Patterico's Pontifications


TSA Worker to Passenger: “You ugly !!!”

Filed under: Air Security — DRJ @ 10:03 pm

[Headline from DRJ]

Rochester airport security worker fired after passing mean note to traveler:

ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — A bizarre story from the Greater Rochester International Airport: A security worker was caught on tape passing a note with a mean message to a traveler. As a result, she lost her job.

That traveler, Neal Strassner, said the worker gave him a note as he was passing through the security checkpoint. After he passed through he began walking away and heard the worker yell back at him “You going to open the note?”

At that point, Neal says he opened the note, which said “You ugly!!!” and the employee began bursting out in laughter, which you can see in footage from airport security cameras.

The video is at the link. The passenger isn’t ugly.



Therapy, Service and Support Animals

Filed under: Air Security,Government — DRJ @ 4:15 pm

[Headlines from DRJ]

Therapy animals, often trained dogs, are used to help people in hospitals, nursing homes, hospice, schools, and in the special needs community. In the US, service dogs are trained to help the disabled and police dogs or K9s help law enforcement. But there is another growing use for animals as emotional support animals:

Every dog owner knows there are benefits to having a dog, from getting out for exercise to loyal companionship. However, for some people with disabilities, the presence of a dog is critical to their daily functioning. The emotional support and comfort provided by their pet allows them to deal with challenges that might otherwise compromise their quality of life. These pets are known as emotional support animals (ESAs).

Although all dogs offer an emotional connection with their owner, to legally be considered an emotional support dog, the pet needs to be prescribed by a licensed mental health professional to a person with a disabling mental illness. A therapist, psychologist, or psychiatrist, for example, must decide that the presence of the animal is needed for the mental health of the patient. For example, owning a pet might ease a person’s anxiety or give him a focus in life.

People are taking emotional support animals everywhere, and some states are cracking down:

More Americans are saying they need a variety of animals — dogs, ducks, even insects — for their mental health. But critics say many are really just pets that do not merit special status.

Examples of support animals that people are using include pigs, snakes, monkeys, iguanas, kangaroos, and an alligator. Now a flight attendants’ union is calling for national regulation:

A flight attendant received five stitches after he was bitten by an emotional support dog on a flight from Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport to Greensboro, N.C.

The bite happened on a flight Monday on Envoy Air, a wholly-owned subsidiary of American Airlines Group
A flight attendants union issued a statement Tuesday calling the incident “completely unacceptable and inexcusable.”

“For years, AFA has supported the role trained animals can provide to passengers in the cabin, but we have also called for action in regards to setting standards for emotional support animals,” read the statement from The Association of Flight Attendants. “We need the Department of Transportation to take action now, so events like the one that happened yesterday do not continue to occur on our planes.”

Earlier this year, American Airlines revised its service and emotional support and animal policy, limiting animals to dogs and cats only. Trained miniature horses are also permitted as service animals.



Mexico-Bound Passenger Detained

Filed under: Air Security,Terrorism — DRJ @ 1:14 pm

[Guest post by DRJ]

Last week the federal government issued a Terror Watch for a Somali who might try to enter Texas via Mexico:

“The Department of Homeland Security is alerting Texas authorities to be on the lookout for a suspected member of the Somalia-based Al Shabaab terrorist group who might be attempting to travel to the U.S. through Mexico, a security expert who has seen the memo tells

The warning follows an indictment unsealed this month in Texas federal court that accuses a Somali man in Texas of running a “large-scale smuggling enterprise” responsible for bringing hundreds of Somalis from Brazil through South America and eventually across the Mexican border. Many of the illegal immigrants, who court records say were given fake IDs, are alleged to have ties to other now-defunct Somalian terror organizations that have merged with active organizations like Al Shabaab, al-Barakat and Al-Ittihad Al-Islami.

In 2008, the U.S. government designated Al Shabaab a terrorist organization. Al Shabaab has said its priority is to impose Sharia, or Islamic law, on Somalia; the group has aligned itself with Al Qaeda and has made statements about its intent to harm the United States.”

Last night, a Paris-to-Mexico flight was diverted to Canada and a passenger on the U.S. no-fly list was detained. He may also be a Somali:

“Abdirahman Ali Gaall was arrested Sunday at Montreal’s Pierre Elliott Trudeau International Airport, said Robert Gervais, an Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada spokesman. He was taken off and arrested under an outstanding warrant.

Gervais said details of the arrest would be made public at Gaal’s detention review hearing on Wednesday.

The Canada Border Services Agency confirmed Monday the passenger was on a U.S. no-fly list and said the man was known to them.
“He was calm as if he knew what was going to happen,” said Mauricio Oliver, a 36-year-old Mexican passenger. “They handcuffed him and they took him.”

Oliver said a flight attendant told him the man was from Somalia, but other passengers gave conflicting information about his nationality.”

I wonder if there is a connection between these stories.



