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Shock and awe

2011-09-13 01:58:00.679602+00 by Dan Lyke 11 comments

Some real Shock and Awe: Racially profiled and cuffed in Detroit:

I hung up the phone and followed the officer out of the cell and into another small room where the male FBI agent was waiting accompanied by another FBI agent–possibly the head honcho on duty. He said the three of us were being released and there was nothing suspicious found on the plane. He apologized for what had happened and thanked me for understanding and cooperating. He said, “It’s 9/11 and people are seeing ghosts. They are seeing things that aren’t there.” He said they had to act on a report of suspicious behavior, and this is what the reaction looks like.

He said there had been 50 other similar incidents across the country that day.

The blog entry links to http://www.lasvegassun.com/new.../us-airline-passengers-detained/

Not only have the terrorists won, the "authorities" seem to believe they didn't go far enough.

[ related topics: Weblogs Aviation Current Events ]

comments in descending chronological order (reverse):

#Comment Re: made: 2011-09-17 09:56:32.10177+00 by: DaveP

Dan, my suspicion is that the flight crew was acting exactly as they were trained to.

Remember "If you see something, say something."

Our is entire society is so risk-averse, especially businesses, that an airline like Frontier has to have a policy that "if someone looks suspicious, call it in" because while this publicity wasn't good (but how many people will remember it was Frontier?), it was a lot better than if the worst had happened. It's just better for the bottom line, and nobody wants to be the guy who let "the next 9/11 slip through his fingers."

In days when you can't even buy a cup of coffee without getting a warning that it might be hot, how do you expect an airline not to train its flight crews to be continually on high alert?

Once you pass the initial passenger who got the heebie-jeebies seeing three brown people sitting together, everyone pretty much acted as they had to. Stepping up to do anything different makes you a nail that sticks up and which needs to be pounded flat.

I see some hope with things like "free range children" and such, but I'm starting to suspect we never should have come down from the trees.

#Comment Re: made: 2011-09-16 20:30:25.581058+00 by: Larry Burton

.... or subject the public unnecessarily to foot odor.

#Comment Re: made: 2011-09-16 20:12:02.423327+00 by: ebradway

That could range anywhere from a handful of cooperative citizens to a bomb on the plane full of insane extremists.

But what about preparing for a plane full of snakes... or a plane full of zombies... or...

The point is that the FBI has never had to respond to a "plane full of insane extremists." That's a fantasy promulgated by the authorities because they did get caught with their pants down on 9/11/2001. But things like reinstating Sky Marshalls effectively shut down the gaps in a manner that doesn't involve trampling the rights of citizens.

#Comment Re: made: 2011-09-16 18:29:30.664073+00 by: JT

Every time I spend an hour standing in line at LAX to fly out... I know the terrorists have changed the landscape of our lives, they have injected paranoia into our mainstream society. Our locked doors, "gestapo" style ability to spy on our own citizens under the Patriot Act and the way the media constantly spews "the end is near" rhetoric all prove to me that the terrorists have indeed won.

#Comment Re: made: 2011-09-14 14:20:06.301458+00 by: Dan Lyke

So I guess what we need to figure out is: what was the chain of notification? Presumably this went through the flight crew, unless someone used their cell phone in the air (in which case I hope we can get the FCC to come down on them like a pirate FM station). Which means that there are some huge flight crew training issues which need to be addressed.

I'm still not convinced that the FBI response was reasonable, but you're right: if the available information they were acting on suggested that response was reasonable then the problem is the available information.

Either way, whether it was the FBI overreacting, the flight crew being way the hell out of line, or some random passenger, the terrorists have won.

#Comment Re: made: 2011-09-14 00:48:59.76532+00 by: JT

The lady writing the article even said that it was a complaint by a passenger referring to the two Indian men and her. It sounds to me like an inappropriate situation, but it also sounds like a response by law enforcement to a complaint by an anonymous tip. I agree that the situation wasn't handled well, but the authorities probably knew very little beyond a complaint from a passenger to a flight attendant about suspicious activity. That could range anywhere from a handful of cooperative citizens to a bomb on the plane full of insane extremists. They do have to prepare for the worst scenario and hope for the best. If they pull the plane into a terminal thinking that it's the least harmful of all scenarios and it's parked next to other planes, near fuel trucks, etc... then they open themselves up for a lot of liability.

