Kennedy Airport Terror Plot Doesn't Make Times' Main Section

The Washington Post and Los Angeles Times found the Kennedy Airport terror plot worthy of the front page - but the hometown paper downplayed the threat in its own backyard.

The terror plotin NewYork City to blow up airport terminals and fuel lines at Kennedy International Airport didn't make the Times front page - or even the national news section - of Sunday's paper. Instead, it received a front-page "tease" and topped the Times' Metro sectionof regional news. By contrast, the Washington Post, put the story on the front page, and the Los Angeles Times made it Sunday's lead item.

The story by Cara Buckley and William Rashbaum went to some length to downplay the seriousness of the threat: "Mark J. Mershon, the assistant director in charge of the Federal Bureau of Investigation field office in New York, said all four men had 'fundamentalist Islamic beliefs of a violent nature,' although they appeared to be acting on their own and had no known connection to Al Qaeda.

"Law enforcement officials said that Kennedy, which handles roughly 45 million passengers a year and 1,000 flights a day, was never in imminent danger because the plot was only in a preliminary phase and the conspirators had yet to lay out detailed plans or obtain financing or explosives."

Later, the Times described suspect Russell Defreitas, a former cargo handler at the airport:

"One law enforcement official played down Mr. Defreitas's ability to carry out an attack, calling him 'a sad sack' and 'not a Grade A terrorist.' Comparing the case with the plot in which a group of men were arrested last month on charges of planning to attack soldiers at Fort Dix in New Jersey, the official said the New Jersey plotters 'were a bit further along.'"

Of course, the Times did its best to downplay the Fort Dix terrorists as well.