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Daniel Pearl

Daniel Pearl
Born October 10, 1963(1963-10-10)
Princeton, New Jersey
Died February 1, 2002 (aged 38)
Karachi, Pakistan
Cause of death Murder by beheading
Body discovered May 16, 2002, cut into ten pieces, and buried in a shallow grave in the outskirts of Karachi
Resting place Mount Sinai Memorial Park Cemetery in Los Angeles, California
Nationality U.S.
Alma mater Stanford University
Occupation Journalist
Employer The Wall Street Journal
Home town Encino, California
Religion Jewish
Spouse(s) Mariane Pearl
Children Adam Daniel Pearl, born May 28, 2002, three months after Pearl's death
Parents Judea Pearl (father) and Ruth Pearl (mother)
Relatives Michelle and Tamara (sisters)

Daniel Pearl (October 10, 1963 – February 1, 2002) was an American journalist who was kidnapped, tortured, and murdered.

At the time of his kidnapping, Pearl served as the South Asia Bureau Chief of the Wall Street Journal, and was based in Mumbai, Maharashtra, India. He went to Pakistan as part of an investigation into the alleged links between Richard Reid (the "shoe bomber") and Al-Qaeda. He was subsequently beheaded by his captors. [1][2]

In July 2002, Ahmed Omar Saeed Sheikh, a British national of Pakistani origin, was sentenced to death by hanging for Pearl's abduction and murder.[3][4]

In March 2007, at a closed military hearing in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed said that he had personally beheaded Pearl.[5][6]


Early life

Daniel Pearl was born in Princeton, New Jersey, and grew up in the Encino district of Los Angeles, California, where he attended Portola Middle School and Birmingham High School in Van Nuys, California.[7] His father, Judea Pearl, is currently a professor of Computer Science and Statistics and director of the Cognitive Systems Laboratory at UCLA.[8] His mother Ruth is of Iraqi Jewish descent. The history of the family and its connections to Israel are described by Judea Pearl in a book by Alan Dershowitz, What Israel Means to Me.[9]

"Danny", as he was known throughout his life, attended Stanford University from 1981 to 1985, where he stood out as a communications major with Phi Beta Kappa honors, a member of the Alpha Delta Phi Fraternity, and co-founder of a student newspaper called the Stanford Commentator. Pearl graduated from Stanford with a B.A. in Communications, after which he spent a summer as a Pulliam Fellow intern at the Indianapolis Star, and a winter bussing tables as a ski bum in Idaho. Following a trip to the then-Soviet Union, China, and Europe, he joined the North Adams Transcript and the Berkshire Eagle in western Massachusetts, then moved on to the San Francisco Business Times.

Pearl began at the Wall Street Journal's Atlanta bureau in 1990, moving to the Washington, D.C., bureau in 1993 to cover telecommunications, and then to the London bureau in 1996. He wrote articles such as the October 1994 story of a Stradivarius violin allegedly found on a highway on-ramp[10], and a June 2000 story about Iranian pop music. His most notable investigations covered the ethnic wars in the Balkans, where he discovered that charges of one alleged genocide committed in Kosovo were unsubstantiated, and the American missile attack on a supposed military facility in Khartoum, which he proved to be a pharmaceutical factory.

Later, he met and married Mariane Van Neyenhoff. Their son, Adam Daniel Pearl, was born in Paris on May 28, 2002, three months after Pearl's death.


On January 23, 2002, on his way to what he thought was an interview with Sheikh Mubarak Ali Gilani at the Village Restaurant in downtown Karachi, Pearl was kidnapped by a militant group calling itself The National Movement for the Restoration of Pakistani Sovereignty near the Metropole Hotel.[11] The group claimed Pearl was a CIA agent and – using a Hotmail e-mail address[12] – sent the United States a range of demands, including the freeing of all Pakistani terror detainees, and the release of a halted U.S. shipment of F-16 fighter jets to the Pakistani government.

The message read:

"We give you one more day if America will not meet our demands we will kill Daniel. Then this cycle will continue and no American journalist could enter Pakistan."

Photos of Pearl handcuffed with a gun at his head and holding up a newspaper were attached. There was no response to pleas from Pearl's editor, nor from his wife Mariane.


