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"Terror in the Skies," Three Years Later:
Three years ago, a lot of bloggers were discussing Annie Jacobson's story about being on a flight involving an apparent terrorist "dry run." (It's no longer online, but it's now in book form. Snopes has a summary.) After awhile, the consensus was that it was all a false alarm; it looked like the group was just a music band, and Jacobsen had overreacted. Recently, the Department of Homeland Security released a version of its 2006 Inspector General report about the flight. If I read the report correctly, it confirms a lot of the suspicious behavior that Jacobson had reported (while not suggesting that the group actually had any evil plans). It's worth checking out if you wanted a follow-up to the Jacobson story.
Justin (mail):
carried a McDonalds bag into the lavetory

walked the aisles, and appeared to count seats

spent too much time (we now know praying) appearing to count seats

Other than the one guy who the government asserts spoke english at the gate, but couldnt speak english in the airplane, the only really incriminating stuff in there is the attaching of motives and suggestive ideas to innocent behavior that would have gone unnoticed otherwise. The passngers of that flight just acted, to put it mildly, with an unfortunate discretion.
5.30.2007 9:08pm
Shelby (mail):
At the time a disturbing number of online commenters said the passengers acting suspiciously should've been mobbed, tied up, etc. I thought the situation Jacobsen described sounded like a good occasion to, y'know, talk to them. If it's all a mistake, that will likely become clear; if it's not, the hijackers/what-have-you will likely be rattled and back off from whatever they were planning. And that sort of conversation encourages everyone else to keep an eye on them.
5.30.2007 9:29pm
Mr. Nobody:
The snopes page has an update that takes into account the new report. From what I'm reading there the report confirms that the guys were not terrorists and no one was in danger so Jacobsen still overreacted.

What is newsworthy here exactly???
5.30.2007 9:31pm
AntonK (mail):
One hundred percent of the successful terrorist attacks on commercial airlines for 20 years have been committed by Arabs. When there is a 100 percent chance of being hijacked by an Arab Muslim Extremist, it ceases to be a profile. It's called a 'description of the suspect
5.30.2007 9:37pm
Mahan Atma (mail):
"When there is a 100 percent chance of being hijacked by an Arab Muslim Extremist..."


Now there's logic for you...
5.30.2007 9:44pm
Humble Law Student (mail):
Mahan Atma,

If Arab Muslims don't want it to be the description of terrorist attacks on airlines, I have simple advice, STOP DOING IT!
5.30.2007 9:48pm
Daryl Herbert (www):
[Deleted by OK on civility grounds]
5.30.2007 10:03pm
JB:
AntonK: You have it backwards. What you meant to say is, "If you were hijacked in the past 20 years, there's a 100% chance it was done by Arabs." There is a much smaller chance of an Arab you encounter hijacking your plane, or your plane being hijacked by an Arab. To say the least.
5.30.2007 10:11pm
Snappers:
Daryl Herbert seems to be enjoying the Fear Kool-Aid, today.

Daryl, you want me to take time out of my busy flight schedule, when my prejudices are already occupied by those "D*mn Illegal Mexicans" to be suspicious of Arabs, too?

Gosh, that is such a tall order. See, when I am not suspicious of illegal border crossers, I make fun of fat white trash.
5.30.2007 10:28pm
Ugh:
I would note that the europeans have apparently gotten over the "liquids" hysterics brought on by the liquid explosive incident, and yet TSA still demands "3-1-1."
5.30.2007 10:33pm
Snappers:
In a follow-up to my previous commentary, with DH's comments being removed by OK - my comments appear out of line.

I do not believe in profiling Arabic passengers on a plane because of a single horrible date 9.11.01. We, as human beings, cannot succumb to the fear that a person or group of persons with different beliefs than our Western Culture present an inherent danger to us. If we choose that path, we lose our honor, our integrity and our humanity. We need to be better than than.

Being afraid of a different culture will not aid our understanding of why they feel the way they do. Nor will it help us soothe or heal such a rift. We need to engage and educate ourselves and believe we are capable of resolving this quagmire we find ourselves in.
5.30.2007 10:38pm
dwshelf:
While the story seems not to have been a terrorist attempt, it's surely consistent with a terrorist probe, a dry run.

What is the proper reaction to a terrorist dry run?
5.30.2007 10:44pm
dwshelf:
Being afraid of a different culture will not aid our understanding of why they feel the way they do.

