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Saturday, November 29, 2014 - 02:22 PM

(Photo Credit: Simon Maina/Getty)

In the wake of public tragedy there is a space between the official narrative and the stories of the people who experienced it. Today, we crawl inside that space and question the role of journalists in helping us move on from a traumatic event. 

NPR's East Africa correspondent Gregory Warner takes us back to the 2013 terrorist attacks on the Westgate Mall in Nairobi, Kenya. Warner reported on the attack as it happened, listening to eyewitness accounts, sorting out the facts, establishing the truth. But he's been been wrestling with it ever since as his friends and neighbors try not only to put their lives back together, but also try to piece together what really happened that day.

Special thanks to Jason Straziuso, Heidi Vogt, Robert Alai, Didi Schanche and Edith Chapin.


Dan Reed and Gregory Warner


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Comments [55]


As always, this was a great segment. I'm so grateful for the work that you do.

I was particularly confused by the acceptance of the "profile" of the terrorist group that was shared by the film editor. The assertion that because at one occasion a terror group demanded that the killers should die after the attack, that this must have been the command for these terrorists as well, seemed a bit presumptuous. Unless there was further evidence (that we didn't hear) to support that conclusion, a decisive position should have never been taken. That assessment is very reminiscent of old school orientalism; an over simplification and clustering of the behaviors of people from far of lands.

Aug. 26 2016 11:19 PM
Joe Millard from Washington

Something that is really bugging me is the shooter running away with the fleeing shoppers. It amazes me that no one stopped him realizing the damage he had done. This video insisted on locking up my laptop every 5 minutes. Videos of this nature bother me because my own daughter was a student attending M.P.H.S. in Washington state last year. Jaylen Fryberg walked into her school and shot four people point blank in the head. He proceeded to end his own life. After the shooting 5 teenage girls stayed at my house with parental consent to help them thru this. The girls are fine now and I'm the one in pain. These inhuman acts are not fathomable too me. What type of monster does it take.
Why and how it happened are superficial in comparison with the loss of life and the loved ones left behind to suffer in remembrance. This is a tragedy.

Jan. 23 2016 07:19 PM
Austin from Cleveland, Ohio

First, I would like to say that I stumbled upon your podcast from my sister in law who lives in Brooklyn, and I absolutely love what you are doing. Keep up the great work. After hearing this podcast, I was struck with one solitary question, although I did not search the remaining comments to see if others found that the same question remained. My question is whether anyone involved ever went back and examined whether there were any cameras that were not working or were not included in the information footage that was subsequently released into the hands of the few. From a legal prospective, eye witness accounts could have been mistaken and inconsistencies could be explained away. If, however, there were either portions of the footage that were doctored or unreleased, this would lend credence to the adverse accounts. If not, it would be clearer that these people were mistaken. I am sure that you have likely encountered this perspective and decided it minute enough not have made the cut into the podcast. That being said, I merely wanted provide a thought that troubled me at the close of the segment. Thank you for your wonderful program and have a nice day.

Nov. 10 2015 11:59 AM
Nigel Coldwell from UK

So the guy faruk meet in the bar was a cop who abandoned his post and ran off. He was disgraced and an embarrassment to the police hence the threats and cover up.

Sep. 23 2015 04:12 PM
Toni R Sinclair from FL

Wow! I remember hearing about this in the news, and this podcast is very eye-opening. Although the information in this story was based off of accounts of witnesses' memory, it is overall eye-opening to see how greatly news is altered on a daily basis. This event was a complete tragedy, and I can't imagine what these people went through.

Apr. 13 2015 09:05 PM
Aurora G from Belgium

The reason why Radiolab should do a second part to this story can be seen in these comments. People assume "the truth is out there", "you can't be sure until you see it yourself". Not once did the episode mention how bad our brains are at recalling facts, how easily memories can be changed or induced. Yes, there was too much left unsaid, especially on the part of science. With this episode you have played into conspiracy theories, fueling them because you failed to add the disclaimer that humans (and probably other mammals) are terrible at remembering events. Please fix this, Radiolab, especially if one of your goals is to enhance public understanding of science and technology.
See for example:

