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« Scandi News: Man Fails in Lifelong Dream of Lactating | Main | Silver Linings »
December 03, 2009

Hmmmm... Trouble-Making on Commercial Airflights Again?
Updated: Atlanata Journal-Consitution Reports; Seems Real, But Of Course Very Much Disputed as to Actual Facts
FAA Will Investigate, but TSA Won't: "A Customer Service Issue"

I don't know if too much can be read into this, because... once you're suspicious of someone, everything that person does seems suspicious. Anyone who's been cheated on can attest to that.

I'm not seeing this in Big Media (of course) so I have to go with the reportage of a guy I've never heard of and a blog posting.

On AirTran Flight 297 from Atlanta to Houston Hobby, on November 17 this past month, a group of Muslim men began to act oddly. Oddly enough that passengers became directly involved -- deputizing themselves as security agents of last resort -- and a stewardress refused to fly further with the men.

I didn't hear about this, but apparently it was reported on Fox. but not with much oomph; apparently they said just that a man refused to get off his cellphone and a flight was delayed.

There seems to be a lot more to it than that.

Here's a journalist's account after talking, he says, to seven witnesses.

On November 17, an incident took place aboard AirTran Flight 297 scheduled to fly from Atlanta Hartsfield Airport to Houston that the media does not want to cover and everyone from the airline to the TSA and other government agencies want to keep very quiet. The reasons, I have been told, is fear of predatory lawsuits, negative publicity from accusations of religious profiling, and the obligatory subjugation to mindless mandatory Muslim sensitivity training that make a mockery of our American system of values. Interestingly, one airline official told me “we don’t want to become another flight 300,” which is a reference to a very similar scenario that took place aboard US AirwaysFlight 300 exactly three years ago.

The incident referred to is the "Flyin' Imams" incident, I guess, recounted here. I say "I guess" because I think I remember this... but was it really only three years ago?

Anyway back to the recent incident.

A group of thirteen men dressed in traditional Muslim attire were among 73 passengers who boarded AirTran Flight 297...

As the passengers boarded the aircraft, two of the Muslim men took seats in first class, while the remaining eleven were seated throughout the remaining rows of the aircraft....

As the aircraft began to taxi to the runway, a female flight attendant was beginning to issue the normal passenger advisories over the PA system. Almost on cue at the time passengers were told to turn off all electronic devices, one of the Muslim men seated in the front of the plane began to use his cell phone in a manner that was described by a flight attendant and passenger “as deliberate and obvious.” He was talking loudly in Arabic, nearly at the level of the flight attendant. Some reports suggest that this man actually called another Muslim passenger, although this has not been immediately confirmed. It is possible, however, as another passenger reported that a Muslim man seated toward the rear of the plane answered his cellular phone at the same time the man in the front began using his.

At this point, the flight attendant in the front of the plane approached the Muslim man using his telephone and instructed him to immediately turn it off. A second female flight attendant did the same at the rear of the aircraft. Concurrent with this cellular activity, two other Muslim men seated adjacent near the middle of the aircraft began operating what one passenger described as a palm type camcorder, ostensibly to view previously taken footage. It is possible, according to one flight attendant interviewed by this investigator, however, that the camcorder was being used for recording purposes. Whatever its use, a third flight attendant, aware of the incidents taking place in the front and rear of the aircraft, approached the two men for the purpose of securing the camcorder. At least two passengers reported that the men became abusive to the flight attendant and initially refused to comply with her request.

It was at this time that most of the passengers began to notice the multiple incidents involving over a dozen men dressed in Islamic attire. Next, as if previously rehearsed, at least ten of the 13 Muslim men aboard the aircraft began to leave their seats at the same time. At least one passenger stated she observed one of the Muslim passengers using his cell phone to take photos of other passengers on the aircraft, while one other Muslim passenger sang loudly in Arabic. According to information provided to this investigator from one of the flight crew who was alerted to an onboard emergency, the aircraft was now being taxied back to the terminal. The TSA, FAA and FBI were notified.

