Patterico's Pontifications

5/29/2007

Snopes: Wrong Again on Flight 327

Filed under: Air Security,General,Terrorism — Patterico @ 6:23 am

With the revival of the debate over Annie Jacobsen and Flight 327, commenters are pointing to Snopes as providing an allegedly authoritative opinion on the matter.

Hardly — as I showed long ago in this post.

Since I wrote that post, Snopes has doubled down — and their new material is disingenous indeed. Xrlq explains.

45 Responses to “Snopes: Wrong Again on Flight 327”

  1. Funny, I read it as “We entered the incident in our database when a right-wing newspaper and the White House made a stink about it.”

    No law enforcement agency has, at least on the record, provided a shred of evidence that the Syrian band were terrorist accomplices. (Steve did supply a photo of the lead singer with the Reagans, though—once upon a time that might have suffices to prove terrorist inclinations to me.)

    It’s true, the story that the crew and air marshals were worried about Annie Jacobsen, Girl Reporter spreading unwarranted panic throughout the plane is also anonymously sourced.

    Andrew J. Lazarus (7d46f9)

  2. Snopes frames the claim as “Passengers encountered by a reporter on an airline flight were proved to be terrorists making a dry run at assembling a bomb on-board.” And it says that claim is false.

    Who doesn’t agree with that? Snopes isn’t saying that they weren’t terrorists. It’s saying that they were not proven to be terrorists. And so far, that is absolutely true. Nobody has proven that these guys were terrorists.

    Of course, nobody has difinitively proven they weren’t terrorists, either. But that doesn’t make Snopes’ statement incorrect.

    So is Snopes’ actual statement incorrect? Anybody? Have these individuals been “proved be terrorists” or not? If not, why is Snopes taking so much heat here?

    Phil (427875)

  3. Snopes identifies claims as
    (green) identifies true statements or legends based on real occurrences.
    (red) indicates false statements.
    (yellow) indicates statements of undetermined or ambiguous veracity.
    (gray) indicates legends of indeterminate origin.

    Rather than reject the claim as false, Snopes should have framed the statement differently … perhaps, “Passengers encountered by a reporter on an airline flight were terrorists making a dry run at assembling a bomb on-board” without the straw-man phrase “proved to be”.

    Such a statement would properly be identified as undetermined as of today.

    aunursa (1b5bad)

  4. Rather than reject the claim as false, Snopes should have framed the statement differently

    Except that’s the claim that’s being being circulated. Check out this article:

    http://washingtontimes.com/national/20070527-115545-3054r.htm

    The article describes “details of what federal air marshals say was a terrorist dry run aboard Northwest Airlines Flight 327 from Detroit to Los Angeles on June 29, 2004.”

    But the article is void of any actual quotes or sources that say this was a terrorist dry run. It just made everyone worry about terrorist dry runs.

    So there really is a meme going around that this was in fact a “dry run” and these were proven to be terrorists.

    The Snopes article does disprove this meme. Retreats to the position of “well it MIGHT have been a dry run” are welcomed, but those retreats are thanks to Snopes debunking of the position that this was proven to be a dry run.

    What if there are no “dry runs”? What if there are “dry runs”? Does it make a differences? Doesn’t it help us to disprove events that are NOT dry runs, so we can knwo for sure whether or not there are such things?

    Phil (427875)

  5. How do we know that the flight James Woods was on was a dry run? FBI, FAMS or DHS investigations?

    No. We know it was a dry run because of the wet run.

    Pablo (08e1e8)

  6. The likes of AJL and Phil seem to be quite invested in this not being a dry run, and how dare anybody suspect that it could have been. Odd, that.

    It mirrors AJL’s conviction that voter fraud does not occur because there are few criminal convictions for same. Wishing something to be true is sufficient for those that do not think.

    JD (68b9b3)

  7. Other than blogs, is there a Snopes for Snopes?

    Bill (00f000)

  8. Did anyone investigate Woods’ dry run (before it was too late)? Small difference there, eh?

    The residuum of Administration support comes from those so lost in their own fear (well-stoked by said Administration) that they forgo any analysis of whether a particular threat is real. Terrorist incidents are few, except to the paranoid.

