Patterico's Pontifications

6/7/2007

Why Do Air Marshals Think Flight 327 Was a Probe or Dry Run? Three Current or Former Air Marshals Speak Out

Filed under: Air Security,General,Terrorism — Patterico @ 12:15 am

I recently discussed an article by Audrey Hudson of the Washington Times, which asserted that several current and former federal air marshals believe Flight 327 (Annie Jacobsen’s “Terror in the Skies” flight) was a dry run or probe for terrorist activity. Days later, I quoted one federal air marshal as specifically making that assertion.

But why do air marshals think Flight 327 was a probe or dry run? I asked three of them that question. Two are current air marshals, and the other is a former air marshal. All three offer their views on this question in this post.

Former Air Marshal Robert MacLean is a whistleblower and, in my view, a true national hero. In my recent post, P. Jeffrey Black, a currently employed air marshal, had this to say about Mr. MacLean:

Former air marshal Robert MacLean was terminated for exposing to the public a dangerous TSA/FAMS policy which removed air marshals from all cross country flights –– similar to those flights hijacked on 9/11 –– because the TSA wanted to save money by not having to pay for hotel rooms for the over-nighting of air marshals. Mr. MacLean was a former distinguished Border Patrol Agent who graduated from the very first air marshal academy class soon after the events of 9/11, and has flown more missions than most air marshals still flying today.

Mr. MacLean was quoted in Audrey Hudson’s article as saying Flight 327 was an “unmistakable dry run.” I asked him for more details. He was careful to say that he couldn’t say beyond the shadow of a doubt that Flight 327 was a dry run: “Without a signed confession or the ability to read their minds, we will never definitively know if this incident was a dry run or probe.” But, he said, “I strongly believe that this incident was at worst a dry run, and at best, a probe.”

I asked him why he thought so. He said:

In my 10 years of experience as a law enforcement officer — five of those as an air marshal — I trained for thousands of hours using many operational plans that were obtained from terror camps and anti-terrorism intelligence, read dozens of these terrorism intelligence reports, and I flew hundreds of mission. I also have an extensive, discipline-free history as an outspoken representative of the Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association (FLEOA) and national security whistleblower who exposes the truth without fear of vindictive senior federal executives. The actions of the Syrians were like young children testing the limits of their parents’ patience. In this case, they went as far as they could to test the temperament of the flight attendants and air marshals without giving anyone enough probable cause to make an arrest. It was an easy task for them to expose the air marshals and the flight deck, only to then act polite and ignorantly dumbfounded when met by authorities at the gate. The fact that the band leader was involved in a prior aviation security incident and the majority of the rest of the band had positive hits during records checks should be enough for anyone to be convinced these individuals were not just having fun and games in a thin tube at 35,000 feet going 500 miles per hour.

Mr. MacLean pointed out flaws in air security that were exposed by what he believes was, at a minimum, a terrorist probe:

First of all, we know the air marshals were based in California, so they had to walk up exit lanes and get pre-boarded in front of the general public to make their flight in an airport outside of the state. It is now extremely likely that the Syrians, along with everyone else with half a brain, now knew that the flight had air marshals.

During the flight, the Syrians’ actions rattled the flight attendants enough to expose the air marshals. Now that the air marshals are completely exposed, they are vulnerable to an attack to take their weapons and use them against them and take control of the cabin.

Scariest of all, is the fact that the Syrians’ actions compelled the pilots to open the flight deck door to allow crew members in. The second that door unlocked, anyone could have forced themselves inside and created a disastrous United Airlines flight 93 scenario.

These individuals may not have been operating a hijack, but they certainly gathered a significant amount of valuable intelligence to pass on to terrorists training every day for the real thing.

The most disappointing events occurred when the supervisory TSA and FAMS officials met the flight at the gate and essentially let the Syrians continue on their merry way, to pass on their newfound intelligence to their friends training at the camps.

Due to the Federal Air Marshal Service’s unwritten policy directing air marshals to turn a blind eye to illegal aliens, it is obvious that the air marshals on board, who were at the time under the purview of Immigration & Customs Enforcement, were reluctant to further detain these individuals and conduct appropriate records checks. During my air marshal duties, I personally witnessed and investigated three different major illegal alien smuggling operations being carried out on airliners — only to be later stonewalled and retaliated against.

I bolded the first sentence of that last paragraph, because I think it’s critical to understanding the problem with Flight 327. Recall what it says on page 11 of the Inspector General’s report on Flight 327:

One of the air marshals aboard Flight 327 did notice the June 10, 2004, expiration while photocopying the visas. However, he said his
primary concern, at that time, was not whether the visas [had] expired, but to copy the visa pages so that CBP could later run a database check on these individuals. This air marshal said he could have asked CBP to run a database check on the visas for him that day, but he did not do so. FAMS headquarters officials said that the air marshal erroneously believed he was not legally entitled to the database information and CBP might have declined assistance.

Why would a federal law enforcement official think that he is not legally entitled to check the immigration status of a suspicious person in his custody — and would rather let that person go before even asking to run a database check? The answer lies in Mr. MacLean’s statement above: it was an unwritten policy at the Federal Air Marshal Service to turn a blind eye to illegal aliens — and this unwritten policy is pervasive. It goes beyond Flight 327. Let me return to Mr. MacLean’s statement:

Let’s give credit where credit is due: The outed air marshals aboard the flight did their job perfectly — everyone got back home without a scratch. This was a monumental accomplishment given the fact that the air marshals have no way to communicate with each other nor with the crew. After being outed during the situation by the flight attendants, they had to worry about 100-plus potential enemies who could slit their throats with TSA-approved 4-inch, pointed scissors and use their weapons to take over the aircraft.

Keep in mind this incident occurred under the reign of former FAMS Director Thomas D. Quinn, when he mandated that air marshals wear suits and ties, and maintain a military grooming standard. It was also during this time Director Quinn had the “Air Marshal Hotel Discount” policy that mandated air marshals to reveal their identity and display their badges to hotel clerks in order to check in.

I strongly believe that this incident was at worst a dry run, and at best, a probe. Probing, by itself, is not a prosecutable act. So the only reason for TSA to hide probable dry runs is to promote a false sense of security . . . and to create a falsehood in the name of promoting confidence is irresponsible — a fool’s errand indeed. The TSA ignores the truth and has honed the art of Kabuki Theater security to fool the airline passenger. The public deserves better than that.

(My emphasis.)

Well said, and very damning.

