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New Terror in the Skies — Or maybe not…

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After reading this article my first thought was, I will never get on a plane again. It’s the story of a woman’s flight from Providence to LA in the company of quite a number of Middle-eastern men, who are carrying odd bags and acting very suspiciously.

The Middle-eastern men are obviously in cahoots. The woman is warned that there are air marshals on the plane, although they don’t seem to be taking any action. It’s a good read; disturbing, if not outright terrifying, to anyone who has to get on a plane. I have no idea how I would have reacted in that situation, other than to be scared out of my mind.

The supposition that comes through at the end is that the Middle-eastern men were doing some sort of dry run for a new kind of air terror. This new terror involves many terrorists, each carrying a part of an explosive device, so that all get through security just fine. Then, once one the plane they take turns going to the bathroom wherein each one does a bit of assembly until the bomb is complete.

I vowed to look closely at my fellow passengers before I got on a plane again, and simply walk away if anything seemed fishy.

But, upon further reflection, I got more suspicious.

The “terrorists” in this story apparently are doing very little to hide their connection. They give each other knowing nods and thumbs up signs. Apparently a number of passengers noticed and were afraid. Wouldn’t the “terrorists” still want to hide their connection? I mean, if it was so blatantly obvious that something was going on, they could just lock down the bathroom and keep them out. Nobody on a plane would sit still for this nonsense. I’d probably start a fight with one of them just to get the plane to land at the nearest airport, to hell with the consequences to myself. Perhaps these were the Keystone Terrorists.

And these supposed air marshals who sat still through the whole charade because they were not supposed to do anything unless they saw something specifically illegal. Not likely. Even if they didn’t want to confront them, they could have just ordered the bathroom locked down or the plane to land.

No sir. The whole thing smacks of urban legend. I’m going on record right now. I call BS. I guess we’ll see if I’m right. If I’m wrong and it’s all true, well, I’ll be wrong and the writer will have done the world a service by heightening our awareness. And I’ll apologize.

But if I’m right, things get interesting.

Supposed it’s a fake. The truth will certainly come out. There’s enough detailed information to verify it. When that happens, what will the response be?

The writer could claim it’s true and she is the victim of a massive cover-up, in which case we’ll be hearing about her on conspiracy web sites for the next few years.

The writer could claim she wrote it as a cautionary tale, to incite action to prevent such a thing from happening. In this case, I would also like her to verify her age, because I would then go on record claiming she was probably all of 13 years old.

The writer could just be doing it for a lark to draw attention to her site; in which case her site should be vandalized by every hacker in striking distance.

But like I said, I don’t know for sure. I found nothing on Snopes.com. Does anyone have more info on this?

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About David Mazzotta

  • http://w6daily.winn.com/ Phillip Winn

    I read the same thing and had the same questions. I don’t tend to give air marshals much credit for intelligence, nor terrorists either, so it is possible, but it does strain credulity.

    At some point in the article I wondered if the group might be conducting a security test of some sort, but I await more information before making any sort of real judgment.

    I could believe the events happened exactly as described more easily than I could believe that the author made them up completely, but then, perhaps the entire story is a social experiment by Women’s Wall Street.

  • Eric Olsen

    crazy! thanks David – under the circumstances, if i was convinced something was truly going on, I would have talked to an attendant and asked to talk to the pilot. Failing any satisfaction that way, I would have just stood up and started yelling about it – that would have captured the attention of all involved rather quickly.

  • http://w6daily.winn.com/ Phillip Winn

    Eric, it is easy to think one might do this or that when observing a situation from afar, but not so easy when the adrenaline is actually flowing.

    Maybe you would — I think I would, too — but maybe, just maybe, you wouldn’t. It was, after all, a four-hour flight, and the author has obviously condensed together a lot of spread-out activity and applied her interpretation to it some two weeks later.

  • Eric Olsen

    In the pre-9/11 world I would have tried to explain it away and hesitated I am sure, but in the post-9/11 world, I’d make a stink if someone farted suspiciously

  • http://damsite.blogspot.com David Mazzotta

    I should add a minor correction. I said the air marshals couldn’t act until they saw something illegal. The actual claim by the writer was more nuanced:

    I asked Adams why, based on the FBI’s credible information that terrorists may try to assemble bombs on planes, the air marshals or the flight attendants didn’t do anything about the bizarre behavior and frequent trips to the lavatory. “Our FAM agents have to have an event to arrest somebody. Our agents aren’t going to deploy until there is an actual event,” Adams explained.