    Andrew J. Lazarus (7d46f9)

  9. I would love to learn which leftist coined this meme that the Right is afriad, or lost in their own fear, as AJL puts it. It is one of, if not the most profoundly brainless rhetorical tactics utilized by them. At best, it is tiresome.

    JD (68b9b3)

  10. Phil,

    The Washington Times article states that “federal air marshals say” that it was a dry run, not as you claim, that it was proven to be a dry run. The article states evidence that it was a dry run, but nowhere is it stated or even implied that it has been proven.

    Therefore, in fact, there has been no such claim, as you claim.

    aunursa (1b5bad)

  11. The likes of AJL and Phil seem to be quite invested in this not being a dry run, and how dare anybody suspect that it could have been. Odd, that

    If you’re wondering why I’m so “invested” in determining whether or not “dry runs” actually exist, all you need to do is read the first paragraph of Annie Jacobsen’s article:

    “What I experienced during that flight has caused me to question whether the United States of America can realistically uphold the civil liberties of every individual, even non-citizens, and protect its citizens from terrorist threats.”

    When writers start asking whether it’s “realistic” to “uphold the civil liberties of every individual,” well, I get “invested.” Call me crazy.

    If the experience that caused Annie to question whether civil liberties were worth upholding is never proven to be an actual threat, that’s a telling commentary on America’s rush to throw civil liberties out the window to “protect its citizens from terrorist threats.”

    Phil (427875)

  12. It’s too bad we can’t Google up Annie Jacobsen’s mother on the suspicious behavior of some Nisei on her train, early 1942.

    We need the fake voter fraud scare to justify onerous, legitimate-vote suppression tactics.

    We need the fake terrorists-all-over-the-place to justify Gitmo, Abu Ghraib, warantless wiretapping.

    We need the devious Japs in American clothing to justify Manzanar. (It’s no accident that Michelle Malkin in fact does justify Manzanar.)

    We need the Jewish conspiracy to enslave Europe to justify Auschwitz.

    The historical record of people panicked out of their minds by exaggerated threats is not a pleasant one. Wouldn’t you want some scintilla of evidence—evidence that the chief air marshal on board, the FBI, etc. somehow missed—before worrying that Syrian proto-terrorists wander the aisles of our aircraft?

    Andrew J. Lazarus (7d46f9)

  13. The historical record of people panicked out of their minds by exaggerated threats is not a pleasant one.

    As is the historical record of governmental incompetence.

    aunursa (1b5bad)

  14. We need the fake voter fraud scare to justify onerous, legitimate-vote suppression tactics.

    We need the fake terrorists-all-over-the-place to justify Gitmo, Abu Ghraib, warantless wiretapping.

    Just wow…

    Just when I though he couldn’t get worse…

    Scott Jacobs (90eabe)

  15. It is not disputable that terrorists are really attacking us. If you haven’t been to Manhattan recently, you might be surprised that the skyline is a bit different now as a result.

    And voter fraud is real. Ask the governor of Washington who won by a slimmer margin that the confirmed and certain level of fraudulent votes which is much lower than the actual count of fraudulent votes.

    Yes, people like aunurea in Britain and France said that the Nazi crisis was simply a scare by people like Churchil that wasn’t worth pursuing: that Germany wasn’t worth stopping. Those liberals murdered millions. Likewise, the hero of the democrats, FDR, has as part of his legacy the act of imprisoning the Japanese out of fear that they would attack USA soil again. It seems obvious that this was wrong and they were all innocent, but I bet that’s not 100% accurate. Still, a horrible overreach that the democrats should be ashamed of. Like virtually all of the atrocious behaivior the USA has been involved in, the Republicans are smeared for something democrats did: Bay of Pigs, Slavery, KKK, segregation. The dems are simply a populist power organ with no principles and they are free to change with the winds and then pretend their former positions were always the republicans.