When someone is trying to kill you, it's just not a primary concern to gain an understanding of why he feels the way he does.
5.30.2007 10:52pm
Informant (mail):
"One hundred percent of the successful terrorist attacks on commercial airlines for 20 years have been committed by Arabs."

And that statistic is 100% false, unless you have a very conveniently selective definition of "successful terrorist attack".

See, e.g.:

en.wikipedia.org/wiki/PSA_Flight_1771

en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ethiopian_Airlines_Flight_961

I can come up with at least a half-dozen more just from the entries on Wikipedia's "aircraft hijacking" page.
5.30.2007 11:03pm
Serenity Now (mail) (www):
5.30.2007 11:20pm
MikeC&F (mail):
If Arab Muslims don't want it to be the description of terrorist attacks on airlines, I have simple advice, STOP DOING IT!

The issue is more complicated than this. If one should not be responsible for the sins of his fathers, why should one be responsible for the sins of his ethnic or religious group? Isn't it unfair to group people together in this manner? Isn't it unfair to target innocent Muslims because of guilty Muslims?

On the other hand, the next plane that will be hijacked will almost certainly be hijacked by an Arab male. So when an Arab male in on the same flight as I am, am I supposed to ignore this?

I certainly racially profile when flying. If a group of Arab men were on the same flight as I, I would not sleep on that flight. I do, however, feel guilty about it and make it non-obvious.

Again, it's not right to target innocent people because they happen to share a race or religion with evil men. But to ignore the fact that the next hijacker will be an Arab man is stupid also.

So what's the solution? I honestly don't know. My own view is that the Constitution prohibits racial profiling. (If you're targeting Arab men, you are denying them the equal protection guaranteed by the Fourteenth Amendment. Only a judicial activist who ignores the plain text of the Constitution would argue otherwise.) Thus, the government can't do it. (And, for other policy reasons, the government probably should not do it.) I, on the other hand, remain perfectly free to remain awake when sharing a flight with a large number of Arab men.
5.31.2007 12:27am
Milhouse (www):

The snopes page has an update that takes into account the new report. From what I'm reading there the report confirms that the guys were not terrorists and no one was in danger so Jacobsen still overreacted.


Snopes isn't being entirely up front. Yes, IG's report quotes the TSA saying there was no reason to alert anyone; it quotes that claim in order to criticise it. The upshot of the report is that there was every reason to be suspicious, and the people handling it were wrong not to take it more seriously. In the event, it wasn't an attack, and at least the unredacted parts of the report don't provide evidence that it was a dry run, but nor do they dismiss the possibility.

Snopes dismisses the fact that the musicians' visas had expired as a red herring. The IG's report takes it seriously, and says that the federal marshals should not have ignored it, and should have clarified their immigration status immediately. As it happens, there was an innocent explanation: they had applied for extensions, and were entitled to stay in the country until the request had been dealt with. In fact the extensions ended up being granted shortly after this incident, and they left the country before the new expiration date. But the marshals had no way of knowing that at the time, and letting it slip was negligent.
5.31.2007 12:44am
OrinKerr:
If you're targeting Arab men, you are denying them the equal protection guaranteed by the Fourteenth Amendment. Only a judicial activist who ignores the plain text of the Constitution would argue otherwise.

Mike, would you care to explain that, or was that just supposed to be a bit of fun on your part? Among other things, I'm interested in knowing how federal government screeners can violate a constitutional limitation expressly on the states.
5.31.2007 12:45am
Truth Seeker:
We need to engage and educate ourselves and believe we are capable of resolving this quagmire we find ourselves in

Excuse me but when someone wants to kill you we learn from him, we need to educate him that such a desire is counter-productive by eliminating as quickly as possible anyone else who shows such tendencies. This is not a kumbaya party, we don't all live happily ever after. Someone dies. Us or them. Your choice.
5.31.2007 12:53am
Mahan Atma (mail):
"I'm interested in knowing how federal government screeners can violate a constitutional limitation expressly on the states."


I'd think reverse incorporation through the Fifth would cover that (see Bolling), although I suppose some people would consider that "judicial activism". The same people probably think substantive due process is activism though.

I'd be interested in knowing whether someone who sticks to the plain text of the Fourteenth thinks it applies to racial classes, but not other classes (e.g. sex, income, disability, etc).
5.31.2007 12:56am
Truth Seeker:
"we learn from him"
Sorry I meant "we don't learn from him"
5.31.2007 12:59am
Harry Eagar (mail):
'Being afraid of a different culture will not aid our understanding of why they feel the way they do. Nor will it help us soothe or heal such a rift. We need to engage and educate ourselves and believe we are capable of resolving this quagmire we find ourselves in.'