There is a responsibility to respond to all complaints by the public, sometimes it ranges from pulling over a possible drunk driver, to checking someone's ID hanging out on a street corner, and even pulling a plane off the tarmac to question people that some citizen saw it necessary to complain about.

I understand why they do these things, I understand because I've had to go through these things myself being on the law enforcement side. I realize it's not a perfect situation, but when people call the attention of law enforcement to a situation, it's part of the duty of someone tasked with public safety to respond to all of those complaints with due diligence and appropriate levels of force.

The problem in this case doesn't lie in the FBI's response, but some paranoid person complaining about two Indian men and an American woman of Jewish descent. Joe Average is fed constant shock and awe stories by the media who feed paranoia to the general masses in order to gather viewers to sell advertising. Of course they're going to think that every person darker than themselves is a threat to their personal safety... watch the news and see what stories are on there on a constant basis, especially leading up to something like the 9/11 anniversary.

It may seem like the FBI needs to chill out, but they really do have to take all necessary precautions. It's better to overreact 100 times than to underreact once, as long as no one is hurt in the process, including civil rights violations. But the FBI still can't do any of this without probable cause.. and that probable cause starts with a citizen or member of the flight crew making a complaint. An undeserved complaint fueled by paranoia caused by your average every-day media frenzy surrounding any situation more volatile than Petaluma's ugliest dog competition.

#Comment Re: made: 2011-09-13 11:25:17.069259+00 by: Dan Lyke

Or, to put it differently: I'm told of an incident where my sister and I were in the back seat. My sister was pre-verbal, so we were fairly young. My sister kept screaming, my parents kept turning around to tell her to cut it out.

Finally, my mom noticed that I was poking my sister, and then sitting and looking innocent while she screamed.

The FBI is doing what I did.

#Comment Re: made: 2011-09-13 11:17:46.782188+00 by: Dan Lyke

The problem I have with the FBI response here is that this is part of a long chain of situations where the problem is entirely created by the FBI. It may be a little sweeping to say "all" of the "terror plot" arrests since the 2001 attacks, but the vast majority of them have been created by the FBI or FBI informants, with weapons created and stockpiled for the sole purpose of a high profile bust and crowing about results.

They're making work for themselves, and then claiming success when they do that work. It isn't reasonable to keep funding that.

#Comment Re: made: 2011-09-13 10:43:01.424836+00 by: JT

Sometimes being an "authority" means that you have to investigate things even when you know nothing is wrong. On the way off chance that it does turn out to be something and someone who had the ability to check things out doesn't do their job thoroughly, it becomes a huge problem also. Sometimes these situations are "damned if you do, damned if you don't" for people in charge of public welfare.

On that note, I think TSA is a useless waste of taxpayer money and should be disbanded, but god forbid someone sees an arab man walking through an airport on the other side of the gate without the intimate knowledge that this man had to go through the same screening process as everyone else. TSA isn't about enforcing safety, it's about augmenting the average person's false sense of security.

#Comment Re: made: 2011-09-13 10:35:47.876912+00 by: Dan Lyke

As long as you're not "...a descendent of desert people..." you're probably okay. Sigh. On Facebook, an Indian friend of mine remarked "Could have easily been me.". What I don't understand is what the possible threat vector would have been? Once the airplane was on the ground, why taxi it somewhere remote? At that point, with locked cockpit doors, there's no... yeah, the more I think about this, the more irate I get.

Included for the future archives: James Fallows excerpts large portions of that blog entry.

#Comment Re: made: 2011-09-13 06:19:29.825843+00 by: papa0s0

Oh man... I'm actually visiting Detroit this week for the first time so I hope I won't have to deal with these types of added "security" measures..