Patterico's Pontifications

7/27/2004

Snopes: Going Down the Tubes?

Filed under: Terrorism — Patterico @ 10:37 pm

So Snopes.com has declared the Annie Jacobsen story to be “false”:

Claim: Reporter encounters terrorists on airline flight who are making a dry run at assembling a bomb on-board.

Status: False.

The article does nothing more than cite that article citing anonymous air marshals saying Jacobsen overreacted. Apparently anonymous air marshals are good enough for Snopes.com.

Don’t they have an “undetermined” classification? Why, yes, they do. I suggest that this would be a good time to use it.

Meanwhile, we learn that the Syrian music group has a song celebrating Palestinian “martyrdom,” which as we all know, is code language for suicide bombing.

Oh, and the Washington Times has confirmed that 13 of the 14 did indeed have expired visas — which the authorities didn’t bother to check before letting them go. The article also reminds us what I have been telling you: that the actions of these terrorism-supporting Syrians who were here illegally resembled the actions of other Middle Easterners lately suspected of conducting dry runs.

Of course, many non-anonymous people (including even some conservatives) have argued that Jacobsen overreacted. Some say the Syrians’ seemingly suspicious actions (the congregating in the aisle, etc.) are simply manifestations of Arab culture. However, I have yet to see an Arab-culture explanation for the actions of the guy who came of the bathroom during final descent, drew his finger across his throat, and said “No” to a fellow Syrian passenger. Perhaps someone can explain the cheery or religious implication in Arab culture of drawing your finger across your throat?

As Spoons says:

To recap, we have a bunch of young, pro-terrorist males from a terrorist supporting country, traveling on expired visas, violating security rules and otherwise acting suspiciously on a U.S. flight.

But have no fear! Snopes says it’s “false”!

31 Responses to “Snopes: Going Down the Tubes?”

  1. I hope you inform Snopes of your assessment. In general it’s a great site and it would be a shame if it is, in fact, heading down the tubes.

    Perhaps they will change the status to “undetermined?” Keep us posted!

    Jeff Doolittle (74b76e)

  2. I seem to recall that most law students (of which I’ve never been one) go through a class in whic hthe inherent unreliability of most eyewitness testimony – even by people not under duress – is pretty clearly demonstrated. I’ve seen enought of it myself to take the explicit statements of witnesses as useful but not dispositive.

    Now we’ve got a witness who is so afraid and axious – self-described – that her legs were wobbly, and suddenly every minor detail of the event is cast in titanium. I’m sorry, I just can’t and don’t buy it.

    Is this an interesting data point in looking at our air traffic network and its vulnerabilities? Absolutely. Is it, by itself, a story that should lead to radical restructuring of anything at all? Hardly. Airport safety sucks, and is primarily there to defend us against the stupid, inconvenience the innocent, and make us all feel that someone is doing something.

    Rather than torturing poor electrons over this any more, let’s have a reasonable set of discussions over how to make air travel safer. Here’s one simple one we can probably agree on: arm the @*$% pilots.

    A.L.

    Armed Liberal (653cd1)

  3. One thing you look at to judge witness credibility is corroboration.

    For example:

    Were they, indeed, Syrians? (She claimed to have observed their passports.)

    Are their actions, indeed, typical of other “dry run” incidents?

    That sort of thing.

    I’m not sure how I feel about arming pilots. I see the advantage, obviously. But it does give the terrorists a gun and a known person who has it.

    Here’s the part I really don’t get:

    Is it, by itself, a story that should lead to radical restructuring of anything at all? Hardly. Airport safety sucks, and is primarily there to defend us against the stupid, inconvenience the innocent, and make us all feel that someone is doing something.

    ?? Doesn’t that last sentence suggest the need for a “radical restructuring” of airport security??

    Patterico (f7b3e5)

  4. The most prominent dog that continues to not-bark about the Anne Jacobsen article is the absence of corroborating or conflicting testimony from the other passengers on Flight 327. The punch in Jacobsen’s article comes from the sense of foreboding she describes as being shared by most of the (non-Syrian) passengers in the cabin.

    So where are the other accounts of that day? Anyone seen any?

    AMac (3cb088)

  5. “So where are the other accounts of that day? Anyone seen any?”

