A declassified report confirms that Annie Jacobsen accurately recounted suspicious activities on a Northwest flight from Detroit to Los Angeles in the summer of 2004, and that a number of Syrians attempted a dry run for a terror attack. Eight of the 12 had already been flagged for criminal or suspicious behavior, and the apparent leader was involved in a similar incident later as well:
A newly released inspector general report backs eyewitness accounts of suspicious behavior by 13 Middle Eastern men on a Northwest Airlines flight in 2004 and reveals several missteps by government officials, including failure to file an incident report until a month after the matter became public.
According to the Homeland Security report, the "suspicious passengers," 12 Syrians and their Lebanese-born promoter, were traveling on Flight 327 from Detroit to Los Angeles on expired visas. U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services extended the visas one week after the June 29, 2004, incident.
The report also says that a background check in the FBI's National Crime Information Center database, which was performed June 18 as part of a visa-extension application, produced "positive hits" for past criminal records or suspicious behavior for eight of the 12 Syrians, who were traveling in the U.S. as a musical group.
In addition, the band's promoter was listed in a separate FBI database on case investigations for acting suspiciously aboard a flight months earlier. He was detained a third time in September on a return trip to the U.S. from Istanbul, the details of which were redacted.
The air marshals and the gate personnel for Northwest knew at the beginning of the flight that these passengers presented a threat. Before the men had even boarded the plane, they started acting suspiciously enough that the air marshals signaled each other about the group. Twenty minutes into the flight, well before Jacobsen contacted a flight attendant, the crew had contacted the air marshals about their concerns. One flight attendant took the unusual step of entering the cockpit an hour into the flight to discuss the concerns with the pilots; cockpits have been locked and barred ever since 9/11.
After all of this, the FBI did not open an investigation into the incident until Jacobsen appeared on MS-NBC's Scarborough Country. The Homeland Security personnel involved did not pass the irnformation along to their Operations Center, even though the leader of the group had been involved in a similar incident in January of that year, on Frontier Airlines. It didn't get logged into the HSOC database until the Washington Times reported it on July 26, 2004. By that time, all 12 Syrians had left the country.
TSA, for its part, said that the matter did not merit a referral since all of the passengers could be "cleared". It's fuzzy about why they thought that, since the DHS found a pattern of suspicious activity for eight of the men involved, including a "similar" incident involving the leader five months earlier. His third time, on a trip back from Istanbul, the FBI finally detained him. DHS rejects the TSA excuse, stating categorically that the incident should have been logged into the HSOC and merited further investigation.
A look at the seating chart shows another reason for suspicion. Despite traveling together (they all supposedly worked as a musical group), they pretended not to notice each other. They got seats that literally put them all over the plane.
Without a doubt, this vindicates Jacobsen and shows that either these men intended to conduct a terrorist dry run, or that they wanted someone to think that they were. It could have been a probe, a test to see just how far they could go without provoking a response. That could explain why the same man was involved in three such incidents. The official line that nothing happened on Flight 327 should embarrass everyone in the Homeland Security system, and someone owes Annie Jacobsen an apology.