Wednesday, May 30, 2007

It was a terrorist probe (if you had any doubts)

Remember the incident where the group of Middle Eastern men disrupted a commercial airline flight by engaging in suspicious behavior, leading fellow passengers to believe that they might be Islamic terrorists? Intelligent commentators (like myself) at the time said that what was going on was a dry run for a terrorist hijacking operation. Today there is support for that conclusion, from The Washington Times:

A newly released inspector general report backs eyewitness accounts of suspicious behavior by 13 Middle Eastern men on a Northwest Airlines flight in 2004 and reveals several missteps by government officials, including failure to file an incident report until a month after the matter became public.

According to the Homeland Security report, the "suspicious passengers," 12 Syrians and their Lebanese-born promoter, were traveling on Flight 327 from Detroit to Los Angeles on expired visas. U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services extended the visas one week after the June 29, 2004, incident.

The report also says that a background check in the FBI's National Crime Information Center database, which was performed June 18 as part of a visa-extension application, produced "positive hits" for past criminal records or suspicious behavior for eight of the 12 Syrians, who were traveling in the U.S. as a musical group.

In addition, the band's promoter was listed in a separate FBI database on case investigations for acting suspiciously aboard a flight months earlier. He was detained a third time in September on a return trip to the U.S. from Istanbul, the details of which were redacted.

The inspector general criticized the Homeland Security officials for not reporting the incident to the Homeland Security Operations Center (HSOC), which serves as the nation's nerve center for information sharing and domestic incident management.

The report comes three years after the incident, which was not officially acknowledged until a month later, after The Washington Times reported passenger and marshal complaints that the incident resembled a dry run for a terrorist attack. After reviewing the report, air marshals say it confirms their earlier suspicions.

This incident was the first such terrorist probe. The most recent one was the case of the Flying Imams. There have been others and the government has been covering them up:

An air marshal who told The Times that he has been involved personally in terror probes that were ignored by federal security managers, called such behavior typical.

"Agency management was not only covering up numerous probes and dry-run encounters from Congress and other federal law-enforcement agencies, it was also hiding these incidents from their own flying air marshals," said P. Jeffrey Black, an air marshal stationed in Las Vegas.

Homeland Security officials initially denied the complaints and blamed passengers who reported the incident to the press as behaving hysterically. However, the inspector general report shows that air marshals had the group of men under surveillance before they boarded the plane.

The federal government is deathly afraid of looking "racist" so screeners at airports have been ordered not to subject Middle Eastern looking persons to any scrutiny above and beyond what a Caucasian "little old lady" would receive. Not unless there is some overwhelming reason to suspect them and then several ordinary looking white people have to be pulled aside for special attention as well so that there will be no appearance of singling out Muslims.

Since they are not allowed to pay special attention to anyone who actually looks suspicious they are instructed to pick non-Middle Eastern persons at random and subject them to special attention so that the public will get the message that "something is being done" and that it is safe to fly.

The truth is that anyone who uses commercial airliners must be prepared at any time to have to face a terrorist situation. If fellow passengers are "acting Muslim" in an "in your face" manner and frightening other passengers people on the plane should not just assume that it is all going to be alright. To take that attitude is to invite a situation where the last thing you see is the Sears Tower looking really big and coming on really fast out the window, before you have the very brief sensation of being engulfed in flames.

It is far better for a few Muslims to spend the flight duct taped to their chairs (or even be stomped to death by their fellow passengers, after all Muslims out to have a little joke and scare the stupid Americans need to remember the old adage about how if it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck and its duck season. . .) than for another 9/11 to happen.