Mar. 14 2015 10:53 AM
rich montgomery from Washington DC

I agree with most posts. A lot left unexplored. Was the point of this program to say "something strange happened, but who knows what?". I think you should revisit this subject and spend more time exploring the mysterious avenues--yes, they often lead to nowhere, but here, many were never looked into. Find more witnesses, comb through other firsthand testimony, look to the original source of the 12-15 shooter scenario--was it one person and then spread, or did many come out saying it at once? Also, would people identify those walking around with guns as "shooters" if they were not seen killing or firing at random. Mistaking police for shooters? If many police were changing clothes at the mall, that could be somewhat corroborated by all the cameras? So many things unexplored. I am also struck by the filmmaker so quick to say--we have looked at it, there were 4 that's that. I make films and don't know a single documentary filmmaker--if it was all hysteria and erroneous witness testimony, then why? Why were so many details seemingly similar. You guys left a ton of things on the table.

Feb. 03 2015 11:42 AM
Anna Morrison from Florida, USA

This podcast was extremely intriguing. As the age of technology evolves, we as a culture have lost the ability to question what is told to us, due to the ignorant misconception that internet news sources contain only true information, and almost no one questions this government given information or calls it out as fallacious. This is extremely dangerous because a society that operates in the way that we are evolving to become, believing everything that the government tells us, is a society that can easily be manipulated and taken over by a power hungry dictator who is experienced with propaganda.

Feb. 02 2015 11:13 PM
Jane J. Asimov from oviedo FL

This piece was mind boggling. As a society we are so quick to believe anything a reporter says because we think they are a credible source but in reality we need to be more inquisitive and skeptical of what we hear and decipher if its fact or opinion. Its difficult to decide to believe eye witnesses or the government and other officials. I mean psychology says that during stressful times our memories can sometimes be skewed. But at the same time the government can easily lie. Ultimately I don't think there is a right answer on who to believe when it comes to news stories but I think you should trust your gut, do your research and don't jump to conclusions.

Feb. 02 2015 11:00 PM
Milo C Rousseau

I can only imagine that in a stressful situation like this, people just try to make the most out of what they've seen. I'm sure there were plenty of survivors that mistook guards for terrorists. It really makes it hard to piece together a story like this. When I watch the news and see testimonies and eyewitnesses, I can never really be sure that what they say is the truth. I can't see what they see. Objective evidence seems like the most important thing in reporting, but even I don't know how to reconcile differences like these.

Feb. 02 2015 03:55 PM
Lorelei M. Coleridge

That's really weird. While eyewitness testimony is often unreliable, especially in traumatic events like this one, it's strange that the official story would be so different from so many survivors' memories. However, that the threats were corroborated to some degree would tend to indicate corruption in the Kenyan agency. While the film guy's information would explain many of the reports, it's surprising that no one would investigate further, considering the global emphasis placed on anti-terrorism efforts, especially with the FBI involved. Of course, the public official story might omit things for purposes of security, but that is always the dilemma of government vs. media.

Jan. 26 2015 10:31 PM
Loreli E. Bond from United States

I thought this podcast was chilling and unanswered. It is made to cause the listener to contemplate their own ideas about who is lying and telling the truth. The fact is that we can't ever trust other sources until we see it for ourselves. I understand that in the wake of a traumatic event some witnesses would have thought they saw things that they later were sure they saw, but some really kept their heads clear and tell back a very accurate story. It may be one of those things that we never know, or maybe we aren't supposed to know. The government keeps certain things from us, either for our protection or for theirs. Sometimes it is for the better, but I can see that learning what really happened would give witnesses and survivors some peace and security about the situation.

Jan. 26 2015 10:06 PM
Huxley T Wilder from FL

I don't know about this whole thing. How can so many eye witnesses be wrong? How can you tell so may people that what they saw is wrong? I think the government might be covering something up, or at least that's what this npr is leading me to believe. I'ts not an impossible statement, governments have been known to cover things up. But it begs the question of why are they covering this up? However, there is so many conflicting stories and conspiracy theories that it's hard to make a complete opinion about the whole thing. The facts need to make sense.

Jan. 26 2015 08:26 PM
Joel from Massachusetts.

