ABC, CBS Bury NY Post Bombshell on Suspected Terrorist Caught at the Border

News & Politics

Published Sunday online and on the front page of Monday’s print edition, our friend Jennie Taer at the New York Post dropped a bombshell that an illegal immigrant recently detained at the border told Customs and Border Protection officials only is he a member of the Lebanon-based, Iranian-linked Islamic terrorist group Hezbollah, but he wanted to travel New York to carry out a terror attack with a bomb.

Not surprisingly, none of this was mentioned on Sunday night or Monday morning by the major broadcast networks of ABC, CBS, and NBC on their flagship morning or evening news shows. On Monday evening, it was the same story with ABC and CBS, but NBC Nightly News broke ice — albeit with a short, 45-second report.

The Post’s Taer explained that the 22-year-old named Basel Bassel Ebbadi “was caught by the US Border Patrol on March 9 near El Paso, Texas” and “[w]hile in custody, he was asked what he was doing in the US, to which he replied, ‘I’m going to try to make a bomb,’ according to a Border Patrol document exclusively obtained by The Post.”

According to Immigration and Customs Enforcement documents, Ebbadi claimed to have “trained with Hezbollah for seven years” and “guard[ed] weapons locations for another four years.”

In a bizarre caveat, Taer noted that, citing more ICE documents, Ebbadi said “he had been trying to flee Lebanon and Hamas because he ‘didn’t want to kill people’ and said ‘once you’re in, you can never get out.’”

Taer also explained Ebbadi apparently hop-scotched his way around the world by using a fake birthday and name as well as fake countries of orIgin, but “didn’t have documents when he entered the US, claiming he was robbed ‘with a knife’ in Costa Rica”.

She also sadly said his future is uncertain in terms of where he’d be deported to and that, in just “the first four months of 2024, 59 people have been apprehended, according to federal data” with “98 encounters with terror watchlisted individuals at both the northern and southern borders in fiscal year 2022, and almost twice as many, 172, in fiscal year 2023, which ends Sept. 30.”

While the flagship network morning shows kept this hidden from viewers, one of ABC’s overnight shows curious had it as one of their top stories and gave it a tease off the top. The half-hour show America This Morning made this the third story covered, after spring break shootings and the ongoing collapse of Haiti.

Fill-in co-host Derek Dennis and ABC News multimedia reporter Perry Russom had the details (in a piece that ended with Trump’s “animals” line from Saturday about some illegal immigrants), but declined to give Taer and the Post credit for the first report (click “expand”):

DENNIS: New security concerns along the southern U.S. border after a migrant from the Middle East was taken into custody with alleged ties to a foreign terrorist organization. ABC’s Perry Russom is here with the details. Perry, good morning to you.

RUSSOM: Derek, good morning. The migrant detained at the border claims he was heading to New York to make a bomb. And he allegedly said he was trained by the militant group Hezbollah. This morning, ABC News has confirmed a Lebanese man apprehended by U.S. Border Patrol has acknowledged being a member of Hezbollah, considered one of the most dangerous terrorist groups in the world.

ABC NEWS PRODUCER QUINN OWEN: We don’t know for sure, what level of threat this individual may pose. There may be mental health concerns at — at issue here.

RUSSOM: Documents show the man tried to cross into Texas from Mexico March 9, telling border authorities he was heading to New York, where he hoped to, “make a bomb.” According to internal documents, the 22-year-old was slated for deportation, but it was unclear where to.

OWEN: These types of unauthorized migrants are detained by federal authorities, often referred for further investigation or even prosecution, if warranted and that whole process can take time. 

RUSSOM: Texas governor Greg Abbott blamed president Biden’s policies, calling them “a magnet for this type of terror.” 

 PRESIDENT BIDEN [on 03/07/24]: What are you against?

RUSSOM: Biden has defended his immigration policy, blaming House Republicans for killing a bipartisan security deal. FBI Director Christopher Wray just last week warned of dangerous people crossing the border. 

FBI DIRECTOR CHRIS WRAY: [on 03/11/24]: There is a particular network, that has — where some of the overseas facilitators of the smuggling network have ISIS ties that we’re very concerned about.

In contrast, there was plenty of attention on cable with multiple mentions on the Fox Business Network, the Fox News Channel, Newsmax, and especially NewsNation.

To NewsNation’s credit, they not only cited Taer’s story on Sunday night, but they mentioned it on four of their shows on Monday (as of this blog’s publication).

For example, the 9:00 a.m. Eastern edition of NewsNation Live with Marni Hughes had a full, two-minute-and-41 second report from Hughes and correspondent Dray Clark.

Along with Hughes saying this was “an alarming arrest” who “had some pretty disturbing plans”, Clark stated the obvious that this “raised eyebrows because this was a self-proclaimed terrorist who said he wanted to pull off an attack here in New York City.”

Clark pointed out NewsNation had been able to independently confirm Taer’s details (click “expand”):

CLARK: [M]ultiple Custom Border Protection sources tell NewsNation Ebbadi wanted to use that bomb right here in New York. Sources also telling us that he claimed to be a member of the terrorist group Hezbollah and trained with the group for seven years. Hezbollah is an Iranian-backed terror group who, like Hamas, recently launched missile attacks against Israel and Ebbadi told investigators he used fake names and documentation in other countries while making his way to the U.S.-Mexico border. However, investigators did not say if his name is on the terror watch list. Meanwhile, Border Patrol agents arrested 169 people on the watch list in 2023 at both the southern and northern borders. And so far this year, there have been 49 apprehensions. Now, this was a statement from Customs and Border Protection: “If an individual poses a potential threat to national security or public safety, we deny admission, detain, remove, or refer them to other federal agencies for further vetting, investigation and/or prosecution as appropriate.” Now, the authorities here in New York say they certainly are aware of this arrest, but they are not immediately alarmed mainly because that suspect is now in custody in Texas, being held in isolation. We also know that, at some point in time, Ebbadi will be deported. As to what country that will be, we’re not exactly sure at this point, Marni.

HUGHES: Yeah. Just glad that they were able to get him and hopefully learn more information in the process.

While these networks (and Taer) were doing their jobs, ABC’s Good Morning America was too busy promoting President Biden’s executive order on women’s health, CBS Mornings had a recap of Sunday’s NAACP Image Awards, and NBC’s Today had not one (as ABC and CBS did) but two segments on the latest tea surrounding the British royals photo scandal.

Thankfully, NBC decided to have the wherewithal to cover this. Acting as though viewers had already heard of this story, Nightly News anchor Lester Holt announced a segment on “that alleged Hezbollah bombmaker caught crossing the southern border who said he wanted to travel to New York.”

Justice correspondent Julia Ainsley outlined the basic details of what Taer, NewsNation, and the rest had confirmed hours earlier before acknowledging “[o]fficials I’ve spoken to said it is highly unusual for someone to voluntarily disclose that information.”

And while it’s unknown whether “Ebbadi was on the terrorist watch list,” Ainsley added “[o]ver 160 migrants crossing the border last year were on that list” and has thus “been a major criticism of Biden border policies by Republicans.”

UPDATE, 8:39 p.m. Eastern: This post has been updated from its original publication at 6:27 p.m. Eastern to include coverage from Monday’s NBC Nightly News.

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