    But just as Iraq has ensnared Al Qaeda in a war they cannot possibly win and landlocked Iran, leading to zero successes for Al Qaeda in the USA post 9/11, the republicans are also far more responsible for the civil rights laws in this nation… these successes mean the republicans must move on to future reforms and successes, but their past successes aren’t as relevant.

    Justa s you see here, democrats have far, far, far less to fear from terrorists at the twilight of Bush 43’s term than they had at the close of Clinton’s. Somehow that means Bush has failed in the war on terror. That terror doesn’t scare someone as much after 9/11 is actually an argument against republicans!

    That’s not to say the Rpublicans are right and the Dems are wrong. Far from it, they are both terribly corrupt for pork and power. But the dems are everchanging and free of principles. The reps are embroiled in an argument over their differences because their principles conflict. Night and day difference.

    Anyway, you can see liberalism in 9/11, the internment of Asians, the holocaust, etc etc etc.

    Democrats have a way of keeping problems alive and then twisting around to gain votes from them.

    Dustin (50889f)

  16. Patterico:

    Do you believe in ghosts, too?

    The Liberal Avenger (b8c7e2)

  17. I used to believe in ghosts, too – then I celebrated my 10th birthday.

    The Liberal Avenger (b8c7e2)

  18. Sometimes a Syrian musician is just a Syrian musician.

    The Liberal Avenger (b8c7e2)

  19. If the experience that caused Annie to question whether civil liberties were worth upholding is never proven to be an actual threat, that’s a telling commentary on America’s rush to throw civil liberties out the window to “protect its citizens from terrorist threats.”

    I’m sorry, Phil, if this sounds like a stupid question. Whose civil rights were violated?

    Pablo (08e1e8)

  20. Sometimes a Syrian musician is just a Syrian musician.

    Sometimes a Manshake is just a Manshake.

    Pablo (08e1e8)

  21. I’m sorry, Phil, if this sounds like a stupid question. Whose civil rights were violated?

    Pablo, Did I say anyone’s civil rights were violated? I certainly didn’t say so in the text you quoted. I won’t say your question is stupid, but I don’t know what you base it on.

    I expressed concern about Annie Jacobsen’s suggestion that perhaps civil rights should be violated. I didn’t suggest that anyone’s rights were violated — but Annie Jacobsen isn’t happy with how the situation was handled. She’s the one that suggested perhaps we should violate civil rights — and she left open the question of whose civil rights. Arabs? Any non-American’s? Everyone’s?

    Phil (bf8a2c)

  22. Dustin,

    Yes, people like aunurea in Britain and France said that the Nazi crisis was simply a scare by people like Churchil that wasn’t worth pursuing

    Either you’re confusing me with a different poster, or I seriously erred in attempting to make my point.

    aunursa (1b5bad)

  23. Pablo, Did I say anyone’s civil rights were violated?

    If you didn’t, you came damned close, Phil.

    If the experience that caused Annie to question whether civil liberties were worth upholding is never proven to be an actual threat, that’s a telling commentary on America’s rush to throw civil liberties out the window to “protect its citizens from terrorist threats.”

    I was responding to your “telling commentary on America’s rush to throw civil liberties out the window…”

    Whose civil liberties? What civil liberties? The Syrians with the expired visas? Please elaborate.

    Pablo (08e1e8)

  24. Do wingnuts lie awake in bed at night, terrified that Muslims might do them harm?

    Relax, children. The world isn’t such a terrible place. Nobody is going to hurt you. It’s OK to sleep. I promise.

    The Liberal Avenger (b8c7e2)

  25. Do wingnuts lie awake in bed at night, terrified that Muslims might do them harm?

    Do your straw men comfort you?

    aunursa (1b5bad)

  26. The long-awaited WashTimes update is online. Audrey Hudson essentially threw in the towel. She found no air marshals who say Flight 327 was a dry run for terrorists, only unnamed marshals who said “the incident resembled a dry run,” confirming “earlier suspicions.”

    Hon, we pretty much knew that.

    We were led to expect the new report would detail what “federal air marshals say was a terrorist dry run aboard Northwest Airlines Flight 327 from Detroit to Los Angeles on June 29, 2004.” It didn’t. It couldn’t.

