is the invaluable internet site for cataloging and debunking urban legends.
But in at least one case, they make a bold assertion far outside their realm of expertise.
I had been meaning to criticize them about this for a while, but the original story has resurfaced again, so it's time.
Last July, in an internet magazine nobody's heard of, a writer reported observing
very suspicious behavior aboard an airliner, in which 13 Syrians (not Americans of Syrian descent, but actual citizens of Syria, which is at war with us) seemed to be up to something.
The take-off was uneventful. But once we were in the air and the seatbelt sign was turned off, the unusual activity began. The man in the yellow T-shirt got out of his seat and went to the lavatory at the front of coach -- taking his full McDonald's bag with him. When he came out of the lavatory he still had the McDonald's bag, but it was now almost empty. He walked down the aisle to the back of the plane, still holding the bag. When he passed two of the men sitting mid-cabin, he gave a thumbs-up sign. When he returned to his seat, he no longer had the McDonald's bag.
Then another man from the group stood up and took something from his carry-on in the overhead bin. It was about a foot long and was rolled in cloth. He headed toward the back of the cabin with the object. Five minutes later, several more of the Middle Eastern men began using the forward lavatory consecutively. In the back, several of the men stood up and used the back lavatory consecutively as well.
For the next hour, the men congregated in groups of two and three at the back of the plane for varying periods of time. Meanwhile, in the first class cabin, just a foot or so from the cockpit door, the man with the dark suit - still wearing sunglasses - was also standing. Not one of the flight crew members suggested that any of these men take their seats.
Watching all of this, my husband was now beyond "anxious."
The event was indeed confirmed to have happened; other witnesses came forward. Others, however, dismissed this all as racist paranoia and "profiling." These men, it seemed, were musicians, on their way to a gig.
Snopes categorically dismissed
Claim: Reporter encounters terrorists on airline flight who are making a dry run at assembling a bomb on-board.
As things turned out, although the events Ms. Jacobsen claims to have witnessed on her flight did occur (more or less), her interpretation of them (that they involved a group of terrrorists making a dry run for building a bomb in-flight) was erroneous. The men she observed on her flight were exactly what authorities told her they were: a group of Syrian musicians who had been hired to play at the Sycuan Casino & Resort near San Diego. Like any other group of passengers, the men in the musical ensemble talked to each other, moved around, ate food, and used the restrooms while the flight was in progress.
According to federal air marshals, Ms. Jacobsen "overreacted":
Undercover federal air marshals on board a June 29 Northwest airlines flight from Detroit to LAX identified themselves after a passenger, "overreacted," to a group of middle-eastern men on board, federal officials and sources have told KFI NEWS.
Now hold it right there!
Neither the air marshalls on board, nor especially Snopes, have the necessary information to make such a bold claim! They cannot in principle, logically, make such an assertion of outright falsehood, just because these Syrians had day jobs as musicians.
If they Syrian intelligence agents attempting to test security, they would OF COURSE have a plausible "cover story."
What, you think they carry ID that lists their occupation as "terrorist"?
Let me tell you something about the spy business.
In my previous line of work as a DoD-funded scientist and thus a potential target of intelligence gathering, I had mandatory training to alert me to the very real world of foreign spies who in a very real way are, right now, attempting to gain our secrets. Even non-secret information of a technical nature is economically valuable, even to many of our so-called "allies."
Some of it's blatant; some is subtle. But it's very, very real.
And it turns out, the actual professional agents, as a matter of course, tend to recruit "normal" people to probe and steal, because the pros are "known" to each other, and the regular people already have very plausible "cover stories" in their usual day jobs.
Cover stories are bread and butter in the secret world! They're used all the time!
So it is the height of misinformed arrogance, fueled by an impulse to appear morally superior, to say the possibility of a security probe -- or worse -- is False! With the available information, the most one can say is "inconclusive."
Consider the following items.Chechen terrorists
took down two airliners in Russia by apparently assembling a bomb in the lavatory:
After first trying to play down a possible terrorist connection, Russian authorities now are openly saying that the near-simultaneous crashes of two passenger airliners, which left the same Moscow Airport less than an hour apart on Aug. 24, were probably caused by the explosion of bombs carried on each of the planes by a darkly dressed Chechen women.
Actor James Woods, who in real life is apparently very smart, observed 4 middle-eastern men behaving very suspiciously a month before 9/11 on a flight he was on, and one of them turned out in hindsight to actually to have been Mohammed Atta, and they were INDEED doing a dry-run of the 9/11 hijackings! Woods had reported this behavior
, but nothing was done:
In August, actor James Woods told the FBI he had observed suspicious activity on American Flight 11. He said he was alone in first class with four men of apparent Middle Eastern descent. The men neither ate nor drank during the six-hour flight, and spoke to each other only in whispers.
So you see, dry runs are real.WAKE UP!
It would be insane to believe they have stopped.
And recently, another writer reports
how she went to a mosque in the deep South for one of those interfaith meetings, but she purposely arrived early to hear what they were preaching before the meeting, and was allowed in because it was assumed she wouldn't understand Arabic.
But she did speak Arabic.
