The message, sent Sunday by a group calling itself the National Movement for the Restoration of Pakistani Sovereignty, alleges Journal reporter Daniel Pearl, who has been missing since Wednesday, is an operative for the CIA.
The e-mail was sent to 31 addresses, including six people at The Washington Post, nine departments at The New York Times, one department at The Los Angeles Times and media and government agencies in Pakistan, Britain and the United Arab Emirates, the Post reports.
The group attached a photo of Pearl shackled with a gun to his head and a second shot of the reporter holding an issue of the Pakistani newspaper Dawn to the e-mail.
In return for Pearl’s release, the group has demanded the U.S. free Pakistani nationals accused of working with the al-Qaida terrorist network. The prisoners are currently being held on the U.S. Naval base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
An Urdu-language attachment to the message called for the U.S. to turn over F-16 fighter jets Pakistan purchased in the 1980s, the Journal reports. The U.S. never delivered the jets because of sanctions it set in response to Pakistan’s nuclear weapons program.
Police in Karachi told the Post the e-mail was the first claim of responsibility for Pearl’s disappearance, but said the name the group gave in the message was false.
Pearl, who is based in Bombay, India, was in Karachi, Pakistan working on a report about radical Islamic groups.
Both the CIA and the Journal deny Pearl is working for the intelligence agency.
“Although we do not normally discuss whether someone is employed by the agency, Danny Pearl does not and never has worked for the CIA,” agency spokeswoman Anya Guilsher told The Los Angeles Times.
Steven Goldstein, vice president for Dow Jones, the company that publishes the Journal, said the group had “made a mistake” in kidnapping Pearl.
“Mr. Pearl, as are all Wall Street Journal reporters, is solely a journalist and his written regularly on a variety of subjects during his 12 years on our staff. He has no connection whatever with the government of the United States, including its Central Intelligence Agency,” Goldstein said in a statement.
Goldstein told The Los Angeles Times the U.S. government “has assured us they are doing everything they can to effect Danny’s rescue.”
The Journal excerpted part of the group’s e-mail message, which says that “if Americans want the release of Mr. Pearl, all Pakistanis being illegally detained by the FBI inside America merely on suspicion must be given access to lawyers and allowed” to see family members.
Of Pearl’s condition and situation, the e-mail says, “Unfortunately, he is at present being kept in very inhuman circumstances quite similar infact [sic] to the way that Pakistanis and nationals of other sovereign countries are being Kept in Cuba by the American Army.”
Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, responding to similar criticism from foreign governments and human rights groups, has said the 158 detainees at Guantanamo Bay are being treated humanely.