So, Snappers, how do you know we do not understand Islam? Or, on what grounds do you disbelieve that the thing to be understood is that Islam is in a state of permanent warfare with civilizaton?

More fundamentally, although I understand very well why they 'feel the way they do,' I don't give a damn why they do.
5.31.2007 1:04am
PGofHSM (mail) (www):
I have not been reading Volokh enough recently -- I missed the point at which the comment sections became majority-ignorant. As a purely factual matter, pretty much every hijacking that occurs on Indian airlines (and they have gotten hijacked more often in the last 20 years than Canadian, American and British airlines combined, despite there being many fewer of the former than the latter), is committed by a non-Arab, there being a distinct shortage of Arabs in South Asia and these being fairly homegrown incidents.

Given the fairly high level of commentary when the VC first turned on that function, I had thought there was an invisible knowledge requirement for VC commenting that would keep off comments like that of AntonK. His remark only makes sense if what he actually meant was "successful terrorist attacks THAT PRIMARILY VICTIMIZED WHITE PEOPLE." Certainly that helped to explain how shocked some people were to discover that prior to 9/11 the Tamil Tigers had mounted more attacks than any Muslim terrorists had. The Tigers were busy killing non-whites, you see, which made them wholly uninteresting for AntonK's statistics.
5.31.2007 1:14am
MikeC&F (mail):
Mike, would you care to explain that, or was that just supposed to be a bit of fun on your part? Among other things, I'm interested in knowing how federal government screeners can violate a constitutional limitation expressly on the states.

Well, Orin, I was mostly having fun. (You did catch me asleep at the wheel: It was be the Fifth Amendment rather than the Fourteenth. Or was it a sleight of hand?) Just curious: Do you think Bolling v. Sharpe was wrongly decided? Can a person be given due process under the law if he is denied equal protection?

[The people I directed my initial snarky comment at, unlike Orin, would not answer with: "But the Fourteenth Amendment only applies to state - not federal action." Try it sometime when you're looking to have a little fun.]

I'd be interested in knowing whether someone who sticks to the plain text of the Fourteenth thinks it applies to racial classes, but not other classes (e.g. sex, income, disability, etc).

The rhetorical trick, here, of course, is this: "But Mahan, we cannot just read the text to know its meaning. We also have to consider the context. Words, after all, have no meaning outside of context." Of course, if you tried holding the same person to that standard in a later case, we would be told that "The text is obvious and therefore controls." Textualism, like originalism and "active libertism" are all just ways for people trick people into thinking the person invoking them is exercising something other than will. I have often issued a challenge to people who rally behind a given just as a [insert philosophy/buzzword] to show, citing every case or even 90% of cases, that the person applied [insert philosophy/buzzword] consistently. Of course, if you were a law professor who could show that one judge or Justice truly had a Grand Unified Theory, you'd have one hell of a nice book on your hands.

While I am just as confused as everyone else, if I had to argue, I'd say that, no, the EPC does not apply to other classifications because it was crafted to address a specific problem - the way blacks were treated. We could even go so far as to say that the EPC does not protect any group except African Americans. In fact, I would think that's the most reasonable interpretation - since context does matter and words in fact do not have meaning outside of context. If you gave me some nice cigars, "I love you" would mean something decidedly differently than when I said it to my wife.
5.31.2007 1:17am
MikeC&F (mail):
As a purely factual matter, pretty much every hijacking that occurs on Indian airlines

That's quite a rant you went on considering that every VC author and most VC readers live in the United States. (Just click on the SiteMeter map for proof.) Moreover, the article and report concerned an incident that occurred in the United States. The context was clear: This was a post about terrorism in the United States.

(Of course, it would be interesting and relevant to discuss how other countries are fighting terrorism; and how those methods might be used to prevent a terrorist attack in the United States. Do they racially profile in India?)
5.31.2007 1:26am
Mahan Atma (mail):
"While I am just as confused as everyone else, if I had to argue, I'd say that, no, the EPC does not apply to other classifications because it was crafted to address a specific problem - the way blacks were treated.


Fair enough, but then you'd have to admit you are going far beyond the text, because it says nothing about race, much less blacks.
5.31.2007 1:29am
Mahan Atma (mail):
"This was a post about terrorism in the United States."


What does that mean, exactly? Aren't many of these international flights, containing many people who aren't American citizens?
5.31.2007 1:31am
MikeC&F (mail):
What does that mean, exactly? Aren't many of these international flights, containing many people who aren't American citizens?

