ABC, CBS, NBC All Skip the Word 'Obama' or Any Evaluation of His Team in Shahzad Sentencing News

October 6th, 2010 11:06 PM

Foiled Times Square bomber Faisal Shahzad was sentenced to life imprisonment on Tuesday, which was noted by all Big Three networks. But a look at the transcripts shows that ABC, CBS, and NBC all have one obvious thing in common: words like "Obama" are never uttered. (The same happened in The New York Times and The Washington Post.)

Can anyone imagine if Shahzad attempted this in 2008, the word "Bush" would have been absent from the news and analysis? The War on Terror has disappeared as a political matter, and now it's simply "U.S. officials" and "the government" fighting jihadists. While several suggested Shahzad's incompetence was the only obstacle preventing a mass murder, no one assessed whether the current administration succeeded or failed.

NBC Nightly News led with the Shahzad sentencing, while CBS waited four minutes and ABC waited for seven and a half before getting to it. NBC began:  

BRIAN WILLIAMS: He says he used to watch surveillance cameras to figure out what time of day Times Square had the most pedestrian traffic so he could kill the most people when his car bomb went off. Well, we're all very fortunate that Faisal Shahzad was an inept car bomber. But his case and where it led law enforcement was a wake-up call and was helpful to US investigators. His case is now closed having confessed to the crime. He's now going to prison for the rest of his life.

Tonight in this country and around the world, there are several new developments to report in the effort to stop terrorists before they carry out attacks. We begin tonight with our chief foreign affairs correspondent Andrea Mitchell. Andrea, good evening.

ANDREA MITCHELL: Good evening, Brian. As police crack down on terror suspects in Europe and Africa, here at home that would-be Times Square bomber was defiant as he was sentenced to a mandatory life in prison. An FBI test shows just how bad the damage could have been. A warm spring night last May, a congested Times Square, and a Nissan Pathfinder loaded with explosives, but with faulty wiring. In court today 31-year-old Faisal Shahzad, smirking and taunting the judge, said, "Brace yourselves, because the war with Muslims has just begun. Consider me only a first droplet of the flood that will follow me." The judge told him, "I do hope that you will spend some of the time in prison thinking carefully about whether the Quran wants you to kill lots of people."

In a video the government released prior to today's sentencing, Shahzad, who became a US citizen last year, appeals for attacks against the US.

Mr. FAISAL SHAHZAD: (From file footage) I have been trying to join my brothers in jihad ever since the 9/11 happened.

Mr. RAY KELLY (New York Police Department Commissioner): Perfectly appropriate that he forfeited his freedom because he was clearly willing to forfeit peoples' lives.

MITCHELL: Shahzad trained in Pakistan, where CIA drones attacked again yesterday, killing a number of Germans, but, NBC News has learned, missing their real target, top Taliban commander and master terror trainer Qari Hussain, who built the bomb that killed seven CIA officers in Afghanistan last December. Hussain was inside the house but, local sources tell NBC News, escaped with bruises. Intelligence officials say Pakistan's training camps could be preparing as many as 100 Westerners ready to launch plots in Europe. Only today police in France arrested a dozen suspects. And a German, Sascha Alessandro Boettcher, was arrested in Kenya.

Mr. ROGER CRESSEY (NBC News Terrorism Analyst): Western Europeans are the perfect al-Qaeda operative. They have clean passports. They don't fit the profile of previous al-Qaeda terrorists. And because they do not need visas inside Western Europe they can move from country to country.

MITCHELL: Tonight U.S. officials say that they cannot confirm that the mastermind of last year's CIA killings did survive that drone attack in Pakistan, while other officials say that today's arrest in France proved they were right to issue the travel alert for Americans abroad. Brian? 

WILLIAMS: Andrea Mitchell starting us off in our Washington newsroom. Andrea, thanks.

CBS began with terror plots in Europe, and then moved into the Times Square angle:

KATIE COURIC: Now to a different kind of terror, those plots to attack European cities. Western officials told CBS News today that German Muslims apparently were killed in yesterday's U.S. drone attack in Pakistan. That's where the plots were reportedly hatched. At least 70 Germans are believed to be training with Islamic militants there.

