Patterico's Pontifications

9/10/2007

New Information on Delta Flight 1824

Filed under: Air Security,General,Terrorism — Patterico @ 7:42 pm

Annie Jacobsen has received some confirmation of that incident I mentioned here this morning. A TSA spokesman tells her:

We ID’d twelve passengers at the checkpoint with suspicious items. Yes, there was a positive hit, I can’t get into the level of detail of what or what wasn’t a match. We immediately closed two checkpoint lanes and called in a TSA Bomb Appraisal Officer who determined, ‘yes, these are suspicious.’ We called in three TSA canine teams to come to the check point and the FBI was called as well… The FBI took over from there. I can’t comment on the FBI.

Ms. Jacobsen says that ICE is checking on the part that most concerned me (well, together with the positive SEMTEX tests, that is): the apparently fraudulent documents held by one or more of the male passengers. Keep watching Annie’s site for more on that.

Meanwhile, it’s unclear whether I will get any information from Mr. Hagmann. He replied to my e-mail, but seemed a little put out by my update in which I quoted an opinion of his web site as alarmist. I told Mr. Hagmann that I understood his reaction, but that I was unfamiliar with his organization, so when I ran across that caveat about his organization I thought I owed it to my readers to pass it along. For what it’s worth, one of my air marshal contacts says that he generally finds Mr. Hagmann’s information reliable. I owe it to readers (and to Mr. Hagmann) to pass that along too.

Still, I emphasized that I am interested primarily in the facts, as we all should be. We’ll see if he replies to me further. I hope he does.

24 Responses to “New Information on Delta Flight 1824”

  1. From the Orlando Sentinel three days ago:

    An agent at the FBI’s Tampa office said the suspicious items turned out to be a bottle that had been covered with tape to prevent leaking. The flight ultimately took off about 10:20 a.m. without the two families, who were still undergoing FBI questioning. They were ultimately released.

    “It was all benign,” said Dave Couvertier, the FBI agent.

    http://tinyurl.com/379jhn

    alphie (99bc18)

  2. Alphie,

    You’re cherry-picking from a brief, initial article on this subject when Patterico’s post tells you the TSA has given much more damaging information to Annie Jacobsen. Here’s a link to her post on this at The Aviation Nation.

    DRJ (4725f3)

  3. I meant to include that link. Will do now.

    Patterico (2a8eaa)

  4. And didn’t Alphie just attack someone for using a stale article?

    Robin Roberts (6c18fd)

  5. And didn’t Alphie just attack someone for using a stale article?

    yeah, that was me. looks like the left-wing propaganda machine is as slow as the right-wing progaganda machine.

    chas (3385c2)

  6. I just went to the local newspaper and read what they had to say about the incident, Robin.

    Are we doubting the word of the FBI these days?

    alphie (99bc18)

  7. Are we doubting the word of the FBI these days?

    No, you are behind the information curve…as usual.

    What, the left-wing propaganda sites haven’t updated their readers yet?

    I’m shocked…shocked!

    Once again, you prove why you deserve the mantle of Staunch Brayer.

    Paul (5efd01)

  8. Patterico’s post tells you the TSA has given much more damaging information to Annie Jacobsen.

    Really? Where is there information “much more damaging” from Annie Jacobsen? Nothing confirms SEMTEX.

    This is another “brown people flying in groups” tabloid tirade. I don’t believe the gov’t is trying to cover something up. On the contrary, had there been something to it, they’d be trumpeting this “success” just like they have every other one.

    steve (a185f0)

  9. steve – Being consistently wrong is one thing. Flat out ignoring reality is another.

    I know I routinely, on accident, get Semtex in my luggae. If only I could be more careful.

    JD (f6a000)

  10. FWIW,

    Semtex is apparently a commercial product used by those with legitimate reasons for blowing things up. So it is within the bounds of reason there is a “safe” explanation for that, but it is also within the bounds of reason to think that a commercially available product (though restricted) could be diverted.

    A point that I’ve been told that wasn’t mentioned before, I believe, concerns the use of the vaseline. Vaseline apparently can be used to mask detection of trace amounts of explosives. Detection of trace amounts often includes “swabbing” the surface, including skin. Vaseline interferes with this. If someone had been in contact with explosives, coating your skin with vaseline (or other “greasy” materials?) is something one could do to try to escape detection.

    Pure speculation, but the scenario of a “test run” to see what gets picked up and what doesn’t would apparently fit. Traces of Semtex in luggage won’t get through. Traces of Semtex in a container covered with vaseline doesn’t get detected, nor people working with it who have changed clothes and rubbed vaseline on arms.

    On the other hand, one could speculate the people involved are professionals in oil industry safety, etc., and use Semtex to stop burning oil wells by literally “blowing out” the fire. The false documents were obtained, unknowingly, when a premium was paid through sources thought to be legitimate to expedite obtaining passports in spite of the backlog.

    Speculation is that, but had someone speculated that people could take over an airplane using box cutters and then use the plane as a missile the WTC might still be standing.

    I was on a trip this past weekend to meet with a number of Tablet PC professionals. One of them had a minor hold up as security officials looked over the images of non-standard computer accessories in his carry-on backpack, but in the end they didn’t over-react for a bunch of wires, etc., that had a safe purpose.

    MD in Philly (3d3f72)

  11. Traces of Semtex in a container covered with vaseline doesn’t get detected, nor people working with it who have changed clothes and rubbed vaseline on arms.