Next we hear from a currently employed air marshal who wishes to remain anonymous, for reasons that should be obvious to anyone familiar with Mr. MacLean’s story. Commenters have criticized statements made by some current and former air marshals on the grounds that that they are either out the door, or are possibly about to be shown the door. In my view, this is an ignorant argument that ignores the tremendous sacrifice that these men have made to tell the public the truth about air security. But if you are stubbornly clinging to the notion that these current and former air marshals are saying bad things about the government only because their employment was terminated, or may be currently at risk, then let me introduce you to an anonymous air marshal who is both currently employed and doing quite well at his job. Here’s what he says about Flight 327 and why he thinks it was either a probe, or a deliberate and malicious attempt to scare passengers:

Most things in law enforcement involve looking at an event or situation using the totality of the circumstances. So while a portion of an event, observed alone or in a vacuum, might have an innocent explanation, when viewed as an unified whole it has an entirely different significance.

That is why I am convinced that NW 327 was something more than some guys with the runs.

If you break it down you can come up with a likely explanation for pretty much everything that happened on the flight (except the throat slitting gesture. That one is pretty universal in context). But when you combine all of the incidents and actions that occurred into a unified whole I believe you can only come to the conclusion that something significantly more sinister was intended.

I’m torn between one of two conclusions, but both had inciting fear as their motive. That much I’m sure of. The “why” is where I’m stuck, and I can never know that absent talking to the Syrians in question, which, of course, will never happen.

Explanation #1 is a probe. A dry run is a different animal than a probe. A dry run is what an operating crew does right before the actual operation. It’s like a dress rehearsal. They do not want attention focused on them as that would endanger the upcoming operation.

A probe, on the other hand, wants attention. Its whole purpose is to see how far they can push the envelope. They push it until they meet resistance and then scale back from there. That gives an operating crew a safe margin for error. “Don’t do X, Y and Z and you won’t have any problems and you can avoid security and scrutiny.” So, if you’re pushing and testing the limits, then you’re going to come to the attention of the powers that be. And if you’ve come to their attention, you’d be ruined for a future operation because now you’re in the system. You are a known commodity.

NW 327 could have easily been a probe. Almost all the actions in it were designed, upon observation, to elicit a fear response from the passengers, crew and air marshals. And when you get scared/nervous you either shut down and hope it goes away (like many did), or you do something. Sometimes “doing something” means sitting there and waiting for an opportunity. Sometimes doing something means doing something. That is the response they want to see. How far can I go without anyone doing something? When I do cause action, who does something (and what did they do), and who just shuts down and lets me get away with it? Do you not think this would be valuable information to have if you were a bad guy?

The second explanation I have is that these men were sympathizers of terror groups or anti-American/Western/Whatever and were deliberately making people scared in some kind of act of defiance or protest. You can then play it off as some kind of cultural insensitivity or blatant racism or anti-Muslimism. They would be supporters of such groups as al Qaeda but not directly affiliated and had no overarching goal other than causing panic on NW 327. That was their only goal, not the accumulation of data and intelligence. But, while possible, I find it less likely. How likely is it that you find several men willing and able to do this that just happened to be in the same band? I would think you’d need to look long and hard for candidates for such an op, especially one with no real payoff other than scaring some people on one single flight.

These are my opinions only and, while indicative of the feelings of many FAMs I know and have talked to, I am not speaking for anyone but myself.

And, in case anyone brings it up, I’m not a former air marshal nor one in trouble or on the way out. I’m a current FAM and one who has received several merit raises for performance, including one last year. My only goal here is to intelligently and rationally address security issues and give aviation security and the public the security it deserves. I have no political ax to grind. We have to face the facts. And then act on them. And the facts tell me this was very, very suspicious and designed to get people scared and then see how they would react.

(My emphasis.)

I asked a third anonymous air marshal why we shouldn’t give primacy to the conclusions of the air marshals who were actually on board Flight 327. He said that the Inspector General’s report has already proven their credibility to be questionable. He noted that the facts that we already know do not correspond with what the Federal Air Marshals on Flight 327 stated after the flight. He further noted that their actions during the flight — like having the Captain call ahead for law enforcement officers to meet the plane — do not correspond with their comments after the flight. This anonymous air marshal — who is currently employed as an air marshal — speculated that the inconsistency is explainable if you conclude that the air marshals were briefed and told what to say after the flight. He pointed out that you can’t change what they did during the flight — and noted that having the Captain call ahead for law enforcement officers to meet the plane on the ground is a very serious action to take. His conclusion: up until the time the plane landed and they were briefed by FAMS supervisors, they clearly thought they had a serious problem on board.

This air marshal concluded by saying:

How do I know Flight 327 was a probe? Because I’m an experienced Federal Air Marshal who has flown thousands of missions. It’s my job to know. TSA management? They are not air marshals, they don’t fly on planes every day, and its not their job to know what a threat is. They have zero experience in aviation security.

I’d like to conclude this post by reiterating how difficult it is to get current air marshals to talk about these issues on the record while giving their names. They are understandably reluctant to jeopardize their jobs, and are torn between their natural desire for self-preservation (and the need to provide for their families) and the need to inform the public about the serious holes they see in airline security. And make no mistake: while I intend to protect my sources as strongly as any professional journalist — perhaps even more so — I recognize that there is an inherent risk in speaking out, even anonymously. Rather than be flippant about these issues, rational observers should be amazed by, and grateful for, the courage and forthrightness of folks like Robert MacLean, and the anonymous air marshals quoted in this post. They don’t have to take these risks, but they do — to protect you and me. We owe them our thanks.

73 Responses to “Why Do Air Marshals Think Flight 327 Was a Probe or Dry Run? Three Current or Former Air Marshals Speak Out”

  1. Thank you.

    To Patterico, for the legwork, the effort, and the dedication.

    To the FAMs, for speaking up at great risk to their careers and futures. (Nor is it just a risk to their futures – if they were to be replaced, it would be with FAMs who would be far less likely to risk their necks/careers – endangering those of us that are supposedly “protected and served”.)

    Unix-Jedi (d657d9)

  2. Nice work, Patterico, and many thanks to the FAM’s for laying it all out.

    But did you get a look at their voter registration cards? Because they might be Republicans, in which case we can’t believe a word they say. In fact, we should probably just assume that to be true and dismiss every word of this post as Rethuglican fearmongering. Right, Phil? Steve? Andrew?

    Pablo (99243e)

  3. Thank you Patterico for staying on this story — for doing what the MSM should be doing.

    aunursa (91d607)

  4. aunursa,

    Audrey Hudson is doing it. If it weren’t for her, I probably wouldn’t have any of this.

    Note that the more people I talk to, the more I confirm her assertion that current and forme air marshals (plural) think Flight 327 was a dry run.

    And I bet she has more coming, too.

    Patterico (eeb415)

  5. Well, if our government is treating our safety as a budget consideration, and continue to ostracize those brave men and women in charge of our safety while flying, this old girl from California will never step foot on a plane again.

    The more I am cognizant of the shenanigans of our government, the more I understand the intention of the Second Amendment.