    Is the implication they cannot act without “deploying” or “arresting”? Can they not just tell the pilot to quietly land at the nearest airport? Or does that count as “deploying”?

    This link is starting to pop up all around the web, so I suspect an answer will come soon. I am even more certain that there is either more or less going on here than what we’ve read. I’m still betting on less.

  • http://w6daily.winn.com/ Phillip Winn

    I’m sure the story will come out, but I can say that my pitiful efforts to corroborate the story have all met with voicemails and unreturned emails so far. This is why I’m not a reporter. Then again, I suppose an email from nytimes.com is returned a bit more quickly. ;-)

  • boomcrashbaby

    A few things that I question (and I have no security training). Not that I doubt the possibility that it could be a ‘dry-run’ though.

    First, she is concerned and wonders why nobody checked their bags, including the McDonalds bag. But if you read the story, prior to boarding she and her family got off one plane and went to another. (So she didn’t have to go through a security checkpoint). How does she know that the McDonalds bag wasn’t checked at the screening point? She gives no indication she was there.

    Secondly, she says the flight attendant leans over the cart and whispers to her (or her husband, I already forget) that there are air marshals all around and to not reveal that info. That is a serious violation on the part of the attendant. That is a serious claim the writer makes and should be verified as to if it is true or not. If it is true, the attendant placed the lives of everybody, as well as the air marshals in serious risk. They are supposed to be ANONYMOUS. You are not supposed to know what flight they are on.

    Third, in regards to the same incident, I have flown many times, although I can’t recollect if I’ve ever been on Northwest, but I know how small those seats/planes are. There is no way an attendant could lean over and speak to me without people either in front, in back or beside me hearing.

    Fourth, the attendant asking a passenger to write down some info ‘because it is suspicious if I do it’ sounds bogus to me. That attendant is scaring (terrorizing) a passenger. If the plane does get hijacked and crashed and burned, I doubt that piece of paper is going to be of much use anymore. Something there just doesn’t add up.

    Like I said, while I don’t doubt the possibility of ‘dry-runs’, at the same time we need to make sure we don’t trample on the civil liberties of others and that we don’t stalk/profile innocent people. Because then, even if no hijacking takes place, the terrorists win. Maybe they were taking turns kneeling in the bathroom towards Mecca and didn’t want to do it in public. Maybe it was a dry-run for a terrorist attack.

    I don’t know much about bomb-making, but if it’s possible to assemble a bomb on a plane, I would hope that our security professionals would know the components of a bomb and would be able to deduce if multiple passengers carry on the necessary components.

    Her story does need to be substantiated. But it also should be done so with a critical eye. I don’t know what her motive could be for deceit, but there are some questions to her story that need to be answered.

  • boomcrashbaby

    oh, and I’m too lazy to go back and look at the date of her flight, but I had to fly across country 3 weeks after 9/11. And at that point, no passengers congregating in the aisles or waiting in line at the bathroom was allowed. No standing by the cockpit. There are a lot of things in that story that already aren’t allowed, but I don’t know if that specific plane was lax in their enforcement of such, or if such precautions have been dropped.

  • http://www.roblogpolitics.blogspot.com RJ

    While I believe this story is bogus, the fact of the matter is that crazy terrorist Islamic fundies DO intend on hijacking more American planes. Of this, there can be no doubt.

    If this little “story” raises awareness enough to possibly prevent the next hijacking, then it was worth the lie. (And if it IS true, then we all need to be VERY concerned…)

  • http://damsite.blogspot.com David Mazzotta

    Well, Michelle Malkin has gotten a hold of the air marshall quoted in the story and she says he confirms his part in it.

    link: http://michellemalkin.com/archives/000207.htm

    I may be eating my words here soon.

  • http://damsite.blogspot.com David Mazzotta

    More from Michelle Malkin (link: http://michellemalkin.com/archives/000209.htm):

    I have been speaking with Brendi Rawlin of Porter Novelli (PR rep for Womens Wall Street). According to Brendi, the Washington Post has been sitting on the true story of Annie Jacobsen’s “Terror in the Skies” account since last Friday, when WomensWallStreet.com approached him. Dave Adams, the air marshal’s spokesman, not only confirmed the story, but has also apparently supplied witness statements and other corroborations of Jacobsen’s account. NBC Nightly News, ABC, and Dateline NBC are now on the story as well.