    Maybe, they don’t want to be unfairly attacked in public, have their privacy violated, etc. If I were them, I sure wouldn’t come forward. It would definitely not be worth the grief.

    julia (732ad9)

  6. You know Snopes is in trouble when even those who agree with their conclusions are not impressed by their research.

    Xrlq (6c76c4)

  7. A new NYT article by Reporter Sharkey on Flight 327. Link from the L.A. Observed thread referenced by Xrlq, above. A thread notable for the erudite and amusing exchange between Mr. Xrlq and Addie. Well, at least one of the parties was well spoken.

    AMac (3cb088)

  8. Thanks, I think. The other party’s most persuasive argument is now memorialized on my sidebar.

    Xrlq (6c76c4)

  9. Question: While we’re conspiracy-theorizing, if the Syrian guy’s finger-across-the-throat and “no” word was to call off the plan, does it not strike anyone a little weird that such an important signal would be done using a universal gesture combined with an English word?!?! It makes absolutely no sense to argue simultaneously that the terrorists are smart enough to learn how to play musical instruments for the purpose of having a ‘legitimate’ reason to be in the country, yet, are so dumb that their signals to each other are conveyed with universal symbolism and using the foriegn language which everybody on the plane understands.

    Tom (c65c25)

  10. Also, Patterico, your assumption that the song about Palestinian “martyrdom” is about suicide bombers is a leap of faith. You seem to have forgotten that suicide bombers aren’t the only Palestinians who die in Israel. There is no reason to assume, either from your post here or your source (fellow Oberlin grad Malkin) that the song is an hommage to terrorists, unless you’re going to label all Palestinians as “terrorists” and delegitimize any sort of resistance whatsoever, as if Palestinians are the sole agressors in the conflict.

    Tom (c65c25)

  11. NRO posted reserach last week regarding the band. Apparently it WAS a real band. They came, played their gig and left. The “headliner” was in 1st and the backups rode coach. If it was a bunch of terrorists, they had a pretty good cover.

    Kevin Murphy (9982dd)

  12. Tom, Kevin Murphy,

    I agree that the “Islamic Terrorist” label doesn’t seem to fit what we know of these dozen or so musicians.

    I wonder–have you been in a situation where a group of young men puts out a “vibe” of being tough and threatening? It can be scary, especially if smaller or weaker people are part of your party. In my case, nothing’s ever come of that. I wouldn’t even be able to prove that intentions had been hostile.

    Such a “playing gansta” speculation seems to fit the facts of the Syrians’ behavior on Flight 327. If true, it places the musicians somewhere in the middle, neither “terrorists” nor “innocent.”

    How should the air travel system handle incidents where people act “threatening’ or “suspicious,” but can after-the-fact be shown to have had neither the capability nor the desire to bring down an airplane? I don’t know, but this incident tells me that the question is no longer hypothetical.

    AMac (3cb088)

  13. I think that just about every guy who’s ever taken a gym class at school knows what it’s like to be around a group of guys who put on a ‘vibe’ of being threatening. But that doesn’t mean we need to abandon all reason in the heat of the moment. They’re just guys who acted “suspiciously,” according to exactly one person and maybe her husband. I’ll bet also that we might not necessarily apply that term if we were Syrians who knew the culture, understood the language, etc. It’s important to remember the bottom line: they didn’t do anything. There is no evidence that they were planning to, and we shouldn’t lose sight of that.

    Question #2: How come we’re more worried about the “suspicious” actions of a group of musicians than the fact that federal law allows each of us to carry two butane lighters and four books of matches aboard in our pockets? Remember the shoe guy? Feds say that if he had just one butane lighter, he would have brought the plane down. And here we’re allowed to have not one, but up to two! Remember that this is the single instance of attempted terrorism on a plane since 9/11, this one white guy.

    Yet, numerous people all over this site and elsewhere have called for racial profiling, and I think I’ve figured out the trend: it’s ok to harrass people for simply having brown skin, but it’s not ok to inconvenience me by making me leave a dangerous item in my checked baggage instead of bringing it on board. Afterall, I’m not a terrorist.

    Thing is, neither are they.

    Tom (e27454)

  14. Tom, I’ve been asked to surrender that second lighter during a thorough screening.

    There is a big difference between “racial” profiling and “citizenship” profiling, BTW. I would hope that each and every Yemeni, Saudi, UARi, etc, is thoroughly screened. I would have a problem with Arab-ethnic Americans being subjected to the same. But searching the bags of granny just to “keep things equal” while letting 4 out of 5 young Saudis on without a search is just plain STUPID.

    There is utterly no requirement, after all, to even admit citizens of any particular country. The Consitution expressly gives the Feds the power to discriminate here.