    Cheryl (222459)

  6. You guys aren’t going to quit on this, are you? Don’t you get it? People like phil are very very unlikely to be the victims of terror attacks (perhaps since their mothers basement is not a high priority AQ target,) so they can be brave and high-minded in giving the benefit of the doubt to unruly Arabs at 35,000 feet.

    You guys are also unlikely to be those victims and should be jumping on the chance to second guess the passengers and crew of Flight 327. That way you too can look brave and, even better, not bigoted.

    Get with the program, willya?

    spongeworthy (45b30e)

  7. Extraordinary.

    This is precisely what I like to see in a story — plenty of meat on the bones. The readers know where you got your information from, what the sources told you, and why it is important. When you had to keep sources anonymous, you said so, and why. We weren’t left to wonder. Facts are spelled out, not just implied. And you have some unexpected eye-openers. (The unwritten policy of ignoring illegal immigrants is indefensible and incomprehensible).

    This is what Hudson should have been doing all along.

    While you think I was too harsh on Hudson, it is desperately important in such critical matters that the reporter make everything as clear as possible.

    I thought Hudson’s stories were perfunctory and sloppy. She implied a lot and didn’t back up much of what she stated. Reading what you have documented only strengthens my belief. (To be fair, perhaps some idiot editor cut her story to fit in the paper — some editors still worship the dead-tree edition — but that makes no sense for the Web edition.)

    Perhaps Justin Levine will finally understand why quoting from the report in his rebuttals is a non sequitur, when the issue I raised was what do current air marshals think of the report.

    Bradley J. Fikes (1c6fc4)

  8. This story confirms everything we have learned about the intentions of the radical jihadis, even those not willing to perform a suicide mission. It also confirms all my prejudices about the federal government. We are still trying to renew my daughter’s passport after nearly a month an a half of calling and attempting to get through to the passport service. They have had a complete meltdown after the ICE announced that passports would be required for travel to Mexico and Canada. They even delayed the announcement a year to allow the passport service more time. Now they have backed off and said that the requirement only applies to air travel. Still, cruise ships now require passports and people are losing nonrefundable tickets because the passport office takes months to renew a passport. These people are the ones who will identify and monitor the 12 million illegals. I’m not at all surprised to hear that air marshals are witnessing illegal smuggling on airplanes and are powerless to intervene. A former Israeli intelligence officer was asked about the TSA practices and replied that it is not a security plan. It is a plan to annoy people, thereby convincing them that they are being protected.

    Mike K (86bddb)

  9. One other thing . . . it’s good to see the distinction being made between a probe and a dry run, because the latter implies a plan is actually in place. The former is just looking for openings.

    Hudson didn’t make that distinction, and the quote she gave MacLean as saying is different from what you had.

    Mr. MacLean was quoted in Hudson’s article as saying Flight 327 was an “unmistakable dry run.”

    You had him saying, “I strongly believe that this incident was at worst a dry run, and at best, a probe.”

    Either MacLean has altered his opinion, or he was misquoted. I’d guess that Hudson misquoted him. Another reason to trust your reporting and not hers.

    Bradley J. Fikes (1c6fc4)

  10. I had to travel to Canada in May, and didn’t get working on my passport until the middle of March. I went to the government office in Tacoma, and there was no line. It took about twenty minutes. I paid for rush delivery. The guy told me not to worry, and gave a number and website where I could check the progress of my passport application.

    I got the passport in three weeks, well before I needed it.

    I think that there are some real differences between what happens in big cities and the smaller towns. I was told that if I went up to Seattle, there would be a couple of hours in line, etc. But that shouldn’t impact how long it takes to get a passport, and friends of mine say that it does!

    So I agree with Mike K. that something is screwy in the passport business. I’m sorry he is having trouble getting his daughter’s passport, and I am grateful I got mine in time for a conference.

    Patterico, good job at investigating the Air Marshals controversy.

    Mark M. (2b8b3d)

  11. Three years ago, Annie Jacobsen, who was on Flight 327, was so shaken by the events she witnessed, she wrote: “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.”

    Assuming it was a “probe” or “dry run” we need to give credit where credit is due. This probe/dry run occured almost three years ago, and there hasn’t been a single successfulterrorist attack on U.S. a U.S. airliner in those three years.

    And all this was accomplished while still upholding “the civil liberties of every individual, even non-citizens,” our government.

    That’s a 100 percent success rate in three years. Absolutely stellar, marvelous work. Right? Anyone? Can I get an amen?

    Somehow I suspect we’ll just hear more drumbeating from the likes of Annie about how we have to stop upholding the civil rights of non-citizens, or terrifying things will happen.

    Just like the post Patterico made three years ago, that sounds a lot like what we’re hearing now:

    http://patterico.com/2004/07/31/terror-in-the-skies-update/

    I encourage you to read that post, and the articles it links to. It has almost exactly the same amount of information about “dry runs” and “probes” that we have today.

    So this threat, identified three years ago, has yet to materialize into a single actual terrorist attack on our airlines. I give all credit for this to our fantastic air marshalls, TSA, and homeland security for this.

    Fortunately, they didn’t listen to those like Annie, who wanted to give up civil rights for added protection. Turns out, at least so far, that hasn’t been necessary. I wonder if Annie’s changed her tune? Probably not.

    Phil (427875)

  12. Mr. Fikes,

    Audrey Hudson quoted me correctly, after further discussing the incident with air marshals currently working in FAMS intelligence and the academy, I concluded that there is rather a distinction between a “dry run” and a “probe.”

    Let me say this, in the last four years, Hudson is one of the very few reporters with the fortitude to report about the hazardous lapses in aviation security and the gross mismanagement at TSA.

    Without Hudson, air marshals’ safety and security disclosures would fall on deaf ears and not get the attention of the public and Congress.

    Let’s not forget that Hudson also has editors who have the final say.

    Robert MacLean (9bce8e)

  13. That’s a 100 percent success rate in three years. Absolutely stellar, marvelous work. Right? Anyone? Can I get an amen?

    Phil,

    Keep in mind al-Qeada waited eight years to re-attack the New York World Trade Center.

    Robert MacLean (9bce8e)

  14. That’s a 100 percent success rate in three years.

    It’s actually more like 6 years, Phil. And civil rights have nothing to do with it. But how nice for you to still get some snark in…

    Pablo (99243e)

  15. “Keep in mind al-Qeada waited eight years to re-attack the New York World Trade Center.”

    I’ve often wondered what the implications of that are. Are you saying that the current amounts of security we have aren’t actually preventing terrorist attacks — the terrorists are just biding their time?

    Does that mean that, even without the enhanced post 9/11 security, it could Al Qeada eight years to mount another 9/11-scale attack? So the threat we’re facing ultimately amounts to one attack every, say, half-decade?

