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Terror in the Skies: Why 9/11 Could Happen Again

Audio (Quality starts out horrible but improves two minutes in when I moved to the front row.)

This Snopes.com report says that Annie Jacobsen's famous report was false.

From David Horowitz's email promoting Thursday night's talk:

The Center is hosting a special evening event on Thursday, September 28th [2006] featuring Annie Jacobsen who will speak on her new book Terror in the Skies: Why 9/11 Could Happen Again.

ANNIE JACOBSEN's harrowing first-hand account of her flight with a group of suspected terrorists forces us to ask: Could 9/11 happen again? On June 29, 2004, Jacobsen, traveling with her family on Northwest Airlines flight 327, witnessed what she believed was a terrorist "dry run." The blogosphere quickly made world news of Jacobsenís article on her terrifying experience, launching her on a year-long investigation.

In Terror in the Skies, Jacobsen tells, for the first time, the full story of the events on Northwest 327 and the investigation that followed. What happened on her flight, she discovered, was not an isolated incident, and if our air security does not improve, 9/11 is likely to happen again.

Annie Jacobsen is a regular columnist for Women's Wall Street where her controversial "Terror in the Skies" columns were first published. After over a dozen installments, Spence Publications contacted her to write a book of the same title.

I chitchat with Janet Levy, a firebrand conservative political consultant who was jolted out of apathy by Israel's second Intifada (in August 2001) and galvanized to fight Islamic terrorism (after a long career in software).

Her husband's a liberal. They must have interesting conversations over dinner.

Janet delivers the introduction: "The role that political correctness plays in airline security is shocking."

She protests the Transportation Safety Administration giving CAIR (Council on American-Islamic Relations) a special tour. "We shouldn't be talking to Muslims," she says.

She protests Muslim sensitivity programs for airport screeners.

She protests the view that Jihad is an inner struggle rather than a worldwide violent one against non-Muslims.

I sit next to Kevin Jacobsen, the speaker's actor-husband.

I'm bummed because there's no dessert and no tea and no coffee. I take comfort in cheese and crackers.

Annie says the Department of Homeland Security does nothing to protect us and is all about ego, money and control.

Annie talks about various flights with male Muslim passengers who behaved suspiciously.

"Flight attendants all sign waivers that they may not discuss flight accidents or incidents with members of the press."

The Washington Times reported in 2004:

The Homeland Security Department's sense of fashion is endangering the lives of federal air marshals by making them conspicuous to terrorists, says the Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association. Marshals, they say, must follow a strict dress code and military grooming that is enforced by the Federal Air Marshal Service (FAMS). According to memos obtained by The Washington Times, marshals must wear a suit, or a coat and tie, when flying from all cities, even traditionally casual locations such as Orlando, Fla. Their hair must be worn in a conservative style. No beards are allowed, and dress shoes are required for both men and women.

This dress code was only repealed a month ago, after four years of lobbying by air marshals, hundreds of articles, and 20-months of Congressional investigation.

Foothills writes on Amazon.com:

Does the accumulation of four years without further terrorist attacks make you feel safer when you fly? It shouldn't. The Bureaucratic Bunglers are out in full force and with them in charge you don't have a prayer. Or rather, all you do have is prayer. According to Annie Jacobsen, we'd better do our homework on this one because there is no one watching out for us.

Back in April, Gates of Vienna posted on Ms. Jacobsen's tenacity and her willingness to follow this story wherever it led. That post, "Silence of the Sheep," proved that the author is a sheepdog indeed. Her interviews with other passengers, with government agencies, with the House Judiciary Committee, with airline personnel, and with individual people who bear the day-to-day hazard of working in this field, have made her case. The tale of her experiences is documented well in "Terror in the Skies".

This is a top-down problem. The guys in harm's way - the pilots and flight attendants - know the problems but they have no more power to address them than you do. Less than two percent of pilots are armed. Want to know why? Because in order to actually carry a firearm on board, the firearms training must be done on the pilot's own time and it has to be done in a place far from home, squeezed into his holiday time or vacation. And flight attendants?

