NBC News Crew Arrested In Hijack Stunt

NBC’s News division is branching out into terrorism docu-dramas. From The St. Louis Post-Dispatch:

Arlene Thomas grew suspicious when two men with out-of-state drivers licenses and a large wad of cash came into her Sauget helicopter hangar Wednesday morning and said they wanted to see St. Louis landmarks from the sky.

The men, whom Thomas described to police as of “Middle Eastern descent,” were carrying a duffel bag and a backpack and drove up in a rental car with Texas license plates.

Thomas called police, who searched the bags and the men and found a butane lighter, box cutter, two knives, duct tape, a powdery substance and a bottle filled with a clear liquid. The men also had maps of New York, Chicago, San Francisco and St. Louis with major landmarks highlighted in yellow.Turns out the “terrorists” were with NBC News preparing a sting report for Dateline.

The two men, John Zito, an Italian from New York, and Tyrone Edwards, who police described as an Asian-Indian from Atlanta, were part of a story that NBC planned to air Thursday night about security at small airports that charter helicopters.

…Zito and Edwards were handcuffed and taken to the Sauget Police Department, where authorities found that the powdery substance was foot powder and the clear liquid was water. Four hours later, the NBC employees were released without charges but with the wrath of airport director Bob McDaniel.

“I’m absolutely outraged that NBC News is out here trying to create news rather than report news,” McDaniel said after meeting with members of the Transportation Security Administration. “This clearly scared the hell out of a lot of folks and wasted a lot of valuable resources, tying up emergency forces, and all of it was entirely unnecessary.

“If they wanted to learn about security, we’d have been happy to take them on a ride and show how it works,” McDaniel said. Thomas said an apology was in order from NBC to her and everyone who was involved.Released without charges? Some enterprising prosecutor somewhere out to be able to come-up with charges. At a minimum the government should demand (an sue if necessary) General Electic (NBC’s parent company) to recover the taxpayer money expended investigating NBC’s stunt.

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  1. pennywit August 13, 2004
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