    As I’ve mentioned before, drunk drivers kill more than 15,000 Americans every year. 3,000 Americans were killed in 9/11, almost six years ago. Since then there haven’t been any attacks on anywhere near that scale. Security to prevent terrorism is rampant; Security to prevent drunk driving amounts to a legal slap on the wrist unless you actually kill someone.

    Assuming a 9/11 scale attack every five years, terrorism presents a threat approximately .04 times as devastating as drunk driving. How much security is appropriate to address that threat?

    I don’t mean to be flip about the tragedy of 911, I just want to put it in perspective as a threat to everyday Americans. You don’t see the likes of Annie Jacobsen calling for the repeal of civil rights to combat drunk driving. Why don’t we have air marshalls re-assigned to patrol for drunk drivers?

    And I’m not calling for a repeal of civil rights to combat drunk drivers. I’m just saying Americans are willing to accept a certain amount of risk comes with freedom and civil liberties. And generally, the risk threshold is a lot higher than what we’ve determined is appropriate for terrorism. I’m wondering why.

    Phil (427875)

  16. In your experience, do “dry runs” usually feature men in green jumpsuits with Arabic writing on them?

    http://www.time.com/time/nation/article/0,8599,676558,00.html

    steve (d1e5dd)

  17. It makes for a marvelous game of What If, doesn’t it?

    What if the airline simply threw the ‘band’ off the plane? Then they’d be facing a suit like the ‘six imams’ case, where their security procedures and relationships with federal law enforcement operations are being questioned, and becoming a subject of discovery motions and litigation.

    What if the TSA prevented the men from boarding, based on not-quite-clear indications that they may, just possibly, have been the subject of security interest. (Database accuracy being a bit of a sticking point for many). Then you would be facing a lawsuit from the ACLU and perhaps CAIR, alleging racial profiling and perhaps some sort of due process violation, and *other* security measures would become subject to discovery and discussion in court, as happened in a 2003 case in Florida involving the TSA. The judge there ordered the record sealed, but you had better believe that result is not guaranteed in front of every court.

    Moreover, the ‘civil rights’ groups, so-called, that bring these suits, generally seek broad injunctive relief along with damages. That means a court loss doesn’t just cost money, but it may jeopardize legitimate and necessary security measures. Fancy taking that gamble? It’s worth noting that the ACLU, CAIR and others enjoy a lot of (knowing ranging to unwitting) influence among a pretty broad swath of the electorate, and movement in either direction would not be without political consequences. Right, Member Ellison?

    The situation isn’t as simple as just chucking people off planes or forbidding them from boarding. There has to be a pretty solid basis for it to hold up in court (which there *may* have been here) plus the fight has to be of the sort that can be fought without jeopardizing security practices or ongoing operations.

    Eh, nevermind. It’s easier to chalk it up to feckless law enforcement managers than to acknowledge the fact that our court system is probably broke when it comes to dealing with terrorism, or to accept that maybe 30% of the country is more or less openly rooting for the other side to win this particular fight, ‘cuz of that bad ol’ George Bush…

    Al Maviva (89d0b6)

  18. These air marshalls are full of doodoo.

    http://www.snopes.com/politics/crime/skyterror.asp

    jarjar (74fdea)

  19. Patterico: Why Flight 327 Was a Dry Run…

    Patterico has a must-read post today. He asks three air marshals (one retired) if they think the Syrians on NorthWest Airlines Flight 327 back in 2004 was a dry run and if so, why? In addition to what you might……

    Blogmeister USA (49ff2d)

  20. These air marshalls are full of doodoo.

    There we go! I knew that would be coming.

    Pablo (99243e)

  21. Brad – Any time now.

    Feel free to stop complaining about Hudson’s reporting.

    I think most commenters here understand by now that you did not write her article. Therefore it would be impossible for the contents of her reporting to rise to your exacting and exhausting standards. You have made that patently clear with your perseveration about what you would have liked to see in the original article. It’s too bad you didn’t write it!

    Those who can, write I guess, those who can’t, carp, bitch, moan, whine, complain, cavil, second guess, and dismiss endlessly (CAUTION: THERE IS NO AGENDA TO THE COMPLAINTS) even when presented with evidence of the veracity of the original reporting.

    I should make an effort to read the perfection that is the output of Bradley J. Fikes, super-journalist.

    daleyrocks (906622)

  22. Mr. MacLean:

    I apologize to Hudson for saying she may have misquoted you. Thank you for making it clear she did quote you correctly.

    And as for Hudson’s lack of comprehensiveness in her stories, I am now leaning toward blaming her editors. Perhaps she wrote more, and the editors hacked it out for space, forgetting that the WashTimes has a Web edition where lack of space doesn’t exist.

    This newly reported distinction between a dry run and a probe shows that there is still much more to say on this story. Perhaps Hudson’s editors can make space for it by cutting from the latest Paris Hilton story.

    Bradley J. Fikes (2d3345)

  23. This newly reported distinction between a dry run and a probe shows that there is still much more to say on this story.

    No, there really isn’t. Whether it’s a probe or a dry run, it was not an actual attack. We can be fairly certain of that. As for the rest, we’ll never know as the Syrians were sent along their merry way with their expired visas.

    Pablo (99243e)

  24. Pablo,

    Dry runs or probes are both hostile acts, laying the groundwork for an attack. Let’s keep that in mind.

    That said, there’s still a degree of uncertainty about just what was going on with Flight 327. I Hudson’s story, MacLean was certain it was a dry run. Now he is certain Flight 327 was at least a probe, but not sure as to whether it was an actual terrorist dry run.

    I don’t fault MacLean for changing his mind after getting more information. That’s what thinking people do. Some people posting on this subject quickly lept to one conclusion or another, and don’t appear to be willing to consider new evidence.

    Notice the title of this post is about whether the flight was “a probe or dry run”, reflecting the uncertainty. Sometimes, the more you know, the less certain things appear.

    Bradley J. Fikes (2d3345)

  25. This is a very impressive post. Major newspapers should run stories like this (or this one … hint, hint) but I doubt they have personnel that can analyze and present evidence as well as Patterico. I’m grateful Pat is willing to spend what little free time he has working on an important topic like this, and I’m equally grateful that there are Americans like these FMAs working to protect us.