    I apologize to Ms. Jacobsen and I’m grateful to her for coming forward with this story (as I think we all should be).

    Also, I hereby withdraw myself from consideration to be the next Director of Homeland Security.

  • Eric Olsen

    thanks David – so what is exactly beign confirmed here?

  • http://damsite.blogspot.com David Mazzotta

    Malkin spoke with Adams (the federal air marshal in the story) who confirmed Jacobsen’s description of their converstaion as accurate. That would be this:

    Through a series of events, The Washington Post heard about my story. I talked briefly about my experience with a representative from the newspaper. Within a few hours I received a call from Dave Adams, the Federal Air Marshal Services (FAM) Head of Public Affairs. Adams told me what he knew:

    There were 14 Syrians on NWA flight #327. They were questioned at length by FAM, the FBI and the TSA upon landing in Los Angeles. The 14 Syrians had been hired as musicians to play at a casino in the desert. Adams said they were scrubbed. None had arrest records (in America, I presume), none showed up on the FBI’s no fly list or the FBI’s Most Wanted Terrorists List. The men checked out and they were let go. According to Adams, the 14 men traveled on Northwest Airlines flight #327 using one-way tickets. Two days later they were scheduled to fly back on jetBlue from Long Beach, California to New York — also using one-way tickets.

    I asked Adams why, based on the FBI’s credible information that terrorists may try to assemble bombs on planes, the air marshals or the flight attendants didn’t do anything about the bizarre behavior and frequent trips to the lavatory. Our FAM agents have to have an event to arrest somebody. Our agents aren’t going to deploy until there is an actual event, Adams explained. He said he could not speak for the policies of Northwest Airlines.

    Then Malkin spoke with a PR rep at Women’s Wall Street, Brendi Rawlin. Per Malkin:

    According to Brendi, the Washington Post has been sitting on the true story of Annie Jacobsen’s “Terror in the Skies” account since last Friday, when WomensWallStreet.com approached him. Dave Adams, the air marshal’s spokesman, not only confirmed the story, but has also apparently supplied witness statements and other corroborations of Jacobsen’s account. NBC Nightly News, ABC, and Dateline NBC are now on the story as well.

    Malkin seems like a straight shooter. I suppose it could still all fall apart when the specifics come out, but clearly it is not a complete hoax, like I suggested.

    Although it is still possible the Syrians were innocent musicians…

  • http://www.roblogpolitics.blogspot.com RJ

    The important thing to be taken from this, IMO, is that we are STILL not safe on airplanes. Drooling Islamic maniacs could STILL hijack an airplane, storm the cockpit, take over the controls, and crash it into a national landmark.

    If this happens before the election, Bush is toast.

  • Mike Leonard

    Why didn’t concerned passengers start filling up the toilets? Seems the perfect innocent way to crimp plans. Maybe we should have known “safe” Islamic / Arab persons who can speak the language and politly ask what is going on, on each flight.

  • http://www.resonation.ca Jim Carruthers

    If you read this (scroll down second item) it is only a case of case of a hysterically crazy old lady who had internalized air rage. Yes, crazy old people are your worse threat while travelling. I wish the Air Marshals had just duct-taped the crazy old bitch to a bulkhead before she could endanger the whole flight.

  • http://www.rijaxn.com ron jackson

    Ron Jackson
    7/24/04

    My Terror in the Skies Experience

    Note from Editor: You are about to read an exaggerated account of what happened on a domestic flight that, I, Ron Jackson, took from San Francisco to Chicago. My RIJ Team (me, myself, and I) debated for a very short time about how to handle this, but after reading Terror in the Skies, Again?, http://www.womenswallstreet.com, Annie Jacobsens racist account of her harrowing flying experience with 14 Middle Eastern passengers, I decided it was something I had to share. What does it have to do with racial profiling? Nothing and everything. Written in the style of Jacobsen, here is my story.

    On July 18, 2004, at 6:55 p.m., I flew on ATA flight #936 from San Francisco to Chicago with my wife. Also on our flight were about 150 American Caucasians between the ages of approximately 12 and 75 years old. 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-whites, and protect its citizens from racial profiling.