If 9/11 hadn't happened, what are the odds we would even be having this discussion? Do we Americans care about terrorism in India? Really, do we?

How often do bloggers (or anyone else) within the United States evidence that they care about world issues that do not effect the United States? Darfur is about as bad a situation as it gets, and how much coverage does that issue get? Even "warm-and-fuzzy" leftie bloggers devote way more attention to whatever the hell Bill O'Reilly or Lou Dobbs said last night than they do to the millions of people raped and killed in Darfur. Hell, go to CNN.com. As of 9:52 PM PST, here are the headlines:

# SI.com: Spurs smash Jazz, return to NBA Finals
# Man knew he had TB before flying |
# CNNMoney: Wall St. basks in record highs
# Gitmo detainee commits suicide, military says
# Dobbs: An answer for my critics | Video Video
# Crowd holds mattress as mom jumps from fire
# Victim's brother hopes for justice after 43 years
# 'Law &Order' star produces White House buzz
# Artist goes through $200k of LEGOs a year
# Kisses, lunches likely to survive French reform
# Lindsay Lohan's new rehab is more serious
# Study: Female cheetahs sleep around

This is the type of stuff we Americans are concerned with. (Drudge is worse! Teachers sleeping with students = big news. African women and children being raped and hacked to death = Zzzzzzz.)

Most of us in the U.S. aren't too concerned about what happens in other countries unless it directly concerns the United States. While that in itself (in my view, anyway) is bad thing, arguing that the the post didn't touch on terrorism as it happens in and related to the U.S. is just ornery.
5.31.2007 1:55am
Maureen001 (mail):
Mahan Atma:

Not this particular flight. It was a domestic flight originating in Detroit and terminating in Los Angeles.

Wow, can those guys write a report or what!

So, was this the inspiration for the Imams behaving badly in the Twin Cities last year? Anyone know how that particular CAIR lawsuit is going?
5.31.2007 2:14am
Mahan Atma (mail):
"Do we Americans care about terrorism in India?"


"Not this particular flight."



(1) Americans [i]should[/i] care about terrorism overseas.

(2) There were plenty of targeted flights (both domestic and international) containing large numbers of non-Americans as well as Americans. See Pan Am Flight 103. Or Richard Reid, the so-called "shoe" bomber, for example.

Even in the World Trade Center attack on 9-11-01, roughly 500 of the victims were foreign nationals.

So yes, it makes little-to-no-sense to automatically assume any discussion of terrorism is limited purely American victims.
5.31.2007 2:28am
Informant (mail):
"Moreover, the article and report concerned an incident that occurred in the United States. The context was clear: This was a post about terrorism in the United States."

Work on your reading comprehension skills -- PGofHSM was criticizing AntonK's comment in which he (utterly incorrectly) claimed 100% of "successful terrorist attacks" on airplanes in the last 20 years were committed by Arabs. AntonK did not limit his pronouncement to domestic flights. And, even if AntonK were to do so, it would still be false: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/PSA_Flight_1771
5.31.2007 2:29am
Thales (mail) (www):
"Among other things, I'm interested in knowing how federal government screeners can violate a constitutional limitation expressly on the states."

Well, the equal protection clause applies to the federal government in at least some respects under the reverse incorporation rule of Bolling v. Sharpe--or is the federal gov't allowed to discriminate on the basis of race in more egregious ways than the states?
5.31.2007 3:04am
Al Maviva (mail) (www):

I would note that the europeans have apparently gotten over the "liquids" hysterics brought on by the liquid explosive incident, and yet TSA still demands "3-1-1."


Absolutely correct, Ugh. The Europeans have gotten over it.

Except for those hysterical Brits, who are putting the individuals involved in the liquid bomb plot - who inspired that particular restriction - on trial. Pretty irrational and hysterical of them, huh? I'm sure we'll find out pretty soon it was just a Rovian plot to inspire fear and get out the vote - just like the rest of the illusory Islamic extremist threat. BTW, did you know that never in the history of man, has fire burned steel... etc.
5.31.2007 8:48am
rarango (mail):
Snapper's 9:38 comment lays out what I consider to be the ideal approach. And I certainly would aspire to it. I am just not so convinced that I am capable given the events of 9/11. On an airline flight, I will probably continue to view a young moslem man, with some degree of suspicion--at least until I get to know him personally. If that makes me less a saint, so be it. I don't think human nature is capable of meeting the standard that snapper identifies.
5.31.2007 10:00am
Anderson (mail) (www):
I would just like to say:

100% of occupations of Middle Eastern countries over the past 10 years have been committed by American troops.

