Yesterday Lee Cowan, of CBS News, may have exaggerated the size of the protests in Baghdad by people loyal to cleric Muqtada al Sadr, in response to President Bush’s surprise visit. But today, he made up for it. Cowan, reporting from Baghdad for "The Early Show" on CBS, was the only reporter on the 3 major network morning shows to quote from al Qaeda documents found after the death of terrorist leader Abu Musab al Zarqawi.
While "Good Morning America" on ABC and "Today" on NBC gave only cursory mention of the documents, "The Early Show" led the program with the story. Co-host Julie Chen noted the significance of the documents and what they could mean when she introduced Cowan’s piece:
"We want to get right to our top story. Extraordinary details on al Qaeda's operation in Iraq. The Iraqi government says it can destroy the terror group thanks to revealing documents found following the death of Abu Musab al Zarqawi."
Cowan then proceeded to give his report in which he quoted from the seized files:
"According to a translation in English provided by the Iraqi government, the document begins with a less than upbeat appraisal of al Qaeda's operations in Iraq. Time, it says, is now beginning to be of service to the American forces and harmful to the resistance. The document, found on a computer flash drive, laments that the insurgent group is suffering from a lack of funding and recruits. And goes on to say that security crackdowns like those that went into effect yesterday in and around Baghdad have, in fact, been successful in confiscating insurgent ammunition and weapons and made it harder to attack U.S. targets."
As an aside, in 2004 when a document attributed to Zarqawi was found, again CBS was the only network to quote directly from it while the other two networks again gave it brief, passing coverage.