    DRJ (2d5e62)

  26. […] Patterico puts on his reporter hat and scoops all the competition in the MSM with three remarkable interviews with Federal Air Marshalls on the subject of Northwest Flight 327—the “Terror in the Skies” flight where a band of Syrian “musicians”–several of whom were traveling without proper papers and some with a history previous security “incidents”–feigned a hijacking so effectively that pretty much everyone on board was ready to wet their pants.  This is a terrific piece of work, and one wonders, once again, why the MSM consistently pooh-poohs legitimate concerns about our national security in time of an international terrorist war.  And then they wonder why so many of us have completely lost respect for them. […]

    “I strongly believe that this incident was at worst a dry run, and at best, a probe…” at Amused Cynic (691ade)

  27. Phil, I think the six imams caper was another probe. Some of this is testing defenses. Some is just harrassment to weaken the alertness of passengers (who were threatened with lawsuits by the imams) and the aircrew. On another blog we are told that aircrews are finding holes drilled in toilets and storage spaces tampered with. In the military, you are taught that static defense is weaker because the enemy can keep probong to find weak spots while the defensive side is passive. I think there are probes going on all the time and we are not told. Some of this is reasonable. Airlines have to survive and hysteria doesn’t help. Still, hushing up whistleblowers in not healthy either. Then we have ostriches.

    Mike K (6d4fc3)

  28. I understand the distinction made here between a probe and a dry run but it’s clear those terms aren’t always used precisely, even by professionals. To avoid confusion, it would obviously be better if we always used terms carefully, and we hope reporters will be especially careful. On the other hand, reporters are limited by editors, time deadlines and the quality of information provided by their sources.

    However, I view the probe/dry run distinction as a matter to be clarified rather than a crucial part of the story. That’s because I view probes and dry runs as equally dangerous.

    A dry run is the dress rehearsal for a terrorist event and it’s obviously a serious threat because it could result in one or more imminent events. A probe is reconnaissance that may or may not relate to an imminent threat. However, a probe could provide vital information for use in planning not one or two but dozens or even hundreds of terrorist events. In that sense, a probe would pose an equal or even a greater and more pervasive threat than a dry run.

    To me, the question is “What is being done to investigate the people who are engaged in suspicious behavior on aircraft?” Based on these articles, I think the answer has to be, “Not much,” especially since the TSA and their brethren refuse to acknowledge it’s even happening.

    DRJ (2d5e62)

  29. This probe/dry run occured almost three years ago, and there hasn’t been a single successfulterrorist attack on U.S. a U.S. airliner in those three years.

    And all this was accomplished while still upholding “the civil liberties of every individual, even non-citizens,” our government.

    That’s a 100 percent success rate in three years. Absolutely stellar, marvelous work. Right? Anyone? Can I get an amen?

    Wow, Phil, I’d have never thought to see you praising Bush’s administration for civil rights protections and successes!

    Ok, AMEN! There’s one for you!

    Unix-Jedi (d657d9)

  30. The only thing I can say to those who say the fact that we haven’t been attacked since 9/11 is because we have effective security is that sometimes you succeed in spite of what you do not because of it.

    We have made it more difficult to attack civilian aviation but we have a long long way to go in my estimation.

    FAM (2051bb)

  31. We have had a few instances of loonies rushing the cabin or threatening passengers but some of those passengers and crew members were bold enough to risk the opprobrium of goofs like Phil and just whoop some savage beatdowns on the lunatics.

    Of course there were a few “Phils” on the flights who weeped and soiled themselves, but they made it out with their lives and can comfort themselves knowing they didn’t prejudge anybody and they aren’t likely to die in a terrorist attack.

    spongeworthy (45b30e)

  32. Bradley J. Fikes –

    I understand that the issue you raised is “What do current air marshalls think of the report”. I also submit that the issue you raised has been irrelevent all along. When any reasonable person reads the report – there is only one sensible conclusion to be drawn. If air marshalls were to go on the record as saying that they didn’t think the report is any big deal, it wouldn’t cast doubt on the report, it would simply cast doubt on the competence of the air marshalls.

    It suppose is fair enough to specify the wording between “dry run” and “probe”. I’ve used the phrase “dry run” primarily because I borrowed it from Annie Jacobsen’s original characterization. But we are really both using the phrases interchangably as a short hand way of describing a broad range of activity that is designed to help a future terrorist operation achieve success.

    Annie Jacobsen was right all along. Those that doubted her owe her an appology. While I think the air marshall comments on this site are fascinating for a number of reasons, they are irrelevent to confirming the importance of the report that was issued. Any one who reads the report itself should be able to come to the reasonable conclusion that these passangers engaged in suspicious behavior that must be stopped.

    Justin Levine (20f2b5)

  33. “Annie Jacobsen was right all along.”

    So three years later, with not a single American death or injury caused by terrorism on a U.S. airline, do you still “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,” as well?

    I’ve wanted to ask Annie that question, because that was the general thesis statement of her original report of flight 327 — what she saw made her want the government to restrict civil liberties. Whatever had her quivering with terror has not yet come to pass, three years later. Is she still so gung-ho about cutting back on liberties?

    Phil (427875)

  34. Phil – Why not ask her that question and stop annoying everyone here with your stupid analogies to drunk driving deaths?

    daleyrocks (906622)

  35. Daleyrocks, it’s not an analogy, it’s a comparison. The purpose of the comparison is to show how differently certain Americans think of the threat of terrorism, as compared to other threats in their lives. How out-of-proportion the anxiety, fear, and attempts to eliminate the threat entirely, appear in light of the actual numbers.

    There were more than 90,000 deaths due to drunk drivers in the same time period. Pretty big threat, right?

    There have been about 3,000 deaths on American soil due to terrorism in the past six years. And I’m being generous, because there have been more deaths due to terrorism in that 6-year period than any other period in recent history. I could have chosen the past five years . . .

    Now, with that comparison in mind, how how many posts about the threat of terrorism have there been on Petterico’s blog? Over 100 in the past year.

    How many posts has Patterico had about the threat of drunken driving? Well, recently, he has picked up on the threat of drunken driving by illegal aliens. But not to fight drunken driving — just to get the aliens kicked out of the country.

    So why the obsession with this particular threat? Is there something about being killed by a terrorist rather than a drunk driver that is just exponentially more frightening?

    Phil (427875)

  36. Phil,

    If that is your criteria, then I guess we should ask the 9/11 victims and their survivors the same question. I bet many would embrace even further rsetrictions. But that isn’t really the point, is it? I suggest that, instead, we make reasoned judgments based on the facts. The facts tell us there are ongoing probes of our infrastructure, and we don’t have to restrict civil liberties to investigate people who act in a suspicious manner.

    DRJ (8b9d41)

  37. Apparently, the 14 Syrian band members were performance artists called Nour Mehana, booked into the Sycuan Casino & Resort, July 1, 2004.

    While that could have been an exquisitely-crafted terror ruse, it’s also likely that some or all knew they’d stick out in a crowd dressed in a “green jumpsuit with Arabic letters.”

    A federal law against swarthy males bonding at 35,000 feet has every chance of passage.

    steve (f8daef)

  38. Justin,
    We’ll just have to agree to disagree.

    Bradley J Fikes (cbad74)

  39. Drunk driver killers vs. Islamic killers? I would imagine a rudimentary headcount of drunk drivers would not include that many intent on imposing sharia law. That’s kind of a threat, right? That demise of the West thing. Now if those drunks also were wrapped in a corset full of C4…

    pssst….[And Justin L., not being belittling here at all, but marshal has only one l. It always surprising when intelligent folks misspell semple wurds.]