I just listened to this story on my way to work today and almost broke down into tears. My friend Elif was murdered in the Westgate massacre and was pregnant at the time. I can't be 100% sure, but I believe that the wounded pregnant women mentioned in the story was my friend. Right now, I have such mixed emotions about the story. It was a great reminder of Elif and how wonderful of a person she was but at the same time, it was horribly eerie to hear a stranger describe some of her last moments on earth, especially when I wasn't expecting it. While I am not a huge fan of the non-sciency radiolabs, I especially loved this broadcast. Thank you so much for being able to connect me to a lost friend, even for just a moment.

Jan. 25 2015 03:18 AM
Assimov M. Gandalf from Orlando

A hair raising story. It's scary to think that this kind of thing could happen. And I now have a new found respect for what reporters have to go through. Having to sift through all the opposing stories must have been a nightmare.

Jan. 20 2015 07:12 PM
Harriet Truman from florida

It must be hard as a journalist to really keep it all together with stories like this. Interviewing the survivors must have really been emotional and quite touching. There was always more to a story than on the surface and that's the best part of journalism. Its always changing and new information. That's always the toughest part of journalism, the fine line between doing your job and how it can emotionally effect you in your life. You can tell he really wants to go in depth about this story and really find out whats going on.

Jan. 19 2015 10:30 PM
Catniss J. Plath

Although not completely credible, this piece was great to listen to. This is just one example of how easily things can be misconstrued when informing the public. This is so easily done that there should be more emphasis on the evidence. The truth should always be told to the public.

Jan. 19 2015 09:01 PM
Becky Gatsby from FL

It's sad how there are so many unanswered questions. I can't imagine how it would feel like to fear even stepping outside of your house because you might get killed. This piece, however, wasn't 100% credible to me but it was chilling nonetheless.

Jan. 19 2015 07:01 PM
Alice Z Lovecraft from FLORIDA :D

This was very creepy. There are so many things that really haven't been answered all the way. I can't imagine being in a situation where you are in fear of going out and being faced with a gunman. It's disturbing knowing that this happens.
On another note, something that I was not very fond of with this show was how it did not seem like this affected the journalists too much. Maybe it's just once you get used to the industry that it becomes normal, but the reporters seemed a little too calm about this.The biggest reason (from what I understand) of going to the bar to see the friend was for the story. It made me a little sad that his friend did not matter more. But maybe that is just the way it is being a journalist. It's a tough industry and I can see how that could sway him to go.
Other than that, I loved the show. It's interesting how different the eye witness accounts were from what the F.B.I stated. It makes me wonder how accurate the accounts actually are.

Jan. 16 2015 06:18 PM
Anna A. Dickinson from Oviedo, Florida

As someone pursuing broadcast journalism/communications, this piece hit home with me. It is so hard to draw the line between being objective and emotionally/morally adept. In addition, conflicting stories can be absolute nightmares! It's one of the toughest jobs there is. Telling a story as big as this one comes with many challenges, as the episode told. But it has to be done, and it is every journalist's duty to ensure that it is done as truthfully as possible.

Jan. 10 2015 10:29 PM

I enjoyed this piece. Unfortunately we shall never have the answers we all want. I think it is typical that information around such events is controlled at such high levels in the intelligence community, government, etc.

What good I can take away from this is people in my country really united around this as bad an event as it was. Unfortunately our government has not moved forward well given the draconian security bill that is wishes to pass much like the reactive manner in which the American government passed some laws post September 11th.

I just wish we could borrow from Australia's reaction to a terrorist attack.

Jan. 02 2015 04:10 AM

Not a bad story but not why I listen to Radiolab. Please keep Radiolab about science and biology etc... If you want to do more stories like this start something else. The audience for this kind of topic and the topics usually covered by Radiolab are not the same audience. Sure some people might be interested in both but those people can subscribe to some new or other show that covers these kinds of issues. This is not what I come to Radiolab for.

Dec. 31 2014 09:42 PM
Larry OBrien

Assuming that your reporter had a cell phone with a camera, and that the unfamiliar phone numbers from which Farouk received those threats were either recorded by Farouk or by his phone service, just wondering what happened when the photo of the escaped terrorist was shown to the others claiming someone escaped, and the phone calls were tracked down.