    Kevin Murphy (9982dd)

  15. Why hasn’t someone, blogger or journalist, tracked this group down and interviewed them?

    steve M. (44b1cb)

  16. Tom, you were thinking of Anne Jacobsen as the fraidy cat in gym class, Mrs. Perkins and her whistle hovering in the background. I was thinking dark-alley scared, where the outcome isn’t clear till it’s over.

    But okay. From what you know, were the actions of these young male foreign muslim musicians ‘suspicious,’ or suspicious? Maybe “suspicious“? And young male foreign muslim Richard Reid, that shoe guy? And the young male foreign muslims James Woods made acquantance with? How much sneer is enough?

    Silly straw men about lighters and delighted harassment of brown skinned people confirm that you’re living in a 9/10 world, nary a genuine worry in sight. Dream on.

    AMac (61e4fb)

  17. According to the NYT article, the group or most of the group, has gone back to Syria. Here’s what I don’t get. The press trumpets “they’re musicians” as if that means they are not terrorists. Isn’t the Al Qaeda way to join the culture, establish a cover and then live that cover until the right moment?

    14 people of any race, ethinicity and nationality behaving oddly along with 7 of them heading for the bathroom after the flight attendants are strapped in would worry me. It’s hard to believe that there wasn’t some arrestable infraction such as failure to obey the flight attendant or pilot.

    Justene (b303b8)

  18. I’m sorry AMac, other than getting that you think I’m living in a pre-9/11 fantasy world, I have no idea what to make of your post.

    People, whether they “might” be terrorists or acted “suspiciously” is neither here nor there: at no point have they “done anything”!!

    Ok, I’ve got the solution. Here’s my proposal: everyone should have to go through a rigorous security screening, bar none. I have said this since 9/11, btw. I am personally willing to undergo whatever it takes to get on that plane, because I have absolutely nothing to hide, and I want to be safe. But you’d damn well better apply it equally, across the board. As soon as you make exceptions, i.e. “Aww…she’s a sweet old lady. Just let her onboard,” you’ve created a loophole that could eventually be taken advantage of. So do it to everyone. If that means we need to arrive at the airport an hour earlier, or that we need to add more security people to the ranks to accomodate this, so be it. I’m willing to do whatever it takes to be safe–is everyone else here willing to make the same stand?

    Because I suspect most people here would rather we just target the “suspicious” people, a standard which has absolutely no legal definition, by the way. Well, guess what–terrorists can come in all different colors. If we spend so much time trying to stop them at the door, the ones who are here already will stab us in the back.

    And yes, let’s talk about Richard Reid, the white, English “shoe bomber” who converted to Islam later in life. Unless we subjected every single Muslim to an additional screening process, there’s no way we could’ve use a ‘profiling’ system to get him. And guess what we call pulling aside every Muslim and subjecting them to different standards? Anyone?

    That’s right–unconstitutional! You win the prize! So that’s out.

    So it seems that my plan would be the only pragmatic, constitutional way to solve this dilemna–search everyone. Thoroughly. Who’s with me?

    Tom (41ac3c)

  19. Tom, it was a pleasure to read your 9:23am post. You’ve thought about your position and described it in a logical manner. I thought earlier that you were trolling. My apologies.

    You will be aware that “convicts” are a class of people that is much smaller than “air travelers,” are confined to a single structure, and have very few rights. Despite this, most efforts to keep prisons contraband-free are notable failures.

    Why would an acceptable search strategy provide near-perfect security in the case of the much harder problem? And we haven’t yet considered the tens of thousands of people filling low-wage, high-turnover jobs cleaning planes, staffing concourse businesses, and the like.

    That said, I agree that passenger screening is a good idea. It keeps most dangerous articles off planes, in particular those that would be brought on board by impulsive and deranged people. Reid’s shoe-bomb was nearly detected by CDG screeners. Still–we should distinguish between the appearance of security and security itself. Passenger screening is not a reliable obstacle to a man of Mohammed Atta’s caliber or an organization with the resources of al Qaeda.

    T don’t see how a practice such as “suspect only presumptive Muslims” or “detain dark-skinned men” would be either legal or effective. Whatever we do, our enemies are watching, and adapting their tactics. That said, the El Al airline has been notably successful in using sophisticated profiling and questioning techniques to identify passengers with evil intention. If, pragmatically, a technique works, its broader application should be considered.

