Patterico's Pontifications

8/4/2004

Anonymous Air Marshals and Flight Crew Members Continue to Contradict Annie Jacobsen

Filed under: Air Security,Terrorism — Patterico @ 10:30 pm

More from the Federal Air Marshal Service on the “Terror in the Skies” incident, courtesy of the New York Times. (Link via the Commissar.)

(If you are unfamiliar with this incident, the background is available in my “Terrorism” category.)

Today’s article, by Joe Sharkey, opens this way:

One of the major remaining questions about Northwest Airlines Flight 327 on June 29 from Detroit to Los Angeles – the flight that was met by federal agents and local police responding to a possible terrorist incident – is this:

Did, as a passenger reported, 7 of the 13 Syrian musicians whose behavior was terrifying some passengers stand up in unison and take strategic positions by the lavatories and the exit door during final approach to Los Angeles, an act that would have been a frighteningly overt and unambiguous provocation?

They did not, according to the Federal Air Marshal Service, which had previously left unchallenged assertions by Annie Jacobsen, a freelance writer on the flight, that they did.

“What happened was, they were already standing up in the aisle before the seat belt signs became illuminated,” said Dave Adams, a spokesman for the agency, which represents air marshals who travel undercover on airplanes.

“The flight attendants asked them to sit down and the men respected the orders and sat in their seats. Two gentlemen asked why they had to, and a flight attendant told them ‘Because, so please take your seats.’ And they obeyed,” he said.

The new information, he added, came from “subsequent interviews of flight attendants on this matter by our personnel.”

So there was absolutely no sudden move by the men on final approach?

“None,” Mr. Adams said.

Spoons says:

I’m sure that the fact that that they’ve recently been called to account by Congress for the Marshals’ lack of action during the flight has nothing to do with it.

I have previously expressed such suspicions about comments made by anonymous air marshals on the flight — who, by the way, remain anonymous. As I said, “the air marshals, having done essentially nothing on the flight, have a motive to justify their inaction by making Ms. Jacobsen sound hysterical.” For all the accusations levelled at Annie Jacobsen for being a coward, she is the only person on the flight so far who has had the guts to make her name public. And that includes the flight attendants, who (perhaps unlike the air marshals) have no pressing need to keep their identities secret.

I’ll point out that Sharkey’s column ends this way:

It is important to note that the Jacobsens’ anxiety was not created out of thin air. Whether or not they misinterpreted the Syrians’ possibly loutish behavior, the account of Flight 327 comes as flight crews are being routinely warned by their operations departments that terrorists are “testing the system,” as one pilot told me, to see how crews behave and undercover air marshals can be flushed out with provocations.

“It’s just common sense,” said G. Bruce Hedlund, a pilot for 20 years for a major airline. “Any bad guy, from a smuggler to a terrorist, if they have any sense at all, they would case the job. These guys who did 9/11, some of them had flown so much they had frequent-flier status. What better way to probe the flight operation than from on board the plane?”

I’ll save the postscript for the extended entry:

P.S. The Commissar seems to suggest that Spoons, Michelle Malkin, and I all deliberately covered this story up:

Surely, I thought, Spoons (5 posts today) or Michelle Malkin (7 posts today) would be all over this one, probably to disagree with it. So far, not a word. Nor from my friend Patterico (2 posts today). Maybe they didn’t see it; maybe they will get to it later.

The parentheticals could be read to suggest sarcasm: i.e. these bloggers know damn well about this story but don’t want to tell you about it.

Now, I have read the Commissar for months, and my desire is to give him the benefit of the doubt on this one. He is an intelligent man and a class act. Surely he isn’t suggesting what he seems to be suggesting.

I left a note on his blog saying:

I hope you don’t think I deliberately ignored this. I was one of the first people to post the story quoting the anonymous federal marshals disputing Jacobsen’s version — the Winds of Change post which was widely cited for publicizing that story, found it by reading my blog. I pride myself on dealing with the facts, no matter which way they fall.

