NBC Drops Covering Iraqi Refugee Arrests; Led With It On 'Today'

Friday's NBC Nightly News failed to cover the arrests of two Iraqi refugees in Texas and California on terror charges. This omission came hours after the network's morning show, Today, led their broadcast with the story. The same evening, ABC and CBS's evening newscasts both covered the arrests of Aws Mohammed Younis al-Jayab and Omar Faraj Saeed al Hardan, who are accused of having connections to the radical Islamic group, ISIS. [video clips from ABC and CBS below]

On CBS Evening News, fill-in anchor Charlie Rose led into correspondent Jeff Pegues's two minute and three-second report by touting how "new fuel has been added to the debate over allowing refugees fleeing Middle East wars to settle here in the U.S. Two have been arrested on charges related to terror — one in Texas, one in California." Pegues first summarized the allegations against the two suspects, and then picked up where Rose left off: "The two arrests have reignited the political debate over admitting refugees from the region into the U.S." He added that "the White House today called the current screening process 'rigorous.'"

During his one minute, 45-second report on World News Tonight, ABC's Pierre Thomas mainly focused on the "claims" against al-Jayab. He didn't mention al Hardan's name during the segment, but not that "he [al-Jayab] and this Houston suspect were both arrested overnight on terrorism charges — part of what sources say is mounting evidence that the threat from ISIS to the U.S. homeland is growing." Thomas also followed in Pegues's footsteps by noting that "Both men are Iraqi refugees, which today sparked another debate about whether the Obama administration should let thousands of Syrian refugees into the U.S. The two Iraqi refugees are among seven people charged in the U.S. in just the past three weeks — accused of having ties to ISIS."

Earlier in the day, on NBC's Today, anchor Matt Lauer spotlighted the "two terrorism-related arrests — one of them right here in California. This is sure to intensify that debate going on about refugees from the Middle East." Correspondent Pete Williams spent a minute and 42 seconds outlining the charges against the two Muslim refugees. He reported that "al Hardan, who lives in Houston [is] accused of providing support to ISIS by seeking to get to Syria. Authorities say he was in touch with the Sacramento man [al-Jayab], asking how he could join with jihadists overseas. He's also charged with falsely denying any connection to terror organizations when he applied for U.S. citizenship in 2014."

The transcripts of Pete Williams's report from the January 8, 2016 edition of NBC's Today; along with Jeff Pegues's report from CBS Evening News and Pierre Thomas's report from ABC's World News Tonight from later in the day:

01/08/2016
07:02 am EST
NBC — Today

MATT LAUER: Let's start with this top story: two terrorism-related arrests — one of them right here in California. This is sure to intensify that debate going on about refugees from the Middle East.

NBC's justice correspondent Pete Williams is looking into that. Pete, what can you tell us?

[NBC News Graphic: "Breaking Overnight: Terror Arrests In Texas & California: Federal Agents Detain Two Middle Eastern Refugees"]

PETE WILLIAMS: Matt, good morning. Both of these men will appear in court later today to be formally charged. Officials say this is a case about fighting overseas — not about plotting attacks here at home. The Justice Department says a 23-year-old man from Iraq — Aws Mohammed Younis al-Jayab was arrested where he was living in Sacramento. He's accused of lying to immigration authorities.

The FBI says when he was questioned in 2014 about whether he was ever connected to a terror group, he told them he went to Turkey the year before to visit his sick grandmother. In fact, the government says he went to Syria to fight with various terrorist organizations — at first, apparently, against the Assad regime.

A second Iraqi-born man was also arrested: 24-year-old Omar Faraj Saeed al Hardan, who lives in Houston — accused of providing support to ISIS by seeking to get to Syria. Authorities say he was in touch with the Sacramento man, asking how he could join with jihadists overseas. He's also charged with falsely denying any connection to terror organizations when he applied for U.S. citizenship in 2014.

Now, as you know, both men came to the U.S. as refugees. Officials say al-Jayab, the man in Sacramento, had already been to Syria once when he came here; but there's no suggestion that al Hardan, the Texas man, was radicalized when he came here six years ago as a 17-year-old refugee. Matt?