    Way too much work.

    I’d just take a shower and scrub really well… I mean, really people… Walking through the Security gate slathered in Vaseline might tip off the people at the security checkpoint.

    One of them had a minor hold up as security officials looked over the images of non-standard computer accessories in his carry-on backpack, but in the end they didn’t over-react for a bunch of wires, etc., that had a safe purpose.

    When I fly, I take my laptop, and several perriferals with me. From a mouse, to a wireless keyboard, and a USB hub.

    I always get asked in a semi-suspicious tone what’s in the bag (yes, I take the laptop out). I have learned that being able to easily rattle off the contents usually settles any worries. I think they actually start to pity me when they start hearing all the crap I carry with me…

    Scott Jacobs (425810)

  12. Scott-

    Since my sources tell me this way of avoiding detection is well known by those who would want to know, perhaps it is not as easy as one may think to get rid of the trace amounts needed for detection by showering- I will check on this point later.

    My colleague had taken out his Tablet PC, UMPC, and other such devices for open display as is standard procedure. Apparently, being primarily a computer hardware enthusiast/professional, he had a few more items than someone whose primary occupation is not computer related.

    In terms of conversations with TSA officials, in the case of my friend (and in some of my own adventures) they acted as if they wanted no explanation or discussion, as if they were thinking, “If this is a problem device you’re just going to give me a story anyway, I need to come to my own conclusion”. Whether there is a rhyme, reason, or policy concerning these things or simply the individual TSA officials involved, I do not know.

    MD in Philly (3d3f72)

  13. I will check on this point later.

    There really is no need to check. I certainly have no need to know.

    Scott Jacobs (425810)

  14. Well, you’ve peaked my curiosity.
    Besides, once testimony has been offered into the public record a response is implicitly invited.

    MD in Philly (3d3f72)

  15. I’m wondering why the MSM has a blackout on this. The information would have caused me to be very concerned if I was on the plane, but why were these individuals released? What nations’ identification was used.

    It seems to me individuals carrying materials that are designed to test airport security should be criminally charged. How tapes together containers and strips wires? This was obviously a probe or worse.

    Thomas Jackson (bf83e0)

  16. I have checked my source. Explosive compounds containing organic nitrates, e.g. nitroglycerin and the explosive found in Semtex, are absorbed through the skin and later excreted with sweat. The vaseline or other thick oily substance acts like a chemical barrier. Like a plastic bag but better. Same with containers covered with vaseline. A bag of drugs embedded in a jar of vaseline is much harder to be picked up by a dog, as well.

    Thomas- I assume the MSM has a black-out on this for the same reason they never covered the terrorist aspect of several acts of violence/mass killings.

    MD in Philly (3d3f72)

  17. The bomb detectors used at airports have a false positive rate of about 3%.

    If airport security checked every passengers luggage, they would have 50,000 incidents like this every single day.

    alphie (99bc18)

  18. Steve #8,

    Alphie’s quote indicated this was initially a suspicious incident that was ultimately shown to be a “benign” occurrence, leading one to believe that nothing happened.

    Annie Jacobsen’s link upped the ante significantly. First, she quoted a named TSA representative, Christopher White, who was willing to go on-the-record about what happened (as opposed to a named source who went on-the-record to say nothing happened). Second, White confirmed a suspicious incident occurred involving 12 individuals. Third, the TSA rep on-site closed 2 checkpoint lanes as a result of the suspicious incident. Fourth, THREE canine teams were called in. Beyond that, the FBI won’t comment.

    Doesn’t that sound “much more damaging” to you?

    DRJ (4725f3)

  19. Alphie, thank you for the info.

    If the false positive rate is 3% (0.03), the possibility of 4 consecutive false positives is on the order of 0.03 x 0.03 x 0.03 x 0.03 =0.00000081 or 0.000081%*

    *I say “on the order of” because I know that is not the exact answer, but I’m not going to take the time to find the equation in a stat’s book.

    MD in Philly (3d3f72)

  20. The false positive comes from the chemicals being tested, MD, not because of some random failure.

    Batteries are a leading cause of false positives, btw.

    alphie (99bc18)

  21. So, you are claiming that if all of the bags on a given day were were checked, 3% of the time it would be positive, and reproducibly positive, because of things that trigger the device but are in fact harmless, including batteries. In other words, over 97% of people traveling airplanes do not have batteries with them, or at least enough batteries that would cause a “false” positive?

    If you have a ready reference I would be happy to read it.

    MD in Philly (3d3f72)

  22. The bomb detectors used at airports have a false positive rate of about 3%.

    If airport security checked every passengers luggage, they would have 50,000 incidents like this every single day.

    And if a plane is destroyed by someone carrying explosives, you lefties will instantly condemn airport security for not checking every passengers luggage, Staunch Brayer.

    You also will blame any Republican office holder at any level that has anything to do with the location the plane took off from.

    Call that a fearless prediction.

    Paul (5efd01)

  23. One can count on Alphie to demonstrate that reason does not rule the Left. Rather it is a blind hatred of the US and its values. Alphie also has no understanding of how explosive detection devices work or what causes them to malfunction. Though it wasn’t indicated in the article I am willing to bet the bomb sniffer dogs also were employed.

    I am still wondering what false IDs were used and why these individuals were released.

    Thomas Jackson (bf83e0)

  24. Has there been any more info about this story?
    It seems to have dropped out of sight.

    Dave (037445)


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