T Nation

Another 9/11 Possible?


[Sarcasm on] If you like the thought of various federal agencies with their collective heads shoved securely in the sand, then this piece will provide comfort. [Sarcasm off]


Could It Happen Again?
Terrorists might not have given up on planes.

By Anne Morse

Journalist Annie Jacobsen gained a certain degree of fame last year as the woman who wrote about the strange and frightening behavior of a group of Syrian "musicians" aboard a Northwest Airlines flight. She has now written a riveting book, Terror in the Skies: Why 9-11 Could Happen Again about what happened that day and in the months that followed. Jacobsen put her investigative skills to work, and discovered that the harrowing events that took place on her flight were far from an isolated occurrence. She ends her book with a warning: If our security system does not improve, another 9/11 is almost inevitable.

The events of Flight 327, on June 29, 2004, became notorious after Jacobsen described them on WomensWallStreet.com. Jacobsen, her husband, and their four-year-old son boarded Flight 327 in Detroit, the last leg of their flight home to Los Angeles after a family vacation in Connecticut. Settling into their seats, the Jacobsens noticed 14 Middle Eastern men board the plane. Shortly after takeoff, she writes, "The unusual activity began." One of the men got up and entered the restroom at the front of the coach section, taking with him a large McDonald's bag. Leaving the restroom, he passed the bag to another man and gave him a thumbs-up sign. For the next hour, the men used the restroom consecutively. They congregated in groups at the rear of the plane. One of them stood in first class a foot from the cockpit door. Two were standing mid-cabin, and two more were standing in the galley, keeping an eye on the flight attendant. Others spent the flight patrolling the aisles, scrutinizing increasingly nervous passengers.

Unable to stand it any longer, Jacobsen's husband got up and spoke with a flight attendant, who told him the captain was concerned about what was going on, and that there were people on board "higher up than you and me watching" an apparent reference to federal air marshals. But it got worse: As the plane prepared to land, seven of the men suddenly stood up in unison and walked to the front and back lavatories of the coach-class cabin. One by one, they entered the lavatories, each spending about four minutes inside. Two men stood against the emergency-exit door; another stood blocking the aisle. At the back of the plane, two more men stood next to the bathroom, blocking the aisle. They ignored repeated orders from a flight attendant to sit down. The last man came out of the bathroom, and as he passed [one of the other Syrians] he ran his forefinger across his neck and mouthed the word "No," Jacobsen writes.

As they deplaned, the Jacobsens saw two air marshals flash their badges and pull over several of the men. She later learned that representatives of the FBI, the LAPD, the Federal Air Marshals Service (FAMS) and the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) met the plane. But, contrary to protocol, there was nobody from Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), the post-9/11 law-enforcement arm of what was once the Immigration and Naturalization Service, which oversees the air marshals. Nor was there anyone to take statements from passengers who'd witnessed the events. The Jacobsens told airport security what they had seen, and eventually told their story to a FAMS supervisor, who directed them to write down their statements and swear to their veracity. It quickly became clear that key elements of the story they (and a flight attendant) told particularly regarding what the men had done with the McDonald's bag conflicted with accounts offered by the Syrians.

The next day Jacobsen was surprised to find no mention of the incident in the newspapers, or of any arrests at LAX. She began doing some online digging and what she found chilled her. Jason Burke, a correspondent for the London Observer, had written a story a few months earlier headlined "Terrorist Bid to Build Bombs in Mid-Flight: Intelligence Reveals Dry Runs of New Threat to Blow Up Airlines." Burke described "dry runs" on European flights by terrorists attempting to carry components of explosive devices onto passenger jets hidden in everyday items like cameras and medicine bottles, and assemble them in mid-flight in restrooms. Burke noted that the United States was aware of these dry runs and that recent British Airways flights from London to Washington had been canceled over fears of such attacks. The French also knew of these attempts after discovering 100 grams of the explosive pentrite hidden in an armrest on a jet arriving in France from Morocco. (In August 2004, barely a month after the Jacobsens flight, two civilian aircraft in Russia exploded, killing all 90 passengers and crew. The cause of the explosions? Bombs that had been placed in the planes bathrooms by women with links to Chechen terrorists.)