If Americans don't want that to be the description of occupations of Middle Eastern countries, I have simple advice, STOP DOING IT!
5.31.2007 11:06am
whit:
"If you're targeting Arab men, you are denying them the equal protection guaranteed by the Fourteenth Amendment. Only a judicial activist who ignores the plain text of the Constitution would argue otherwise"

heck, one could make the same argument that mandatory screening/metal detectors etc. for ANY airline passengers violates the constitution. of course the rub is that flying is not a "right", and it's conducted by private business and you are free not to fly.
5.31.2007 11:37am
Melchior Sternfels (mail) (www):

100% of occupations of Middle Eastern countries over the past 10 years have been committed by American troops.


Syria's occupation of Lebanon?
5.31.2007 11:51am
PGofHSM (mail) (www):
(Of course, it would be interesting and relevant to discuss how other countries are fighting terrorism; and how those methods might be used to prevent a terrorist attack in the United States. Do they racially profile in India?)

Um, what do you mean by "racially profile in India"? Indians are pretty much the same race. You can tell someone's *religion* to some extent by their name -- there are names typical to Hindus (Patel), to Muslims and to Sikhs (Singh); Christians tend to have European names (Thomas Thomas!). But if you just stood me (raised Hindu, family from Andhra), next to a Christian nurse from Kerala, next to a Muslim Kashmiri suicide bomber about to blow up the Parliament, you wouldn't know which of us was the likely terrorist. And more to the point, even an Indian person probably wouldn't be able to eyeball our differences based purely on skin color, facial features, etc. India is an intensely diverse country, but it's a diversity based more on religion, language and culture than on race. The American divisions along color lines -- white, black, brown, yellow -- don't apply. And those divisions are pretty stupid even when applied in the U.S., given that two prominent, albeit unsuccessful, terrorists have not been Arab nor even had typically Muslim names. How was racial profiling going to help with Jose Padilla (well, he *is* brown, just Latino instead of Arab) or Richard Reid (also sorta brown by way of mixed English and Jamaican), both converts to Islam? Are we going to require people to put their religions on their passports too? How do we enforce that?
5.31.2007 11:52am
law clerk (mail):
Anderson:


100% of occupations of Middle Eastern countries over the past 10 years have been committed by American troops.


Actually, not true. See, for example, Syria's partial occupation of Lebanon for 29 years or Iraq's invasion of Kuwait in 1991.
5.31.2007 11:58am
Mike Keenan:
If we can't agree that it is the responsibility of 13 Arab foreigners to behave themselves to a high level on board an airplane in this country, then there is little we can agree on.

We want them to visit. We want them to fly. We even want some to immigrate and marry our sisters and daughters. But, on a plane, they better have themselves.
5.31.2007 12:34pm
chris c:
It's good that this was apparently a false alarm. But it is nuts to deride the lady for her concern.
Anyone with a brain and a desire to live probably would have felt similarly had they been in her shoes on that day.
5.31.2007 1:48pm
MikeC&F (mail):
So yes, it makes little-to-no-sense to automatically assume any discussion of terrorism is limited purely American victims.

So you are just being difficult. Why? Here is what I wrote: "Most of us in the U.S. aren't too concerned about what happens in other countries unless it directly concerns the United States. While that in itself (in my view, anyway) is bad thing, arguing that the the post didn't touch on terrorism as it happens in and related to the U.S. is just ornery."

If foreign citizens were injured in a terrorist attack within the United States, Americans would be troubled by it. If foreign citizens in another country (strike cases like Israel, Iraq, Afghanistan) were killed in a terrorist attack in another country, Americans would "care" about it to the extent they care about anything out-of-the ordinary.

You are, quite frankly, ignoring context either to score rhetorical points or to address an argument that no one has made.

If you want to argue that Americans should care about what happens to people in other countries, you'll have to find someone else, as I'd be on your side. Likewise, I would not argue that terrorism that happens to other people in other countries is no big deal. And if you want to argue that when the vast majority of American's concern over terrorism isn't very limited (viz., to terrorist attacks on American soil or involving American enemies like Al Qaeda), you'll have to find someone else to argue with: Since I won't argue with someone claiming the Earth is flat.

PGofHSM was criticizing AntonK's comment in which he (utterly incorrectly) claimed 100% of "successful terrorist attacks" on airplanes in the last 20 years were committed by Arabs.

Why do people ignore context just so they can "score" points? I truly do not understand this. Just in case you are being sincere, I will highlight "hidden" contextual clues.