Sang loudly in Arabic?

Here's a personal account, by someone who says he was on the airplane, and took personal action about it, on a blog. After recounting the initial cellphone dispute...

The 3rd stewardess informed them that they were not to have electronic devices on at this time. To which one of the men said “shut up infidel dog!” She went to take the camcorder and he began to scream in her face in Arabic. At that exact moment, all 11 of them got up and started to walk the cabin. This is where I had had enough! I got up and started to the back where I heard a voice behind me from another Texan twice my size say “I got your back.” I grabbed the man who had been on the phone by the arm and said “you WILL go sit down or you Will be thrown from this plane!” As I “led” him around me to take his seat, the fellow Texan grabbed him by the back of his neck and his waist and headed out with him. I then grabbed the 2nd man and said, “You WILL do the same!” He protested but adrenaline was flowing now and he was going to go. As I escorted him forward the plane doors open and 3 TSA agents and 4 police officers entered. Me and my new Texan friend were told to cease and desist for they had this under control. I was happy to oblige actually. There was some commotion in the back, but within moments, all 11 were escorted off the plane. They then unloaded their luggage.

We talked about the occurrence and were in disbelief that it had happen, when suddenly, the door open again and on walked all 11!! Stone faced, eyes front and robotic (the only way I can describe it). The stewardess from the back had been in tears and when she saw this, she was having NONE of it! Being that I was up front, I heard and saw the whole ordeal. She told the TSA agent there was NO WAY she was staying on the plane with these men.

Back to the Canada Free Press article. This statement by an "airline security official" makes it sound as if the goal was not terror per se, but some sort of defiant, you-will-not-profile-Muslims-no-matter-how-crazy-we-act-and-if-you-do-we-will-sue-you sort of thing. Which, actually, whether intended or not, actually of course assists terrorists down the line.

According to one airline security official, “This was a deliberate, well planned attempt to disrupt a domestic flight that was organized in advance of the boarding of these [Muslim] passengers. The purpose of their actions appeared to be multi-faceted, not the least of which was an attempt to change their status from passengers to victims of religious profiling. The situation was handled in a manner that we believe might have avoided an incident like USAir had in 2006, where everyone from the passengers who reported suspicious behavior to the airline was subjected to legal action by the Muslim passengers.”

They seemed to make every effort to draw attention to themselves, which makes me think it's unlikely this is really a terror-deal, or even a dry run for terror. Perhaps "probing," but again, they seemed to really go out of their way to get some TSA lovin'.

Not necessarily terror, then, but the demonstrations of a thin-skinned bunch determined to fuck with the legitimate fears of infidels. And prove some stupid point. And maybe get a nice fat lawsuit out of it too.

I wrote recently -- about the shootings at the Texas army base -- that it is the ambiguous and contradictory orders, the confused and deliberately confusing orders from the policymakers and bureaucrats, that force those attempting to execute their intentionally-baffling non-policies to err on the side of not rocking the boat and not getting fired.

I don't see anything changing this. Even after 14 people were killed at that army base, it's not going to change.

Thanks to rockhead.

More: Baldilocks adds in another account. This one by a Chaplain also on the flight.

Caveat Emptor: I really should have included this caveat in the post from the get-go, rather than mentioning it as a comment in the thread.

Regarding the personal account from that blog...

I hate that "infidel dog" quote myself. Sounds... made-up, frankly. But I don't know.

I am also suspicious of that account because the guy offering it sort of gives you a hero's narrative, including saying he knows how jihadists do certain things, because he's "studied."

The 2nd man who answered the phone did the same and this took out the 2nd stewardess. In the back of the plane at this time, 2 younger Muslims, one in the back, isle, and one in front of him, window, began to show footage of a porno they had taped the night before, and were very loud about it. Now….they are only permitted to do this prior to Jihad. If a Muslim man goes into a strip club, he has to view the woman via mirror with his back to her. (don’t ask me….I don’t make the rules, but I’ve studied).

