NBC barely covered the Thursday arrests of two Islamists in a planned terrorist attack on a military facility in Seattle. The network didn't cover the breaking news at all on Thursday's Nightly News, and devoted only 17 seconds to it on Friday's Today Show. Thursday's CBS Evening News had a minute-long report on the arrests, while ABC had full reports on the arrests on World News and GMA.
CBS anchor Scott Pelley introduced correspondent Bob Orr's brief report on the terror plot: "It has been a busy 48 hours for the FBI. We learned today that agents have arrested two men in what the feds say was a terrorist plot to attack a military recruiting station in Seattle." Orr only made one indirect and vague reference to the suspects' religion: "The two men...somehow had become radicalized on their own." Actually, in an online report on Thursday, ABC referenced unnamed officials who stated that they are "believed to have met in prison and to have converted to Islam in prison."
The journalist later added at the end of his report that the arrests came "just a few weeks after al Qaeda jihadists called for more home-grown attacks here in the U.S. to avenge the killing of Osama bin Laden."
The following morning, on Friday's Early Show, CBS news anchor Betty Nguyen gave a 26 second brief on the plot 14 minutes into the 7 am Eastern hour:
BETTY NGUYEN: Two suspects are in custody for allegedly plotting to attack a military center in Seattle, apparently inspired by the massacre at Fort Hood [Texas]. Abu Khalid Abdul-Latif and Walli Mujahidh are U.S. citizens and ex-convicts. Prosecutors say they planned an attack on federal buildings with machine guns and grenades, and they were arrested Wednesday night in a sting operation, after a third person they recruited for the plot went to police.
On Friday's Today show, NBC's Savannah Guthrie gave the sole news brief on the terror arrests 12 minutes before Nguyen's. It was only 17 seconds long, and made no reference to the suspects' religion:
SAVANNAH GUTHRIE: Two men arrested in an alleged attempt to attack a military recruiting station in Seattle were reportedly inspired by the 2009 Ford Hood massacre. Officials say the FBI nabbed the pair in a sting operation, and they say they were looking to attract as much attention as possible to their attack.
ABC, on the other hand, stands out for its two reports from correspondent Brian Ross. During his one minute and 11 second report on World News, Ross noted how the "the alleged ringleader, 33-year-old Abu Khalid Abdul-Latif...posted a number of videos of himself on YouTube, praising the radical American cleric Anwar al Awlaki...[Abdul-Latif] reportedly converted to Islam while in prison in Washington State."
The next day, on Good Morning America, the correspondent actually played three clips from Abdul-Latif's YouTube videos during a two-and-a-half minute segment. News anchor Josh Elliot also gave a news brief on the conspirators' arrest just after the top of 8 am Eastern hour.
JOSH ELLIOTT: Meanwhile, authorities in Seattle have arrested two men accused of plotting to attack a military recruiting center using machine guns and hand grenades. The men had recently converted to Islam, and allegedly modeled their plot on the 2009 massacre at Fort Hood, Texas.
The full transcripts of correspondent Bob Orr's report from Thursday's CBS Evening News, and Brian Ross's reports from Thursday's ABC World News and Friday's Good Morning America:
06:35 pm EDT
SCOTT PELLEY: It has been a busy 48 hours for the FBI. We learned today that agents have arrested two men in what the feds say was a terrorist plot to attack a military recruiting station in Seattle.
We'll bring justice correspondent Bob Orr back in with details on this. Bob, what have you learned?
BOB ORR: Well, this apparently did start out as a real plot, as you say, Scott. Prosecutors say two men, who somehow had become radicalized on their own, first wanted to attack Joint Base Lewis-McChord in Washington [State], and then later changed their minds and targeted a military processing center in Seattle.
Well, in any case, the FBI got wind of this just three weeks ago when a third man, who they tried to bring into the plot, turned and became a FBI informant. So, the FBI then made sure that the conspirators only got dummy guns. In that sense, the plot was disrupted, but I have to say, this is still troubling. It comes just a few weeks after al Qaeda jihadists called for more home-grown attacks here in the U.S. to avenge the killing of Osama bin Laden.
PELLEY: Thanks again, Bob.
06:38 pm EDT
DIANE SAWYER: We have news today- it broke late today- two men under arrest in a terror plot on U.S. soil. The target: American military men and women at a sprawling facility in Seattle.
And ABC's chief investigative correspondent Brian Ross here with the details that are still coming in. Brian, what do we know about the planned attack?
BRIAN ROSS: Well, just in from the FBI, Diane: they say the target was, in fact, the military entrance processing station in Seattle, and the target date for the attack was July 5. The men reportedly sought to determine how they could kill the most military personnel and escape, or die as martyrs, and they discussed using fragmentation grenades in the facility's crowded cafeteria as a way to maximize casualties.
SAWYER: And what do we know about the men themselves? Any ties to terrorists abroad?
ROSS: Maybe- the FBI says both men are recent converts to Islam, including the alleged ringleader, 33-year-old Abu Khalid Abdul-Latif, formerly known as Joseph Davis. He has posted a number of videos of himself on YouTube, praising the radical American cleric Anwar al Awlaki. Davis has a long criminal record, and reportedly converted to Islam while in prison in Washington State, Diane.
SAWYER: Okay. Brian, thanks. That is breaking news tonight.
07:11 am EDT
ROBIN ROBERTS: Now to a terror plot stopped in its tracks. Authorities say two men now under arrest were planning to attack a Seattle military base, a plan eerily similar to the deadly Fort Hood shootings. ABC's Brian Ross has all the details, joins us now from Washington.
BRIAN ROSS: Good morning, Robin. Well, this is at least the eighth time in the last two years that there have been attacks planned or carried out on U.S. military facilities in this country. The target this time was the military entrance processing station in Seattle. Target date, July 5th. According to the FBI, the accused attackers sought to determine how they could kill the most military personnel and escape or die as martyrs. The men discussed using fragmentation grenades in the facility's cafeteria as a way of maximizing casualties.
BOB BLITZER, RETIRED FBI AGENT: These folks view our military as the enemy, as the arm of the U.S. government that is attacking their people abroad and killing them and so it's logical that they would be a huge target.
ROSS: Authorities identified the two men arrested as both converts to Islam including the accused ringleader, 33-year-old Abu Khalid Abdul Latif, formerly known as Joseph Davis who has posted a number of videos on Youtube with rants against the military for their actions in Islamic countries.
ABU KHALID ABDUL-LATIF: The Americans now, they're in Islamic lands, murdering and killing Muslims. And we sit here and we do nothing.
ROSS: Davis has a long criminal record and reportedly converted to Islam while in prison in Washington State.
ABDUL-LATIF: Stop allowing these capitalists to try to destroy Islam in this way.
ROSS: The FBI says the men were modeling their planned attack on what happened in Fort. Hood, Texas, where 13 people were killed.
ABDUL-LATIF: We must establish jihad. I don't care what anybody says about that, you can turn me in to the FBI or whatever. Wwe need to establish jihad with the tongue with the heart or with the hand.
ROSS: The two suspects were arrested after they took several weapons from an FBI undercover, machine guns that had been disabled. The FBI sent a warning to local law enforcement there may well be other plots like this in the works. Americans inspired by al Qaeda to carry out attacks on U.S. military installations and military leaders in this country.