If you’re a connoisseur of weblogs, you’ve probably come across Annie Jacobsen’s harrowing tale of the flight that she, her husband, and their 4-year-old son took on June 29 from Detroit to Los Angeles on Northwest Flight 237. Among the family’s fellow passengers were 14 Middle Eastern men whose suspicious behavior huddling and signaling to each other and moving in and out of the plane’s lavatories thoroughly frightened not only Jacobsen and her husband, but other passengers, the flight attendants, and the cockpit crew (the crew radioed authorities, and the plane was met in Los Angeles by local cops, FBI agents, and federal air marshals). The flight in question had originated in Providence, R.I., with a layover in Detroit, which was where the Middle Easterners boarded (Jacobsen saw them in the layover area while she and her family, who had been on the flight since Providence, were off the plane having a snack). Because the layover area in Detroit was supposedly secure, there were no security checks before passengers–so the Middle Eastern men brought cases for musical instruments, a McDonald’s bag, and an orthopedic shoe that one of them was wearing onto the plane without scrutiny. Jacobson’s big question: Why on earth hadn’t these men been thoroughly screened before they got on the plane?
Jacobsen wrote the story, “Terror in the Skies, Again?” for Women’s Wall Street.com, a financial website pitched to women, and links to it have been flying around the blogosphere (Jacobsen also has a brief update here). Until yesterday, no major print media would touch the story. Last night, however, our friend Michelle Malkin learned that the Dallas Morning News intends to to publish an excerpt on its op-ed page, breaking the silence.
When Jacobsen got home, she began combing the Internet for clues to what might have been at stake in her experiences. She found this story from the U.K. Observer on Feb. 8 of this year, which she excerpted as follows:
“Islamic militants have conducted dry runs of a devastating new style of bombing on aircraft flying to Europe, intelligence sources believe.
“The tactics, which aim to evade aviation security systems by placing only components of explosive devices on passenger jets, allowing militants to assemble them in the air, have been tried out on planes flying between the Middle East, North Africa and Western Europe, security sources say.
“…The… Transportation Security Administration issued an urgent memo detailing new threats to aviation and warning that terrorists in teams of five might be planning suicide missions to hijack commercial airliners, possibly using common items…such as cameras, modified as weapons.
“…Components of IEDs [improvised explosive devices] can be smuggled on to an aircraft, concealed in either clothing or personal carry-on items… and assembled on board. In many cases of suspicious passenger activity, incidents have taken place in the aircraft’s forward lavatory.”
The authorities later told Jacobsen that the 14 men in question made up a Syrian band with a date to play at a wedding in a casino outside Los Angeles. Naturally, they refused to inform Jacobsen of either the band’s or the casino’s name. I myself would be saying: Uh-huh.
The problem is obviously political correctnesses. Despite the horror of 9/11, we can’t, we aren’t allowed to perform any extra scrutiny–even checking the passports–of men from ethnic groups with proven track records for terrorism. That would be “racial profiling,” and we can’t do that. Jacobsen writes:
“So here’s my question: Since the FBI issued a warning to the airline industry to be wary of groups of five men on a plane who might be trying to build bombs in the bathroom, shouldn’t a group of 14 Middle Eastern men be screened before boarding a flight?
“Apparently not. Due to our rules against discrimination, it can’t be done. During the 9/11 hearings last April, 9/11 Commissioner John Lehman stated that “…it was the policy (before 9/11) and I believe remains the policy today to fine airlines if they have more than two young Arab males in secondary questioning because that’s discriminatory.”
“So even if Northwest Airlines searched two of the men on board my Northwest flight, they couldn’t search the other 12 because they would have already filled a government-imposed quota.”
That’s because, as Annie quotes from this column by Ann Coulter, it’s actually illegal for airline employees or law enforcement authorities to subject young Arab men to even a smidgen more scrutiny than any other people of whatever age or ethnic group. Ann wrote:
“On September 21, as the remains of thousands of Americans lay smoldering at Ground Zero, [Secretary of Transportation Norman] Mineta fired off a letter to all U.S. airlines forbidding them from implementing the one security measure that could have prevented 9/11: subjecting Middle Eastern passengers to an added degree of pre-flight scrutiny. He sternly reminded the airlines that it was illegal to discriminate against passengers based on their race, color, national or ethnic origin or religion.”
Annie Jacobsen asks:
“So the question is… Do I think these men were musicians? I’ll let you decide. But I wonder, if 19 terrorists can learn to fly airplanes into buildings, couldn’t 14 terrorists learn to play instruments?”
And my questions are: Do we as a society care more about political correctness than our ability to protect our citizens from mass-murder in the skies? Why is it OK to strip-search grannies and newborn babies at the airport–but to take not the slightest extra precautions with young adult males from ethnic groups with proven records for the most abominable behavior? When will this suicidal foolishness stop?