Wednesday, May 30, 2007

American Spirit

Flight 327 was the one where 13 Syrians, 12 of them on expired visas, acted suspiciously, including such activities as rushing toward th cockpit only to veer off at the last moment, raising the attention of passengers, flight attendents, and air marshals. Their strange activities, which appeared to be a dry run for a terror attack, were repeated on other flights. Under a FOIA request from the Washington Times, the redacted OIG report (pdf) on this flight has been released. The report contains little new information on the suspicious activity but does expose the confusion and miscommunications among our law enforcement agencies. In contrast with our government's keystone cops routine, the report makes the private US citizen on the flight seem admirable. Consider the activities of just one anonymous man who noticed what was going on and made himself ready if needed:
One of the non-suspicious passengers stood in

this area, arms crossed, staring down the aisle

for most of the flight. At the time, Passenger 4

said that she thought this was an air marshal,

but later learned that this individual was a

passenger who took it upon himself to stand

The spirit of Todd Beamer and Flight 93 remains alive.

American Ostriches points out that there is no proof that the Syrians were engaged in a dry-run for a terror attack. It is true that we have no proof that would stand up in a court of law that they went back to Syria to report on what they learned about US air security procedures. Our inability to monitor private conversations in Syria does not mean that we should not be suspicious, however. Further, some of the claims made in's article are contradicted by the OIG report. For example, snopes includes a quote claiming that there was only one concerned passenger and that she overreacted: "the passenger was worried, not the flight crew or the federal air marshals."  We now know that there were several concerned passengers and the flight crew apparently did not think that they were overreacting, as in this quote from the OIG report:

The flight attendants first notified the air marshals of suspicious actions at 12:53 PM, 20 minutes after the flight departed DTW. [redacted] eight Middle Eastern males were changing seats. About 14:00 (1 1/2 hours into the flight), a flight attendant notified another air marshal regarding the suspicious behavior. [redacted] and directed them to inform the captain.

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