Blitzer received e-mail about Bhutto's security


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NEW YORK -- It was a story CNN's Wolf Blitzer hoped he'd never have to report -- an e-mail sent to him through an intermediary by Pakistani opposition leader Benazir Bhutto complaining about her security. Conditions of use: only if she were killed.

Bhutto, who was assassinated Thursday, wrote to Blitzer that if anything happened to her, "I would hold (Pakistani President Pervez) Musharraf responsible."

Blitzer received the e-mail Oct. 26 from Mark Siegel, a friend and longtime Washington spokesman for Bhutto. That was eight days after she narrowly escaped another attempt at her life.

Bhutto wrote to Blitzer that "I have been made to feel insecure by his (Musharraf's) minions," that specific improvements had not been made to her security arrangements, and that the Pakistani leader was responsible.

Blitzer agreed to the conditions before receiving the e-mail. He said Friday that he called Siegel shortly after seeing it to see if there was any way he could use it on CNN, but was told firmly it could only be used if she were killed. Siegel couldn't say why she had insisted on those conditions.

Blitzer reported on the e-mail late Thursday.

He noted that Bhutto had written a piece for that mentioned her security concerns and that American politicians had tried to intervene on her behalf to make her feel safer.

"I didn't really think that it was a story we were missing out on," he said. "I don't think the viewers were done any disservice by my trying to hold on to this."

Blitzer was the only journalist sent such a message, Siegel said. He also sent the e-mail to U.S. Rep. Steve Israel, a New York Democrat.

Siegel said he did not believe Bhutto's opinions had changed since she wrote the e-mail. Her message specifically mentioned she had requested four police vehicles surrounding her vehicle when traveling; Siegel said it seemed evident from pictures taken at the assassination scene that the request wasn't fulfilled.

Bhutto did not necessarily believe that Musharraf wanted her dead, but felt many people around him did, he said.

Her husband contacted Siegel on Thursday to remind him about the e-mail message and to make sure it got out, he said.

Blitzer said he had no regrets about the way he handled the story. To report about it while she was still alive would have meant going back on his word, he said.

"I don't think there is a clear black-and-white in this situation," he said. "I did what I think was right."