When Jacobsen decided to write about her experience aboard Flight 327, she was contacted by Dave Adams, the head of public affairs at FAMS. Adams insisted that the Middle Eastern men on her flight were "just musicians" from Syria. They'd been questioned by FAMS, the FBI, and the TSA. Their story checked out, Adams said, and none of their names appeared on the FBI's "no fly" list. Given the evidence that terrorists had been trying to assemble bombs in airliner restrooms, why, Jacobsen asked, had air marshals done nothing about the Syrians "bizarre behavior" much of it involving restrooms "Our . . . agents have to have an event to arrest somebody," Adams explained.

Jacobsen didn't buy Adams's "they were just musicians" story, and her gripping account of what happened on Flight 327. "Terror in the Skies, Again?" was posted on July 12, 2004, on WomensWallStreet. It exploded through the blogosphere, then the mainstream media, spawning intense debate. To some, Jacobsen was a courageous journalist exposing deadly flaws in America's security system; to others, she was a racist, paranoid mommy with an overactive imagination. Jacobsen's persistence in pursuing the story angered higher-ups in FAMS, and led to her testimony to the U.S. House Judiciary Committee.

Astonishingly, Jacobsen writes, many of the federal agents who investigated the events of Flight 327 continued to insist that nothing unusual happened. In a sense, this was correct: These dry runs, or probes, apparently happen all the time. In the weeks after she posted her story, Jacobsen received more than 5,000 e-mails, including 250 from commercial pilots, flight attendants, and other airport employees who are forbidden by their employers to talk to the press about similar "incidents." Gary Boettcher, president of the Coalition of Airline Pilots Associations, told Jacobsen that she?d likely witnessed a "dry run," and that he'd had many similar experiences himself: "The terrorists are probing us all the time." Mark Bogosian, an American Airlines pilot, said incidents like the one she described were a "dirty little secret" that airline crew members had known about for some time. Air marshals sent e-mails congratulating Jacobsen for bringing to light "something that had been going on since shortly after 9/11 and was being suppressed." Many airline employees expressed outrage over security procedures that are lax, politically correct, and likely to lead to another 9/11.

Much blame for these procedures can be assigned to two entities: the Transportation Department and the ACLU. Incredibly, the Transportation Department forbids searches of more than two male Arabs per flight; to search more would be "discriminatory." This rule is strictly enforced by Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta, who, just ten days after Arab hijackers used jets to murder 3,000 Americans, reminded all U.S. airlines that it was illegal to discriminate against passengers based on their race, color, national or ethnic origin, or religion. To make sure they got the message, Mineta subsequently directed his department to file discrimination complaints against Continental, United Airlines, and American Airlines. (United and American settled their cases for $1.5 million each; Continental, for $500,000.)
In June 2002, the ACLU got into the act, joining forces with the Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee to launch a number of lawsuits over cases of men being removed from jets. The ACLU has also filed a class-action lawsuit against the Department of Homeland Security, claming, among other things, that the "no-fly list" violates passengers' right to be free from unreasonable search and seizure. The airlines are now working hard to avoid discriminating against anyone else, apparently by allowing unlimited numbers of Middle Eastern men carrying expired visas and mysterious packages to board jets and engage in conduct that terrifies the passengers and crew. "The airlines" fear of being accused of racial profiling could very well lead us to stand around and wonder, "How did we let 9/11 happen again?" Jacobsen writes.

As Jacobsen began appearing on television, FAMS kicked into high gear, repeatedly denying that anything untoward had occurred on Flight 327 and that it had no "specific intelligence information" that terrorists were conducting dry runs, even as more and more journalists broke stories about them. FAMS spokesman Dave Adams insisted that all 14 of the Syrians had been thoroughly investigated and that they were in the U.S. legally. FAMS employees had followed the Syrians to the casino, he claimed, and then trailed them to their hotel.

The reality, as Jacobsen documents, was that only two of the men were briefly investigated, 13 were traveling on expired visas (the 14th was an American citizen), and nobody had any idea where the "musicians" went after leaving the airport.

