December 22, 2001
2:14 PM   Subscribe

It's not on any of the websites yet, but apparently a man with a fake passport, and fuse-activated bombs for shoes, was on an American Airlines flight from Paris to Miami.

They stopped the man before the bomb went off, as they smelled the match and saw the fuse being lit.

The plane is now down just nearby me, in Logan airport in Boston.

Is this a random incident, or an example of things to come? I need to baord a plane sometime after Christmas, and I'm beginning to get concerned.
posted by christian (35 comments total)
Its on CNN -- what's amazing is how briefly it was discussed, regular commercial breaks, no networks interupting for special reports.

That's one change since 9/11 for sure, if the same thing happened 6 months ago, every network would be locked on this and suspending commercials.
posted by malphigian at 2:26 PM on December 22, 2001

Here it is
posted by AstroGuy at 2:30 PM on December 22, 2001

Reuters has a two sentence blurb on the American Airlines flight 63 with more details being broadcast over CNN TV. Two F-16s escourted the flight to Logan and 28 year old Richard Reed, who carried an UK passport, was taken into custody.
posted by tamim at 2:33 PM on December 22, 2001

"richard reed"... he thinks he's mr. fantastic...?
posted by spiderwire at 2:35 PM on December 22, 2001

If this had been a man lighting a cigarette everyone (probably including me) would've been in uproar about the new fascist policies.
posted by geoff. at 2:45 PM on December 22, 2001

If this had been a man lighting a cigarette...

...then there wouldn't have been a problem. He'd have shown his cigarettes to the flight attendant and that would've been that.
posted by calyirose at 2:50 PM on December 22, 2001

Here's the whole story from Reuters. "Tom Kinton, director of aviation at Logan International airport in Boston, told a news conference that flight attendants and other passengers on Flight 63 had ``tackled'' the man, who appeared to be an Arab carrying a false passport."
posted by owillis at 3:01 PM on December 22, 2001

If this had been a man lighting a cigarette everyone (probably including me) would've been in uproar about the new fascist policies.

Fascism has never been my complaint about airline security post 9/11. My concern has been whether the policies do what people say they do (stop people with bomb-shoes from getting on airplanes) and are what people say they are (carful examinations by airline security, national guardsmen, and ticketing agents.)

This as well as every other security breach since 9/11 has demonstrated that neither is the case. People with bomb-shoes get on planes, and dark-skinned bearded men, people with dangerous-looking novels, suspicious-looking academics are thrown off planes because at least one person felt uncomfortable.

The idea that Mineta, Ridge and Ashcroft are protecting you when you fly is nonsense, not fascism. (But, when Ashcroft says that criticism of him helps terrorists, that is approaching some kind of ideological stance I find frightening.)
posted by rschram at 3:05 PM on December 22, 2001

I was slipped by owillis ...

[They] "tackled'' the man, who appeared to be an Arab carrying a false passport.

So, now they're not even profiling right, either.
posted by rschram at 3:06 PM on December 22, 2001

This as well as every other security breach since 9/11 has demonstrated that neither is the case.

For what its worth, the security breach here was in Paris, France, hard to draw conclusions about US security from that.
posted by malphigian at 3:09 PM on December 22, 2001

CNN said Massport relayed to them that the man "may have" had wires of some sort protruding from his shoe. There was an "altercation" in which he may have bitten the attendant, then they medically subdued him. The planes used were F-15s.

The upside of this whole mess is that people won't sit idly by anymore.
posted by owillis at 3:16 PM on December 22, 2001

When I flew recently it was one way so I underwent a full inspection upon boarding including a hand held metal detector. When the security person scanned my shoes the alarm went off but she said not to worry, because it always happens. 'It occurred to me that that would be the most logical manner to smuggle something onboard. However, would fuse lit c-4 be detectable by any methods?
posted by wsfinkel at 3:24 PM on December 22, 2001

From what I just heard, dogs can detect C4 explosives. Maybe that will be a new security measure....Dogs sniffing passengers before they board.
posted by IJReilly25 at 3:35 PM on December 22, 2001

They certainly sniff you like crazy when you get off the plane from Jamaica. "War on Drugs" and all...
posted by owillis at 3:38 PM on December 22, 2001

c-4 is detectable by x-ray machines, and even smaller amounts (eg. thin film contained in luggage lining) is detectable by the specialized CAT scanners that were used to scan some small percentage of luggage randomly. these machines are increasingly used today, for obvious reasons. the FAA requires ALL luggage be scanned soon enough, and these machines will most certainly be used more often.
posted by particle at 3:40 PM on December 22, 2001

there wouldn't have been a problem. He'd have shown his cigarettes to the flight attendant and that would've been that.
well, except for the arrest and fine. or is it only illegal to smoke cigarettes on fascist american domestic flights? :-)
posted by quonsar at 3:51 PM on December 22, 2001

