Shooting of reporter wasn’t act of terrorism, FBI concludes

The FBI concluded after a seven-year investigation that the 2002 shooting of New York Times reporter Anthony Shadid was not an act of terrorism.

Details of the probe were provided to The Hill as part of a Freedom of Information Act request following Shadid’s death last year in Syria.

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Shadid blamed the shooting on an Israeli sniper. He was shot in the shoulder in an incident in Ramallah in the West Bank while covering the Israeli-Palestinian conflict for The Boston Globe.

The 46 pages provided to The Hill by the FBI make no conclusion on who shot Shadid, but say there was no evidence it was terrorism.

“The decision to close the investigation was based on the fact that the attack was not an act of terrorism,” the FBI wrote to Shadid in a June 15, 2009, letter that said it was closing the case. “It is not intended to diminish the injuries you have experienced.”

In his memoir House of Stone, Shadid said he “was shot by an Israeli sniper in Ramallah.”

“Even before I had heard his bullet that day, I fell, momentarily deafened and disoriented. A stun grenade, I thought at first. I couldn’t move my arms or legs, but soon felt a sting on my spine, grazed by the round that was probably aimed at my head,” Shadid wrote.

In a May 2002 story for The Globe, Shadid wrote that he believed “the single bullet was fired by an Israeli soldier, though I never saw him. I believe he thought I was Palestinian. The slug entered my left shoulder, blasted off part of my vertebrae, then exited my right shoulder. Twelve pieces of shrapnel were left in me.”

The FBI’s investigation began with an April 1, 2002, FBI memo sent to Washington, Tel Aviv and the bureau’s counterterrorism division. The memo noted it was unclear which side shot Shadid.

“Victim, ANTHONY SHADID, Boston Globe reporter, was shot in the arm and the shoulder during ongoing fighting near Ramalah [sic]. It has not yet been determined which side fired the shot that resulted in the injury to SHADID. SHADID was initially in communication through a cellular telephone while at the scene,” read the memo. “The WFO is not aware of any group claiming responsibility for this shooting.”

A subsequent April 5, 2002, FBI document described Shadid as “a potential terrorism victim” who “sustained a shooting injury to the shoulder.”

Also included in the FBI records is an email from the FBI’s office in the U.S. embassy in Tel Aviv, otherwise known as the legal attaché or “legat.”

“In discussions with the Consular Sections in both Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, it appears that Mr. Shadid was in the wrong place at the wrong time, and was caught in a crossfire. It is yet undetermined which side fired the round that hit Mr. Shadid. Consular was working on getting him out of the West Bank and into West Jerusalem,” read the April 1, 2002, email.

Many of the pages obtained by The Hill were heavily redacted, with some having the word “SECRET” crossed out at the bottom. The records also indicated that the case was often reassigned to different FBI agents over the years.

In 2007, the FBI was still looking into the matter and hadn’t made much progress.

“It is unknown who fired the shot that injured Shadid, as no individual (or group) has taken responsibility for the shooting,” reads an April 20, 2007, FBI memo.

That same memo recounts an interview that Shadid gave to U.S. consulate staff.

“Shadid and his assistant were in the area of Yasser Arafat’s compound when an Israeli tank turned its gun in their direction. They took that as a warning to leave the area and were walking back to their hotel,” the memo says.

Then a single shot was fired, hit Shadid, and “Israeli Defense Force medics treated him on scene and he was carried by stretcher to a nearby clinic.”

Shadid won two Pulitzer prizes for his Iraq War coverage while at The Washington Post.

After moving to The New York Times, Shadid was kidnapped in March 2011, along with other Times journalists, by forces loyal to the Libyan dictator Moammar Gadhafi. They were released after being held for six days.

Shadid died last year, at the age of 43, from an asthma attack while covering the Syrian conflict.

Reached by phone in Lebanon, Nada Bakri — Shadid’s widow and another Times reporter — declined to comment.