Nine days later, Pearl was beheaded. On May 16 his severed head and decomposed body were found cut into ten pieces, and buried – along with the jacket of a tracksuit Pearl was wearing when photographed by his kidnappers – in a shallow grave at Gadap, about 30 miles north of Karachi. [13][14] When the police found Pearl's remains, Abdul Sattar Edhi, one of the most active philanthropists in Pakistan, arrived promptly on the scene, personally collected all ten body parts, and took them to the morgue. Pearl's body was returned to the U.S., and was interred in the Mount Sinai Memorial Park Cemetery in Los Angeles, California.

No autopsy was performed. The subsequent video (see next section) made the sequence of events clear.

The Pearl video

Daniel Pearl stating his identity in the video produced by his captors.

On February 21, 2002, a videotape was released titled The Slaughter of the Spy-Journalist, the Jew Daniel Pearl. The video shows Pearl's mutilated body, and lasts 3 minutes and 36 seconds.

On the image to the right, the text in Arabic reads: "My name is (Daniel Pearl), I am a Jewish-American..." The English transcript of the text reads [sic]:

"My name is Daniel Pearl. I am a Jewish American from Encino, California USA. I come from, uh, on my father's side the family is Zionist. My father's Jewish, my mother's Jewish, I'm Jewish. My family follows Judaism. We've made numerous family visits to Israel. Back in the town of Bnei Brak there is a street named after my great grandfather Chaim Pearl who is one of the founders of the town."

According to Pearl's father, the fact revealed in the last sentence was not known outside the immediate family and, therefore, could not have been extracted from him by force. Pearl's father believes that his son chose to reveal it as a coded message to his family, that he was doing well and speaking freely in his own words.[15]

The second part of the video shows Pearl stating his captors' demands. A caption in Urdu is shown along the way. Pictures of dead Muslims and similar scenes are superimposed around the image of Pearl. Other images shown are those of U.S. President George W. Bush shaking hands with Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, and those of Palestinian civilians killed by Israeli soldiers – including that of a Palestinian boy Muhammad al-Dura – of whose death the Israeli Defence Force was accused.

In the video, Pearl's body is shown naked from the waist up, with his throat slit at about 1 minute and 55 seconds into the video, by which time he would have bled to death. A man then decapitates Pearl.

A few more images are shown near the image of Pearl's head. The last 90 seconds of the video show the list of demands scrolling, superimposed on an image of Pearl's severed head being held by the hair.

The English transcript of the text reads:

National Movement For The Restoration Of Pakistan Sovereignity (NMRPS)
We still demand the following:
  • The immediate release of U.S. held prisoners in Guatinamo Bay, Cuba [sic].
  • The return of Pakistani prisoners to Pakistan.
  • The immediate end of U.S. presence in Pakistan.
  • The delivery of F-16 planes that pakistan [sic] had paid for and never received.
We asure [sic]Americans that they shall never be safe on the Muslim Land of Pakistan.
And if our demands are not met this scene shall be repeated again and again...


Three suspects were caught after the IP address of those who sent the ransom e-mail was traced by the Karachi Police. The arrests were carried out after investigation by Pakistani detective Mir Zubair Mahmood, assisted by Pakistan CIA computer experts.[16] The mastermind of the kidnapping, Ahmed Omar Saeed Sheikh, surrendered to a former ISI officer, Brig. Aijaz Shah, who concealed Sheikh's whereabouts from the Karachi Police for a whole week. Ahmed Omar Saeed Sheikh had been in Indian prison in connection with 1994 Kidnappings of Western tourists in India, and had been freed by the Indian government in exchange for passengers aboard hijacked Indian Airlines Flight 814 in December 1999.

Daniel's father worried at the time that his son's Israeli citizenship would have an adverse effect on the investigation.[17] On March 21, 2002, in Pakistan, Ahmed Omar Saeed Sheikh and three other suspects were charged with murder for their part in the kidnapping and murder of Daniel Pearl. They were convicted on July 15, 2002, and Sheikh was sentenced to death. Sheikh has appealed the sentence, but hearings in his case were postponed repeatedly – over 30 times – and no definitive date had been set.

