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NBC News Crew Arrested In Hijack Stunt

NBC's News division is branching out into terrorism docu-dramas. From The St. Louis Post-Dispatch:

Arlene Thomas grew suspicious when two men with out-of-state drivers licenses and a large wad of cash came into her Sauget helicopter hangar Wednesday morning and said they wanted to see St. Louis landmarks from the sky.

The men, whom Thomas described to police as of "Middle Eastern descent," were carrying a duffel bag and a backpack and drove up in a rental car with Texas license plates.

Thomas called police, who searched the bags and the men and found a butane lighter, box cutter, two knives, duct tape, a powdery substance and a bottle filled with a clear liquid. The men also had maps of New York, Chicago, San Francisco and St. Louis with major landmarks highlighted in yellow.

Turns out the "terrorists" were with NBC News preparing a sting report for Dateline.
The two men, John Zito, an Italian from New York, and Tyrone Edwards, who police described as an Asian-Indian from Atlanta, were part of a story that NBC planned to air Thursday night about security at small airports that charter helicopters.

...Zito and Edwards were handcuffed and taken to the Sauget Police Department, where authorities found that the powdery substance was foot powder and the clear liquid was water. Four hours later, the NBC employees were released without charges but with the wrath of airport director Bob McDaniel.

"I'm absolutely outraged that NBC News is out here trying to create news rather than report news," McDaniel said after meeting with members of the Transportation Security Administration. "This clearly scared the hell out of a lot of folks and wasted a lot of valuable resources, tying up emergency forces, and all of it was entirely unnecessary.

"If they wanted to learn about security, we'd have been happy to take them on a ride and show how it works," McDaniel said. Thomas said an apology was in order from NBC to her and everyone who was involved.

Released without charges? Some enterprising prosecutor somewhere out to be able to come-up with charges. At a minimum the government should demand (an sue if necessary) General Electic (NBC's parent company) to recover the taxpayer money expended investigating NBC's stunt.


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Comments (6)

I don't see it as a bad thi... (Below threshold)

I don't see it as a bad thing; undercover reporters' "stunts" can lead to useful information.

Not so long ago, ABC uncovered unsafe practices in Food Lion's meat-packing department; if you go further back, you will find undercover journalism that profiles conditions at mental institutions, among other things.

The undercover reporters found something informative here: That at least one helicopter-rental place has its act together when it comes to screening for terrorists.

--|PW|--

Well, they intended to prov... (Below threshold)

Well, they intended to provide something informative by virtue of the stunt, and they did: teh airport security worked.

Now will they REPORT it? I have doubts ... but who knows.

pennywit,If you'll... (Below threshold)
JFH:

pennywit,

If you'll remember, the Food Lion story turned out to be very biased and Food Lion showed that many of the actions during this story were prompted by the undercover reporters and the producers NOT Food Lion. They never showed the vast amount of footage that showed that Food Lion had very clean butchering procedures.

The type of "stunt" describ... (Below threshold)

The type of "stunt" described in this post bears little resemblance to genuine investigative reporting. These reporters had nothing to go on except an agenda, presumably to show how little the Bush administration has actually done to prevent terror attacks. In proving the inverse, they became part of the problem. These idiots should be arrested, along with whatever "journalist" was going for the story.

I agree with you Kevin, som... (Below threshold)

I agree with you Kevin, some jail time or serious fines are in order. Now they could have done this right and got law enforcement involved in the plan. But this is not something to play with.
Wassup my Man Bo!

Regarding Food Lion:<... (Below threshold)

Regarding Food Lion:

The judge threw out all of the claims regarding the actual broadcast of the segment. Additionally, I would note that in its filings, Food Lion did not attempt to prove defamation.

As the judge's opinion in the case notes, Food Lion attempted to dodge the rather stringent defamation standards by attempting to recover publication damages under nonreputational torts.

The appellate court refused to award those publication damages.

I also saw some of the material that Food Lion furnished to the mainstream press regarding the case. Food Lion's claims of falsehood were weak.

If you are going to claim that Food Lion was libeled, then I have to ask why Food Lion did not attempt to file a defamation action, and rather relied on nonreputational torts in its court filings.

To bring us back to the reporters here: I do hope that their employer covers this little mis-adventure. As I noted before, it illustrates that at least one helicopter service is providing adequate security.

--|PW|--




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