    One marshal she names gripes of the covering up of “numerous probes and dry-run encounters” that are hidden from Congress. In general.

    The Patterico headline: “Feds Say ‘Terror in the Skies’ Flight Was Indeed a Terrorist Dry Run” remains unsupported and misleading.

    http://washtimes.com/national/20070529-040125-8213r.htm

    steve (5b676d)

  27. Sometimes a Syrian ophthalmology student is a dictator assisting terrorists to kill Lebanese Christians, Jews and Americans.

    Who knows what a Syrian musician can become.

    Perfect Sense (b6ec8c)

  28. steve,

    “Hon”? A little sexism thrown into the mix, eh?

    Also:

    Sometimes it helps to click through to the second page.

    Portions of the report remain redacted. However, current and former air marshals who reviewed a copy provided by The Times say the activities of the men details a dry run for a terrorist attack.

    “This report is evidence of Homeland Security executives attempting to downplay and cover up an unmistakable dry run that forced flight attendants to reveal the air marshals and compel the pilots to open the flight deck door,” said Robert MacLean, a former air marshal who was fired last year for revealing that the service planned to cut back on protection for long-distance flights to save money.

    I’ll be posting on this when I get time. Right now I’m feeling pretty vindicated — both in the content of her article and in the disingenuous way you responded to it.

    Hon.

    Patterico (eeb415)

  29. The reason that lefties are so invested in their belief that they’re infallible is because it’s less work intellectually.

    dubya (c16726)

  30. dubya –
    Well, they are suffering from oxygen deprivation.

    Another Drew (8018ee)

  31. We could probably use a federal law prohibitng swarthy males doing cabaret at 35,000 feet.

    steve (fde90e)

  32. Did you mean cabaret or cabernet? 8)

    dubya (c16726)

  33. Okay, so the Washington Times said it interviewed some current and former air marshals who say the report’s description of the men’s activities fits the profile of a terrorist dry run. I’d have put that in the lead, if the evidence was solid. Instead, it’s buried in the 13th graf, not exactly a sign of confidence in my opinion.

    Here are the questions I’d like to see answered.

    (1) How many current and former air marshals did the WashTimes interview?

    (2) Which of the air marshals making the claim are still on the job?
    McLean has an obvious axe to grind. The article didn’t say why the second, Jeffrey Denning, quit. If both left under non-friendly terms, that needs to be noted.
    The one current air marshal quoted, P. Jeffrey Black, doesn’t specifically say this particular incident was a terrorist dry run. He was speaking in general terms. It’s also unclear whether Black is one of the air marshals who examined the report for the WashTimes.

    (3) Did all the former and current air marshals the WashTimes interview agree that the report described a terrorist dry run?

    (4) What do independent security experts say about the claim?

    Bradley J. Fikes (1c6fc4)

  34. We could probably use a federal law prohibitng swarthy males doing cabaret at 35,000 feet.

    Screw the cabaret – I’m cool with a federal law just prohibiting swarthy males at 35,000 feet. Until such time as the Muzzies learn to play nice with others, they can drive.

    Any fair reading of the actual TSA PDF report linked in the WashTimes article would indicate that these “musicians” were either:
    (a) Dry running; or
    (b) Acting like assholes for the Greater Glory of Allah, and seeing how much fear they can put into the lowly Infidels – much like the Flying Imams did at Detroit Airport on that USAir flight.

    Based on the fact that the pilots didn’t immediately put the plane down on the deck once problems started cropping up at 20 minutes into the flight, my vote to the above choices is option (b).

    Swarthy skin or not, random assholery at 35,000 feet should be severely frowned upon. The fact that these guys were discovered with expired visas at LAX but were released anyway – and not immediately placed on a plane for Damascus – is proof positive that FBI, ICE, TSA and all the other alphabet-soup agencies aren’t serious about their jobs.

    The Other JD (044292)

  35. Let me incorporate the excellent comment 33 by reference.

    Hudson has indeed found three ex-marshals who say the behavior resembled a dry run. I don’t see how anyone could definitively say that was a dry run without showing some connection between the actors and terrorist groups.