    On that Sunday, our journey began uneventfully. Starting out that afternoon at SFO, we turned in our rental car and proceeded to the ticket counter. We made our way through security screening and passed the time away waiting to board our flight to Chicago by shopping at the gift shop for our grandson and getting some reading material. We then headed to our gate and waited for the pre-boarding announcement. Standing next to us also waiting to board was a group of about 150 white Americans with different dialects. Some spoke in twang, some in drawl, others in high-pitch nasal. Some wore typical American clothing like jeans and sweats. A few wore western garb with great big shinny buckles and even bigger hats. One Lizzy Borden looking young female, talking on a cell phone incessantly about nothing, wore a very form fitting top with Ambercrombie and Fitch across the front. Another older overweight male walked with a limp. When the pre-boarding announcement was made, we handed our tickets to the ATA agent and walked down the jetway with the group of white people right behind us.

    My wife was determined to carry her own overstuffed bag of shoes by herself, so I turned to the group behind us and said, You go ahead. This could take awhile.

    No, you go ahead, one of the men replied. He smiled pleasantly and extended his arm for me to pass. He was young, looked a bit like Jeffrey Dahmer, maybe in his early 20s, and wearing a cowboy hat. I gave him a manly nod of thanks, and we boarded the plane.

    Once on the plane we took our seats in coach (seats 16D and 16E), the row just behind the emergency exit row. Sure enough, the woman in the tight fitting top and still talking on her cell phone sat a few rows from us. The young cowboy sat in a row behind us, too. I didnt turn around to identify his exact location. The rest of the white people were seated throughout the plane, and several made their way to the back.

    As we sat waiting for the plane to finish boarding, we noticed another large group of white people boarding. The first guy looked almost like Timothy McVeigh. He was clean cut and wore a nice suit and sat up front near the cockpit. Another guy looked like Ted Bundy, a third looked like Richard Speck, and one middle-age woman looked like Squeaky Fromme. The rest of the group sat throughout the coach section.
    As aware minority Americans, my wife and I ignored each other and continued to get comfortable and to stake the first claim to the armrest. I noticed some of the other passengers paying attention to the situation as well.

    As boarding continued, we watched as, one by one, most of the white people made contact with each other. They continued to look at each other and nod as if they were all related or something. I could tell my wife was beginning to feel out of place.

    The take-off was uneventful. But once we were in the air and the seatbelt sign was turned off, the unusual activity began. The girl in the tight shirt got out of her seat with her cell phone headpiece in place and went to the lavatory at the front of the coach. She was taking her cell phone with her. When she came out of the lavatory, she still had her cell phone with her, but the headpiece was not on her head. She walked down the aisle to the back of the plane still clutching her cell phone. When she passed two very young white guys looking like a couple of Columbine High School killers sitting mid-cabin, they gave each other high fives. When she got to her seat, they were still smiling.

    Then another white fellow looking a bit like John Wayne Gacy stood up and took something from his own carry-on in the overhead bin. A clown suit maybe? It was something unidentifiable. He headed to the back of the cabin with the object. Five minutes later, several other white people started using the front lavatory consecutively (thank goodness not simultaneously). In the back, several white people stood up and began using the lavatory as well.

    For the next hour, the Caucasians congregated in groups of two and three at the back of the plane for varying periods of time, possibly talking about bass fishing or quail hunting. Meanwhile, in the front section of the plane, just a few feet from the cockpit door, the guy in the suit stood up. Not one of the white flight crew suggested that any of these white people take their seats.

    Watching all this, my wife was now beyond nosey. I tried to stop her from being so nosey and told her to go to the bathroom herself to see what a lavatory looked like. When she left her seat, I looked across the aisle and made eye contact with a white, frumpy, but quasi-friendly looking David Duke type. I gave him my best gee-all-these-white-folks-sure-seem-to-know-each-other look. He responded with a-we-aint-all-related look. I immediately looked away not wanting to show my ignorance.

    When my wife returned from the lavatory, I pretended to be asleep so things wouldnt seem suspicious. I wasnt going to trouble the flight crew with my insecurity. An hour or so into the flight, the service cart came with drinks and meals for purchase. I didnt dare share with the white attendant my observation of all the strange things the white passengers were doing. I just figured the security detail on board was aware of it, too.