    Marshal Dillon (a09780)

  40. I don’t mean to be flip about the tragedy of 911, I just want to put it in perspective as a threat to everyday Americans. You don’t see the likes of Annie Jacobsen calling for the repeal of civil rights to combat drunk driving. Why don’t we have air marshalls re-assigned to patrol for drunk drivers?

    It’s flippant attitudes like this … and the attitude that terrorism should be treated as a law enforcement issue — that pushed my sympathies from the Democratic Party and toward becoming a 9/11 Republican.

    aunursa (1b5bad)

  41. Drunk driving accidents are, well, accidents and the effects are local. In the latter regard they are like a magnitude 1 earthquake.

    Terrorism attacks like 9/11 are delibearate and the effects are felt throughout the nation. These include emotional effects (millions of people shared the incident in real time) and financial effects (pushing the economy into a recession.)

    On the Richter scale, 9/11 was a magnitude 10 quake.

    Ten magnitude 1’s, or a hundred, or a thousand, or even ten thousand magnitude 1 quakes do not even begin to get close to a single magnitude 10.

    That’s why the drunk driving comparison is inapt.

    MartyH (52fae7)

  42. Bradley,

    Notice the title of this post is about whether the flight was “a probe or dry run”, reflecting the uncertainty. Sometimes, the more you know, the less certain things appear.

    At the end of the day, it’s a difference without distinction. We’ll never know precisely what it was, but we can be fairly certain that it wasn’t innocent behavior. In terms of our security, whether we botched handling a group conducting a probe or conducting a dry run doesn’t really matter.

    Pablo (99243e)

  43. Thanks to the commenters above for explaining to that moron Phil why his comparison of drunk driving deaths and terrorism deaths is inappropriate.

    Phil, if you want to read about drunk driving, I’m sure there are plenty of sites you can find that cover it well. The idiots who claim there is only a .0000__% chance of being killed in a terrorist attack versus a have no understanding of the vacuity of their arguments.

    Why aren’t you in class Phil?

    daleyrocks (906622)

  44. “I’m just saying Americans are willing to accept a certain amount of risk comes with freedom and civil liberties.”

    Freedom and civil liberty have limits, too, which you do not admit. I wish the airlines had denied boarding to Richard Reid, for instance, as did Tel Aviv security, so 300 people did not have to “risk” relying on a flight attendant to tackle the bomber. I wish that the TSA had not allowed the Syrian passenger with an expired visa on board. If we did that enough times, we would lessen our “risk” of an attack. (Syrians do not have civil rights under our constitution, but that’s another point.)

    Sometimes I do not think you are a serious commenter, Phil, as your comments seem carefully crafted not to make a point but merely to annoy the majority of other readers. But I felt like responding, so…here you go!

    Patricia (824fa1)

  45. So Phil, what you are saying is that you value civil liberties for terrorists over saving lives in the air and on the ground.

    Over 3,000 killed, possibly more in another 9/11 style attack (airplane as missile)? A mere bagatelle, because they are just the little people.

    I understand *EXACTLY* what you are saying. When I fly, or work/visit a skyscraper, my life is worth nothing to you. And other liberals who oppose each and every public safety measure to provide civil liberties to terrorists and criminals.

    Hence the pressure to the FAM to leave terrorists alone, because it’s not PC. Muslims will scream Islamaphobia.

    Now I’m going to describe to you the real world consequences of that failure of the government to protect the people. One liberals have been very successful in making happen.

    People will take their safety, their lives, the lives of their families into their own hands. They’ll refuse to board with suspicious looking Muslims. Because the alternative is dying screaming as the plane plunges into a building. Scared airline attendants who don’t want their throats cut will beg passengers to subdue potential attackers before they’re killed. Passengers themselves will do whatever it takes to live. If that means a physical fight, even including one to the death, so they live instead of die, then that is EXACTLY what will happen.

    Is this a good thing? No. It’s terrible but when Government abdicates any and all responsibility the people will look to themselves. Anyone sensible abhors vigilantism but that is just what PC multiculturalism has done, promote vigilantism.

    The JFK plotters, the Fort Dix Six, the innumerable “sudden Jihad” syndrome Muslims who run amok killing people, and a Muslim terror bust every month or so (Lackawanna cell, Lodi cell, Northern VA cell, Florida cell) etc. have made the general public very well aware that Muslims pose a mortal threat to them on a plane in the first place.

    No one cares anymore about being called racist or Islamaphobe. They just don’t want to die on that airplane. And reality is … they will do anything to survive. Knowing their government does nothing.

    The larger implication is government abandoning the public in the air will simply not be respected in other areas. Azzam the American on behalf of Al Qaeda threatened a “bigger than 9/11″ attack very soon. Anyone flying is contemplating just what he or she will have to do to survive.

    It is quite clear to me that no further airliner attacks were done because the public after 9/11 was in a mood to deal on their own with hijacking threats, knowing that they would die anyway. Liberals have done their best to help Al Qaeda by making people afraid of lawsuits ala the Flying Terror Imams (who have numerous documented ties to terrorist groups). AQ is doutbless counting on their Liberal allies to put the fear of PC lawsuits over survival. But I think they will fail.

    Jim Rockford (e09923)

  46. Listening to Phil’s ranting about how safe we are is like experiencing water-boarding at GITMO – After awhile it goes from a casual discussion, to pure torture. Let me see if I can enlighten Phil here. The ONLY reason we haven’t been attacked by now, is because the terrorists haven’t wanted to attack us yet. If you saw the security violations I see every day in airports and on planes, you would clearly understand how easy it would be to circumvent most security checkpoints in airports, or how easily it would be to rush a cockpit whilst the pilot comes out to get a cup of coffee and try and get up the flight attendant’s skirt. Trust me when I tell you how easy it would be to take over an aircraft, or kill the air marshals because everybody knows who they are due to idiotic polices. I spend hours every day just shaking my head in disgust at the security violations and the total lack of security procedures by some of the flight crews. Fact: It took almost ten years for terrorists to attack the world trade center a second time. Why? Because that’s when they chose to attack. Was it because aviation security was so efficient in this country? Hardly. The most patient adversaries in the world are fanatical Muslim terrorists. They only need to get it right on one day. We have to get it right every day, all day… forever.

    Air Marshal (f30c24)

  47. The 14 Syrian band members were performance artists called Nour Mehana, booked into the Sycuan Casino & Resort, July 1, 2004.

    Granted, a stage routine can also be an exquisitely-conceived terror front, but isn’t it likely they knew they’d arouse suspicions dressed in a “green jumpsuit with Arabic letters” on a commercial air flight?

