and notes sent by many of our former teammates. Everybody is in a state of shock….
Alex Shapiro, Houston
Thanks to Mike Holmes, who drew my attention to that letter, and writes:
3:34 pm on August 22, 2014
While I haven’t read everything about Foley’s history, I find this info quite interesting, given the fact that his prior highly publicized and discussed “journalism” involved a similar supposed freelance job in Libya, where he was also held captive for a couple of months by mysterious elements.
He was described as a freelance reporter in Syria (and Libya) working for an organization called GlobalPost and also at times for Agence France-Presse (AFP), a large well known French news agency. Less is known about the fairly new GlobalPost, which while active since founding is rather obscure with sources of financing for far-flung news operations unknown. Foley’s training and background as a photojournalist/reporter appears sketchy for a freelancer who was 40 when he was killed.
The “Tatweer project” was a US government effort to “help” occupied Iraq built up its bureaucracy.
Foley’s subsequent “journalism” came after the USAID project where his former co-worker describes him as taking photos and writing reports. That resembles in-house journalism or some kind of internal communications worker. Also rather vague and one would think, rather useless.
What is of interest about this employment is that it suggests answers to obvious questions:
Why was Foley “free lancing” as a journalist in highly dangerous war zones like Libya/Iraq/Syria? Who was paying him (per piece journalism isn’t very lucrative)? Did he speak Arabic? (Of that question I see no mention.)
Clearly he was on a government contractor payroll in Iraq up through 2009 per this former coworker. USAID is notoriously a front for the CIA and other US clandestine groups (most recently caught funding a fake student Twitter type project in Cuba).
It is also hard to discount the likelihood that the CIA was using the Tatweer project to recruit local sources and agents. Whether Foley was part of that effort I can’t say, but it can’t be discounted, especially since in subsequent years he turned up in other CIA hot spots undergoing civil wars in which the US was and is actively involved via the CIA and dark military ops. His pattern of going to and coming back from such places is consistent with a contract agent or even active employee.
While there certainly can and are independent stringers and journalists in war zones and conflict areas who do heroic independent work, you have to wonder how many of such may also be undercover CIA assets, or working for other intel outfits from various places.
At the very least Foley’s background requires public airing.
For someone doing occupation “training” in Iraq and later turning up as a self-proclaimed freelance journo in Libya/Syria certainly raises red flags about what he was really doing and who was paying him, aside from a French news service and a new, relatively unknown US news outfit.
I am not , of course, suggesting that Foley’s barbaric public execution by ISIS was justified, even if there was more to his story than we’re being told.
At the very least Foley’s history raises the issue of whether or not he was acting as other than a journalist.
The CIA has claimed (recently) that they don’t use journalists as cover to avoid putting them at risk, but we know that has not been the case for much of the past. And Foley’s status as a freelancer might be a CIA loophole or they could of course be lying about their non-use of journalists abroad.
If Foley was CIA (or a CIA contractor), they wouldn’t admit it. So all that can be done is to ask questions and analyze known facts.