Old Wives' Tales
Radio & TV
Toxin du jour
Claim: Passengers encountered by reporter on airline flight were proved to be terrorists making a dry run at assembling a bomb on-board.
Example: [Jacobsen, 2004]
Origins: The above-quoted "Terror in the Skies, Again?" article written by Annie Jacobsen and published on WomensWallStreet.com, in which the author detailed her experience with passengers who were supposedly making a "dry run" bombing attempt on
Briefly, the following events occurred. Thirteen Middle Eastern men were traveling together as a musical group, 12 carrying Syrian passports and one, a lawful permanent resident of the United States of Lebanese descent, purchased one-way tickets from Detroit toHowever, what was lost amidst the hubbub and hysteria engendered by the "Terror in the Skies" article was the fact all the passengers in question were detained by federal and local law enforcement officials, investigated by the FBI and the FAMS (Federal Air Marshal Service), cleared, and released. No matter how suspect their actions might have appeared to observers, none of the Middle Eastern men was arrested or charged with a crime (then or later), no unusual materials were found on their persons or in the airplane, and no information released to the public since then by any of the investigating agencies has claimed or documented that those men were actually terrorists engaged in a "dry run" bombing attempt rather than musicians traveling to a scheduled performace. (The National Review reported that the Syrians were in fact booked to perform as backup musicians for singer Nour Mehana at the Sycuan Casino & Resort near
During the flight, the men again acted suspiciously. Several of the men changed seats, congregated in the aisles, and arose when the fasten seat belt sign was turned on; one passenger moved quickly up the aisle toward the cockpit and, at the last moment, entered the first class lavatory. The passenger remained in the lavatory for about
According to federal air marshals who spoke to the press shortly afterwards,
Undercover federal air marshals on board aIn May 2007, the Department of Homeland Security Office of Inspector General (OIG) released to the public its March 2006 review of the "Handling of Suspicious Passengers Aboard Northwest Flight 327." Although the OIG report was critical of some of the aspects of the
The passenger, later identified as Annie Jacobsen, was in danger of panicking other passengers and creating a larger problem on the plane, according to a source close to the secretive federal protective service.
"The lady was overreacting," said the source. "A flight attendant was told to tell the passenger to calm down; that there were air marshals on the plane."
The middle eastern men were identified by federal agents as a group of touring musicians travelling to a concert date at a casino, said Air Marshals spokesman
Jacobsen wrote she became alarmed when the men made frequent trips to the lavatory, repeatedly opened and closed the overhead luggage compartments, and appeared to be signaling each other.
"Initially it was brought to [the air marshals] attention by a passenger," Adams said, adding the agents had been watching the men and chose to stay undercover.
Jacobsen and her husband had a number of conversations with the flight attendants and gestured towards the men several times, the source said.
"In concert with the flight crew, the decision was made to keep [the men] under surveillance since no terrorist or criminal acts were being perpetrated aboard the aircraft; they didn’t interfere with the flight crew," Adams said.
The air marshals did, however, check the bathrooms after the middle-eastern men had spent time inside, Adams said.
FBI agents met the plane when it landed in Los Angeles and the men were questioned, and
"We have to take all calls seriously, but the passenger was worried, not the flight crew or the federal air marshals," she said. "The complaint did not stem from the flight crew."
Federal agents later verified the musicians' story.
'We followed up with the casino," Adams said. A supervisor verified they were playing a concert. A second federal law enforcement source said the concert itself was monitored by an agent.
"We also went to the hotel, determined they had checked into the hotel," Adams said. Each of the men were checked through a series of databases and watch-lists with negative results, he said.
The source said the air marshals on the flight were partially concerned Jacobsen's actions could have been an effort by terrorists or attackers to create a disturbance on the plane to force the agents to identify themselves.
Air marshals' only tactical advantage on a flight is their anonymity, the source said, and Jacobsen could have put the entire flight in danger.
"They have to be very cognizant of their surroundings," spokesman Adams confirmed, "to make sure it isn't a ruse to try and pull them out of their cover."
Overall, a key element when considering the response to this incident should be noted, which is that theAdditonal information:
The decision not to contact the HSOC was decided only after the FAMS and FBI leadership jointly determined that the subjects could be cleared. The reported suspicious activity was determined to be unfounded, and not a terrorist
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