How News Media Affected The Times Square Investigation

The moment Faisal Shahzad left an SUV packed with explosives in Times Square the story became a media feeding frenzy. Fifty-some hours later, when the FBI pulled him from a plane at JFK airport, authorities reportedly learned that the suspect had followed media leaks of the investigation and knew he was being tailed.

Dina Temple-Raston has a fascinating take on 'How Media Coverage Crimped The Times Square Case' on NPR.org:

As one law enforcement official told NPR, "Our operational plans were being driven by the media, instead of the other way around. And that's not good."

....

Then it got worse: Reporters started showing up at Shahzad's house in Shelton, waiting for the arrest to happen. Shahzad was actually up the road at a ramshackle apartment he had rented in Bridgeport. That's where officers were watching him - but apparently that also was leaked. A TV reporter showed up there and waited.

Dina acknowledges that she knew sensitive information, as well, and chose not to immediately report it "out of concern that it would affect the investigation."

Not only was the suspect aware that police were closing in, investigators themselves also had to adapt their tactics based on media leaks.

For the arresting officers, there was another wrinkle. They knew from running Shahzad's name through databases that he had purchased a gun in March. If the suspect was following the media reports, he knew the noose was tightening and might try to shoot his way out. They had to fundamentally change how they were going to approach the house to prepare for that possibility.

Dina is second-to-none when it comes to reporting on terror-related cases and the FBI, and her sources are remarkable. If you're interested in a fascinating peek behind the coverage of the Times Square case, read her piece here.

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