The FBI chastised the Boston Marathon bombing coverage; saying in a statement that when the mainstream media uses "unofficial" sources, the news reports are "inaccurate" and "often have unintended consequences."
The statement is short, and not so sweet:
- "Contrary to widespread reporting, no arrest has been made....Over the past day and a half, there have been a number of press reports based on information from unofficial sources that has been inaccurate. Since these stories often have unintended consequences, we ask the media, particularly at this early stage of the investigation, to exercise caution and attempt to verify information through appropriate official channels before reporting."
On Wednesday, it was repeatedly reported that an arrest was "imminent" in the attack and the FBI was to hold a press conference. All that changed when the presser was canceled without explanation. Poynter has a great list of tweets from various news sources illustrating the media confusion.
The AP, for its part, stood by it's reporting by saying that "the official who spoke to the AP did so on condition of anonymity and stood by the information even after it was disputed." (Author emphasis)
Saudi National is not a "Person of Interest"
Much of the media confusion surrounding the attack surrounds the Saudi National that was questioned in the wake of the attack. Despite much speculation, it has been revealed that the student is not a "Person of Interest," according to police. Abdulrahman Ali Alharbi is "sweet and kind and a good person," according to his roommate, who also said that he and other friends will be donating blood to help the victims of the terror attack.
Although initial reports claimed that the Saudi Arabian citizen was 20 years old, the bostonherald is reporting that the student is 22 years old. It was confirmed that the FBI, ATF, and Boston police, "swarmed" his apartment, "grilling his roommate for hours and removing several items in evidence bags." But now, it seems that the man is completely innocent of any wrongdoing. It is interesting that law-enforcement officials were so acutely interested in the student, but in just a couple of days, he is cleared. They certainly worked fast with those bags of evidence.
According to John Miller, former Assistant Director to the FBI and CBS News correspondent, a witness saw a man acting suspiciously (running away from one of the explosive devices) and tackled him, which is what brought attention to the student in the first place. Miller stated that "this person was pretty close to wherever this blast went off, but not so close as to suffer the serious injuries that other people did."
The Royal Embassy of Saudi Arabia said in a statement that "there is no evidence, according to U.S. authorities, of involvement of any Saudi national in the bombings." The 22-year-old said that "he's been forbidden to speak about the home search by both the FBI and the Royal Embassy of Saudi Arabia." Why?
It is truly sad that Ali Alharbi would have to go through such an ordeal - the man was burned, tackled, and surely interrogated. His home was extensively searched, personal items were removed, and his roommate was "grilled." Although the sudden lack of interest in this "person of interest" certainly seems odd, if this student is innocent as stated, this author's heart goes out to him.
The "Imminent" Arrest that Wasn't
Some of the reputable news organizations reported the following on Twitter:
- The AP: "Law enforcement official: Boston Marathon bomb suspect in custody, expected in federal court."
- The Boston Globe: "Boston Globe source reports suspect being taken to US District Court in South Boston."
- CNN: "Authorities have arrested a suspect in Boston - news briefing expected at 5 p.m. ET..."
These sources cited "law enforcement officials," and as is oftentimes the case, the officials will only speak under terms of anonymity. The question is: were the sources wrong? The reports were so specific. Did the anonymous sources lie to the journalists? It seems odd that sources would blatantly lie to the media, but it seems as if that is what happened.
Photo Source: REUTERS via mercurynews