Intelligence Failures

Filed under: Air Security,Obama — DRJ @ 7:33 pm

[Guest post by DRJ]

The Senate Intelligence Committee has issued a report on the Obama Administration’s NCTC intelligence failures that culminated in the Christmas Day attempted bombing of Northwest Flight 253:

The Senate Intelligence Committee report at times contradicted the Obama administration’s assertion that the nearly catastrophic Christmas Day bombing attempt was unlike 9/11 because it represented a failure to understand intelligence, not a failure to collect and understand it.

The congressional review is more stark than the Obama administration’s report. It lays much of the blame at the feet of the National Counterterrorism Center, which Congress created to be the primary agency in charge of analyzing terrorism intelligence.

“NCTC personnel had the responsibility and the capability to connect the key reporting with the other relevant reporting,” the congressional summary said. “The NCTC was not adequately organized and did not have resources appropriately allocated to fulfill its missions.”

The NCTC is the government’s clearinghouse for terrorism information and is the only government agency that can access all intelligence and law enforcement information.

Lawmakers found that the NCTC was not organized to be the sole agency in charge or piecing together terrorism threats.”

The office of the Director of National Intelligence and the CIA agreed there had been shortfalls and said they had already taken “corrective actions,” but warned it might not be enough.



Canadian Fighters Escort Plane

Filed under: Air Security — DRJ @ 5:52 pm

[Guest post by DRJ]

The AP/Washington Post report Canadian fighter jets escorted a Cathay Pacific jet into Vancouver because of a bomb threat:

“Canadian fighter jets escorted a Cathay Pacific airliner incoming from Hong Kong to a safe landing in Vancouver International Airport on Saturday due to a potential unspecified security threat, a North American Aerospace Defense Command spokesperson said.

The Canadian Press news agency cited Canadian Defense department officials as saying there was a bomb threat aboard the plane, which originated in Hong Kong, but they could not provide details.”

Fox News and the CBC filed similar reports, but the CBC version adds this:

“The fighter jets are authorized to respond to security threats with measures including lethal force.”

That’s an interesting difference.



NY Car Bomber May Be Taliban Trained

Filed under: Air Security,International,Terrorism — DRJ @ 9:07 pm

[Guest post by DRJ]

Allahpundit at Hot Air discusses a Wall Street Journal report that Faisal Shahzad, the Times Square car bomber, may well have been trained by the Taliban in Pakistan. From the Wall Street Journal:

” U.S. and Pakistani investigators are giving increased credence to links between Times Square bombing suspect Faisal Shahzad and the Pakistan Taliban, with one senior Pakistani official saying Mr. Shahzad received instruction from the Islamist group’s suicide-bomb trainer…

Mr. Shahzad received training in explosives in a camp run by Qari Hussain, the official said. Mr. Hussain is a senior commander with Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan, the Pakistan Taliban’s formal name, and trains suicide bombers, the official said. Mr. Hussain is also a cousin of Hakimullah Mehsud, the Pakistan Taliban’s chief. The 30-year-old Mr. Shahzad has admitted to investigators that he received training from militants in Waziristan, U.S. officials said…

One thing that puzzles U.S. terrorism experts: the lack of sophistication in the planned attack, considering Mr. Hussain’s reputed expertise and emphasis on suicide bombs. One theory is that Mr. Shahzad may not have been fully embraced or fully trained by the Pakistan Taliban, who may have been suspicious of a U.S. citizen seeking training.

“They may not have shown him all their tricks, but just set him loose. If he pulls off an attack, great, they got a ‘freebie,’ and if not, no harm done,” said Brian Fishman, a terrorism analyst at the New America Foundation in Washington, a think tank that focuses on security issues.”

That makes sense but there is another possibility. Maybe Shahzad was motivated but nervous or inept:

“On Saturday night, with his recently acquired Nissan Pathfinder loaded with his makeshift explosives, Shahzad drove southbound along Manhattan’s East River on FDR Drive to the 49th Street exit, the source said.

Shahzad then pulled over and reached into the Pathfinder’s rear compartment where he attempted to set into motion the process needed to set off the homemade bomb, the source said.

The source, who did not explain how Shahzad had attempted to set off the bomb, said he then took a number of turns and wound up entering Times Square by driving south down Seventh Avenue. The source said Shahzad told investigators he turned right onto 45th Street toward Eighth Avenue because he saw a place to pull over.

It’s unclear why Shahzad left the Pathfinder’s engine running and hazard lights blinking.

But because of an incredible goof, Shahzad couldn’t use his escape car. He had accidentally left the keys to that vehicle in the Pathfinder that he thought was about to blow up, the source said.”

In addition, even though he earned a BA in computer applications, an MBA and had been granted an H1B skilled worker visa, Shahzad reportedly spoke limited English and was unremarkable. His job history consisted of an “entry-level job as a budget analyst at a marketing firm,” a position that presumably would not require engineering or high-tech skills. Thus, even with training, it might have been hard for someone with Shahzad’s skills to carry this out.

MORE: CBS reports Shahzad has been on a watchlist since 1999 because of his foreign travel and for bring a large sum of money into the U.S.:

“Sources tell CBS News that would-be Times Square bomber Faisal Shahzad appeared on a Department of Homeland Security travel lookout list – Traveler Enforcement Compliance System (TECS) – between 1999 and 2008 because he brought approximately $80,000 cash or cash instruments into the United States.