On March 10, 2007, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, an alleged Al Qaeda operative reported to be third in command under Osama Bin Laden, claimed responsibility, before his Combatant Status Review Tribunal, for the murder of Daniel Pearl. He claimed to have beheaded him.[18] In a confession read during his Tribunal hearing, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed is on record repeating:

I decapitated with my blessed right hand the head of the American Jew Daniel Pearl, in the City of Karachi, Pakistan.[19]

This confession repeated word for word the phrasing leaked in 2002 from his controversial interrogation in a clandestine CIA interrogation center.[20]

On March 19, 2007, Ahmed Omar Saeed Sheikh's lawyers cited Khalid Sheikh Mohammed's confession in defense of their client.[19][21] They said they had always acknowledged that their client played a role in Pearl's murder, but they had always argued that Khalid Sheikh Mohammed was the actual murderer. They plan for Khalid Sheikh Mohammed's confession to play a central role in their appeal of their client's death sentence.

In his book In the Line of Fire, then-President of Pakistan Pervez Musharraf stated that Pearl was murdered by an agent of MI6, who at some point became a double agent.[22]


A collection of Pearl's writings (At Home in the World) was published posthumously in 2002, demonstrating his "extraordinary skill as a writer" and his "eye for quirky stories—many of which appeared in The Wall Street Journal's "middle column".[23] Six of these stories were adapted by composer Russell Steinberg into an album: Stories from My Favorite Planet, a trio for violin, piano, and reader.

The Daniel Pearl Foundation was formed by Pearl's family and friends to continue Pearl's mission, and to address what they consider the root causes of his death, in the spirit, style, and principles that shaped Pearl's work and character.[24] Daniel Pearl World Music Days have been held worldwide since 2002, and have promoted over 1,500 concerts in over 60 countries.

Pearl's widow, Mariane Pearl, wrote the memoir A Mighty Heart, which tells the full story of Pearl and more about his life.[25] The book was adapted into a film starring Angelina Jolie, Irfan Khan, Archie Panjabi, Will Patton, and Dan Futterman[26].

On September 1, 2003, a book titled Who Killed Daniel Pearl? was published, written by Bernard-Henri Lévy.[27] The book, which the author characterized as an "investigative novel", stirred controversy for some of its speculative conclusions about the killing, for some of its characterizations of Pakistan, and for the author's decision to engage in an exercise of fictionalizing Pearl's thoughts in the final moments of his life. Lévy was criticized for the book.[28][29][30][31] This book is being adapted into a film directed by Tod Williams and starring Josh Lucas, focusing on the last few days of Daniel Pearl's life.[32]

HBO Films produced a 79-minute documentary titled The Journalist and the Jihadi: The Murder of Daniel Pearl. It premiered on HBO on October 10, 2006. The documentary chronicles Pearl's life and death, and features extensive interviews with his immediate family. It is narrated by Christiane Amanpour, and was nominated for two Emmy Awards.

American modernist composer Steve Reich wrote his 2006 work The Daniel Variations which interweaves Pearl's own words with verses from the Book of Daniel.

Pearl's parents edited and published a collection of responses sent to them from around the globe, entitled I Am Jewish: Personal Reflections Inspired by the Last Words of Daniel Pearl (Jewish Lights Publishing, 2004). At one point on the video, Pearl said: "My father is Jewish, my mother is Jewish, I am Jewish," after which Pearl added one obscure detail, that a street in Israel's Bnei Brak is named after his great grandfather, who was one of the founders of the town.[15] The family has written that it understands this last detail authenticates Daniel's own voice and demonstrates his willingness to claim his identity. Judea Pearl has written that at first this statement surprised him, but he later understood it to be a reference to the town-building tradition of his family contrasted with the destructive aims of his captors. Judea Pearl then enlarged the idea by inviting responses from artists, government leaders, authors, journalists, scientists, scholars, rabbis, and others. All wrote personal responses to what they thought upon hearing that these were Pearl's last words. Some responses are one sentence, others several pages.

The book is organized by five themes: Identity; Heritage; Covenant, Chosenness, and Faith; Humanity and Ethnicity; Tikkun Olam (Repairing the World) and Justice. Contributors include Theodore Bikel, Alan Dershowitz, Kirk Douglas, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Larry King, Amos Oz, Shimon Peres, Daniel Schorr, Elie Wiesel, Peter Yarrow, and A.B. Yehoshua.


Soka University of America's student news magazine, titled the Pearl, is named in honor of Daniel Pearl.

In 2002, Pearl posthumously received the Elijah Parish Lovejoy Award from Colby College and in 2007, the Lyndon Baines Johnson Moral Courage Award from the Houston Holocaust Museum.