Dec. 28 2014 01:44 PM
rene from dc

Ditto several missed opportunities... maybe one reason serial is so popular is that it definately helps the listener understand multiplie versions of the truth, hw the truth can be confusing.

1. eyewitness accounts vary widely, add trauma and i imagine they get even more chaotic.

2. the government lies, both intentionally and unintentionally, all the time and we know it... WMD anyone? Homeland Security anyone? wrongful convictions anyone?

3. this is a science show and their was no discussion of the science of any of this... this is a major big deal in a criminal justice system where the truth is parsed afterwards... how about ferguson where eyewitness were disbelieved and gardner where the tape documented unimaginable cruelty by our men in blue? those are both examples of truth in retrospect, and i am sure you can come up with more,

4. you believe him that the police are liars and threaten people and you don't link that to the fact that the general public doesn't go for the official story?

5. all of your evidence is second hand; the FBI, a documentary film maker.. i don't know these people. here is what i do know: the media can also get sucked in to telling an untrue story. this filmmaker doesn't get to stand in for a free and open press. becuase he says terrorists don't escape, we are supposed to take that as the truth? what????

i think you need to revisit this story and give some info on how the truth is slippoery in the human mind, how it's not enough to have controllers of the truth tell us what is on those tapes, that a free media needs to SEE the tapes to verify.

that is my reaction. i just don't think this piece is fully explored.

Dec. 23 2014 07:26 AM

The reason for the cavalier-ness about the bombs in World War II is that nukes were not yet a button that could destroy the world. They still had to be flown over and dropped out of an airplane in the bombing run. The bombs were also not that powerful back then. The destruction of one nuke even with its ensuing radiation deaths is less than the average death toll of an average firebombing of an average Japanese city going on every night for months during that time.
The significance of the bomb at that time was just that it was one bomb rather than many, but in terms of death toll, it wasnt that special. Japan hardly noticed after the first nuke because they were losing cities every night in firebombing raids and they just thought, "oh, we lost another one," the fact that it was one bomb that leveled an entire city versus many really didn't matter to them.

Truman was casual about it because it wasn't seen as a doomsday device. It was just a more efficient tool for conducting this routine of firebombing whole cities into ashes. It was only in hindsight that nukes became so significant. It was like, "yeah lets go ahead and test out those new line of tanks on the battlefield, sometime between here and here." It wasn't seen as this big historic event that would live in infamy.

Dec. 17 2014 10:45 AM

I agree with other posters that this is very far from the content I come to RadioLab for. RadioLab used to set itself apart content-wise. What happened? Why has content become more generically This American Life style? Come back to us, RadioLab!

Dec. 16 2014 08:28 PM
Kalvin Lazarte from Salt Lake City, Utah

This was a very interesting episode and I liked it very much... but I feel like it belongs on This American Life or some other podcast. In fact, a lot of the shows lately have diverged from the Radiolab I first began listening to and fell in love with. There are no more shows teaching me how my brain makes my body work and what can possibly happen when something in my body goes haywire. There's less biology and physics and more economic and social studies in the episodes of late.

I love science fun facts. I loved being able to listen to a Radiolab and then go to a dinner party with new little tid-bits of fascinating facts to share with my friends regarding bugs, or colors, or guts.

Sure... It might not be your main objective to give me or your listeners fun facts to share with friends... but what I am trying to say is that you were SO GOOD AT IT! Jad and Robert were like the two science teachers I always wanted but never had. They took the parts of science that I grew up thinking "Why should I care about this?" and turned them all into stories that made me think "Why WOULDN'T ANYONE care about this!?"

I am still an avid fan and an addicted listener... and whatever you wanna talk about, I am on board to take the ride with you, but do you think that we could possibly throw in a couple more episodes that expound upon the "How's" and "Why's" of science.

Hugs and Kisses and Love and Rockets,


Dec. 14 2014 10:23 PM
Slim Pickings from Outside the US

I agree with many of the folk here who are in the not-so-over-credulous bracket when reviewing this story.

Just 2000 hours of film? Really.

Why might the Mumbai attackers have the same modus operandi as the Westgate attackers?