Much of the information FAMS gave out about Flight 327 was contradictory, and as Jacobsen continued to write and speak out, frustrated FAMS and FBI spokesmen tried to discredit her, painting the Princeton-educated journalist as a hysterical mother who had become upset at the sight of Middle Easterners on her plane. "That the FBI and FAMS wanted the story to disappear was obvious. And I knew why," Jacobsen writes. "They made major errors in their handling of Flight 372. The more attention it received, the more would be revealed about how they had bungled the operation."

Even as they attacked her veracity, seven other passengers from Flight 327 came forward to confirm Jacobsen's account. One was so frightened by what she witnessed that she no longer travels by air. Others said they were convinced they were about to die. These passengers contacted Homeland Security, the FBI, and FAMS, telling stories similar to Jacobsen's. Nevertheless, Dave Adams continued to insist that Jacobsen and her husband were the only passengers to complain.

"That so many passengers were terrified underscores how outrageous it was that the government had simply let the fourteen Syrians go based only on their claim that they were a traveling band of musicians with a gig to get to," Jacobsen writes. (Months later, Jacobsen says, Adams admitted that he'd lied to her about the Syrians' being followed to the casino and to their hotel.)

Thanks to Jacobsen's reporting, she wrote 13 additional articles about Flight 327, the House Judiciary Committee opened an investigation into the matter, putting the actions of the Department of Homeland Security, ICE, and other federal agencies under congressional scrutiny. Even then, Jacobsen says, FAMS officials continued to lie about her, about what took place on Flight 327, and about how they'd dealt with the Syrians once the plane landed. They also refused to allow the Judiciary Committee to question the air marshals from Flight 327.

Jacobsen continues to receive e-mails from airline employees relating apparent terrorist probes: Middle Eastern men who arrive moments before boarding, without luggage, and pay cash for one-way flights on which they take photographs and pass objects to one another. She writes of the all but useless "no fly" list that allows suspected terrorists to board while keeping babies and U.S. senators off; of law-enforcement officials not bothering to show up to interview badly behaving passengers despite requests from pilots to do so. In July 2004, a flight attendant e-mailed Jacobsen, telling her that a partially made bomb had been found in a flight-attendant jump seat on an Airbus 330S, discovered because flight attendants heard ticking. And on April 8, 2005, Department of Homeland Security officials discovered that two passengers aboard KLM Flight 685, traveling from Amsterdam to Mexico City, were Saudis who had attended the same flight school as 9/11 hijacker Hani Hanjour. "Will we ever know how often these incidents occur? Twice a year? Once a month? Every day?" Jacobsen asks.

More to the point: What can we do to stop them? What it will take, Jacobsen says, is a strong leader in the Department of Homeland Security, one who will ruthlessly purge the agency of incompetence and out-of-date policies (such as continuing to train flight crews to cooperate with hijackers). The National Intelligence Reform Act, known as the Intel Bill, should also help: It created a new Cabinet-level position, the Director of National Intelligence, someone who will oversee the 15 federal intelligence agencies and presumably teach them the need to share crucial information about terror suspects. Furthermore, the Intel Bill will make it more difficult for airlines, ever mindful of those empty jets in the weeks after 9/11, to hide suspicious incidents from the public. They must now report them directly to the TSA Operations Center as they happen, preventing airlines from making information from these incidents disappear, and pretending people like Annie Jacobsen are crazy.

Jacobsen also recommends that Americans take a leaf from the Israeli intelligence book: The Israelis have not lost a commercial plane to hijackers in 35 years because they engage, not in racial profiling, but in passenger profiling.

Terror in the Skies is based on Jacobsen's 14 WomensWallStreet columns but also contains much new material mined from confidential government reports and correspondence and from interviews with dozens of pilots, flight attendants, air marshals, and FBI agents. It is a sobering and necessary book, one that ought to be read by anyone planning to fly the increasingly unfriendly skies.

[Sarcasm on] Gee, I feel SOOOO much better and safer now! How dare I, a lowly citizen of the great USA, question whether the government has my best interests at heart. Of course they do. I should trust our government more often and not worry about if they are lying to us. [Sarcasm off]


Flying Blind by Michael Smerconish is also an excellent book describing the idiocy trying to screen passengers in a PC ruled world.


This issue is such a pain in the ass for me. On one hand, I believe whole-heartedly against racial profiling like this.