It's not illegal to smoke on international flights with most airlines and this was international. Maybe this airline doesn't allow them on any, but I'm still not sure you said what you meant or meant what you said (as Lewis Carroll would have pondered).
posted by Zootoon at 4:16 PM on December 22, 2001

Here's a tip for you if you need to take a flight - wanna fly as safe as possible? use this flying company.
Israeli flight company's security has always been better/tighter than other companies, really, chances of something going bad on a it's flights are extremely low....
posted by martz at 4:33 PM on December 22, 2001

Wow, this is bizarre. I just got off the phone with a friend of mine who had just flown with her husband to Denver for the holidays. She was, at the time, wearing her favorite pair of boots (with 5-6" platform-like treads) and was forced to take them off to have them x-rayed before she was allowed past the security station.

This is not very encouraging, as I'm boarding a plane at 12:00am Monday morning (and I've been uncomfortable flying for years before September 11th happened.) Urgh.
posted by Danelope at 4:39 PM on December 22, 2001

Zootoon and Quonsar:

Actually it is illegal to smoke on almost all airlines nowadays. The only exceptions, apart from JAL, Air India and PIA, tend to be very small airlines. I found this website very useful.
posted by MiguelCardoso at 5:19 PM on December 22, 2001

Yeah, my last flight from San Diego to Kansas City...I had to take my shoes off and separate items in my bag out. They made me take my belt off and they took apart pieces of my laptop to check through. Whatever...I wanna be safe...I won't grown and moan about that...
posted by nakedjon at 6:03 PM on December 22, 2001

No red flags here, just because someone is flying from France to Florida WITHOUT BAGGAGE...kinda reminds me of flying lessons without takeoff or landing. Well, there is only one answer to this: Nude Flying.
posted by Mack Twain at 6:34 PM on December 22, 2001

I'm curious to see how this comes out.

If it really *is* C4 then the terrorist was not well trained - it won't detonate by fire. You need an electrical impulse to detonate. I can't see him using a match to start it. It did mention that they heel might have had wires and detonators in it. Puzzling.

However, C4 certainly will burn; quite vigorously, in fact. That alone could have caused serious problems for the flight. I say this so that it is apparent that I'm not downplaying the danger this person posed.

I guess I can expect to have to take off my shoes when I go through security now. That's perfectly fine as long as it actually makes things safer instead of giving the illusion of safety. I travel quite a bit and the current safety measures don't really make me feel much safer.
posted by hadashi at 6:38 PM on December 22, 2001

wearing her favorite pair of boots (with 5-6" platform-like treads) and was forced to take them off to have them x-rayed before she was allowed past the security station

I was at Logan airport about a month ago and saw the same thing happen w/a woman. She got all pissed off that she had to take her knee-high boots off and run them through the x-ray machine.
posted by suprfli at 7:55 PM on December 22, 2001

The guy was trying to detonate his foot?

Who did he train with, Maxwell Smart?
posted by waffleboy at 8:19 PM on December 22, 2001

There have been alarms going off for the past month regarding the likelihood that al-Qaida has plans for something to happen around holiday time. I'll be holding my breath over the next week and a half. I have no plans on flying anywhere anytime soon.
posted by MAYORBOB at 8:36 PM on December 22, 2001

To address the original poster, christian:

I flew home a week ago, changing planes once, and I didn't have a problem. Granted, I was just flying within the US, and I didn't go through major airports. I personally was a bit appalled at the security measures: X-ray machine and metal detector with random searches of the bags; the first person in line to board was searched while everyone else was allowed to board.

Also, as malphigian pointed out, it was a breach of French security. Criticizing US measures using a French example is a bit pointless.
posted by somethingotherthan at 9:13 PM on December 22, 2001

They've altered somewhat now, but a few hours ago the CNN headlines read:

Flight forced to land; explosive shoes suspected
FAA had issued warning about terrorists, shoes

Which is just absurd beyond belief. Especially if they turn out to be correct . . . and should making flying tomorrow real fun. (Of course, if it weren't for the airlines' perverse habit of overbooking flights during holidays, we would have been flying today, but who's bitter?)
posted by feckless at 9:34 PM on December 22, 2001