The show was rather reminiscent of the actions of the infant media after 9/11 - pandering sycophantically to the powers that be. They are the infant media because of their ability to combine child-like attitudes (short attention span, regard only for the hand that feeds it, a belief that it is the centre of its world, a dubious truth and irrational behaviour) with real-world politics, producing simple responses to complicated questions that are, in the main, wrong. I had believed that Radiolab was not in that bracket.

Dec. 14 2014 05:19 AM
Marcus Irwin from Camano Island Washington

I really hope RadioLab gets back to what they're good at. If I wanted to hear about terrorists, I'll turn on any news show any day of the week. And if I wanted to hear about said terrorists by inept reporters who just take the word of third parties (like FBI or Film producers) as proof, I'll turn on any news show any day of the week. What a complete disappointment. I want to hear about why time doesn't really exist or how we cannot think without language or how other species can see seven hundred primary colors instead of three. I come to RadioLab to expand my imagination and try to remember why existence is awe inspiring. Let's see what we learned today...there are shitty assholes who shoot up malls and shittier agencies who hide the truth about it...YEAH, WE KNOW!

Dec. 12 2014 06:43 AM
huh from the entire earth

don't keep getting all negative on me boys. stay here.

Dec. 10 2014 01:12 AM
Oz Ranter from Sydney

Dan Reed is a political movie-maker for hire, who'd say black was white to sell his next blockbuster. Oh yeah, so the FBI guys saw the footage and it was only an angry pigeon. I'm totally cool with that, I'll take their word for it. Those guys are always on the level so I don't even need or want to see it for myself. When you got taken to this room and you were all on double secret probation or whatever, didn't you ever get the feeling you were being had? It seems you wound up skeptical of the man in the street, who has no reason to lie, but not of the foreign 'Secret Police', who have no good reason to be involved and who refuse to divulge the film? This is why people don't really trust journalists any more. Sad all 'round.

Dec. 09 2014 05:52 AM

If the claim of 2000+ hours of footage is enough evidence to claim only 4 terrorists were involved, farooq and the journalist's friend should be on video as well, and the men they saw. And if those men were seen as the witnesses had seen, then they could be identified as police officers or not.

Dec. 07 2014 06:16 PM
Laura from United States

I also felt this episode was unsatisfying and not critical enough. I especially wondered why they didn't question the calls that Farouk got after he went to the police station. Other commenters have also pointed that 2,000 hours of tape seemed to imply that that was all the tape, but it may not have been. And, who's to say the person who watched the tapes didn't have some reason not to tell the full truth? It seems the point of the episode was to make us question how well any of us can know what we think we know, but I don't think this particular story was the best vehicle for it. It only made us want a deeper investigation into what actually happened -- because it seems that more of "the truth" could be knowable with more digging, whereas another story that was more comprehensively reported but still seemed unknowable would have gotten across the intended point.

Dec. 07 2014 05:36 PM

It seems to me the point WAS that eyewitness testimony is confusing and contradicts official narratives, as Thomas San Diego commented above. The report clearly states it and we hear witnesses and what they believe they saw.

It's a really engaging piece, until we get to the interviewed documentary maker, who totally ignores footage inconvenient to the story he tells. captmycapt from Canada's comments above are exactly on point.

A far better Kenyan documentary (see for yourself, ) clearly shows at least one killer exit the mall. BTW if the link fails, try to find the Kenyan documentary called something like Wolves at Westgate.

On the contrary, HBO documentary skips this footage, maybe because that's the bargain struck to use the rest of the rest of what CTV had to show.

The witnesses engage in conspiracy theories only if you think the official story is the "true" version.

Let's also not assume to know what survivors need - each will deal as they see fit.

Thank you Radiolab!

Dec. 05 2014 11:26 PM
Scott in MN from Minneapolis, MN

I'm surprised by most of the comments to this episode. I didn't feel that this was a shoddy piece of journalism nor did I get the impression that Jad and Robert were accepting what the FBI said at face value. I took this as an opportunity to experience the perspective of a journalist who was involved in these tragic events and the eye witnesses with whom he interacted. The journalist might have believed what the FBI said but I didn't get the impression that the RadioLab guys did. In fact, I thought they left it open for the audience to have their own opinions about it. It wouldn't surprise me if the FBI is covering something up.

