Free Ali Al-Timimi

August 31, 2008

Labels and Libel

Filed under: Labels and Libel — sandboxarea @ 12:54 pm



211 and 187 are just numbers. But make sure you never joke with a California Highway Patrol officer about a “one-eight-seven” during a traffic stop. You probably won’t make it home in one piece. Words have power and words can sometimes have a hidden meaning.

The government lawyers frequently employ a set of code words to describe Ali. Even a year prior to his indictment the government started a smear campaign against Ali by planting stories in the media about him. Unfortunately, members of the press were all too willing to parrot the government’s descriptions.

I wanted to highlight how the use of certain words can prejudice the listener. As I discussed in “Judge Me, Judge Me Not“, the Magistrate who authorized Ali’s search warrant could only rely on the government’s characterization of Ali. To secure the warrant, the government used the special words: Islamic group, military training, and WMD (weapons of mass destruction).

As none of those descriptions were truthful, we should perhaps label them as Words of Malicious Deception. The goal was to not only to secure a Magistrate’s signature… but to begin Ali’s trial in the media. Irrespective of your opinion of any specific newspaper or journalist, the fact remains that democracies need journalist to tell the truth. In fact, Congress enacted laws to ensure that the US press would not be manipulated by the CIA. And the much discussed reporter shield law might further strengthen our democracy.


In this post, I wanted to focus on the use of cul-de-sac which was used by the Washington Post to describe the location of Ali’s house. If we look at the other description used to characterize Ali’s home, the reporter described it as a “brick townhouse”, located on “Meadow Field Court”, which is “near” a huge shopping center called “Fair Oaks Mall”, which is located “in Fairfax” which is one of the wealthiest suburbs in America. 


So, the use of cul-de-sac provides no additional clarification to the reader. You might say that the reporter was just being thorough. Hummm. That’s sooo… September 10 thinking. The intent was to slyly communicate that Ali had a siege mentality much like various American militia members who build bunkers in their homes.

Ali lived in a residential community which contained over 100 townhouses. You know, with the typical layout were you’re sandwiched by your neighbors… the type where the neighbor’s cat hops over the adjacent deck… because you treat it better.


So did Ali live in the cul-de-sac area of the property… no. Ali lived at the corner before you get to the cul-de-sac. Why? Dislike of French words? Maybe that’s why he never lived in New Orleans with all those Rues. Does it mater? Only if you’re trying to lend credence to the government’s “WMD” absurdities.


So did the reporter intentionally mislead the readers be weaving the cul-de-sac lie into the WMD story line? What do you think? If so, it was masterfully done. Perhaps I should renew my Washington Post subscription if not for the truth then at least for the fiction writing.

Woodward and Bernstein preserve us!



  1. […] We’ll look at the importance of describing Ali as living in a “cul-de-sac”  and some other gibberish statements in the post “Labels and Libel“ […]

    Pingback by Judge me, Judge me not « Free Ali Al-Timimi — September 4, 2008 @ 7:00 am | Reply

  2. […] of accurate reporting. In the first blog post of the category “Labels and Libel”, I discussed how some writers wanted to lend credence to the government’s absurd claim that Ali had […]

    Pingback by A Clerical Error « Free Ali Al-Timimi — September 16, 2008 @ 1:48 am | Reply

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