On the other hand, its not people like my mother and father traveling with my 11 year old brother that are throwing bombs on planes.

Of course, the I don't think you give terrorists enough cedit as far as mental capacity goes. If they see that everyone with a beard and turban gets into trouble getting on a plane, then they will shave, dress in a suit, and put gel in their hair in order to get by.

As far as another 9/11 goes, it will come again. There certainly will be another attack like this. The only thing that can stop it, I believe, is the CIA and FBI doing what they are supposed to do and breaking these attacks up.

No minimum wage airport worker is going to do, nor some war in a far away land.


An incompetent government caving in to ACLU demands is bad.

How can anyone support the ACLU? They are fucking up America.


by Paul Joseph Watson & Alex Jones October 24 2005

Former UN Weapons Inspector: Don't Rule Out Staged Government Terror
Ritter says Neo-Cons are embattled, surrounded, could resort to desperate measures to further global domination

Former United Nations weapons inspector and Marine Scott Ritter appeared on The Alex Jones Show and stated that he wouldn't rule out the possibility of the Bush administration staging a terror attack in order to jolt a wavering foreign policy agenda back on track.

Ritter compared the atmosphere within the administration to that during the time of Watergate, where Nixon considered utilizing America's nuclear arsenal to create a devastating diversion from domestic calamity.

"Nothing this administration would do would surprise me, they're desperate right now."

"If you go back and take a look at the Nixon administration during the height of Watergate Nixon was talking about using nuclear weapons against the Soviets in the Middle East, insanity of this nature."

"When you have an irresponsible administration like the Nixon administration, like this current administration, and they start to feel embattled, surrounded, they take on a fortress like mentality where everybody becomes the enemy."

Asked if he thought a staged terror attack was possible, a scenario previously considered by former CIA analyst Ray McGovern, Ritter responded,

"Yeah, you have people who have no regard for the rule of law. These aren't people who appreciate the Constitution, to them the Constitution is an impediment, it's an obstacle, it's something in the way, it's something to be avoided. They are married to an ideology of global domination, of global imperialism and they're not going to deviate from this."

Regarding the issue of imminent indictments of top Bush administration officials, Ritter stated,

"I think the President should be investigated to determine whether he's committed a crime and if a crime has been committed then the President must be held accountable, fully accountable, to the rule of law."

Ritter dispelled any potential charges of partisanship by stating, "If we're going to go after Bush then we have to go after Clinton."

"We've got to make sure that we set the record straight that this isn't about partisan bashing, Bush bashing. This is about reasserting the rule of law as set forth by the Constitution and reasserting the power of the people."

On the subject of which country will be subject to the next Neo-Con invasion, Ritter commented,

"There are elements within the Bush administration, especially Donald Rumsfeld's associates, Doug Feith, Wolfowitz and others whose long goal crossed the line of serving America and they started serving another country out there, Israel."

"This administration wants to go to Syria, wants to go to Iran. Iran has turned into a little more difficult of a proposition both diplomatically and militarily, and financially. So Iran may be pushed to the back-burner right now, doesn't mean it's going away, we should never forget that."

"We're going to go small first and I think that with Syria the feeling in the Bush administration is that this is a very easy target, it's one that would make Israel very happy if we took out this regime."

"I'm not sure it's going to be as easy as they think it's going to be."

Ritter's claims have continually been proven to be accurate even in the face of numerous establishment media and government attempts to defame his character.

Ritter is the latest of a rash of credible people both inside and outside of government to voice concerns that a staged terror attack blamed on Iran or Syria could be used as the pretext to instigate pre-planned invasions and further entrench a police state in the US.


As many of you on here have figured out, I am all for political correctness when it comes to respect for others, but when it is put above the health and safety of the people, then enough is enough! Use some common sense! If you have passengers doing suspicious things like this, then every passenger on the plane should have a free pass to stomp the shit out of them!


Profiling is very effective. This country has a phobia about it because of political correctness and the immediate conclusion that all profiling is race based.

However, look at terrorism as a whole and who commited the most recent acts against the US.

  1. Male
  2. Under 35
  3. Citizen of a middle eastern country.
  4. Travel to countries known to harbor
  5. In the US, certainly those on visa,
    particularly student visa's.