"Three years ago, a lot of bloggers in the United States were discussing Annie Jacobson's story about being on a United States airline flight involving an apparent terrorist "dry run." (It's no longer online, but it's now in book form. Snopes has a summary.) After awhile, the consensus was that it was all a false alarm; it looked like the group was just a music band, and Jacobsen had overreacted. Recently, the United States Department of Homeland Security released a version of its 2006 Inspector General report about the flight. If I read the report correctly, it confirms a lot of the suspicious behavior that Jacobson had reported (while not suggesting that the group actually had any evil plans). It's worth checking out if you wanted a follow-up to the Jacobson story."

How could anyone have read that post and concluded it was about terrorism that happens outside of the United States to non-U.S. citizens? I am baffled. Really.

Yes, it sucks that Indians face terrorism by non-Arabs. Yes, that is something we Americans should care about and discuss. So if PG had simply said, "Let's talk international" terrorism, great. But when it's obvious that a post has a given context, one should not go off on "ignorant" people who limited their discussion to that context.

Anyhow, this thread has reminded me why I rarely discuss issues with people in comments; and why I haven't commented regularly on any blog for a long time. People seem way more concerned with "scoring points" or "winning" than they are about actually discussing an issue. It's too bad, as this post presented many fruitful issues to discuss. Should a passenger error on the side of "overreaction"? Did the passengers actually overreact? The passengers didn't have anyone tied up or anything, but rather simply kept their "eyes and ears" open. Is it morally wrong for a person to racially profile, since that involves making a moral judgment (or does it?) about a person based on factors he can't control?

Instead, AntonK's inogrance (and I have my own view about the utility of his comments, though civility would caution me to keep those to myself) was debated.

Oh well.
5.31.2007 2:21pm
Justin (mail):
"If we can't agree that it is the responsibility of 13 Arab foreigners to behave themselves to a high level on board an airplane in this country, then there is little we can agree on."

Yes, how dare the Arab foreigners use the bathroom to pray. It's not like there's a first amendment in this country. Don't they realize they're ARAB? They have rights n all, but not if it bothers white folk!
5.31.2007 2:36pm
Justin (mail):
"heck, one could make the same argument that mandatory screening/metal detectors etc. for ANY airline passengers violates the constitution. of course the rub is that flying is not a "right", and it's conducted by private business and you are free not to fly."

One - its conducted by the TSA, which is a government agency.

Two - while flying is not a right, the actions by governments as to privileges (such as driving or hunting licensing) cannot be based on unconstitutional grounds. Under the Constitution, a state can bar the serving of alcohol entirely, and it can deny it to 18 year olds while granting it to 21 year olds, but it cannot grant it to 18 year old women and not to 18 year old men.
5.31.2007 2:39pm
chris c:
Justin, Arabs are white - they're Semites, like Jews.

Also, the First Amendment does not impact private companies, such as airlines. It speaks only to govt action - technically by Congress.

even if it applied, there is no const problem with Congress passing a law neutral in aim and effect that may incidentally impact religious practice, such as "people on planes should not go to the restroom at certain times". Employment Division v. Smith, if memory serves.

Finally, tossing out a charge of racism on such flimsy grounds steals the sting from the intended slur and suggests you have nothing better to offer for your side of the question. I can assure you it persuades no one of your intended point.
5.31.2007 2:44pm
Ohad (mail):
I would note that the europeans have apparently gotten over the "liquids" hysterics brought on by the liquid explosive incident, and yet TSA still demands "3-1-1."

Flew out of Geneva today (to Tel Aviv), and the Swiss still limit liquids.
5.31.2007 3:08pm
Justin (mail):
chris c, you obviously missed the sarcasm, or you missed Mike Keenan's post. That particular post that you criticize was only directed at his post, and if you agree with him that Arabs (unlike other people) must be on their bestest behavior, even giving up fundamental rights like their right to peacefully pray, because people like Annie Jacobson might overreact, and that's the fault of the Arabs, then there's not much that I have to convine someone with that mindset that they're just morally abhorrant. Needless to say, sometimes the only legitimate response to an argument *is* scorn.

Furthermore, technical definitions of caucasian is neither here nor there in a cultural criticism of a particular mindset that ignores that technical definition.

Next, the last time I checked, the "federal and local law officials" that detained the men were not private actors.

Finally, the actions of the corporation, as a private organization, would be in violation of the Civil Rights Act (of 1964, I believe).
5.31.2007 3:56pm
Russ (mail):
That's right Anderson...

