Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Remember NW Flight 243? Five Saudis From Amsterdam to Detroit Acting Suspiciously?

The Underpants bomber was aboard Northwest Flight 253 from Amsterdam to Detroit, the day before Christmas. Ten days later Flight 243 also from Amsterdam to Detroit brought four scary, and rudely disruptive Saudis, all with the last name, all students at the University of Akron, plus one more Saudi man that didn't get suspicious until the flight had descended to 500 feet above ground. The five men went through security and were cleared in Saudi Arabia.  They mimicked the Underpants bomber's behavior aboard this flight. Finally via the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) there is information about the men - who dropped from the press like a hot rock - likely because you and I have no need to know, and afterall, we wouldn't want to upset Arab communities. See a video below.

Detroit Metro Airport

The Dearborn Underground has a revealing report posted, taken directly from the Transportation Security Administration.  First, a few points. These men were released by authorities only a short time after the flight landed. There were four Federal Air Marshalls on the flight. They were unconcerned about the fidgeting men, and one Marshall spent an hour in the cockpit with the Captain in an effort to convince him there was no threat. Presumably after the Captain "agreed" with the Marshall, the Flight Attendants were not convinced, and neither was the pilot as the reports of odd behavior kept rolling in.

The suspicious activity began shortly after takeoff. Passengers and crews endured these men for the entire flight. In the end, the Captain asked for emergency landing privileges, and received permission. On landing at Detroit Metro, the plane was taken a distance from the main airport area, checked and then sent on to the terminal, where the flight was met by authorities. The FBI was absent. 
At "1300 hours," fighters were placed on battle stations at Toledo, but did not take off.

The Federal Air Marshall team leader said he was shocked when he learned of the Captain's request for security assistance on landing. The Marshall thought he had changed the Captain's mind.

Suffice it to say, when a Captain fully expects his flight to blow-up on descent, the Captain was not comforted by the Air Marshall. We know that if the Captain makes it safely to the ground, so do the passengers, and this Captain made the decision to err on the safer side. Three thumbs up for this Captain.

The FOIA documents say the four men with the same last name were scattered around the cabin. The fifth man, who has not been identified to be with the other four was sitting away from the other four.

The four men engaged in the behavior we have heard about on so many flights: they were up and down, back and forth to the restrooms, ignored seatbelt warnings, covered their heads completely with blankets, as did Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab. Their hands were covered and they "fiddled" with something, as did the Underpants bomber. Some of the men also put a coat over their lap, and "fiddled" actively under the coat - enough that the Flight Attendants could easily see that their hands were busy doing something. The video below says Air Marshalls reported that the men spoke "inappropriately."

At one point, a Flight Attendant removed the coat from the passenger and put it in the overhead. With the seatbelt sign on, the passenger got up and retrieved his jacket.

Some went back and forth to the lavatory, at times staying a long length of time, and sometimes not long enough to use the facility.

The fifth Saudi waited until the last minute, when the flight was just 500 feet off the ground, then threw off his seat belt and "ran" to the lavatory...and then right back again - as a Flight Attendant and a Marshall tried to retrieve him after being buckled-up and ready for landing.

To demonstrate the quandary:
Earlier, some FAs passed it off as “college kids acting ‘goofy.’” Then one of them recounts how her mind was changed as the flight was making its final approach to Detroit and the cabin was supposed to be secured for landing:

“ passenger 42D or 32H got up to go to the bathroom. Passengers [in adjacent other seats] had a coat across their laps and were fiddling with something under their (sic) coat.“
At this time we considered this to be a credible threat and landing the airplane quickly with everyones (sic) help became a higher priority. Preparing for a bomb blast was a higher priority.”

Dearborn Underground has transcripts of pertinent parts of the report along with commentary. The point is that these jokers were quickly released to go on their merry way. The fifth passenger, running down the aisle of the plane at an altitude of 500 feet, wasn't even questioned, let alone detained.

We know that not a single one of us would take part in any of these behaviors - mimicking the Underpants bomber. We know there are things we cannot say or do in public places these days, so where is the disapproval of doing a copycat of Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab?

Perhaps this was a dry run, so knowing that is a possibility, and having no way to rule-out the possibility, why are these men's names not on a no-fly list? How about sending a strong, public message to Arab men that Americans are sick of this, and authorities will no longer tolerate the behavior. How about issuing an ultimatum: Try this again, and Marshall's will detain you, cuff you and lock you in a seat until landing is achieved. When you hit the airport you will be heavily, heavily fined and put on the no-fly list for a year. Let's do it.

Five Saudi Males - Suspicious Behavior NW Flt. 243 (video)

©2007-2012copyrightMaggie M. Thornton