    After seeing about 150 white people board separately, and then act as a group, watching their usual glances, observing their bizarre bathroom behavior, watching them congregate in small Klan-like groups, I was still not that terrified. Before I am labeled a racial profiler or worse yet a racist, let me add this. I lived 14 years in southern California near the town of Fallbrook, the home of Tom Metzger, a former grand wizard of the KKK. I never once felt fearful. I never once felt unsafe. I never had the feeling that anyone wanted to hurt me. This time was no different.

    Finally the captain announced the plane was cleared for landing. It had been four plus hours since we left San Francisco. The fasten seatbelt light came on, and I could see the bright lights of Chicago. The flight attendants made one final sweep of the cabin and strapped themselves in for landing. I began to relax. Home, sweet home, Chicago was in sight.

    We touched down and began to taxi to the gate. We stopped a good distance before coming to a final and complete stop. The fasten seatbelt sign remained lit. Suddenly I heard the click, click, click of seatbelt unbuckling as several white people stood up. The attendant announced that we had not reached the gate and for the safety of all, those standing were to return to their seats. Many of the whites ignored this announcement. They stood there talking about the greasy pig contest of September 2002.

    I looked around to see if anyone else was as annoyed by all of this. I immediately spotted a frustrated couple two rows back. The woman was frowning and fanning herself trying to keep cool and to keep her Tammy Faye Baker make-up in place. Finally we were allowed to disembark. My wife and I got off the plane and saw many more whites in the airport, but no security personnel was questioning any of them.

    The next day, I began searching the internet for news about the incident. There was nothing. I shared my story with no one. I had heard of white passengers being denied seats or being required to purchase two seats because they were obese, but I never heard of any case where they were subjected to interrogation just because they were white. I decided to let it go. I wasnt going to rack my brain doing research, especially not reading anything by Ann Coulter. My 8th grade English teacher, Ms T., would never consider any work of Ann Coulter research, anyway. Talking this over with my wife, we figured these folks were just everyday Americans trying to reach a destination.

    So the question is Do I think these white people were terrorists? Ill let you decide. But I wonder, if two rednecks can build a bomb out of cow dung, blow up a federal building, and kill 168 innocent people, couldnt 150 whites learn to act like normal folks on a plane?

    The events above did happen on my flight, but not once did I think any of them were a threat to the safety of the flight or to our national security. I just penned my thoughts mirroring Annie Jacobsens words to show how the national security scare allows some racist people to be racist and justify it.

    Ron Jackson is a columnist, author, and motivational speaker. He can be contacted at http://www.rijaxn.com.

  • http://www.roblogpolitics.blogspot.com RJ

    Quick question: How many White Americans have hijacked planes and crashed them into buildings?

    How many Middle Eastern men have done so?

    Thanks for playing.

  • Eric Olsen

    Ron, that was very clever and you made your point well, but it seems to me from reading the report that it wasn’t the race of the passengers that caused so much concern, it was their behavior – you didn’t really address that.

  • JR

    Hey, fun game there RJ. Try this:

    How many liberals have blown up federal buildings?

    How many right-wingers have done so?

  • http://calblog.com Justene

    How many liberals have blown up federal buildings?

    How many right-wingers have done so?

    Does no one remember the Weather Underground? The SLA? The woman who was arrested in Minnesota after 20-mumble years for blowing up a police car?

    Do you want to draw a conclusion that rightwingers are better at terror because one of them got a building instead of police cars? Maybe because they work alone (Timothy McVeigh) instead of large socialist groups?

    No. Terror is bad. Usually carried out by bad people who hook into whatever ideology is handy.

    We would do far better to not blame the ideology.

  • JR

    We would do far better to not blame the ideology.

    It makes even less sense to blame the ethnicity.

  • Eric Olsen

    I thought we were blaming behavior, he repeated to himself

  • boomcrashbaby

    This stems from comment 18 Eric, which implied ethnicity. JR was attempting to point out the erroneous train of thought there, by applying the same standards to liberals/conservatives. He was called on the carpet for that one, but the ethnicity one has yet to be challenged otherwise.

  • http://calblog.com Justene

    It makes even less sense to blame the ethnicity.

    You challenge the blame on the ethnicity by pointing out that a white man blew up the federal building.

    You don’t challenge it by adding in an urban legend (that I have heard in almost the exact same verbiage since 2000) that rightwingers commit more violence than leftwingers.