in search of al qaeda
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press reaction

+ The Boston Globe Mark Jurkowitz

"The title of Frontline's hour-long documentary, 'In Search of Al Qaeda,' is somewhat misleading. A more accurate name for this sobering sociology lesson that takes viewers on a 10,000-mile tour through several Muslim countries might be: 'Boy, They Hate Us.'

"... 'In Search of Al Qaeda' provides a dramatic view of war-on-terror 'bang-bang,' with scenes of Pakistani tanks firing at local tribesmen accused of harboring Al Qaeda members, as well as the shootout that led to the arrest in Karachi of a key suspected Al Qaeda militant, Ramzi Binalshibh.

"But at its core, the program is less about a search for militants on the run from Afghanistan than about an investigation of the ideology that spawned and that supports Al Qaeda. Although a Gallup poll of Muslim societies found that only 15 percent of the respondents voiced moral approval of the Sept. 11 attacks, it seems as if Martin [Smith] managed to locate many of those 15 percent for this documentary. And they come in all shapes and sizes. ..."

+ Seattle Post-Intelligencer John Levesque

"... To Americans of any political stripe, this 'Frontline' is illuminating and infuriating evidence that, just as in the Hundred Years' War, there are zealots willing to kill and be killed for a holy cause, comfortable in the knowledge that at least one side will consider them saints."

+ New York Times Ron Wertheimer

"... The program is aptly named; there is more search than finding in this hour. The reporter-producer, Martin Smith, travels from London to Yemen by way of Pakistan, Afghanistan and Saudi Arabia, speaking with government officials, journalists and ordinary people, all of whom agree that Al Qaeda remains both powerful and elusive.

"If that conclusion is hardly surprising, Mr. Smith's arduous 10,000-mile journey is worth taking for viewers to understand just what the United States is up against. But be warned, there is nothing reassuring here, not even the satisfaction of gauging the conflict's dimensions. ...

"For a viewer with patience and a little courage, this program can be one step on a quest for understanding, an effort that will surely be as frustrating as Mr. Smith's search for America's enemies."

+ Rocky Mountain News Dusty Saunders

"... At times the hour plays like an espionage novel. In addition to often-tense visits to Pakistan, London, Saudi Arabia, and Yemen, it contains fascinating footage of previous pitched battles among pro- and anti-Al Qaeda forces and coverage of government officials attempting to root out Al Qaeda supporters in the streets of Karachi, Pakistan.

"The jarring reality: This is the real world of terrorism. ...

"Equally important, 'In Search of Al Qaeda' provides a valuable primer for viewers who do not fully understand the geography, politics and tribal warfare in this incendiary part of the world. ..."

+ Los Angeles Times Scott Sandell

"... For as undeniably brave and determined as producer-writer-reporter Martin Smith and co-producer-director Marcela Gaviria were in pursuing the story, their effort tends to feel more like a series of disconnected vignettes than a structured whole.

"Still, it contains considerable insights. ... In the end no one can fault Smith and Gaviria for coming up with more questions than answers, but the program could have used a better framework."

+ The Tacoma News Tribune Kevin McDonough

"Leave it to Frontline to get to the bottom of the most pressing story of the moment: What the heck ever happened to Al Qaeda? While network news offers soundbites and cable news channels spew hot air, this news magazine consistently delivers the goods. If you want to be informed about this new World War, watch this show."

+ Boston Globe Editorial

"... 'In Search of Al Qaeda,' ... takes viewers to the places where Al Qaeda members sought refuge after dispersing from Afghanistan. Reporter-producer Martin Smith persistently -- and lucidly -- pursues the trail of Al Qaeda...

"The difficulty of the pursuit is itself illuminating. The audience learns why a stateless enemy can be more difficult to defeat definitively than Hitler's Third Reich or imperial Japan. It is precisely the so-called backwardness of the tribal areas in Pakistan or Yemen that makes them hospitable to Al Qaeda and nearly impenetrable to the forces hunting fugitives in that terrorist network. ...

"What this documentary discloses about the landscapes and psyches in which Al Qaeda flourishes is crucial for Americans to understand. ...

"Frontline's film shows Americans that they are now at war with a violent ideological movement arrayed as a purist revival within Islam. The weapons on the other side are not only bombs but also the credulity of impassioned recruits."

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