HIJACKING UPDATES CBS DOCUMENTARY
“This show is right on the money,” Burton (Bud) Benjamin said with a combination of exhaustion and exhilaration.
He was referring to “Terrorism: War in the Shadows,” a “CBS Reports” documentary airing tonight at 10 that even includes a brief interview with Nabih Berri, leader of the Shia Muslim militia who has been acting as middleman in communicating with the hijackers of TWA flight 847.
Since Friday, when Shia Muslim gunmen hijacked flight 847 out of Athens with 153 people aboard--mostly Americans--Benjamin has been rejiggering the show to reflect current events.
The documentary was completed long before the hijacking, but the Shia terrorists have put across the show’s point with a vengeance--that, according to the U.S. State Department, almost 40% of terrorist attacks throughout the world are aimed at Americans.
In the show Berri complains that Americans call Arabs terrorists, but turn a blind eye when Israelis attack Arab villages, and he said:
“I would say you have to deal with what it means to be a terrorist. If everyone who fights against the Israeli invasion is a terrorist, maybe I am the biggest one. Let’s speak very frank.”
For Benjamin and those responsible for the CBS Reports documentary, it was back to the drawing board over the weekend.
“Obviously, we will lead with 847. We have rewritten part of the show, mostly to get in the stuff on 847,” said Benjamin, who had to abandon plans to relax and play some tennis over the weekend.
“We worked late hours all weekend. We’re not doing an hour special on this, so the main thing is to stay on top of the story and show how it affects what we are dealing with--the problems of terrorism for Americans.”
The show is reported by Walter Cronkite, who currently is vacationing on Martha’s Vineyard, Mass.
“If the situation is volatile on Wednesday night, if it seems as if something might happen any moment, Cronkite will open the show live,” Benjamin said. “If things appear stable--it will be the middle of the night over there--we won’t need to do that.
“If Cronkite opens the show, he will say in effect that if anything happens during the hour, we will interrupt for the news.”
While Benjamin blocks out changes in the program, he must deal with an ongoing news story and must be prepared for breaking developments.
Benjamin himself is baffled by the dilemma terrorists pose.
“I’ve done documentaries in the past,” he said, “and you do one on the plight of migrant workers or discrimination or the situation in South Africa and it is rather straightforward at the end. You come to a conclusion, something ought to be done and you specify.
“Here they are hijacking a plane with Americans on board because they want the Israelis to release Shiite prisoners. No one really knows what to do. Do we have to become terrorists to fight terrorism? Do we have hit teams to assassinate terrorist leaders? In the documentary our purpose is to lay down the options.”