Meanwhile, police swooped down today on Islamic militant networks in three cities in the south of France. 12 suspects were arrested, three of them accused of recruiting Muslims to fight U.S. troops in Afghanistan.

Meanwhile, here in New York, the man who hoped to kill as many Americans as possible by blowing up his car in Times Square smirked when he was sentenced to life in prison today. And as national correspondent Jim Axelrod reports, Faisal Shahzad made a new threat.

FAISAL SHAHZAD: I have been trying to join my brothers in jihad ever since the 9/11 happened. But today, (speaking foreign language), I am among them and planning to wage an attack inside America.

JIM AXELROD: Mirroring the threat he made in this jihad video, Faisal Shahzad told the court today, "Brace yourselves because the war with Muslims has just begun. Consider me the first droplet of the flood that will follow."

As federal judge Miriam Goldman Cedarbaum sentenced Shahzad to life, she instructed him to think carefully about whether the Koran wants you to kill lots of people. Shahzad responded, "Koran gives us the right to defend."

Prosecutors say Shahzad believed he would kill about 40 people by detonating a car bomb in Times Square this past May 1. The FBI recreation of Shahzad`s intended explosion shows the devastation the bomb would have produced had it gone off.

Shahzad told prosecutors that he planned the attack online, calling up web cams that broadcast real-time images of right here in Times Square around the clock so he could see when it was busiest here and inflict maximum damage.

But despite five days of explosives training in Pakistan, the bomb did not detonate. A manhunt captured him two days later. Shahzad pleaded guilty to 10 terror and weapons charges, but former federal prosecutor Anne Marie McAvoy (ph) says it would be a mistake to think of this as a failure.

McAVOY: Even without it become successful there was a huge impact on America. I come down to the Times Square area quite a bit. You never look at Times Square now without having that in the back of your mind.

AXELROD: The 31-year-old Shahzad was asked heading off to prison for life if he had any final words. He said, quote, "I`m happy with the deal God has given me." Katie?

COURIC: Jim Axelrod in New York City in Times Square. Jim, thank you.

ABC seemed the most eager to brush past the story and move on to other developments:

DIANE SAWYER: Also, in this country, here in New York, the failed Times Square bomber was in federal court for sentencing today and Brian Ross is here at the desk now and he's been following that story. What happened in court?

BRIAN ROSS: Well, Faisal Shahzad showed no remorse and the judge showed no mercy. Life sentence, no parole. It's really only because of his incompetence that his bomb in Times Square last May did not go off, killing 40, 50, 60 people.

BRIAN ROSS: In court today, as he was sentenced by Judge Miriam Cedarbaum, he shouted 'Allah Akbar,' and then he gave a warning. He said, "Brace yourselves. The war with Muslims has just begun." He went on to say, "The defeat of the US is now imminent, God willing."

He represents really, Diane, the next wave of al Qaeda's threats. Homegrown terrorists. He's of Pakistani decent. The current threat involves Britons of Pakistani descent, French of Algerian descent and Germans of Afghan and Turkish descent. The disaffected young people who are prepared to go back and fight against their adopted countries.

DIANE SAWYER: And you told us last night about a long-standing plan to increase security on the nation's transit systems all across the country. Did it happen? 

BRIAN ROSS:  Certain teams they call viper teams were sent out today and this Friday, we'll see an action called Operation Rail Safe, which we reported, all along the routes of Amtrak. Local and national police will be fanning out. They call it an exercise but it's being done in conjunction with European rail operations, as well, as the threat continues to worry everyone. 

DIANE SAWYER: All right, everybody watching. Thank you, Brian Ross.

The New York Times put only a Shahzad court drawing on Page 1, despite this being a very local story. The full story was on A-24, where it led their New York news section. The Washington Post put their story on A3. At least reporter Jerry Markon hinted at the failure of "federal officials" in his piece:

Federal officials hailed the case's quick resolution, saying it showed that the criminal justice system can handle complex terrorism matters. At least 20 U.S. citizens have been charged with major terrorism violations in federal court this year, according to Justice Department statistics.

Legal experts have called the case a law enforcement triumph but said Shahzad's near-success in detonating the device should serve as a warning to federal officials, who failed to detect the plot.