    A federal law against swarthy male-bonding at 35,000 feet has every chance of passage.

    steve (4b6b3f)

  48. I’ll address the explanations — as opposed to outrage — that I’ve seen in response to my question about why islamic terrorism is considered a much greater threat than drunk driving:

    Post 40: Drunk driver killers vs. Islamic killers? I would imagine a rudimentary headcount of drunk drivers would not include that many intent on imposing sharia law. That’s kind of a threat, right? That demise of the West thing. Now if those drunks also were wrapped in a corset full of C4…

    My response: So it’s more outragrous when someone kills you in the name of Islam, then when someone kills you because they’re too lazy to find a designated driver?

    Post 42: Drunk driving accidents are, well, accidents and the effects are local. In the latter regard they are like a magnitude 1 earthquake. Terrorism attacks like 9/11 are delibearate and the effects are felt throughout the nation. These include emotional effects (millions of people shared the incident in real time) and financial effects (pushing the economy into a recession.)

    Drunk driving is not an “accident.” Drunk driving is an intentional disregard of safety. Now it’s true that drunk drivers don’t intend to kill anyone, and so as individuals, they are not as frightening as terrorists. But there are so many more drunk drivers out there that the threat they pose as a whole has caused far more deaths than terrorism.

    I will grant you that 9/11 was more destructive economically than the 3,000 deaths it caused would suggest. Was it more destructive economically than drunk driving has been over the past 6 years? I dunno . . . what is the economic effect of killing 90,000 people?

    Post 45: Freedom and civil liberty have limits, too, which you do not admit. I wish the airlines had denied boarding to Richard Reid, for instance, as did Tel Aviv security, so 300 people did not have to “risk” relying on a flight attendant to tackle the bomber.

    And you risk being killed by a drunk driver every time you drive. Would you support having brethalyzers in every car? They wouldn’t catch every drunk driver, but I bet they’d cut the total numbers down significantly. Over time, it’d probably save more people then died in 9/11. Any takers?

    Phil (bf8a2c)

  49. You’re right Phil, so far, at least in the US, drunk drivers kill more people that terrorists. (In Baghdad, the situation appears a little different, but that’s another topic.) But that imbalance is a situation that terrorist are working to correct and with your compliance, Phil, I’m fairly sure they will surpass drunks on the road. Then, who knows, perhaps the drunks will organize to regain their coveted number one spot. And Phil will regain his talking point.

    Moneyrunner (d5b4e1)

  50. Explaining this shit to liberals is like teaching Esperanto to the deaf.

    Look, Phil, when terrorists are successful it emboldens them, it helps their recruiting and fundraising, it allows them to keep deluding themselves they can win. That must not be allowed to happen. This has been explained to you in different terms in the thread above yet you fail to address it.

    Drunk driving has terrible ramifications for the friends and families of its victims, but it doesn’t do shit to encourage more drunk driving. It doesn’t encourage others to sign up to be drunk drivers and drunk drivers aren’t trying to fit you for a hijab.

    When terrorists are successful, then the terrorists win. This cannot be allowed to happen. Are there limits to what we should do to stop it? Sure there are, and it’s healthy to have an open discussion about it. But that’s not what you’re doing here.

    You’re pretending terror is a scary ghost and nothing more so you can pat yourself on the back for your refusal to take resposibility for your safety and that of those around you. You’re posturing as the protector of innocent Muslims and preeening from your mothers basement.

    And when you’re called on that, you change your criticism from one of scaremongering and the persecution of innocent Muslims to the irrational comparison to the DUI problem. Do you wonder why others doubt your sincerity?

    Well don’t.

    spongeworthy (45b30e)

  51. So it’s more outragrous when someone kills you in the name of Islam, then when someone kills you because they’re too lazy to find a designated driver?

    Yes. One is stupid and negligent, the other is malignant and premeditated.

    The questions you need to address if you’re going to make this comparison are: Do we expend significant effort to prevent drunk driving accidents? Should we?

    Drunk driving is not an “accident.” Drunk driving is an intentional disregard of safety.

    By a drunk, who we then fear will get in an accident.

    Now it’s true that drunk drivers don’t intend to kill anyone, and so as individuals, they are not as frightening as terrorists. But there are so many more drunk drivers out there that the threat they pose as a whole has caused far more deaths than terrorism.

    So do heart disease and cancer, and we address those threats as well.

    Pablo (99243e)

  52. Phil – In 2005, the number of deaths from AIDS in the U.S. and dependent areas was 17,011, significantly higher than terrorism. Does that mean you think we should restrict behavior that leads to AIDS?

    daleyrocks (906622)

  53. Phil – Does drunk driving have the ability to sway a national election? Take a look at the impact of terrorism on the Spanish elections in 2004.

    What was the Democratic plank on drunk driving in 2004 or 2000?

    Where does national opinion polling place drunk driving among the issues with which Americans are concerned?

    daleyrocks (906622)

  54. The various folks on this blog who label me a “liberal” are wrong. Where do you get the idea that I’m less “conservative” than you?

    There’s nothing “conservative” about restricting civil liberties as a first resort, and pouring huge amounts of government money and power at a problem. You’ve claimed the label “conservative” for such actions, but you’re wrong.

    This is fear-mongering in order to gain government power and control for the benefit of certain groups — most obviously, those who think fighting a terrorist threat is an easy way to get votes for the Republican party. It’s also scape-goating — singling out particular groups as the source of all of America’s problems. Whether it’s corporations and the rich (the democrats’ pariahs), or muslims and illegal immigrants (the republicans’ favorite scapegoats), it’s wrong. Its primary purpose is distraction, and an excuse to seize power.

    This hysteria about terrorism (and I’ve never said terrorism isn’t a real threat; just that the response to the threat is really a power grab) is no different than the fear-mongering that democrats do with regard to outsourced jobs, low wages, corporate profits, global warming, health care, etc. You take a problem that Americans are perfectly capable of dealing with on their own, and you turn it into something that cannot be solved without massive government intervention.

    With democrats, the massive government intervention is done by bureaucrats, regulations, ect. With republicans, the temptation of massive government intervention comes through militarization and expanded law enforcement power.

    In either case, ultimately, it’s about terrifying Americans into believing that a threat is so scary that only the government can save them. So you have to elect them, and let them go to down building a bigger government to save us from the threat. I object to both, and I get called a “conservative/republican” and “liberal/democrat” in equal measure — it just depends on who I’m talking to.

    Phil (427875)

  55. Phil – People probably believe you’re a liberal because your talking points seem to frequently come straight from moonbat land without editing.

    You also seem to have a phobia about car accidents based on this excerpt from a comment in a Gitmo thread. Do you drive?

