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July 16, 2004
Terror In The Skies?

I have been asked why I have been silent on the "Terror In The Skies, Again?" story from It's a harrowing account by Anne Jacobsen, one of WWS's regular writers, and supposedly well-vetted by their editorial staff. Here's a typically chilling excerpt of Jacobsen's experience with a flight where Arabic men acted in a highly unusual manner:

Suddenly, seven of the men stood up -- in unison -- and walked to the front and back lavatories. One by one, they went into the two lavatories, each spending about four minutes inside. Right in front of us, two men stood up against the emergency exit door, waiting for the lavatory to become available. The men spoke in Arabic among themselves and to the man in the yellow shirt sitting nearby. One of the men took his camera into the lavatory. Another took his cell phone. Again, no one approached the men. Not one of the flight attendants asked them to sit down. I watched as the man in the yellow shirt, still in his seat, reached inside his shirt and pulled out a small red book. He read a few pages, then put the book back inside his shirt. He pulled the book out again, read a page or two more, and put it back. He continued to do this several more times.

I looked around to see if any other passengers were watching. I immediately spotted a distraught couple seated two rows back. The woman was crying into the man's shoulder. He was holding her hand. I heard him say to her, You've got to calm down. Behind them sat the once pleasant-smiling, goatee-wearing man.

I grabbed my son, I held my husband's hand and, despite the fact that I am not a particularly religious person, I prayed. The last man came out of the bathroom, and as he passed the man in the yellow shirt he ran his forefinger across his neck and mouthed the word No.

At first reading, I felt that cold nugget of fear in my guts, telling me that this flight was fortunate to have arrived at its destination. However, several details about the story bother me. For one, the flight attendants shouldn't have acted the way the did in Jacobsen's account, especially divulging the air marshals' presence on the plane. I also doubt that there were "several" air marshals on one flight. Lastly, if the pilots knew of the disturbances early in the flight, they should have put the plane on the ground immediately, not risked the long journey to LAX (especially LAX, as the potential for ground destruction is more pronounced). Supposedly, the men turned out to be Syrian musicians, but that doesn't mean they weren't something else, too.

I don't know whether Jacobsen may be exaggerating some of the aspects of the story or completely accurate, never having read her material before. I'd like to think she's blowing something out of proportion, but I suspect that's just because friends and family regularly get on airplanes. I'd advise caution in both directions, and as before, small digital cameras or cellphone cameras could be tremendously helpful if you find yourself in suspicious circumstances or higher-risk areas. Don't think of yourself as a non-combatant in this war. I guarantee you the terrorists don't see you that way.

I would encourage CQ readers who want to follow this story as it develops to read Michelle Malkin's entries, Redstate, and of course Instapundit has several links as well.

MAJOR UPDATE: Michelle Malkin reports that the Washington Post sat on this story for a week (thanks to my good friend King at SCSU Scholars):

I have been speaking with Brendi Rawlin of Porter Novelli (PR rep for Womens Wall Street). According to Brendi, the Washington Post has been sitting on the true story of Annie Jacobsen's "Terror in the Skies" account since last Friday, when approached him. Dave Adams, the air marshal's spokesman, not only confirmed the story, but has also apparently supplied witness statements and other corroborations of Jacobsen's account. NBC Nightly News, ABC, and Dateline NBC are now on the story as well.

Unless they were asked to hold the story by DHS investigators working an active investigation, the Post has some splainin' to do. Withholding this information from the public is the antithesis of the entire raison d'etre of a free press. It makes you wonder what side the Post is on.

UPDATE: Check out Donald Sensing. He's a skeptic, although he's not accusing the writer of a hoax at all. He fleshes out some of the same reservations that I had, although mine were much more vague and instinctual than Sensing's. (Not Daniel Drezner, like I first wrote. D'oh!)

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at July 16, 2004 12:00 PM

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» Terror in the Skies Update from New England Republican
Michelle Malkin continues to be all over this report. Apparently the Washington Post has been sitting on this story since Friday! Michelle also talked to the author, Annie Jacobsen, who will be writing a follow up story for Monday. Michelle also sa... [Read More]

Tracked on July 16, 2004 3:09 PM

» If This Is True... from :: Political Musings ::
A writer from a publication titled Womens Wall Street recounts a harrowing experience on a flight from Detroit to LA last month. 14 Syrian men were on board and acting suspsciously. Sounds like a dry-run for a future attack. I read the entire arti... [Read More]

Tracked on July 16, 2004 4:20 PM

» Terror in the Skies Update from New England Republican
Correcting link for previous trackback: Michelle Malkin continues to be all over this report. Apparently the Washington Post has been sitting on this story since Friday! Michelle also talked to the author, Annie Jacobsen, who will be writing a fo... [Read More]

Tracked on July 16, 2004 4:28 PM

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