LAUER: All right. Pete Williams on this breaking story overnight — Pete, thank you very much.


01/08/2016
06:37 pm EST
CBS Evening News

CHARLIE ROSE: New fuel has been added to the debate over allowing refugees fleeing Middle East wars to settle here in the U.S. Two have been arrested on charges related to terror — one in Texas, one in California.

Here's Jeff Pegues.

[CBS News Graphic: "Terror Arrests"]

JEFF PEGUES (voice-over): Omar al Hardan appeared in a Texas courtroom today to face charges that he attempted to provide material support to ISIS. The 24-year-old, an Iraqi refugee who lives in Houston, has been in the U.S. since 2009.

In Sacramento, agents arrested another Iraqi refugee, Aws al-Jayab; and in court papers, say he had traveled to Syria to fight with rebels opposing President Assad. The 23-year-old came to the U.S. in 2012; but investigators alleged soon after, he was communicating via social media with terrorist organizations in Syria. In March and April of 2013, he messaged, 'I am coming to Syria. I am eager to see blood.' In November of 2013, he flew from Chicago to Turkey; and then, traveled to Aleppo in Syria, where investigators say he took up arms with terrorist organizations, and concealed that conduct from immigration authorities when he returned to the U.S. the next year. Investigators call al-Jayab a 'foreign fighter.' According to U.S. intelligence officials, more than 36,500 foreign fighters have traveled to Syria. Two hundred and fifty have come from the U.S.

The two arrests have reignited the political debate over admitting refugees from the region into the U.S. House Homeland Security Chairman Michael McCaul.

REP. MICHAEL MCCAUL, HOMELAND SECURITY COMMITTEE CHAIRMAN (from press conference): They're ticking time bombs. And how many ticking time bombs are we going to bring in, in this refugee program, without a proper vetting system in place?

PEGUES (on-camera): The White House today called the current screening process 'rigorous.' Lawyers for the two suspects could not be reached for comment. Charlie, according to court papers, the two communicated through social media, and discussed going to Syria to fight.

ROSE: Thanks, Jeff.


01/08/2016
06:36 pm EST
ABC — World News Tonight

DAVID MUIR: We turn now to two terror takedowns right here at home — two arrests tonight — both young men, and both refugees living here in the U.S. — one in Texas, one in California — including this 23-year-old, accused of traveling to Syria; and then, bragging that he killed there; then, coming back to live in Sacramento.

There was also an arrest in Houston, and ABC's senior justice correspondent Pierre Thomas tonight on both cases.

[ABC News Graphic: "ISIS Arrests; Homegrown Terror: Two Men With Alleged ISIS Ties Arrested In U.S."]

PIERRE THOMAS (voice-over): On his Facebook page, this 23-year-old from Sacramento looks more like a fashion model than a suspected radical. He's seen rapping in a car. (clip from Facebook video) Friends comment on his hair. The FBI claims that [Aws] al-Jayab communicated online with suspected ISIS radicals; joined an al Qaeda affiliate in Syria; and wrote about shooting and killing enemy soldiers. He and this Houston suspect were both arrested overnight on terrorism charges — part of what sources say is mounting evidence that the threat from ISIS to the U.S. homeland is growing.

JOHN COHEN, FORMER DIR., NATL. COUTNERTERRORISM CENTER: ISIS has accomplished something that al Qaeda never was able to accomplish. They have inspired foot soldiers all over the West.

THOMAS: Both men are Iraqi refugees, which today sparked another debate about whether the Obama administration should let thousands of Syrian refugees into the U.S. The two Iraqi refugees are among seven people charged in the U.S. in just the past three weeks — accused of having ties to ISIS.

MUIR (live): And Pierre Thomas with us now live from Washington. And Pierre, you were telling us earlier there are hundreds of other open terror investigations in this country right now.

THOMAS: Yes, David. These suspects were among the 900 terror investigations that the FBI director recently spoke about. So, it's all hands on deck, and there's growing concern about the reach of ISIS here at home. David?

MUIR: Pierre Thomas with us tonight — thank you, Pierre.

Matthew Balan
Matthew Balan
Matthew Balan is a news analyst at Media Research Center