The account seems to have a whiff of Mack Bolan to it. (Yeah, and now I'll be told that just because I'm a pussy that would gladly say nothing and not prepare for such contingencies I shouldn't assume everyone else is a pussy like me.)

Making him sound like a guy who's been preparing for this... and the trouble there isn't that he's prepared, it's that if you prepare enough, hey, maybe you want to jump at the opportunity to put your preparations into action. There's a fine line between prudence and paranoia sometimes.

But again, unless Canada Free Press guy is simply making this up -- he says he has seven witnesses talking to him, plus an airline security official -- something seems to have happened.

I really, really should have included my doubts about that personal account.

Yeah... Nickless says:

The airlines need to make a big show about installing cabin video cameras that can record cabin activities.

Seems the 'Flying Jihadis' operate on being the only ones prepared for an altercation.

Good Lord, that is so simple and obvious it's baffling it hasn't been done yet.

I guess there are... what? Privacy concerns?

Privacy concerns about being videotaped when you're sitting in what is basically an open room with 100 other people?

I don't know -- I'm not a civil libertarian/privacy champion. Such measures usually don't push my buttons, so I'm the wrong guy to ask. Are there privacy worries here?

Media Blog Pick-Up: Story noted at the Dallas Morning News' aviation blog.

FAA to investigate.

Sure they'll have top men on it.


Top. Men.

Missed the Headline! The headline is not, as the AJC says, that the FAA will investigate. The real headline (see the end of my snippet) is that the TSA won't. They deem it a "customer service issue" between the passengers and AirTran.

Story seems to be utterly real. Just took a few days for the media to mention. The article above provides new details and casts some doubt on the suspicions.

The Federal Aviation Administration is investigating what led to the two-and-a-half hour delay of a Tuesday flight from Atlanta to Houston, an agency spokeswoman said Wednesday morning.

An AirTran spokesman said a man traveling with a group Tuesday afternoon refused to turn his cell phone off before takeoff. But the woman sitting behind the man said it wasn't a phone at all, and feels the entire incident was the result of poor communication.

"He was not talking on a cell phone, it was a camera," said Nancy Deveikis of Marietta. "He was looking at pictures."

A flight attendant asked the man twice to turn off the device, Deveikis said. But it was clear the man did not speak English, she said. Although the man was traveling with others, the rest of the group was seated throughout the plane.

When the man did not respond to the flight attendant, she took the camera from him, Deveikis said. Deveikis, who presented ajc.com with her boarding pass for the flight, said she watched the exchange from directly behind the man in seat 28A and the female flight attendant.

"She grabbed it from his hand and basically said I'll be holding this until you get off the plane,"Deveikis said.

It’s unclear whether he was talking on the phone, snapping photos or texting, AirTran spokesman Christopher White said. But to airline officials and flight attendants, it didn’t matter. The Boeing 717 had pulled away from the gate, and the phone was on, White said.

“Flight attendants were telling him, ‘Turn off the phone, turn off the phone,’” White said.

“We can’t taxi with the cell phone on, and we certainly can’t take off,” White said. “Language barrier or not, you start to butt up against interfering with a flight crew.”

Deveikis said she never heard the one flight attendant use the word "phone" when speaking to the man.

“Passengers are required to follow instructions of the flight attendants," regional FAA spokeswoman Kathleen Bergen said. AirTran reported the incident to the FAA, Bergen said. The federal Transportation Security Administration will not handle the incident, saying it is a customer-service issue between the passenger and the airline, a TSA spokesman said.

According to the one guy's account -- the blog account -- there was both a camera incident and a cellphone incident. This AJC story seems to assert that there was just the once thing, the camera thing, confused for a phone thing.

I think AJC is wrong. The other guy mentioned both as discrete incidents. I think it's AJC that's conflating them into one single misunderstanding, based on one witness who seems to think it was just about the camera.

Thanks to Paranoid Polly for that.

digg this
posted by Ace at 03:43 PM

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