The New York Times filed this report on the arrest of two men in Seattle:
Federal law enforcement officials have arrested two men who they say planned to attack a military processing center here using machine guns and grenades.
The men — Abu Khalid Abdul-Latif, also known as Joseph A. Davis, 33, of Seattle, and Walli Mujahidh, also known as Frederick Domingue Jr., 32, of Los Angeles — were arrested late Wednesday and charged with conspiracy to murder federal officers and employees, conspiracy to use weapons of mass destruction and several firearms-related charges.
The article is accompanied by a mugshot of Abdul-Latif/Davis who has a rather distinctive and heavy beard. Oddly, what follows is about as close as the Times report gets to describing the motivations of the two men:
The 38-page criminal complaint filed against the two suggested that they had not made final plans to carry out the alleged plot. They were frustrated, it said, by American war policies and discussed how to make an attack last as long as possible in order to get the most media attention for their actions.
The Times report even goes on to include a lengthy reference to the incident last November where Somali-American teenager Mohamed Osman Mohamud was arrested for allegedly trying to detonate a bomb at a Christmas tree lighting in Portland, Oregon. Both of these incidents have heavy Muslim terrorism overtones, yet the New York Times makes no references to religion at all in the story. Why?
A radical Muslim, Abdul-Latif said he admired Osama bin Laden and was upset about alleged atrocities committed by U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan, according to a federal complaint.
"In his view, murdering American soldiers was justifiable," the complaint stated. "He wanted to die as a martyr in the attack."
The Seattle Times also notes that Abdul-Latif had twice tried to kill himself, had a history of "hearing voices" and was currently under economic duress. Certainly, all of that should be taken into account when considering his motivation. It seems these factors could be as much or more to blame for motivating his alleged crime as his religion. And we do learn more about those religious views. We get specific quotes about his thoughts on killing non-Muslims and details about his conversion nine years ago. We learn about his search for a second wife, even. It makes the other reports that shied away from mentioning his religion altogether, let alone his admiration for Bin Laden, mystifying.
The New York Times actually has to make an effort not to include such a glaringly relevant detail, and their approach ends up making the story almost confusing. Frustrated by "American war policies"? So were these men anti-war activists or something? What possible reason could The New York Times have for omitting this information?
Some reports were so lacking in key details that it upset editors. Check out this editor's note appended to an Associated Press report:
Editor’s Note: Nowhere in the original copy of this story does it mention these two suspects are Muslim. In the interest of full disclosure, I feel it is only fair to you -- the reader -- to know these suspects are followers of radical Islam. (Chace Murphy)
This is an interesting example of how local and national media tell stories so differently.