The Story: Last week, the United States raised its color-coded “terror alert status” on news that British police had foiled a terrorist plot to blow up a trans-Atlantic flight using liquid explosives. President Bush positioned the threat as “a stark reminder” that America “is at war with Islamic fascists.”
What the Press Doesn’t Stress: NBC News reported (over the weekend, late on Saturday night) that a senior British official “knowledgeable about the case” said that “an attack was not imminent … the suspects had not yet purchased any airline tickets … [and] some did not even have passports.” British police had been monitoring the group “for months,” but “American officials pressured them to [go ahead and] arrest the suspects.”
The Question You Should Ask: Why would the American government disrupt travel, frighten citizens, and pressure British police to rush the arrest of criminals — already closely monitored — who possessed no weapons, tickets, or passports?
On a Related Note: The “terror attack” story broke one day after Senator Joe Lieberman was defeated in a primary election by an anti-war candidate. Following the “foiled terrorist attack,” GOP party leaders circulated a memo, encouraging embattled Republican candidates to use the story to call into question “your opponent’s commitment to the defeat of terror.”