    There is an irresolvable tension between “nondiscrimination” (treating everyone the same) and “profiling” (directing efforts towards the riskiest passengers). As Kevin Murphy pointed out (3:02pm), visitors are not automatically afforded all rights of citizens, and many “high-risk” passengers will be non-citizens; that may be one basis for discrimination that passes legal muster. The notion that “the Constitution is not a suicide pact” would seem to apply here. I suspect, sadly, that events will sooner or later drive drastic changes in air-travel risk management practices.

    >I have no idea what to make of your [8:38pm] post.

    It was a response to your (Tom’s) unserious 2:50pm comment, which in turn built on my 2:06pm post. Read them in series and they should make sense.

    AMac (3cb088)

  20. In her latest post, Michelle Malkin provides references that move the Flight 327 story forward. In particular, she points to another passenger’s account in the Washington Times, corroborating Jacobsen’s story. This answers the “dog that didn’t bark” question (7/28 9:51am).

    It’s appearing more and more that Jacobsen is owed apologies from those who mocked her as hyterical and overwrought. Not that she’ll be receiving them any time soon.

    AMac (490e04)

  21. I think the biggest problem I have with this whole situation is the way everyone’s going about it. We have no evidence whatsoever, other than weak circumstantial perceptions, that any sort of terror plot was underway. All the “evidence” that is being pointed out by the likes of Malkin isn’t actually evidence, merely continuations of the same, proof-less theme as before: their actions made a random individual nervous. Now, another individual speaks out–this person was nervous too.

    I’m not trying to dispute those feelings. But think what makes me uncomfortable about this is the tacit assumption that many on the right seem to have: that even though there’s no evidence which suggests that these musicians are terrorists, the burden of proof is on them to prove their innocence. We are collecting reports now, not from the perspective of trying to learn the truth, but with a distinct agenda: how does this help dump more suspicion on these otherwise innocent guys, make them look more like terrorists? In short, we’re grasping at straws rather than admitting the obvious, ultimately because we don’t want to just trust that people can behave in ways other than we’re used to on a plane and not be up to something.

    And that’s problematic. Guys, we live in America, and just because we’re not always dealing with American citizens doesn’t mean that we should forsake our values when dealing with them. Why is it so hard to let go of the fear that everyone else is out to get us–even when all evidence speaks otherwise? It’s ok to be afraid, but it’s not ok to let that fear control our essential American values when it comes to protecting innocent people–and ultimately, that includes not expecting the worst every time we encounter someone who doesn’t look like us. Innocent until proven guilty. Not guilty until my nervousness subsides.

    Tom (0d9494)

  22. Innocent until proven guilty.

    I guess the passengers on Flight 93 should have held a trial before rushing the cabin, eh?

    Patterico (f7b3e5)

  23. Indeed. Better than 10 terrorists should be allowed to hijack a plane than for one non-terrorist to be wrongly detained and questioned as a suspected terrorist.

    Xrlq (6d213c)

  24. Tom,

    If your preferred writing style is bemused superiority, your posts will have greater impact if they demonstrate superior logic and command of the facts. I’ll mention three areas for improvement.

    1. It would be better to avoid the straw-man fallacy. You state “We have no evidence…that any sort of terror plot was underway” and “even though there’s no evidence which suggests that these musicians are terrorists, [many on the right place] the burden of proof…on them to prove their innocence.” You thus imply to the credulous reader that your correspondents necessarily interpret the events on this flight as a thwarted attack.

    Some posters at Michelle Malkin’s site have expressed this belief, so you could certainly have a spirited debate over there. In this discussion, host Patterico expressed his concerns by quoting Spoons: “To recap, we have a bunch of young, pro-terrorist males from a terrorist supporting country, traveling on expired visas, violating security rules and otherwise acting suspiciously on a U.S. flight.” Another correspondent, me, has expressed the view that the Syrians may have been expressing their anti-US hostility by “playing to the crowd,” akin to how street toughs might display toy pistols at a neighborhood gathering. I will refer you once more to 7/29 at 2:06pm and 8:38pm, where I raised this concern. You appear to be deaf to its implications.

    2. You disparaged Jacobsen’s report as a sole person’s “weak circumstantial perceptions,” placing the word evidence in sneer quotes. That account has now been supported by at least three other passengers, one air marshal, and one member of the flight crew. What quantity of evidence would be sufficient for you, Counselor?

    3. You discuss criminal court procedures as the only legitimate frame of reference. Far from it. Criminal law is the citizenry’s contract with itself for determining guilt for the purpose of punishment, and for setting that punishment. Only a fool would substitute this code for common sense in the affairs of daily life. (Would you use a babysitter who had been acquitted of child endangerment on a technicality?) To suggest that flight security should be patterned on the criminal code is to imply that no serious threat is posed to aviation by Islamofascism, or, for that matter, by any other source.