Ultimately, I thought it was extremely interesting. I don't think anyone can truly know exactly what happened with 100% accuracy.

Dec. 05 2014 07:57 PM

I feel as though there could be more said to this story, but at the same time RadioLab typically doesn't do this type of story so I can understand the hesitation. Clearly it has inspired many of us to question further and that's always a good thing.

Dec. 04 2014 10:00 AM
Gerry from Huston

Yes guys the police and FBI are always right. Just take a look at current Eric Garner's death where policeman had not been indicted because he didn't kill Eric no matter what the angry mob saw, that's why we complete police state with total control over people because only professionals for reality can protect us from ourselves.

Dec. 04 2014 06:02 AM
Fan1234 from Boston

I've been a huge fan of the show since the beginning, but it seems to me that Radiolab has lost its way recently. It feels like Radiolab has gone from narrative science to just plain narrative. That's not a bad thing at all--This American Life often does it beautifully, for example--but these last couple of episodes have well illustrated that Radiolab is no This American Life. I wish they would go back to what made them so special, so engaging in the first few seasons.

Jad and Robert (and everyone else, too!)- I absolutely love your show's unique voice and I think it's wonderful when you experiment, but please please please toss your old-school fans a bone and go back to weaving a little more science into your stories.

Dec. 03 2014 08:45 PM

Meh, stop trying to be Serial and give me a science story. :)

Dec. 03 2014 04:13 PM
Franz in Joburg from South Africa

I was also disappointed by this report. There were so many possible questions and avenues that remained unexplored. It seemed to rely much too strongly on faith in the official sources. The moment the issue of the discrepancy between the official and eye-witness accounts emerged with the deep background briefing, I thought well one possibility is that the FBI lied. It's not completely unheard of for official and security sources to lie, after all, but the piece did not even consider that as a possibility. Then the possibility of cops changing out of uniform to avoid fighting was introduced - surely that could have been tested with some of the witnesses, and with the producer who watched all those hours of tape. Farooq could have been tested on whether the man he saw might have been one of the other armed men running around. And that bit about terrorist's mission only being complete when they are dead: it was chilling and powerful, but also too simple. There have never been examples of terrorists behaving differently? It just fits too neatly into a narrative of the good guys versus mad bad guys. A bit more scepticism would have been good.

Dec. 03 2014 06:46 AM

It seems like the official account is much more contradictory and less authoritative than you guys made it sound in this episode:

Dec. 02 2014 06:54 PM
mr from mi

I know you guys are pretty soft "journalists", but you could at least try to be a little bit critical about the stories you are given. Eyewitness testimony is notoriously unreliable and variable, but you don't mention that. Some third-party-affiliate and friend of the FBI glances at a fraction of the available footage, says a big number and name-checks the FBI, so you smile and nod. The only people with video evidence have strong incentives to present incomplete or misleading information, plus a track record of deceiving civilians and the media, but you don't so much as quirk an eyebrow at their story.

Talk to your family dentists, because you are toothless. And for such a highly-regarded program, it's really disappointing.

Dec. 02 2014 06:24 PM

What makes anyone believe the person who watched the video is telling the truth?

Dec. 02 2014 04:12 PM

I'm confused as to why they didn't just show some of the video to those who have differing recollections as to the events that occurred in the mall. Even having one person who vividly remembers something different seeing that they were incorrect (or inconclusive) would have given weight to either the argument that there were only 4 gunmen or that there were more.
For instance, the friend who hid under the table and saw the young gunman. Why not just show her footage of that area and see if she recognizes the young man?
As it currently stands the story seems to be "there was this event, one group of people remembers one thing, another claims to have seen video that contradicts the first group." The reporter doesn't claim to have seen the video, just talked to those who had seen it. How do we know that those who had watched the video aren't just as mistaken as the people who were in the mall?