In 2005, The Wall Street Journal, in conjunction with the École de Journalisme de Sciences Po, gave the first Daniel Pearl Prize to Louis-Étienne Vigneault-Dubois from Canada, at a ceremony held on June 10 in Paris. [33]

On April 16, 2007, Pearl was added to the Holocaust Memorial on Miami Beach as the first non-Holocaust victim. His father gave his consent for the induction in order to remind generations to come that "The forces of barbarity and evil are still active in our world. The Holocaust didn't finish in 1945."[34] Journalist Bradley Burston criticized the addition of a post-Holocaust victim to the memorial, saying it diminishes the uniqueness of the Holocaust.[35]

In May 2007, the Communications Technology Magnet School at Birmingham High School was renamed the Daniel Pearl Journalism and Communications Magnet.

In July 2009, Daniel Pearl Magnet High School (DPMHS) became a stand-alone high school in the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD).

Shortly after Pearl's death, his parents founded the Daniel Pearl Foundation. The foundation's mission is to promote cross-cultural understanding through journalism, music, and dialogue. The honorary board of the Daniel Pearl Foundation includes Christiane Amanpour, former President Bill Clinton, Abdul Sattar Edhi, Danny Gill, John L. Hennessy, Ted Koppel, Her Majesty Queen Noor of Jordan, Sari Nusseibeh, Mariane Pearl, Itzhak Perlman, Harold Schulweiss, Craig Sherman, Paul Steiger, and Elie Wiesel.

The Daniel Pearl Memorial Lecture at UCLA was established by the foundation in 2002. CNN's Anderson Cooper is scheduled to deliver at the May 17, 2009, event. Other lecturers have included David Brooks; Ted Koppel; Larry King; Jeff Greenfield; Daniel Schorr and Thomas Friedman.[36]

In western Massachusetts, with help from the newspapers there for which Pearl worked early in his career (the North Adams Transcript and the Berkshire Eagle), friends of Pearl established the Daniel Pearl Berkshire Scholarship, awarded annually beginning in 2003.

