This weekend, federal authorities foiled a stunning terrorist plot by Muslim extremists to kill thousands of our readers, strike the international transport grid, and depress the nation’s economy during its slowest quarter since late 2002 – but enough about that.
That was the message of Sunday’s New York Times.
The FBI had prevented four men, including a former member of Guyana’s parliament, from blowing up JohnF.KennedyInternationalAirport – and possibly part of Queens. They hoped to ignite underground fuel pipes, setting off a chain reaction of explosions that would envelop the entire complex. The NY Post and New York Daily News made it front page news. The NY Daily News headlined its story, “They Aimed to Kill Thousands.” The Post included a chilling sidebar, “Pipeline Security A Joke.”
The (inexplicably) most prestigious newspaper in the world positioned its bland story more than 30 pages inside. Instead, page one featured yet another story about GuantanamoBay detainees.
Any junior editor at any county newspaper in the country would have been fired for putting the most reported story in the nation three dozen pages into the well. Aside from burying a major international story that took place in its metro area, the Newspaper of Record took pains to make the Muslim battle plan that could have atomized a portion of its immediate readership appear utterly irrelevant.
The NYT began by obscuring the terrorists’ target. Although it faults the U.S. military for using the term “collateral damage,” the Times wrote as though the plotters only planned to blow up inanimate objects, certainly not human beings. Its opening line read, “Four men, including a onetime airport cargo handler and a former member of the Parliament of Guyana, were charged yesterday with plotting to blow up fuel tanks, terminal buildings and the web of fuel lines running beneath KennedyInternationalAirport.”
Secondly, it minimized the severity of the plot. JFK “was never in imminent danger because the plot was only in a preliminary phase and the conspirators had yet to lay out detailed plans or obtain financing or explosives.” Besides, “safety shut-off valves would almost assuredly have prevented an exploding airport fuel tank from igniting all or even part of the network.” Move along. Nothing to see here!