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Tar Heel Pundits
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Thursday, July 15, 2004

Terror in the Skies, Again?

I am not sure where I found this article about an experience a writer for the Women's Wall Street Journal had in a flight from Detroit to Los Angles, but it is a scary reminder that terrorists are trying to find ways around the security measures we have up so that they can strike us again. Click here for the story.

A couple of observations:

First: Regardless of whether or not it is racial profiling, the fact that 14 people of Syrian nationality were (1) flying on the same flight, and (2) were scattered among the various seats of the flight evidently tripped some sort of alarm at DHS. If the stewardess was right, and the author was surrounded by federal Marshalls, it is good to see that DHS is responding to coincidences by erring on the somewhat cautious side.

Second: Even though there were supposedly federal marshals on the plane, if there were people on the plane attempting to assemble a bomb and blow it up (or take everyone on the plane hostage - something I doubt would work after Sept. 11th), the marshals could not prevent it because the bomb would have already been assembled in the bathroom.

Third: No, the author is not being racist. The 14 men being of Syrian nationality was a small factor in her fear. The prime factor was the suspicious behavior of those 14 men. If they had sat in their seats and behaved like the rest of the passengers, they would not have scared anyone.
UPDATE:  This story is losing its legs fast.  To quote Gilkman, a federal law enforcement agent:
I think the story by Annie Jacobsen does not indicate a "dry run", rather it is a well written story by a woman who was terrified when normal actions by Arab males confirmed her pre-conceived notions. I have flown on commercial flights in the Middle East on many, many occasions. The behavior of the Syrian group was not unusual, IMHO.
  I stand corrected.  Americans are sensitive while flying now, for a very good reason.  I wonder exactly what it was that they were doing that scared Annie Jacobsen so much.  In all honesty, if the events in the flight happened as she described, I would have been scared too.

Hat tip:  Donald Sensing

posted by John Branch @ 4:09 PM

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