You are now working from a much smaller pool of folks to intensely search. How about now excluding police officers, servicemen with valid military orders. Elederly folks travelling with family >80 yrs. old for example. Shrinks your pool further.

Certainly the US has the right to focus on foriegn travelers on US soil, especially those with a lot of middle eastern travel.

I think you need to put your assets where they do the most good. The present system does not. Change it up frequently. The Israeli system works.


9-11 was not about crashing planes into buildings.

It was about hitting the US in a way nobody did expect, hitting the US were it really hurt and to create as much fear as possible.

What makes anyone think that they will take the same road again? Why should they? You are an open society there is a gazillion ways to hurt you. Planes again? Why?



Because it's more humiliationg to sucker-punch someone twice.

Everyone who's got half a pea-brain knows that you can hurt an open society in a billion fucking ways.

But if they do it with planes again, after all the "war on terror" and "national security" "we gonna get'ya" texan crap bush has been spouting on tv, it's kind of a more devastating hit.


Two things:

  • Racial profiling may be effective in weeding out the bad among those who fit the profile your looking for, but terrorists are not idiots and will simply change tactics to evade detection. Besides, how many actual terrorist plots have been stopped by profiling? The shoe bomb guy, that's about it? Is it possible the foreign threat is a little overstated? Shut your mouth.
    What about the domestic threat? Without even discussing Tim McVeigh, there are terror attacks in the U.S. all the time, we just call them killing sprees. How do a bomb that kills 10 on an Isreali bus and somebody gunning down a dozen people in Luby's differ? By instrument and ideology only.
    Who's profiling these guys?

-Second, terror isn't about casualties. It's about publicity and fear. Casualty numbers are just an added bonus to these guys. What they really want to do is disrupt our lifestyle. They know they can't kill every American, but they also know that we will gladly give up our freedom for the illusion of security. Once we do that, they've already won.
As far as another airplane attack goes, I don't know of course, but we're so concentrated on the "obvious" targets that the others are left wide open. It's like getting scored on by a double reverse and then only guarding against the double reverse. There are just too many plays too defend against. No amount of oversees invasion is going to stop it(the number of American casualties in the "war on terror" is now approaching the number of 9/11 casualties by the way). Of course we want to do what's reasonable to protect our citizens, but, all we can really do is accept that these tragedies will occur from time to time and mourn when they do, for the victims are truly that. Otherwise, live our lives as normal without the constant fear of the boogeyman.


Plus it could be less expected now that they already did it once.

Everyone's expecting something different, and everyone thinks that all this added security scares the terrorists away.


The difference between the occasional dumb redneck and actual Islamic terrorists is that the Islamic terrorists think God wants them to destroy everyone who is not Islamic. Rednecks just get pissed every so often and do something stupid. God doesn't tell them to do it.

Also, how do terrorists from foreign countries "change tactics" to avoid being racially profiled?

How does profiling people from Islamic countries "give up our freedom"? I'm red-headed (now bald), freckled, and blue-eyed. Profiling people who fit the profile of an Islamo-fascist terrorist will not in any way affect my freedoms. In fact, it would probably reduce the hassles I face at airports.

It would be dumber to get burned by the double reverse week after week after week after week.

What are the ratio of the number of terrorists killed on 9/11 as compared to the number killed during the war on terror?

Why is rounding up and deporting anyone born in Iran, Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Palestine, or Afghanistan unreasonable? Why is securing our borders unreasonable? That would in no way affect my life, and would greatly reduce my fear of the "boogeyman".


Zap, I agree that the ACLU's stance on this issue is misguided. However they have done a lot of good for blacks, women and other minority/underrepresented groups.

It would be nice if they could see how damned insane it is to NOT investigate strange behavior by anyone, regardless of race. I'm here to tell you, if I see this shit on any flight I am on, I'm taking matters into my own hands; at the very least I'm asking the guys what's in the bags. Forget letting the governement take care of it. They are clearly incapapble of doing so.





