New Castle News

Local News

May 10, 2013

‘What Killed Arafat?’: Neshannock grad nominated for prestigious award for investigation of late Palestinian leader

NEW CASTLE — Clayton Swisher once helped keep Yasser Arafat alive.

Little could Swisher have known that, ultimately, he would find himself investigating the Palestinian leader’s death.

The 36-year-old Neshannock High graduate, the manager of investigative journalism for Al Jazeera Media Network, led a group that released a film, “What Killed Afafat?” (Al Jazeera Investigates), which is nominated for an award for best Current Affairs documentary at Sunday’s British Academy of Film and Television Arts at Royal Festival Hall in London. The BAFTAs are the equivalent of the Emmy Awards in the United States.

THE BEGINNING

Swisher, a son of Mary Swisher of Michigan and James Swisher Jr. of Pittsburgh, holds a bachelor’s degree from the University of Pittsburgh and a master’s degree from Georgetown University.

He says his success did not come without the overcoming of some obstacles.

“In high school, I was best known for troublemaking, but football and work at New Castle Auto Wrecking left me too exhausted to find myself in too deep,” he said. “In fact, it was the mentorship of good Neshannock folks that helped me escape my adolescence, especially Emmanuel “Junior” Morrone and “Hank” Forney.

 “Later, while in college, Neshannock constable Robert Capezio and (then) Lawrence County District Attorney Matthew Mangino also gave me opportunities to pursue law enforcement rather than law-breaking,” Swisher added in jest.

While at Pitt, Swisher served in the Marine Corps Reserves with a Military Police Company in North Versailles, and following his graduation, spent three years as a special agent with the U.S. State Department's Diplomatic Security Service.  

It was there that he came to meet Arafat, while serving as a bodyguard to him on four occasions in 2000 during attempts by the United States to negotiate a settlement to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The first time was during Arafat’s June visit to the United States; the second was later that month during then-Secretary of State Madeleine Albright’s visit with Arafat to Ramallah, in the Occupied West Bank, to plan the July Camp David Summit; next was during the Camp David Summit, attended by then-President Clinton, Albright, Arafat and Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak; and, later that year, the final chance arose during an emergency meeting at the residence of the U.S. Ambassador to France with Albright and then-CIA director George Tenet.

“My interactions with Arafat then were purely professional,” Swisher said. “There was a peace process ongoing then between Israelis and Palestinians, so negotiating with Arafat was central to that process. Keeping him alive and protected from any harm was our narrow mission.”

Text Only | Photo Reprints
Local News
  • 01.jpg Photo Gallery: Church’s tradition of Easter countdown continues

    Easter is keenly anticipated by Christians around the globe. But perhaps nowhere is its arrival more heralded than at Independent Methodist Church.

    April 18, 2014 11 Photos

  • Mahoning Township sets spring cleanup

    Mahoning Township will have its spring cleanup the weeks of April 28 and May 5. Residents should place items at the curb the day before their scheduled collection. They should be neatly bagged or bundled.

    April 18, 2014

  • Vo-Skills.jpg VoTech team claims silver medal state honors

    The Lawrence County Career and Technical Center boasts a team of disciplined, well-spoken winners. The school’s SkillsUSA team, comprised of 21 students, stood against other schools from throughout Pennsylvania last week in Hershey.

    April 17, 2014 1 Photo

  • Columbia Gas announces pipeline replacement work

    Columbia Gas has scheduled a pipeline replacement project for New Castle. Beginning this month, the company will replace approximately 2,800 feet of existing steel pipe along Eastbrook and Paper Mill roads and Cascade Street. The project is expected to be completed in July.

    April 17, 2014

  • ESB Financial reports earnings increase

    ESB Financial Corp., parent company of ESB Bank, has announced an increase in earnings for the quarter ended March 31.

    April 17, 2014

  • Author.tiff Arthur the author: Children’s writer/illustrator visits Neshannock Elementary

    A story about a grandmother and her granddaughter flying over a city grew from the vivid imagination of children’s author Arthur Dorros. “Abuela” also spurred the creativity of students at Neshannock Memorial Elementary School who had eagerly awaited a visit from Dorros yesterday.

    April 16, 2014 1 Photo

  • Greer House changes name

    Greer House, a provider of assisted living services and care to seniors, has unveiled its new name. “We are thrilled about our new name — Clen-Moore Place,” said executive director Susan Leise, “because it better reflects our commitment to provide a vibrant environment where our residents thrive each and every day.

    April 16, 2014

  • Huston.jpg Greg Huston: Pirates pitching is porous and LeBron’s a phony

    The Buccos got swept this past weekend in their own personal house of horrors, otherwise known as Miller Park in Milwaukee. The Pirates will hover around .500 this year mainly because they do have some stars in Marte, McCutchen and Alvarez, and they play the right way with grit.

    April 15, 2014 1 Photo

  • 01.jpg Photo Gallery, Story: Students team up on paper pantry

    Food is not the only thing that sometimes is in short supply for those in need. With that in mind, students from seven Lawrence County high schools joined Westminster College sororities and fraternities Saturday in preparing a paper pantry for local residents.

    April 14, 2014 8 Photos

  • school.jpg Neshannock approves resignation, agreement, related legal fees

    The Neshannock school board accepted the resignation of business manager and board secretary Melissa Morosky Thursday. Morosky’s resignation is effective Wednesday.

    April 12, 2014 1 Photo