    AMac (bb1d28)

  25. AMac, I’m a little taken aback by your references to my supposed “bemused superiority.” This is the second time you’ve read too much into my posts–and I’m far from feeling bemused at this point.

    Next time, please read my post at face value, taking it seriously, before responding how you think is in kind (but what is actually over the top, given my sincerity). I’m sorry for evidentally not communicating my ideas in a way that is very helpful to you, but it would be nice if your first assumption isn’t that I’m trying to belittle everybody.

    You seem to be taking my comments towards Jacobsen personally. I’m sorry for that too–I’m certainly not trying to disparage anyone. I still don’t believe that it is right to refer to her account as “evidence,” since the word “evidence” by its very nature presupposes some sort of wrongdoing which I do not believe has occurred in this case. I do not doubt the veracity of her account, merely the implications of what she describes.

    Furthermore, Spoon’s assessment of the “young, pro-terrorist males from a terrorist supporting country, traveling on expired visas, violating security rules and otherwise acting suspiciously on a U.S. flight” depends on assumptions that I’m not willing to make. I was very much intending to address the extent to which these are “pro-terrorist” people, and one of the NYT articles discusses the difficulties that Syrians encounter when acquiring proper visas. (Sorry for no sources; at the moment I’m running low on time, but can dig them up if you’d like me to later.)

    And finally, you’re right that the ‘innocent until proven guilty’ value isn’t the appropriate value in this case. What I was trying to get at is much more basic–it comes down to trust in the ultimate goodness and interconnectedness of humanity, as opposed to assuming that everyone else is out to get you. More on that later, my friend. If you can try and maintain the civility I believe I have granted you, that is! :)

    Tom (fc1352)

  26. Xriq, you sound like you’d be a proponent of my proposal outlined above. I’ve never said we shouldn’t detain anybody prior to going onboard, only that we shouldn’t target people based on their race, culture, or religion. I think everyone should be searched at the highest standards available, but equally. Across the board. No exceptions–because where there are exceptions will be weaknesses, and the terrorists themselves will exploit them.

    Tom (fc1352)

  27. Tom: I’m not sure I understand your definition of “evidence,” or how it is possible to put the word in sneer quotes without disparaging Annie Jacobsen or the other passengers on the plane who have since come forward. Calling their accounts “evidence” rather than evidence suggests that you think they have zero credibility, i.e., their accounts have no evidentiary value at all. If that isn’t disparaging, I don’t know what is.

    As to your suggestion that everyone go through 100% search every time, I’m not sure it’s realistic nor even desirable. Searching people SOLELY on account of their race, religion or culture is going a bit too far, but taking these factors into account is just a matter of common sense. Large contingents of certain cultures are trying to murder us in masse; most other cultures aren’t. Large numbers of adherents of one religion are trying to murder us en masse; no other religion is. When was the last time a gang of Austrians hijacked an American airliner to promote Catholicism?

    Xrlq (ffb240)

  28. the word “evidence” by its very nature presupposes some sort of wrongdoing which I do not believe has occurred in this case

    That’s backwards. Evidence is used to *prove* a proposition. Calling something “evidence” does not “presuppose” wrongdoing. Otherwise, there could never be “evidence” in a criminal trial, in which the accused is presumed innocent until proven guilty (by evidence).

    The Jacobsen episode provides us with evidence. But: of what? Clearly, of poor security procedures. (Letting the subjects of a potential terrorist inquiry go free, w/o first checking their immigration status, e.g.) Of a terrorist dry run? That part is less clear.

    Patterico (e4f7b3)

  29. Oh — and I can’t let this go w/o comment:

    it comes down to trust in the ultimate goodness and interconnectedness of humanity, as opposed to assuming that everyone else is out to get you

    This is the last principle I ever want to see discussed with respect to airline security procedures. I am much more comfortable having my security guidelines dictated and executed by paranoids, rather than by the naive and the trusting.

    Patterico (e4f7b3)

  30. Tom, I’m glad that you responded to my ire about “bemused superiority.” You’re now aware that I got that from your post; I’m now aware that you didn’t mean it.

    You’ve posted at length on this thread, but without addressing most of the concerns that have been raised.

    From July 30, 11:13am:

    –Searches don’t keep jails free of contraband, a much easier problem than keeping all potential weapons off planes. Why would an aviation safety program based exclusively on searching every passenger work?
    Your response: none.