TECS is a major law enforcement computer system that allows its approximately 120,000 users from 20 federal agencies to share information. The database is designed to identify individuals suspected of or involved in violation of federal law.”

So it appears he was already on a watch list even before Monday’s update because of the car bomb. Sheesh. How many people like him are there? And maybe the Obama Administration should reinstate its profiling program for travelers from nations like Pakistan — the air security program it dropped in early April 2010.



How Did the Bomb Suspect Board Airliner? (Updated)

Filed under: Air Security,Terrorism — DRJ @ 4:56 pm

[Guest post by DRJ]

AP asks How did the bomb suspect board airliner?

“The no-fly list failed to keep the Times Square suspect off the plane. Faisal Shahzad had boarded a jetliner bound for the United Arab Emirates Monday night before federal authorities pulled him back.

The night’s events, gradually coming to light, underscored the flaws in the nation’s aviation security system, which despite its technologies, lists and information sharing, often comes down to someone making a right call.

As federal agents closed in, Faisal Shahzad was aboard Emirates Flight 202. He reserved a ticket on the way to John F. Kennedy International Airport, paid cash on arrival and walked through security without being stopped. By the time Customs and Border Protection officials spotted Shahzad’s name on the passenger list and recognized him as the bombing suspect they were looking for, he was in his seat and the plane was preparing to leave the gate.

But it didn’t. At the last minute, the pilot was notified, the jetliner’s door was opened and Shahzad was taken into custody.”

It sounds like agents manually checked the names after the plane departed the gate, but was his name on the No-Fly List or not?


UPDATE: The AP provides more detail on how Shahzad almost slipped through security:

“The reliance on airlines to check government lists has been a known problem for years. The government has long planned to take over the responsibility for matching passengers to watch lists, but the transition has taken longer than expected. The new program is still in the test phase for domestic airlines and is still months away from beginning with international carriers.”

The article also recounts how the Obama Administration tried to minimize the slip up.


Qatari Diplomat Headed Back to DC (Updated)

Filed under: Air Security — DRJ @ 8:09 pm

[Guest post by DRJ]

The Qatari diplomat caught smoking on a United Airlines DC-to-Denver flight — and then joked he was lighting a shoe bomb — will have to find another way back to Washington, D.C. United Airlines has banned him from its flights:

“A Qatari diplomat who created a bomb scare mid-flight earlier this week tried boarding the same airline for his return flight to Washington. United Airlines said, “No.”

United spokesman Mike Trevino says they banned Mohammed Al-Madadi (Al-Mah-DAH-dee) from a United flight Thursday because he violated airline and Federal Aviation Administration policies when he tried smoking on a flight from Washington to Denver Wednesday.”

Unless another airline lets him board, the government of Qatar may have to pay for a private flight to D.C. Reports indicate he will soon be headed home to Qatar.


UPDATE: The reports were correct. The Qatari diplomat left the United States Friday night.

Did the media or the embassy ever say whether he went through with his consular visit to the convicted Qatari terrorist al Marri while he was in Denver?


Possible Shoe-Bomber on DC-Denver Flight

Filed under: Air Security,Terrorism — DRJ @ 7:39 pm

[Guest post by DRJ]

Via Ace’s Gabriel Malor, Malkin and the Daily Beast:

“Federal air marshals restrained a man who attempted to light his shoes on fire aboard a United Airlines plane headed from Washington, D.C., to Denver Wednesday night. An explosives team headed to the airport to examine the scene, and though they’re unsure whether the man actually had any explosives, they believe the incident was an attempt at a “shoe bomb.” Authorities said the suspect was Mohammed al Modadi, a diplomat at the Qatar embassy in Washington. The FBI told ABC News that al Modadi had diplomatic immunity as the third secretary and vice-consul. Two fighter jets were scrambled from Buckley Air Force Base to accompany United Flight 663, a Boeing 757, as it flew the last 40 miles of its flight to Denver. (It landed safely and was directed to a remote location at the airport.)”

This ABC News report quotes federal sources that say the suspect attempted to “light his shoes on fire”.

H/T S.



Flight Diverted to Florida

Filed under: Air Security — DRJ @ 9:25 pm

[Guest post by DRJ]

A Continental flight from Newark, New Jersey, to Bogota, Columbia, was diverted to Florida because authorities feared a passenger on the No-Fly list had been allowed on board:

“A Continental Airlines jet flying from Newark Liberty International Airport to Colombia was diverted to Jacksonville, Fla., earlier today over concerns a passenger was on the government’s watch list of suspected terrorists banned from commercial flights. It turned out to be a case of mistaken identity.

Flight 881, which left Newark at 3:03 p.m., was diverted to Jacksonville International Airport at about 5:45 p.m. due to a “potential person of interest,” Transportation Security Administration spokeswoman Ann Davis said.
The government was expected to investigate how the passenger was allowed to board the plane before he was positively deemed safe.

Airlines are required to check the government’s no-fly list before issuing a passenger a boarding pass.”

Hopefully it won’t be long before the TSA and/or airlines can figure out how to identify whether a passenger is on a No-Fly list before a flight takes off.


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