...uh, of course, except for Syria's occupation of Lebanon, Saudi Arabia's injunctions in Yemen, Egypt's occupation of northern Sudan a few years back, as well as all the other nations involved in either Desert Storm or OEF...
5.31.2007 4:33pm
chris c:
Justin, what you see from a safe distance as peaceful praying, people on the scene saw as ominous.

I suppose you may think those people are all raving bigots. But I don't think that is very likely. It's much more likely they were afraid because what they were seeing came very close to what they knew occurred on a day when over 3000 people were murdered.

To answer your question - of course I don't think Muslims must abstain from praying to fly. I do think that Muslims and for that matter other people should be mindful of 9/11 and with that in mind should not go to the restroom when you're supposed to be sitting etc.
5.31.2007 4:40pm
Richard Aubrey (mail):
Justin. Back again, huh?

Getting it wrong again, huh? By accident, I presume.

Justin's planted axiom that all there was to this was innocent praying is as transparent as any of his other attempts. He needs to pay more attention to the fundamentals, as the coaches say, before he tries the big leagues.
If this is not the big leagues, he still needs to brush up on the fundamentals of peopleputtingon. He's still tee-balling it.
5.31.2007 5:00pm
Justin (mail):
What exactly have I gotten wrong, pray tell? Or is too much to ask that an ad hominen post have even a touch of substance?

As to chris c, let me ask this - when exactly are people allowed to go to and not go to the restroom, other than when flying into or out of National? When was the last time you noticed that a (in the common sense) white person was taking a particular long dump on an airplane? When was the last time you noticed one taking a dump during turbulance? When was the last time air marshals got involved because a white person had to take a dump at what you consider an inapprorpriate time?

Keenan's post was absurd. You come across as more reasonable, but you can't defend the indefensible. Bigotry and paranoia obviously played substantial roles in this case, and even if they had some justification of suspicion, they're reactions were both over the top and ill advised.

If the goal is to tell the terorrists from the non-terrorists after all, perhaps taking basic calm and precautionary actions (like asking them about any particular justified suspicion) would be a lot smarter than a bunch of Annie Jacobsons crying wolf, no? If god forbid there was a real terrorist threat (regardless of race), we wouldn't want the first 9 times a plane got turned around that day to be because a couple of Dearborn Arabs didn't realize that you decided that they were going to the bathroom at the wrong time, right?
5.31.2007 5:40pm
Richard Aubrey (mail):
Justin. They did more than simply take too long in the can.
As you know. And hope we can be distracted from knowing.
Granted, it's not as open and shut as the non-flying imams of later fame.
However, I talked to one of the moron/journalists from the local paper who was basically taking your point--that they did nothing wrong but pray and be Muslim--and said, but what about the seat-belt extenders? He said he often asks for things like peanuts and pillows he doesn't really need.
Hilarious. He and you think anybody believes him/you.
5.31.2007 5:48pm
Mike Keenan:
"Yes, how dare the Arab foreigners use the bathroom to pray."

Yes, when the seatbelt light is illuminated, teams of Arab foreigners should not be rushing to the cockpit to pray in the bathrooms. I didn't realize that was a constitutionally protected right.

Suspicion and paranoia, maybe. It is a confined space and easy to freak out. But, isn't this really an isolated incident? How many of these stories are you reading about? 1 or 2 more. How many have produced a report like this? Seems to me that teams of Arab foreigners (not an insult -- it is a description -- you are the bigot if you think it is insulting) are behaving themselves on airplanes. This group is probably doing so as well now that their cultural sensitivity has been heightened.
5.31.2007 5:51pm
Philistine (mail):
It appears the entirity of the "suspicious" in-flight behaviour consisted of:


• One man, with a limp, sitting in the emergency row area, repeatedly refused to exchange seats, pretending not to understand English, even though he spoke
English to the gate agent. The promoter eventually helped convince him to change seats.
• One or two men walked the aisle, appearing to count passengers.
• One man rushed to the front of the plane appearing to head for the cockpit. At the last moment he veered into the first class lavatory, remaining in it for about 20 minutes.
• One man carried a large McDonald's restaurant bag into a lavatory.
• Several men spent excessive time in the lavatories.
• Another man, upon returning from the lavatory, reeked strongly of what smelled like toilet bowl chemicals.
• Some men hand signaled each other. The passenger who entered the lavatory with the McDonald's bag made a thumbs-up signal to another man upon returning from the lavatory. Another man made a slashing motion across his throat, appearing to say "No."
• Several men congregated in the aisles, changed seats, and arose when the seat belt sign was turned on in preparation for landing.