    –El Al has successfully used sophisticated profiling and questioning techniques to identify passengers with evil intention. Should we learn from their success?
    Your response: none.

    –Visitors need not be automatically afforded all rights of citizens, and many “high-risk” passengers will be non-citizens; is that an acceptable basis for discrimination?
    Your response: none.

    From August 1, 12:26am:

    –Your responses in this thread address easy-to-rebut arguments made elsewhere.
    Your response: Your latest post signaled your disagreement with the Spoons statement that Patterico actually quoted. But you have not addresed my supposition that these Syrians may have been acting out their hostility to the US by “playing hijackers,” secure in the knowledge that they were innocent (innocent of air piracy, that is, not innocent of intimidation and of disobeying the flight crew).

    –Others have now come forward to substantiate Jacobsen’s account. Doesn’t this give her account considerably more weight; isn’t it time to lose the sneer quotes?
    Your response: none.

    –I disagreed with the concept that criminal-code concepts can, or should, form the basis of an effective aviation security regime.
    Your response: you have agreed on that point.

    In more general terms, I find a disconnect between the historical times we are living through, and the world as seen through your eyes (“it comes down to trust in the ultimate goodness and interconnectedness of humanity, as opposed to assuming that everyone else is out to get you.”).

    In the second clause, you have again succumbed to the straw-man fallacy by having me [assume] that everyone else is out to get [me]. An easy–but specious–argument. As far as the first clause, it would be irresponsible to allow trust in the ultimate goodness of humanity to translate into aviation security policies that depend on the present-day good intentions of every human passenger on every flight. Why have security at all?

    Tom, the jihadis have selected you, your niece, and your neighbor as their mortal enemies. They offer you, and our society, only four choices: conversion, dhimmitude, death, or resistance.

    The only security plans that are worthy of the name take this unpleasant reality into account. Perhaps when islamofascism has joined nazism and leninism on history’s ashcan, we can base aviation security on the pleasant principals that you have enunciated. The sooner we face the current threat, the sooner that day will arrive.

    I’ll leave this thread with the above mini-essay, but will check Patterico’s nifty recent-comments feature to make sure to read any response you may make. I’ve enjoyed the discussion.

    AMac (3cb088)

  31. The Jacobsen episode provides us with evidence. But: of what? Clearly, of poor security procedures. (Letting the subjects of a potential terrorist inquiry go free, w/o first checking their immigration status, e.g.) Of a terrorist dry run? That part is less clear.

    Patterico, I agree with you 100%. Thanks for your help in clarifying this, in a way that I’ve been unable to. The problem with the evidence is not the accuracy of the events which she describes, as I stated above, but the conclusion that she subsequently reaches, which doesn’t necessarily follow.

    As to my so-called naiveté with regards to how we should respond as passengers, let me pose a question to all my new friends here on PP:

    As a passenger on a plane, witnessing suspicious activities purpetrated by suspicious-looking characters, exactly what would you do? Let’s presume you were watching exactly the same sorts of events that Ms. Jacobsen had, but where you didn’t necessarily know the outcome.

    What’s the difference between the way that we would have responded in the event of another terrorist strike, and the way we’d all respond now, after having familiarized ourselves with Jacobsen’s article? In other words, of what good has her article become?

    I personally don’t think her experiences are all that informative or helpful with regard to what actually can or will be accomplished as a result. It is unlikely that the FAA now, thanks to Ms. Jacobsen, has become privy to any new information that wasn’t already known to them, whether about these specific men in particular, or about security flaws in general. To be sure, there are problems. But what’s the likelihood that she, singlehandedly, has been able to illuminate them in a way that makes them solveable? Nil.

    Instead, her account may well have done more harm than good, particularly with the general public’s perceptions about people of arab descent (consider how so many others, such as these bozos for example, have responded with racist and xenophobic fear-mongering). I know this is largely not the case on this site, but as a general rule, this site tends to be exceptional in this way, not standard.

    So that’s my biggest beef about it. Nobody’s gonna be able to do anything differently, other than feeling more paranoid and/or really doing something outwardly racist on the plane in a fit of hysterics.

    The bottom line: neither someone else’s paranoia nor my naiveté will mean a damn difference when terrorists actually do attack our plane. We’ll either be able to intervene, along with the air marshalls and what have you, or we won’t. Until then, I’m choosing not to worry about that over which I have no control whatsoever.

    Tom (be1f68)


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