Again, they have to arrange self-defense training on their own time, at their own expense and without the cooperation of the airlines themselves. Think of it this way: what if Brink's hired drivers and gave them no training in handling attempted robberies? What if they expected their employees to get training - if any - on their own time and their own dime? How long do you think Brink's would be in business? That's the situation we have in the friendly skies of America.

When you add to that the cruel joke of the Federal Air Marshals, the lackadaisical behavior of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, and the farce we all know as the Department of Homeland Insecurity, it's enough to make you want to stay home and do your business by long-distance and email.

Let's take just one: FAMS. This is bureaucratese for the Federal Air Marshal program. You know the old joke that goes "you're ugly and your mother dresses you funny"? Well, for this program, the first part may or may not be the case, but for the second premise - being dressed funny - you can count on FAMS. Due to the boneheaded policies of those in charge, Federal Air Marshals are required to wear sport coats and collared shirts. Yes, that's right: they must look like Federal Air Marshals at all times because they are a reflection of FAMS and dressing in a slovenly disguise would somehow bring disgrace to the organization. Comments about being a lovely corpse would be appropriate here. Then there's what they do after they're up and dressed. Remember, they're carrying guns, right? So obviously they can't go through security. However, there's a second obvious thing they can do - they can fight the current and walk through the exit lanes for deplaning passengers. How's that for subterfuge?

Let's see, what other behaviors might they carry out to make themselves more obvious? Pre-boarding is one trick they have down well. So is always riding in first class. And there you have the FAMS spotter information: check out the guys in first class in the sports coats who got on the plane before you. But don't worry. Any terrorists on board sussed to their tricks a long time ago. They know exactly who they have to take out first, provided that any "taking out" is even necessary. If you're going to detonate in the restroom, what do you care where the Federal Marshals are? They're coming with you anyway.

Annie Jacobsen makes a good case for the fact that her flight, 327 on Northwest Airlines, was a "probe," a dry run practice. And she backs up her contention with:

* eyewitnesses who were on the plane with her,
*a four hour FBI interrogation in which they admitted her intuition was correct,
* contact from other passengers on other planes who decry the lack of security and the lack of follow-up in their cases, and
* communications from frustrated and fearful pilots, flight attendants, and others in the business who know the skies are anything but safe, that they are being probed all the time, and that it is only a matter of time before planes fall from the sky.

Near the end of the book Ms. Jacobsen recounts a conversation with an air marshal. She asked him to explain what he meant when he said "it was all for show." Here' what he told her: "You know how youd go to the airport, before 9/11, and an agent there, somebody who worked for the airlines would say to you, 'Did you pack your own bags?' Well, it was all for show. Those agents weren't trained in detecting whether or not someone was lying. The procedure was there to make the flying public feel good. That's what happened with 327. They all came running like in the movies, but it was all for show. Who interviewed the men? FAMS. We're not trained in interviewing terror suspects. We don't know what to look for.

And the FBI at the airport? I won't go there. Who really should have been there? ICE. Period. ICE. But they weren't. Why? Because management says probes aren't happening on airplanes. The guys were there to make the passengers feet good, nothing more, nothing less.

Two years ago, I had a probing incident. It may have been one of the first. After it happened, no one knew what to do, there was no protocol. The guys involved in the incident sailed off into the crowd. What was I going to do? Run up, tap the guy on the shoulder and say, 'I almost shot you, now I'd like to interview you?' Instead, I filed a report about my probing incident. Basically I was told 'it didn't happen.' Well, it did happen. Probes have been happening ever since. I doubt anybody ever even remotely considered you'd attract the kind of press you did. But you did. That's a good thing." Now you know.

Annie Jacobsen's intuitions about Flight 327 were correct. But you know even more: the official response to 9/11 is all for show - boondoggle and brouhaha and folderol and CYA.

Perhaps we should fly the friendly skies of El Al. They know security; they take it in with their mothers' milk.

After Annie's talk, an old woman asks what can be done about Arabs' emotional volatility. She fears that if they are scrutinized at airports, they could become lethally enraged.

I say that the solution lies in a hug. Have you hugged a Muslim today and told him how glad you are that he lives in your country and that you want him to bring over all his relatives?