From page 8 of the report.
5.31.2007 6:12pm
ejo:
that's "all" they were doing that was suspicious? isn't that enough? would they have to juggle boxcutters while making the slashing motion across the throat to attract your attention or would that still be insufficient? I have in my time flying yet to make slashing motions across my throat or find a reason to dig around in the chemical toilet-why should I presume no problems with 13 men from a terrorist nation acting oddly?
5.31.2007 6:41pm
Richard Aubrey (mail):
Phil &ejo

For Jusin, that's all "praying while Muslim".
5.31.2007 7:10pm
Melchior Sternfels (mail) (www):
• One man rushed to the front of the plane appearing to head for the cockpit. At the last moment he veered into the first class lavatory, remaining in it for about 20 minutes.


This alone is enough for me to take notice, and probably action, irrespective of the "rusher's" ethnicity. Anyone running toward the front of the plane these days deserves the broken nose he'll get when he is tripped by another passenger and falls on his face.
6.1.2007 12:49am
chris c:
Justin, you are in such a rush to label the concerned passengers as bigots that you seem blind to basic facts, such as the fact that every commercial flight in this country has moments when you are required to remain seated. There is no point in arguing with you.
6.1.2007 11:00am
Justin (mail):
Melchior,

all I'll say is it doesn't say "running" it says "rushing." You should be careful at accepting words that are by definition ambiguous or interpretive,

In any event, the cockpit is now steel-re-enforced and locked. Your temperment is likely to get you sued for battery by a person with airsickness, rather than catch what must be one of the dumbest terrorists around.

chrisc, I can't find ANYTHING in that report that says they took off for the lavetories in the middle of takeoff or landing. And I fly enough that you're imagining the "no bathroom" rule (outside of flights to and from National) at any other time.
6.1.2007 11:31am
ejo:
were they praying in the bathroom-you can barely do what you are supposed to do in those bathrooms. have you found a way to rationalize the throat cutting gesture-perhaps he was loosening his tie? talk about still living on 9/10.
6.1.2007 11:48am
Richard Aubrey (mail):
ejo
Justin knows better.

He's like the journo I mentioned who tried to liken the non-flying imams' request for seat-belt extenders to asking for a pillow you don't need.
They both know better.

Anybody know if the cockpit door was reinforced on that plane for that flight? How long did it take to get that done? IIRC, it was years.
6.1.2007 12:05pm
Justin (mail):
Aubrey, are you actually claiming now that they WERE terrorists?

My god. This conversation is just over.
6.1.2007 1:35pm
Richard Aubrey (mail):
Justin. Thank you.

No, I'm not claiming they were terrorists. I'm claiming you're trying, in an amateur fashion, to put us on.

Clear enough?
6.1.2007 6:22pm
plunge (mail):
These items all seem pretty ridiculously subjective, especially the breathless "rush" to the bathroom that "at the last minute!!!" ended in the bathroom...

It's still very easy to see how people who are anxious could go anomaly hunting and blow any deviation from not moving or doing anything into a supposedly ominous behavior. This is basically what conspiracy theorists and 9/11 truthers do too.
6.2.2007 2:44pm
TDPerkins (mail):
Justin, it does not matter if they were not in fact terrorists. What does matter is if these behaviors:


• One man, with a limp, sitting in the emergency row area, repeatedly refused to exchange seats, pretending not to understand English, even though he spoke
English to the gate agent. The promoter eventually helped convince him to change seats.
• One or two men walked the aisle, appearing to count passengers.
• One man rushed to the front of the plane appearing to head for the cockpit. At the last moment he veered into the first class lavatory, remaining in it for about 20 minutes.
• One man carried a large McDonald's restaurant bag into a lavatory.
• Several men spent excessive time in the lavatories.
• Another man, upon returning from the lavatory, reeked strongly of what smelled like toilet bowl chemicals.
• Some men hand signaled each other. The passenger who entered the lavatory with the McDonald's bag made a thumbs-up signal to another man upon returning from the lavatory. Another man made a slashing motion across his throat, appearing to say "No."
• Several men congregated in the aisles, changed seats, and arose when the seat belt sign was turned on in preparation for landing.


Were suspicious behaviors. They are suspicious.

Jacobsen, et al, were perfectly reasonably to discuss their concerns calmly--as they did--with the aircrew.

Yours, TDP, ml, msl, &pfpp
6.3.2007 1:33pm