DHS IG’s report confirms terror dry run aboard Flight 327

Update, 2:53 PM EDT: Hot Air has the video of Annie Jacobsen and Audrey Hudson on FoxNews today. Update II, 5:30 PM EDT: I’ve added the same YouTube video at the bottom of this post.

This morning, in the Washington Times:

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.

Annie Jacobsen was aboard Flight 327 that day, witnessed the events, spoke with flight attendants during the flight, and identified herself as a witness immediately after the plane landed. Yet she was interviewed only after the promoter and 12 Syrians were released and after insisting on providing the authorities a statement. She has followed the investigation and written extensively about it in the Womens WallStreet Journal. Yesterday, she wrote that, “It took the US government two years and eleven months to confirm what I have been writing since the flight landed.” She added that the DHS IG’s report shows:

The flight was a dry run for a future terrorist attack involving planes. The Federal Air Marshal Service grossly mishandled what happened during the flight. The Syrians terrified flight crew and passengers. The Federal Air Marshal Service grossly mismanaged what happened after the flight landed in Los Angeles. The Federal Air Marshal Service attempted to cover up their egregious incompetence by issuing false statements and misleading the public about the severity of what happened on the flight.

The Washington Times also reported:

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 inspector general criticized the Homeland Security officials for not reporting the incident to the Homeland Security Operations Center (HSOC), which serves as the nation’s nerve center for information sharing and domestic incident management.

The report comes three years after the incident, which was not officially acknowledged until a month later, after The Washington Times reported passenger and marshal complaints that the incident resembled a dry run for a terrorist attack. After reviewing the report, air marshals say it confirms their earlier suspicions.

An air marshal who told The Times that he has been involved personally in terror probes that were ignored by federal security managers, called such behavior typical. “Agency management was not only covering up numerous probes and dry-run encounters from Congress and other federal law-enforcement agencies, it was also hiding these incidents from their own flying air marshals,” said P. Jeffrey Black, an air marshal stationed in Las Vegas. Homeland Security officials initially denied the complaints and blamed passengers who reported the incident to the press as behaving hysterically. However, the inspector general report shows that air marshals had the group of men under surveillance before they boarded the plane.

Portions of the report remain redacted. However, current and former air marshals who reviewed a copy provided by The Times say the activities of the men details a dry run for a terrorist attack. “This report is evidence of Homeland Security executives attempting to downplay and cover up an unmistakable dry run that forced flight attendants to reveal the air marshals and compel the pilots to open the flight deck door,” said Robert MacLean, a former air marshal who was fired last year for revealing that the service planned to cut back on protection for long-distance flights to save money.

Only 2 of the 13 suspects were ever interviewed by the FBI and Federal Air Marshal Service. In addition, one of the suspects was interviewed with another suspect (the promoter) interpreting. Does that sound like an investigation conducted by professionals?

After 9/11, the shoe-bomber, years of allegedly intense airport screening, a then recent security alert about the construction of bombs aboard airliners in flight, an air marshal that day noticing the visas of the 12 Syrians had expired, the promoter known then to have been involved in an earlier incident aboard an airliner, and both flight crew and on-board air marshals witnessing the behaviors, the release of the 13 after only two hours — without interviewing the other 11 or doing a full database check of them — was sheer incompetence.

You can read the Washington Times’ full report and download a copy of the Inspector General’s report by clicking here.

I have been told that Annie Jacobsen will be on Fox&Friends this morning, during the 8 a.m. EDT hour, and Audrey Hudson of the Washington Times will be on FoxNews at 11:20 a.m. I will have my tape recorder running.

Editor: Here is the video of Annie Jacobsen on FoxNews this morning, followed by Ellen Howe, a spokewoman (not a Federal Air Marshal) for the TSA.

And this is the video of Audrey Hudson, the Washington Times’ national security reporter on FoxNews this morning:

Remember, Annie Jacobsen was aboard Flight 327 and Air Marshals have said it was a terrorist dry run. Ellen Howe is in the business of spin and a third of the IG’s report remains redacted so we do not know how other officials characterized the incident. Yet I have read what Annie Jacobsen and Audrey Hudson have written on this and the redacted IG’s report. Ms. Howe smugly saying, “that’s not what the report says found,” as in her ‘talking-head’ estimate is superior to that of an eyewitness and far more than “one or two” Air Marshals is balderdash.

  2 comments for “DHS IG’s report confirms terror dry run aboard Flight 327

  1. Terry
    May 31, 2007 at 12:51 pm

    Incredible post Tim. This proves my suspicions about the ineptitude of the TSA.

    Great job by the folks at the Washington Times!

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