And heard, apparently, things like this:
The first speaker was the head of the Muslim Students' Association at the nearby university. Although I missed the beginning of the discussion, I caught up quickly. He was talking about the problems he had encountered on a recent trip, when TSA flagged him for extra screening. He joked about the fact that they had stopped him for extensive screening. He had anticipated that he would be screened and he had filled his carryon luggage with printouts of the Quran from the Internet, and had 15 or 16 CDs labeled in Arabic, and he had a notebook computer with him.
As he expected, he was delayed – he thought it was very amusing that while several TSA personnel were scrutinizing his personal belongings that his classmate from Jordan was able to walk through security, along with his American girlfriend, without any problems whatsoever.
One of the men said, in Arabic: "Blonde Americans are good for something!" Another man advised him to be cautious, since there was an American woman in the room. The imam spoke up and told everyone I didn't speak Arabic.
At that point, another student took the podium. His name was Khaled, and he began to recount his recent trip to New York City. Khaled and three of his companions had gone to New York for several days in January. He told of how uncomfortable his trip up to NYC had been. He felt like he was being watched, and thought he was the victim of racial profiling.
Khaled and his friends were pretty unhappy about it, and while in New York, they came up with a plan to "teach a lesson" to the passengers and crew. You can imagine the story Khaled told. He described how he and his friends whispered to each other on the flight, made simultaneous visits to the restroom, and generally tried to "spook" the other passengers. He laughed when he described how several women were in tears, and one man sitting near him was praying.
Interesting. Sounds like the behavior on the earlier Flight 327! Even if either one is meant as intimidation only, it is still a hostile activity, designed to spread fear, and cost us time and money in gumming up air travel on which our modern economy depends. This is pure sabotage.
Saboteurs are not protected by the Geneva Conventions. Traditionally, their actions are not considered criminal, to be handled by civilian law, but as illegal acts of war subject to summary execution.
The meeting continued:
The others in the room thought the story was quite amusing, judging from the laughter. The imam stood up and told the group that this was a kind of peaceful civil disobedience that should be encouraged, and commended Khaled and his friends for their efforts.
He pointed out that it was through this kind of civil disobedience that ethnic profiling would fail.
One of the other men, Ahmed from Kuwait, gave a brief account of his friend Eyad, who had finally gone to Iraq. Ahmed was in e-mail contact with Eyad, and hoped by the following week to be able to bring them more information about the state of the "mujahideen" in Iraq.
As the meeting drew to a close, the imam gave a brief speech calling for the protection of Allah on the mujahideen fighting for Islam throughout the world, and reminded everyone that it was their duty as Muslims to continue in the path of jihad, whether it was simple efforts like those of Khaled and his friends, or the actual physical fighting of men like Eyad.
The same imam who demanded that the men continue in the path of jihad did a complete 180-degree turn in this session, stressing instead the suras that promoted the "brotherhood" between Muslims, Christians and Jews. "After all, we worship the same God, and follow the teachings in the books he gave each of us. We are all the same, we are all People of the Book," he stressed.
The differences between the sessions were striking. Clearly the second session was a recruiting session.
The reason for concern is obvious: Two different doctrines are being promoted. One peaceful, friendly, warm and fuzzy doctrine is being used to draw people in, with a focus on the well-being of their children.
But the Arabic-speaking sessions clearly have an anti-American tone.
Never mind also the really incomprehensible situation in which Syrians are given any visas at all to enter the country! What you think we let Japanese tourists into the country in 1944? Or Germans in 1943? It would be absurd!
Yet today, not only do we let foreigners from hostile countries in, which allows the easy infiltration of recruited agents, we are forbidden from being suspicious of them.
I mean, what's the whole point of even having a visa system, if not to deny them from time to time as necessary? Handing them out, however, has become an end in itself, defeating the whole purpose.
Well, even though the airline people would like to dismiss the story of suspicious behavior on Flight 327, it won't go away, as Homeland Security still finds it interesting. The original author, dismissed by Snopes as overreacting, was recently interviewed by agents
Here's what I find fascinating: while one arm of the government (the Federal Air Marshal Service) has vehemently maintained all along that "nothing happened on flight 327," the other, more muscular arm (the Department of Homeland Security) has been conducting a rather large investigation about it. Based on my 4 ½ hour meeting with the agents, I can tell you that not only have they been investigating what did happen during the flight, but they've also been investigating who botched the subsequent investigation as well as how it got botched.
There were 13 men on a domestic flight acting in such a way that many passengers felt their lives might be in danger. And yet not one of the individuals responsible for that threatening behavior was detained. Only two were put under light questioning, let alone medium or heavy questioning. Two individuals from a terrorist-sponsoring nation were allowed to speak on behalf of the other 11 men. In this War on Terror, whatever happened to a middle ground?
As they stood to leave, one of the agents shook my hand and said, "Thank you for writing those articles." The most senior agent asked if he could touch my very pregnant belly. Then he said, "As a fellow American I can say you did your duty." A third agent borrowed a line from my original article: "If 19 terrorists can learn to fly airplanes into buildings, couldn't 13 terrorists learn to play instruments?"
Stick to disappearing hitchhikers, Snopes, and stay out of National Security issues.
You and your PC-ilk like Transportation Sec. Mineta are just making it harder for us as a society to muster the will to act against a mortal threat.
You'd rather have the blood of innocents on your hands than risk "offending" foreigners.
Oh, but wait, I guess we've all been guilty of something since at least Columbus, right?