I've flown four times since 9/11. Two round-trip flights. Going to and from Los Angeles to Orlando in mid-October I was disgusted by the "security" at LAX. Yes, some goofball with a mirror on a pole checked the bottom of my car before I was allowed to drive into the airport. (To make sure I didn't have a bomb attached to the muffler.) Yes, I was forced to show my driver's license at a checkpoint. (And since my identification wasn't compared to anything I'm assuming the "security" personnel are acting on the precept that terrorists can't get a license to drive in California.) Yes, there were dozens of National Guardsmen at the airport. (Because standing around with guns obviously intimidates evildoers.) Yes, I had to turn on my cell phone before I could walk through the metal detector. (Because you could easily conceal a weapon inside a 3" x 2" phone, although my 3" x 4" wallet was allowed to bypass the metal detector and x-ray machine in the little basket of keys.) Yes, I had to take a sip from my flask of Crown Royal which was discovered in my carry-on bag. (Because a. A terrorist would never drink an explosive liquid and b. There's no way I could have a flask half-full of whiskey and half-full of C4.) But, no, I didn't feel very safe.
When I flew in late-December from Los Angeles to Maui, Hawai'i my bag was randomly searched. The woman who casually looked through the contents completely overlooked dozens of items which could have easily contained small knives - DiscMan, mini-disc player, hard-shell CD case, flask, etc.
On the return flight from Maui I got into a bit of trouble when I scoffed at the "security" measures in place at the airport there. Acting on the belief that terrorists don't tip or fly first class, a skycap allowed me to bypass the inspection line after I handed him a $20. He assured me that my bags would make it onto the plane even though he took them past the "security" checkpoint.
The elderly man who randomly searched my bag was upset when, upon placing my jacket and shoes back inside it, I said, "Y'know, there are side pockets that you didn't check." He was miffed that I accused him of not doing a thorough job so he looked into the side pockets. Then he gave me my bag and I said, "Y'know, there are at least ten other places in this bag that could have contained a weapon or explosive and you didn't even look. The fact that you're making all these spot-checks and giving the appearance of having beefed-up security is insulting ... and dangerous." He didn't care. He said, "We're doing all we can, sir."
I'm sure that's true. But I think that the illusion of security, that creating a false sense of security, is much worse than doing nothing. If something happens now, will all of the "security" personnel use these inept and ridiculous new methods as an excuse to say they were doing, "all they could"? Is all the new "security" simply to avoid a lawsuit?
posted by GatorDavid at 10:08 PM on December 22, 2001

David, it has one and only one purpose: to convince people that it's safe to fly, so that the airlines don't collapse.
posted by Steven Den Beste at 10:16 PM on December 22, 2001

Statistically, of course, it IS safe to fly. There are fifty to a hundred thousand domestic flights a day, and guys with bomb shoes can only make it onto -- how many? You're a lot more likely to get killed driving to the airport.
Old joke: A statistician tells a friend he's afraid of flying because he fears someone might smuggle a bomb aboard. Though he knew the odds were small, they were too dangerous for his peace of mind.
A year later the friend meets the statistician again and learns he's just flown into town.
Friend asks, "What made you stop worrying about a bomb on the plane?"
Statistician says, "Simple. Though I was worried by the odds that there would be a bomb aboard my flight, it turns out the odds are vanishingly small that there would be TWO bombs. So now I always take the precaution of travelling with my own bomb."
posted by Allen Varney at 12:34 AM on December 23, 2001

GatorDavid, I'm with you. Security is only as good as its weakest link. And there are many.

So, this week let's check all shoes. Gee, I'm glad they figured that out. Excuse my sarcasm but I just can't contain it.
posted by Taken Outtacontext at 6:57 AM on December 23, 2001

The upside of this whole mess is that people won't sit idly by anymore.

Oliver, you're absolutely right. Before Flight 93 it was common knowledge that the best thing to do in a "situation" was nothing. The bottom line was: wait for the specialists to deal with it, lest you fuck it up. This incident illustrates the rise of the "have-a-go-hero" to a role model we now all look up to.
posted by dlewis at 7:10 AM on December 23, 2001

Ah, I believe it's time to start spreading my "exploding brassieres" meme...things shall get most interesting in airports now. <evil cackle>
posted by rushmc at 3:10 PM on December 23, 2001

"It's not illegal to smoke on international flights"
That's true but I would still like to tell a story...
I was 13 years old and returning with 300 kids from an 8 week program in Israel (MASADA) and lit a cigarette while the plane was refuleling in Boston. I had just woken from a deep sleep and had no idea we were on the ground. (federal offense)
And it's El-Al airlines to make matters worse. A stuardess comes, rips the cigarette out of my mouth and in no time a pilot is collecting my passport. I was only told that I would be dealt with in New York.
When we land an announcement for everyone to remain seated while the local authorities handle a matter comes over the plane's sound system....
The runway has a NYC Police car and a detective vehicle, both with their lights flashing. They enter ther plane, come right to my seat, and escort me right into the airport for questioning.
300 13-year olds thought I was going to prison!
I was somehow able to get through the federal questioning fast enough to rejoin the group as customs. As a result, my parent's didnt hear about the matter until years later.
The bright side, other than a pretty cool stupid youth story is that I quit smoking and any time I feel like starting up I think of this incident, maybe it will work for others.
posted by Eric Lloyd NYC at 12:30 AM on December 25, 2001

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