Dec. 02 2014 03:45 PM

I was not at all surprised that the eyewitness accounts were so different from the filmed reality. When I was in high school in the 1980's a teacher of mine conducted an amazing experiment on the class, which could never be repeated today. He had one of the school custodians run in from the back of the classroom brandishing a cap gun yelling "Mr. Hill you flunked my sister, prepare to die." He then fired the cap gun and ran out of the room. The teacher then asked the class what just happened. Even minutes after an event that all 20 people clearly witnessed, no one could agree. Incredibly, one student suggested that the gunman's face had been painted half black and half white like a clown and fully half of the class agreed with him! We all voted on what we thought were the facts and then he had the gunman come through and repeat the performance. Our agreed perception was wildly different from the facts and this was only minutes after it happened in full view of everyone. Obviously experimenting on students with a fake gunman could not be done today. This was a Biology class and I'm not sure how this fit into the lesson plan, but I'll never forget it.

Dec. 02 2014 02:39 PM

I think Radiolab should do a report on "misinformation" and how the govt and police especially use it in reports to frame people who are innocent, etc.

I personally have dealt with this and almost lost my children due to corrupt police and their lie-filled reports. (I have audio interviews to prove the reports differed). My experience was that no one listens to the interviews...only read the police reports and believes what is in the reports. That is why mis-information is used. Simply put, it works on simple minded people (the majority of people).

Dec. 02 2014 02:04 PM
Anna from Boulder, CO

I agree so much with the other comments here... Your audience is not so stupid. In fact it seems that there is some sort of cover up going on inside Kenya but the journalist doesn't follow that trail but simply lets it go when he hears from the FBI and a guy who got exclusive FBI access to the footage. Hello??? Radiolab? Are you there?

Dec. 02 2014 02:02 PM

I'm a longtime listener and love Radiolab. But talking to Dan Reed regarding "2000 hours of footage" seems like a way to deliberately mislead the listener into thinking its such a large number that it must be conclusive. According to the documentary there was over 100 cameras so that means that 2000 hours of footage is only 1/4 of the amount of footage that should be available since the attack lasted 80 hours.

You're really gonna tell the eyewitnesses they didn't see what they thought they saw based on only 25% of the camera footage that a 3rd party viewed? That's either incompetent journalism or willful deception.

Dec. 02 2014 01:45 PM

Radiolab, your show is sooo wonderful, and I believe you are both super honest people, and good people, too. This is the FIRST show where I scratch my head and think, why are they covering this?

A reporter is given strong evidence that the 'official' account is markedly different from multiple witness accounts, people he is familiar with, and this reporter, mind you, forgets about everything, and moves on (as he says, later adding, he just wants the case solved, wants closure. He is calmed by the reliable testimony of the FBI. And later, he's calmed again, by the reliable testimony of a certain documentarian the FBI allows to watch 'the tapes'. So it's the FBI and the-documentarian-the-FBI lets-see-the-tapes (but no one else), vs. everyone the journalist (and we) know in this story.

I'm not dumb, and you guys aren't, either. I worship your show. But damn, this is shoddy journalism, and it saddens me.

At the end of the piece, creepy music is playing as if to say, 'we'll never know'. I think, if the point of the piece was to display the mystery between 'objective' fact, and what the mind sees as fact and is convinced of, others stories are far more appropriate.

Dec. 02 2014 01:04 PM
Nick from San Diego, CA

I second YouSayPotato's comments. I also think this was a missed opportunity to educate the public about the brain and it constructs our perceived reality.

The brain is not a digital recorder, it will happily fill in details that don't correspond to anything real. Our memories are not digital files, every time we recall them they can be rewritten and change, this is known as confabulation.

The brain puts high importance on providing a fluid experience. Did you know that when you're eyes move that you are temporary blind? An easy demonstration is to look in the mirror at your eye-ball, then look at the other eyeball. You can't perceive your eyes moving, you are literally blind for few milliseconds as your eyes move, but your brain provides a fluid experience, your brain just makes stuff up (confabulation) to provide you a continuous conscience experience. If you have a friend, watch your friend's eyes move, it's dramatic, you can easily see your friend's eyes move, but you can't perceive your own eyes move.