In some ways I agree with you, doogie. I don't think it is unreasonable to keep an eye on those coming from nations known to harbor terrorists. At the same time many of these folks are here on legitimate business and are here because they want to be Americans and share our freedoms. So I think deporting EVERY person from Iran, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, etc., is unjust. A free society is a beautiful thing, but it is also a vulnerable thing. Circling the wagons is a natural response to what is going on but I'm afraid we'll lose what makes us free if we over-react. I don't know what the best answer is; maybe there is no perfect solution except for each American citizen to step up and take responsibility for their own security and for the government to give us the freedom to do so, even on an airplane.



Why does it matter what "makes" them do it? I think AZMojo's point was that we're spending tons of time and money to try to "solve" a problem that doesn't seem to be all that large, in the scheme of things. You're much, much more likely to die in a car or plane crash, for example, than you are to die from a terrorist attack in the US. You're more likely to be shot by a redneck.

1) you start recruiting people from inside the country
2) you westernize your operatives
Or you just change tactics altogether.

Unless you end up on the "no-fly" list, and they refuse to tell you why. And by the way, you make this sound like "Hey, as long as I'm giving up someone else's freedom, who cares?" I'm not saying I don't agree with you, just that this isn't a sound argument... but I think you already knew that.

I hope you mean those people who are non-citizens.


While the ACLU has supported the little guy in the past they have strayed too far from what their mission is, which is to prevent infiringement on civil liberties.

Legitimate investigations is not infringement on civil liberties. Harassment is.

In my many travels I have not seen harassment of Arabic looking men, rather I have seen them passed through screening with no extra search while old ladies, 14 year old girls etc are searched. This is utter nonsense.

Similar situation to labor unions. In the past labor unions were necessary to prevent abuse and make sure an employer would provide a living wage.
Now they do some crazy things to the detriment of workers and employers.


The following is merely opinion on my part.

My question when reading this was, Why didn't more passengers rise up and tell these syrians to sit down or we're gonna kick your ass unconcious until we land? I don't want to sound all John Wayne, but given the events of the past, it is what I would hope I would do. Better alive and in trouble than dead.

I guess 9/11 really motivated me to lift harder, get stronger and know more about hand to hand combat tactics. I encourage my kids to be in shape and wrestle and krav and tae kwan do and lift. It encouraged me to be prepared to things like this and hopefully react swiftly and decisively to neutralize the threat. Unfortunately its a grim view of the world, but I think realistic.

Its just my 2 cents worth. I don't want to be someone who just sits there while this is going on around me. Ya know?


A while back we had a racial profiling thread based on terror suspects. For the most part libs(i.e. ACLU suppporters) thought it was bad to profile younger middle eastern men because it would violate their constitutional rights(as if non-US citizens have constitutional rights). You are not going to win this profiling debate. If the ACLU will defend known terrorists we are jailing in GITMO what is going to stop hundreds of law suits on middle easterners who haven't done anything YET.

Call it what you want, but since alot of you weren't close enough to NYC or DC for 9/11 I think air travel is your closest link to terror. All those people who say you don't want to give up small amounts of freedom for safety, experience what this woman did and then tell me otherwise. Alot of people are liberals until they are punched in the face, then primal instinct kicks in and morphs you into a war mongering(read sarcasm) ass kicking republican!!


Thanls for the assist Neph. That is the essence of what I was saying.

To Snipeout,
Let me extend your metaphor. As a former Army and Golden Gloves boxer, I feel as qualified as anyone to speak about getting punched in the face. The worst thing you can do in that situation is panic and lose your cool. It gives your opponent an advantage. That's exactly what this country did after 9/11. We got sucker-punched and totally freaked out, without assessing the real danger or the best way to fight it. Now look at the mess we're in.

People like the woman who wrote the series of articles discussed above, and conveniently now a book, only perpetuate the problem. We don't know the reality of the situation, only her perception of it, so let's not rush to take what she says as gospel.

And this is where I touch a nerve, but I need to get it off my chest.
I'm a little tired of people from the tri-state area telling everybody they don't understand because they weren't there. Enough already! We get it, you smelled the smoke.
The entire nation felt the pain of that day, not just New Yorkers. Try to remember that the soldiers who are dying because of 9/11 are from all over the U.S., not just NY. Please consider that you may be speaking to somebody who lost a son or brother in Iraq next time you start spouting off about how we don't get it.