See also


  1. ^ On the Trail of Daniel Pearl
  2. ^ Who killed Daniel Pearl?
  3. ^ BBC NEWS | UK | Profile: Omar Saeed Sheikh
  4. ^ Online NewsHour Update: Pakistan Convicts Four Men in Pearl Murder - July 15, 2002
  5. ^ Mount, Mike. [1] "Al-Qaida No. 3 says he planned 9/11, other plots", MSNBC, March 15, 2007
  6. ^ Katherine Shrader (2007-03-15). "9/11 Mastermind Admits Killing Reporter". Houston Chronicle. Retrieved 2007-03-20. 
  7. ^ At home in the world: collected writings from the Wall Street Journal, Daniel Pearl, Editor Helene Cooper, Simon and Schuster, 2002, ISBN 0-7432-4317-X, accessed January 31, 2010
  8. ^ UCLA Cognitive Systems Laboratory (Experimental) Index: Judea Pearl - Home Access date: February 12, 2010.
  9. ^ Dershowitz, Alan (Editor). *What Israel Means to Me*, John Wiley & Sons (2006) pp. 279-86
  10. ^ Pearl, Daniel. Stradivarius Violin, Lost Years Ago, Resurfaces but New Owner Plays Coy. The Wall Street Journal Archive: October 17, 1994.
  11. ^ In the line of fire: a memoir, Pervez Musharraf, Simon and Schuster, 2006, ISBN 0-7432-8344-9, accessed January 20, 2010
  12. ^ Pellegrini, Frank (2002-02-21). "Daniel Pearl: 1963-2002". Time Magazine.,8599,212284,00.html. 
  13. ^ McCarthy, Rory, "Body parts believed to be of murdered US reporter; Clues found in nearby hut are linked to Daniel Pearl," The Guardian, May 18, 2002, accessed January 30, 2010
  14. ^ Blood evidence: how DNA is revolutionizing the way we solve crimes, enry C. Lee, Frank Tirnady, Basic Books, 2003, ISBN 0-7382-0602-4, January 30, 2010
  15. ^ a b Pearl, Ruth & Judea, eds. I Am Jewish: Personal Reflections Inspired by the Last Words of Daniel Pearl. Jewish Lights Pub., January 2004. ISBN 1-58023-183-7.
  16. ^ McCarthy, Rory. Pakistan holds three as net closes on US reporter's kidnappers. Guardian February 6, 2002.
  17. ^ Haaretz article February 2002
  18. ^ "Verbatim Transcript of Combatant Status Review Tribunal Hearing for ISN 10024 (ie. Khalid Sheikh Mohammed)". US Department of Defense. 2007-03-10. Retrieved 2007-03-10. 
  19. ^ a b Unkovic, Alexis. Militant convicted of Pearl killing to rely on KSM Guantanamo confession on appeal. The Jurist. March 3, 2007. Access date: March 20, 2007
  20. ^ "Daniel Pearl.". The Herald (Glasgow) (Scottish Media Newspapers Limited): p. 14. 2002-02-25. 
  21. ^ "Pearl murder convict to appeal after confession.". Reuters. 2007-03-19. Retrieved 2007-03-19. 
  22. ^ "President dubs alleged Pearl killer MI6 spy.". Gulf Times. 2006-09-26. Retrieved 2007-03-20. 
  23. ^ Pearl, Daniel. At Home in the World: Collected Writings from the Wall Street Journal. New York: Free Press, June 2002. ISBN 0-7432-4317-X.
  24. ^ "Daniel Pearl Foundation". Daniel Pearl Foundation. Retrieved 2007-03-20. 
  25. ^ Pearl, Mariane, and Sarah Crichton. A Mighty Heart. New York: Scribner, 2003. ISBN 0-7432-4442-7. Access date: 2007-03-20.
  26. ^ with appearances by Alyy Khan and Zafar Karachiwala. Moerk, Christian. (2005-07-31). "The Race To Put Pearl On Screen". New York Times. Retrieved 2007-03-20. 
  27. ^ Lévy, Bernard-Henri (2003). Who Killed Daniel Pearl?. Melville House Publishing. ISBN 0971865949. 
  28. ^ Escobar, Pepe.. "Who Killed Daniel Pearl?". Retrieved 2007-03-20. 
  29. ^ Dalrymple, William (2003-12-04). "Murder in Karachi". New York Review of Books. Retrieved 2007-03-20. 
  30. ^ Levy, Bernard-Henri and William Dalrymple (2004-02-12). "Murder in Karachi: An Exchange". New York Review of Books. Retrieved 2007-03-20. 
  31. ^ Levy, Bernard-Levy (2003-10-23). "Who Killed Daniel Pearl?". BBC. Retrieved 2007-03-20. 
  32. ^ "Zwick to Make Film About Daniel Pearl". Rotten Tomatoes. 2005-02-22. Retrieved 2007-03-20. 
  33. ^ WSJ and Sciences Po Journalism School Award 1st Daniel Pearl Prize to Louis-Étienne Vigneault-Dubois - June 14, 2005
  34. ^ Associated Press (2007-04-16). "Slain Journalist Daniel Pearl Honored With Holocaust Victims.". Editor & Publisher. Retrieved 2007. 
  35. ^ Burston, Bradley. Holocaust denial begins at home. Haaretz April 17, 2007.
  36. ^ Elizabeth Kivowitz Boatright-Simon,"CNN's Anderson Cooper to deliver Daniel Pearl Memorial Lecture at UCLA", UCLA newsroom, May 5, 2009
  • Burger, Timothy J (2002-02-22). "Kidnappers Cut Pearl's Throat Videotape Shows Newsman's Brutal Slaying". Daily News (New York) (Daily News, L.P.): p. 3.  - 'Fahad Naseem, one of the three militants accused of kidnapping Pearl, told a judge in Karachi yesterday that Pearl was kidnapped because he was "a Jew and is working against Islam."'
  • Masood, Salman; Talat Hussain (2004-05-29). "Suspect in Reporter's Death Is Wanted in Attacks on Musharraf". The New York Times (The New York Times Company): p. Section A; Column 3; Foreign Desk; Pg. 2.  - 'The intelligence official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said that information from American intelligence agencies helped Pakistani investigators track down the ring involved in the plot. Information from Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, Al Qaeda's former head of operations who was captured in March 2002, aided the investigation, he said. American officials say they believe that Mr. Mohammed was the person who actually killed Mr. Pearl.'
  • Popham, Peter (2002-02-23). "Video Reveals the Hideous Sacrifice of Captive Reporter; Pearl murder gruesome tape shows American speaking into camera as unknown killer slits his throat, then beheads him.". The Independent (Newspaper Publishing PLC): p. 2. 

Further reading

External links

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