    I’d like to point out a partial answer to question (4) in that comment. According to the report, the FBI, TSA, and DHS all think that the incident was not terror-related. Of course, they might be wrong and some fired air marshals studying the case at a distance might be on to something.

    Andrew J. Lazarus (e1b27a)

  36. Of course they’re not serious. The mission of a bureaucrat is to put in your “thirty”, and retire to a beach in Costa Rica, regardless of what the purpose of the agency is alleged to be.

    I speculate sometimes as to how much better off we would be if we just let them sit at their desks for their “thirty”: No pencils, no paper, no computer or phone. It sure would be peaceful.

    Another Drew (8018ee)

  37. Did you really say this:

    The residuum of Administration support comes from those so lost in their own fear (well-stoked by said Administration) that they forgo any analysis of whether a particular threat is real. Terrorist incidents are few, except to the paranoid.

    Remarkably reminiscent of:

    Judging from news reports and the portrayal of villains in our popular entertainment, Americans are bedeviled by fantasies about terrorism. They seem to believe that terrorism is the greatest threat to the United States and that it is becoming more widespread and lethal. They are likely to think that the United States is the most popular target of terrorists. And they almost certainly have the impression that extremist Islamic groups cause most terrorism…. None of these beliefs are based in fact…. While terrorism is not vanquished, in a world where thousands of nuclear warheads are still aimed across the continents, terrorism is not the biggest security challenge confronting the United States, and it should not be portrayed that way – Larry Johnson

    and yes I am aware of his explanations for this quote. I don’t find them convincing.

    chad (582404)

  38. Two small points.

    It’s buried in the report, but the musicians had asked for visa extensions that were granted. While the visas as stamped in the passports were expired, the musicians were in the country lawfully.

    And, does the idea of the fired air marshals analyzing the incident from news reports (as the Times makes no indication that any of their sources have first-hand knowledge) remind anybody else of Bill Frist’s splendid diagnosis of Terri “About to get up and dance” Schiavo?

    Andrew J. Lazarus (e1b27a)

  39. The historical record of people panicked out of their minds by exaggerated threats is not a pleasant one.

    Chamberlain would be proud of you. Keep living in your fantasy world. Keep mocking those who dare to try and remain vigilant. Continue to claim that keeping an eye on any Muslims acting strangely is being paranoid or racist. A lot of your leftist friends thought the same way on 9/11…until they weren’t able to think ever again.

    Hard Right (a183a5)

  40. The only thing that keeps non-liberals up at night is wonder how to fix the latest mess the newest batch of liberals is working on creating.

    jpm100 (a99bf7)

  41. Aunursa,

    I screwed up who I was talking about. My mistake.

    Dustin (50889f)

  42. Ah, Snopes. I’ve had a fisheye on their religion coverage for a while, so it doesn’t surprise me that it’s seeping into political/historical things as well.

    One year, a ‘married couple from California’ who refuse to have their articles quoted decided to become the be-all end-all on questions of accuracy. For some reason, the internet has tended to go along with it.

    David N. Scott (71e316)

  43. Snopes is biased. They are interested in forwarding their perspective, or agenda, and don’t care whom they hurt or misinform in the process. Myth busters would be a slightly better source of validating urban myth.

    Anti-Snopes (72da41)

  44. […] leftwing bias undercuts its credibility) The Ten O’Clock Scholar: Snopes Gets It Wrong Patterico’s Pontifications Snopes: Wrong Again on Flight 327 Has Snopes.com ever been wrong?, page 1 Debunking The Debunkers? | MetaFilter Snopes is Wrong […]

    Signers of Declaration of Independence (9d965f)

  45. […] leftwing bias undercuts its credibility) The Ten O’Clock Scholar: Snopes Gets It Wrong Patterico’s Pontifications Snopes: Wrong Again on Flight 327 Has Snopes.com ever been wrong?, page 1 Debunking The Debunkers? | MetaFilter Snopes is Wrong on […]

    Signers of Declaration of Independence (9d965f)


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