You saw the story on the passenger who corroborated Ms. Jacobsen’s story, yes? You kept saying initially that this was just one woman making a fuss. Now it’s at least two. I didn’t see your post on that, though I may have just missed it, just like I missed the NYT story until I read about it here.

For his part, Spoons responded in his lovably irascible fashion:

Obviously, I had hoped to conceal this story from all of my faithful readers. As you know, I read every single article and column in every single U.S. publication, every single day. Accordingly, anytime I don’t discuss something on this site, you may safely assume that I’ve seen it, but am attempting to put one over on you by hiding it. Unfortunately, the Commissar has bravely called my shameful attempts to bury the truth to the attention of all the world. Now, blinded by the light of his crusading righteousness, I am forced to respond.

It’s a little more confrontational than I might have been, but you get the idea.

The Commissar has updated his post, appearing to accept our assertions that we had not seen the story.

UPDATE: The Commissar also has this post with a link to an account by one of the air marshals.

8 Responses to “Anonymous Air Marshals and Flight Crew Members Continue to Contradict Annie Jacobsen”

  1. Patteico,

    Since when, exactly, are you not omniscient, or at least omin-leierovoyant, or whatever all-reading would transpose to. It’s unacceptable that us readers should have to browse around, and sometimes have to buy newspapers ourselves!

    We demand our money back!

    AMac (17421a)

  2. Yeah, I screwed that up. Sorry

    It would have been more accurate for me to bemoan the general lack of coverage of Sharkey’s article throughout the Conservative blogosphere. Not by conspiracy, nor malignant design, but rather a sense that we (including me) may be in bit of an echo chamber.

    Picking on three individuals was not the way to make the point.

    The Commissar (a92ac6)

  3. Re: the marshals’ anonymity. The articles explain why.

    You’re not trying to hide that, are you? :)

    The Commissar (a92ac6)

  4. I understand that you are kidding me to some unknown extent. Still: I could hardly be trying to “hide” anything that readers can reach if they follow the links.

    In addition to the rules the marshals have to follow, it is also intuitively obvious that the marshals need to remain anonymous — that’s why I said in the post:

    And that includes the flight attendants, who (perhaps unlike the air marshals) have no pressing need to keep their identities secret.

    I am not very mollified by your comments, because of your reference to an “echo chamber.” My friend, I am not part of any “echo chamber.”

    • I have more than one commenter here with a generally leftist viewpoint. I generally go out of my way to be polite to them — even when they are initially sarcastic — because I want to keep them around. They help keep the rest of us honest.

    If I had seen these stories, I would have linked to them. When I saw them, I did.

    No echo chamber here, comrade.

    Patterico (f7b3e5)

  5. Clinton Taylor, the student-radio-station guy who figured out the identity of the band and casino, has a follow-up article. It fills in a large number of details, including the band members’ names, and contains interviews with the band manager and promoter.

    Taylor doesn’t confirm any of the theories that are out there on Flight 327, but adds valuable information. I think it’s now safe to say that there is both less (no terror dry run) and more (inadequate security procedures) to this story than originally seemed to be the case.

    AMac (3cb088)

  6. Commissar: we are not very mollified by your comments, because of your reference to an “echo chamber.” My friend, this blog is not part of any “echo chamber.”

    Xrlq (e2795d)

  7. I generally go out of my way to be polite to them — even when they are initially sarcastic — because I want to keep them around

    He means me. Despite my first rude grand entrance here (I’d provide a link if I could find it), Patterico was a very gracious host. As a result, like an over-staying house guest, I’ve been enjoying my time here (before Patterico blocks my IP). And I can definitely verify that this is no echo chamber. Except on the “John Kerry Sucks/Is Stupid” posts. Those draw out the best of the web, let me assure you.

    Tom (12c633)

  8. Commissar: we are not very mollified by your comments, because of your reference to an “echo chamber.” My friend, this blog is not part of any “echo chamber.”

    What Xrlq said.

    Patterico (237122)


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