On February 22, the hosts of Fox News' three top-rated programs -- Glenn Beck, Bill O'Reilly, and Sean Hannity -- did not mention the guilty plea on terrorism charges in U.S. District Court in Brooklyn by Najibullah Zazi, who was at the center of an alleged plot to bomb the New York subway system. Beck, O'Reilly, and Hannity have all previously criticized President Obama's desire to prosecute suspected terrorists in the U.S. legal system rather than in military tribunals.
Plea described as a success for Obama administration
NY Times: Plea "marks the successful prosecution of a terrorist in an advanced plot." A February 22 New York Times article reported that Zazi's guilty plea "marks the successful prosecution of a terrorist in an advanced plot in which explosive materials similar to those used in the 2005 London subway and bus attacks were actually brought into New York." The Times also stated that Zazi "had begun providing information to prosecutors as part of the initial stages of an agreement that led to his guilty plea."
Newsweek: Plea "provides fresh ammunition for Obama administration officials." A February 22 Newsweek blog post by Michael Isikoff stated that Zazi's plea "provides fresh ammunition for Obama administration officials to argue that traditional law-enforcement methods can be just as effective, if not more, in questioning terror suspects than subjecting them to 'enhanced interrogation techniques,' " adding that Zazi is "the fourth major terror suspect to cut deals or at least begin plea negotiations with the FBI in recent months." Isikoff continued:
"These are major flips. This is huge information that these guys are giving," said Ali Soufan, a former top FBI counterterrorism agent who is now a security consultant based in the Middle East. "This shows that law enforcement can be strong tool at our disposal.
Just as importantly, notes Soufan, law-enforcement and intelligence officials around the world have been eager to talk to the FBI suspects -- and use the information they are providing -- precisely because it was gleaned without the use of rough interrogation tactics, like waterboarding or sleep deprivation, that would create political problems in most major Western countries that have officially condemned such tactics.
Wash. Post: Plea "gave the Obama administration a new argument" on treatment of terrorists. A February 23 Washington Post article stated that Zazi's plea "gave the Obama administration a new argument in its battle with Republican critics and predecessors over its handling of national security threats," adding that Attorney General Eric Holder "said the deal demonstrated anew the ability of the U.S. court system to dispense justice to terrorists."
Conservative blogger: Plea is "Non-Sarcastic Good News." A February 22 post on the conservative blog The Jawa Report carried the headline "Non-Sarcastic Good News: NYC al Qaeda Bomb Plotter Cooperating." The writer stated that it "is good news if, in fact, he's helping us track down his co-conspirators -- like his former imam who was supposed to be helping the FBI but instead tipped Zazi off that he was under investigation."
Beck, O'Reilly, and Hannity have repeatedly attacked Obama for using civilian system to prosecute terror suspects
Beck, Hannity, and O'Reilly have repeatedly attacked the Obama administration's handling of suspected terrorists by prosecuting them in the U.S. legal system instead of military tribunals:
Beck: "We need to campaign for" KSM trial "being held at the White House." On the January 28 edition of his radio show, Beck said that "we need to campaign for" the trial of suspected terrorist Khalid Shaikh Mohammed "being held at the White House," instead of New York City, because Obama "doesn't mind inconveniencing businesses. He doesn't mind putting our lives at stake."
Hannity: Mirandizing Abdulmutallab is "putting ... every American in danger." On the January 4 edition of his show, Hannity criticized the Mirandizing of Northwest Airlines bombing suspect Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, asserting that doing so is "putting ... every American in danger. What does this guy know? Who are his contacts? Who did he meet? He's lawyered up. We can't talk to this guy. We ought to -- we ought to be waterboarding this guy."
O'Reilly ridicules Williams for noting that civilian KSM trial is "a real opportunity to really make a show of American democracy." Discussing the idea of trying Mohammed in New York on the February 1 edition of his show, O'Reilly asserted that "just about everyone I know -- liberals, Democrats, you know, Dianne Feinstein, Chuck Schumer, I mean, come on -- they're all telling the White House, you can't do this. Why doesn't the White House know that? ... Why don't you know this, when everybody else knows it but you?" O'Reilly went on to ridicule Fox News contributor Juan Williams for stating that the Obama administration portrayed such a trial as "a real opportunity to really make a show of American democracy": "But it's stupid, Juan. Oh, stop." O'Reilly added that by contrast to the cost of a civilian trial, which he claimed would be "$800 million," if Mohammed is tried in a military tribunal, "it costs $39.95 a day, OK, Juan? Because they're already on the payroll, Juan. You gotta buy bagels and coffee in the morning, that's all. ... And so you're worried about some guy in Bangladesh going, 'Oh, I'd like to see the American justice system work'? It's insane, Juan."