There was no mention of the Rashomon Effect, which has been documented to show people's different interpretation of the same event. There have been many documented cases of rape were suspects were sentenced to jail based on eye-witness testimony alone. There are many cases where the accused have been released from prison based on DNA evidence that showed the accused could not have possibly raped the victim. Eyewitness testimony is still valued in court, when in fact it's really evidence of the lowest quality. I'm sure the folks at the Innocence Project can provide you with lots of examples.

I'd also recommend talking to Dr. Steven Novella, a neuroscientist at Yale University, who is very familiar with all of these topics.

Dec. 02 2014 12:41 PM
captmycapt from Canada

Dan Reed's segment was what muddled the waters for me. You brought him in to support the FBI's findings, but I don't think you asked the right questions. He presents the information in the same fashion as the FBI so he doesn't really provide anything extra. All he says is that he was given 2000 hrs plus of footage and describes his method. First, anybody can be sure that he wasn't given access to ALL the security footage, so that I'll take as a white lie, not too damaging but untrue. The important data he doesn't share is:
- how much of the mall's area is covered by the footage provided?
- does each camera angle cover the 80 plus hours that the attack lasted?
My back-of-the-envelop calculation says that 2000 hrs footage would be generated by only 25 cameras if all of the recorded at least 80 hours. My local mall (not high-end and with low levels of terrorism in the area) has almost that many cameras just on the foodcourt.
His method seems strong enough for identifying the terrorists, but the 4 he identified may not be all if the footage doesn't cover most of the mall area or doesn't cover the whole time span of the attack.
Journalists can't be mind-readers and assume that "full security footage provided" means full coverage of mall area and no gaps in the time span of the attack.

btw, I love your brain storming style and have been a fan for many years. I only think that when there is physical evidence available a more rigorous approach should be used.

Dec. 01 2014 02:09 PM
Thomas from San Diego

I am a Marine veteran, a judge advocate who has also served a combat tour in Iraq, and I wanted to compliment you on the excellent piece of journalism.

In over eight years of practice, most of which spent as a federal prosecutor, I can attest to the different perspectives that eye witnesses can provide. During my time in Iraq, I was also able to see this firsthand. Rarely do prosecutors and investigators have the luxury of an objective eye witness, a surveillance camera, to help sort out the facts, and often we must do this on our own. Sometimes, when we arrive at a conclusion that does not appease those involved, our judgment and our impartiality are often challenged as a conspiracy. Your piece helped to demonstrate that it is not always the case. While I am a firm believer that we should maintain an objective but skeptical mind, I believe that even eye witness accounts can be distorted as a result of stress and confusion.

It was refreshing and the revealation at the end, especially of the chilling reference to the Mumbai attacker, help drive the point home. Kudos.

Dec. 01 2014 12:22 PM
Zebin Devin from Chicago

Being from Kenya this story was particularly close to heart. There seems to be many unanswered questions. I feel that the emotional state of the witnesses must be taken into account when regarding the factuality of their reports. I had a close friend who was carjacked by 5 armed robbers 2 months ago, and I remember him telling me that to this day he sees random people at stores or parties that he believes were the people who carjacked him. At times he is 100% sure but he does tell me that he knows this is impossible. I think this is similar to Farooq. When a person goes through something as traumatic as a terrorist attack or an armed carjacking it takes time to get over it. To make sense of things the mind will replay it over and over, trying to understand what happened. I think this leaks into more conscious awareness that may lead to people to believe things that may not be true or to identify people that are not involved in the events.

Nov. 30 2014 11:45 AM

Much as I love Radiolab, sometimes the reports are just too credulous. I'd expect more from what is an otherwise high-quality show.

This particular report relies entirely on eye-witness testimony. Combined with some of the weasel wording (so much 'appears' to be credible) this makes it poor reporting.

Without taking anything from the witnesses' trauma of their experience and loss, there is a wealth of psychological research that puts this kind of testimony into an objective framework. And the witnesses would benefit from post-traumatic therapy, rather than being encouraged by conspiracy theories.

A couple of sources: Daniel Kahneman, Daniel Simons; and any googled "psychology of eyewitness testimony".

Nov. 30 2014 07:59 AM
Quiznatodd Bidniss

This is just chilling... There are so many unanswered questions. It seems like there is enough information to merit some kind of official review of the events.

Nov. 30 2014 02:39 AM

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