How Media Coverage Crimped The Times Square Case
RENEE MONTAGNE, Host:
NPR's counterterrorism correspondent Dina Temple-Raston says the news coverage of this story fundamentally changed the investigation itself. And Dina is now with us. Good morning.
DINA TEMPLE: Good morning.
MONTAGNE: Before we get to that - the whole question of how the media might have changed the story - tell us about any new developments in the case as of this morning.
TEMPLE: There's also growing evidence of at least a tangential link with the Pakistani Taliban, and I think we'll be learning more about that too.
MONTAGNE: And Dina, back to the whole question of the media. Someone must have told you and other reporters these and other things; usually that would be law enforcement.
TEMPLE: Yes, exactly. And usually they don't talk to reporters about ongoing investigations. But in this particular case they did.
MONTAGNE: In other words, the media was getting out in front of the investigation itself.
TEMPLE: And in this case, there ended up being lots of leaks for that reason. Details about the investigation were all over local newspapers, even as they were trying to figure out who did it, and - like hints about what they find in the car and the direction the case was going.
MONTAGNE: Dina, obviously you talked to these sources too. Did you think you did anything at all in these past few days that would have revealed too much?
TEMPLE: Well, I was aware that they were surveilling the suspect. And I knew if I reported it, it could cause problems for the investigation. For example, on Monday afternoon, basically a day and a half after the attack, a news organization reported that law enforcement officials were looking for an American Pakistani - of Pakistani descent from Shelton, Connecticut. And I saw that report and I was shocked when it came out. I mean I knew the information but I had decided not to report it since he hadn't been arrested.
MONTAGNE: Is it possible that Shahzad himself saw that report?
TEMPLE: And then it even got worse. You know, reporters actually started showing up at Shahzad's house in Shelton, Connecticut, waiting for the arrest to happen. And in fact he was actually in Bridgeport, Connecticut, up the road where he'd rented a small apartment. But apparently at that location reporters started showing up because that was leaked too.
MONTAGNE: So what you're saying is if Shahzad is seeing a reporter, then the police can't be far behind and he must have known that.
TEMPLE: And then Shahzad surprises them by leaving the apartment. He goes to a local supermarket and they lose him. And according to NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelly, they lost him for about three hours. So when they finally catch up to Shahzad on the airplane, he smiles at the officers and he says, I've been expecting you. Are you NYPD or FBI? So not exactly an element of surprise.
MONTAGNE: Well, we will of course be continuing to follow the story of the would-be bombing in Times Square. Dina, thanks very much. NPR's Dina Temple-Raston talking to us from New York.
TEMPLE: You're welcome.
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