Police: Fox News Flubbed ‘Granny Terrorist’ Story

December 30, 2010 10:48 a.m.

FoxNews.com reporter Jana Winter published a story last week claiming that Fox News had “learned” of a federal investigation into the alleged terrorist ties of Kathie Smith, a “46-year-old, blue-eyed grandmother and U.S. citizen from Indiana.” The story was quickly pulled down and scrubbed from the website, but not before TPM grabbed a copy.

FoxNews.com posted a revised version of the story on Tuesday. Fox’s story glosses over the role that its own reporter had in alerting Indiana authorities to Smith and what can only be called her unique brand of “jihadism.”

As for the investigation, it’s unclear if the feds are probing Smith, and the Indiana State Police — the recipient of Fox’s tip — tells TPM they have no active investigation.

“I think some of the information Fox reported was kind of taken out of context,” Indiana state police spokesman David Bursten told TPM. “I can tell you that the Indiana state police as a law enforcement agency is not involved in any kind of active investigation on her.”

Smith, a Muslim convert, believes 9/11 was an inside job, claims that the U.S. government is “Communistic” and a “terrorist organization,” and praises the American-born radical Muslim cleric Anwar al Awlaki, according to Fox’s account of email exchanges with her. Central to the Fox report is an alleged jihadi propaganda video featuring Smith and her husband, a 28-year-old German Muslim named Salahudin Ibn Ja’far whom she married last year. In it, they are seen holding guns:

Smith has defended herself while continuing to be critical of the U.S. “Sarah Palin has pictures of her holding guns. What’s the big deal?” Smith told a local TV station. Her husband, speaking from Germany, said the gun being held in the images is actually a paintball gun.

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The local Fox affiliate followed up with its own report yesterday. In its report, which includes an on-camera interview with Smith, the local Fox station calls her husband, a “suspected Jihadist.” It also points to her being “Facebook friends” with known terrorists:


Smith claims she and her husband are on U.S. government watch lists, although she has been able to fly back and forth between the U.S. and Germany, according to Fox. In fact, Smith’s complaint to local media about her treatment while flying is what first turned reporters on to her.

If she is the jihadist Fox makes her out to be, Smith’s emails, Facebook postings, and reaching out to local media — let alone agreeing to an on-camera interview — don’t seem very prudent. So are authorities taking Smith seriously as a potential threat with terror ties?

Peter Beering, a principal in the Indianapolis Terrorism Response Group thinks so, telling News6 that authorities have known of Smith for three years.

I asked Indiana Department of Homeland Security spokeswoman Emily Norcross if the investigation reported by Fox News was generated by the Fox reporter’s tip.

“Essentially,” Norcross said. “We don’t investigate things like that, we really don’t even monitor things like that. But we forwarded it to the intelligence fusion center, which is run by the Indiana state police.”

Norcross told me I should get in touch with the Indiana state police. “She sent us the video, we sent it to [the police],” Norcross added.

Norcross said she talked to Winter about the difference between what the state Department of Homeland Security office does and what the state fusion center does. Indiana’s Homeland Security Department mostly handles natural disasters responses, Norcross told me.

Tuesday’s story by Fox News quoted Norcross as saying that the video Winter forwarded to them was “being looked at and evaluated by Indiana State Police, which runs Indiana Intelligence Fusion Center.” It said Norcross added that the video would be passed along to appropriate law enforcement for further investigation.

Bursten, the state police spokesman, said he couldn’t comment on information provided to the Indiana Intelligence Fusion Center or whether it came from the reporter. “Information is provided to us by multiple sources, and Indiana State intelligence center does not confirm of deny information it received or which agencies requested information we may have.”

Indiana’s fusion center, like the others across the county, is a clearinghouse for intelligence staffed by both local and federal law enforcement, including FBI and the federal Department of Homeland Security. But as the Washington Post reported this month, such state fusion centers have been riddled with problems.

Reporter Heather Gillers of the Indy Star was the first to report that it was Fox News itself which brought the video to the attention of local authorities.

Winter and Fox News representatives have not responded to my requests for comment. I’ll update if I hear from them.

Late Update: FoxNew.com surfers weren’t the only ones who heard Fox’s exclusive scoop on grandma’s terror ties. The hosts of Fox & Friends beamed in Peter Doocy — the 23-year-old son of Fox’s Steve Doocy — from D.C. yesterday to tell the weekend crew filling in for his dad this week all about it.

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