    “What terrifies me most about Islamic fundamentalism is not its use of terrorism. Terrorist attacks are scary in the same way that car accidents are scary — they’re incredibly destructive, you can’t predict them, and the small percentage of people who actually experience them get their lives turned upside down. Car accidents killed 40,000+ Americans last year. Hundreds of times more than terrorists did.”

    Comment by Phil — 5/31/2007 @ 10:01 am

    daleyrocks (906622)

  56. re: terrorism–Phil

    You take a problem that Americans are perfectly capable of dealing with on their own, and you turn it into something that cannot be solved without massive government intervention.

    It seems to me that it would be difficult for us to mobilize ordinary citizens to venture overseas and fight terrorists like we are doing in Iraq, Afghanistan and the Horn of Africa. We are perfectly capable of discussing what freedoms we are willing to forfeit in order to stop terrorists here and we can also elect our representatives on that basis.

    You are simply shifting arguments again. You started out calling us fearmongering bigoted cowards, moved on to traffic accidents and now you’re this civil libertarian concerned about taking off your Birkenstocks at the airport.

    You’re standing on the sidelines taking cheap shots and letting others do the heavy lifting while patting yourself on the back for your refusal to panic or prejudge. But nobody is doing those things, panicking or prejudging. We just want to win. Do you?

    spongeworthy (45b30e)

  57. Dailyrocks, that quote says exactly the opposite of what you claim (also, you left out the last sentence of the quote — did it hit to close to home?). It says I’m no more terrified of the risk of terrorism then I am of the risk of car accidents. I’ll face both risks without massive government intervention and spending, thank you, and I won’t vote for someone just because they promise to protect me from either risk.

    I use auto collisions for comparison because I see the effects of them every day in my career, and I know just how devastating they are. They give me insight into how much devastation Americans are actually equipped to handle, and get on with their daily lives: a lot. Way more then the terrorists could ever feasibly cause.

    Spongeworthy, you never respond to what I actually say. From what I can tell, your posts are responding to some person in your imagination, not me. So I’ll let the person in your imagination provide my responses from now on, since that person is all you ever listen to anyway.

    Phil (427875)

  58. Thanks to you the the three people who took the time to share their expertise with us.I hope the LAT will act on this info with a MSM follow up

    Corwin (dfaf29)

  59. http://www.snopes.com/politics/crime/skyterror.asp

    I’ll keep posting this until you rightwing paranoiacs read it.

    Bye for now!

    jarjar (74fdea)

  60. Phil – So you’re a claims adjuster.

    daleyrocks (906622)

  61. I’ll face both risks without massive government intervention and spending, thank you, and I won’t vote for someone just because they promise to protect me from either risk.

    When are you going to face the threat of car accidents without massive government intervention? No one in America does, as we spend gobs of money and have a gajillion laws intended to prevent auto accidents. That dog won’t hunt.

    Pablo (99243e)

  62. jarjar, please read this so you can stop spamming.

    Pablo (99243e)

  63. Sorry for the delay in jumping back in. Real life.

    There seems to be a disconnect here between the belief that the band’s behavior was suspicious and the claim that the episode was an “obvious” dry-run. Normally I think the degree to which observation is theory-laden is exaggerated, but that’s in the exact sciences. In human interaction, it’s real.

    The PDF report is based on interviews with the air marshals, flight crew, and six passengers. I think it’s a safe guess that Annie Jacobsen and her husband were two of the passengers in question, and a review of her publications suggests that there was already a disciplinary matrix into which observations of Middle Eastern men’s behavior was going to fit. The air marshals on the flight didn’t see any behavior that rose to the level of a threat, and the flight crew didn’t make a complaint (you can find that at the snopes link). So what we’re seeing here is three air marshals who weren’t eyewitnesses substituting their judgment for the air marshals who were there, based on a retelling of the incident that’s partially colored by the pre-existing views of the informants. I’m curious why they think so little of their colleagues and the flight crew, both absolutely and compared to an untrained pundit.

    Nor does this conclusion about a dry run take into account anything that took place outside the aircraft. The name of the band is public knowledge; why hasn’t the Washington Times written about their association to Osama bin Laden? Maybe because it doesn’t exist. It’s almost impossible to get a visa from Syria. The band already went through who-knows-what investigation in the first place. (Since Bandar Bush is BFF with Bush among other reasons, it was easy for Saudis like most of the 9/11 hijackers to get visas.) And there are geopolitical reasons why Syria, for all its flaws, does not want to be a party to a 9/11-style terrorist incident. (This isn’t the thread to get into how little sympathy Assad has for Sunni extremism for his own internal reasons.)

    I have no doubt that as “Air Marshal” says, their are still many lapses and errors in airport security. And yet even he doesn’t suggest that the people sending their toenail scissors and toothpaste undetected thru the machines are terrorists conducting a probe. Osama bin Laden couldn’t even find a 20th hijacker to pinch-hit, and now we’re supposed to believe that the skies are swarming not only with drunken air rage louts (why I like to have air marshals), but team after team of terrorists biding their time. I don’t think that is true, although if it were, it would be a terrible failure of this Administration’s policies.

    Andrew J. Lazarus (7d46f9)

  64. The air marshals on the flight didn’t see any behavior that rose to the level of a threat, and the flight crew didn’t make a complaint (you can find that at the snopes link).

    According to the Executive Summary:

    In response, an air marshal directed a flight attendant to instruct the cockpit to radio ahead for law- enforcement officials to meet the flight upon arrival.

    Why would they do that if they weren’t suspicious?

    Pablo (99243e)

  65. Pablo, do you see any difference between “suspicious” and then investigated further and cleared and “obvious dry-run”? I’ve been singled out for special searches twice when crossing the US-Mexico border. (I truly can’t imagine why.) Am I an “obvious” drug smuggler? The suspicions turned into nothing.

    Now, the report highlights some interesting issues about bad interagency communication and it looks like there’s more in the redacted parts. On the one hand, it seems no one noticed the visas in the passports were expired, but even stranger is that the report mentions only in the appendix that an extension had been requested and was in process—and the people on the ground didn’t know either of these facts‽ None of this turns a Syrian backup band into terrorist operatives.

    Andrew J. Lazarus (458159)

  66. http://www.snopes.com/politics/crime/skyterror.asp

    The men were musicians. I’ve seen them on TV.

    jarjar (74fdea)

  67. No matter how many times you link Snopes on this, it doesn’t make it any more accurate or authoritative.

    Patterico (eeb415)

  68. Ok.

    jarjar (74fdea)

  69. I don’t really care. I like when white boys are scared of me anyway. :)

    jarjar (74fdea)

  70. Phil: Fuck you, you vile, subhuman slime

    TheManTheMyth (6e8923)

  71. The above ad-hominem is typical of someone who has lost the argument. I say this as a far-right conservative who knows this “dry-run” story is a concoction to sell books.

    jarjar (74fdea)


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