Would you fly with them?
March 27, 2002 8:04 AM   Subscribe

Would you fly with them? Having the information, whatever you think it proves, would you get on the plane to find out what's behind it?
posted by semmi (19 comments total)
Maybe my Bullshit detector is overactive today but this sounds like a setup. Two otherwise harmless American citizens who (I assume) look middle eastern decide to bait the authorities by doing everything possible to fit the terrorist profile. It looks like a lame attempt to make some kind of political statement about post-9/11 profiling.

If it wasn't a setup then these two are the most retarded pair of boobs I have ever seen. Jeez, they did everything they could to raise the red flags and call attention to themselves. Or, I suppose, they're just really stupid terrorists. There's really no way I can work it out that they are innocent victims here though.
posted by plaino at 8:27 AM on March 27, 2002

Semmi, I don't follow your question. Are you asking if we would fly with these particular individuals? What's your point?
posted by donkeyschlong at 8:32 AM on March 27, 2002

posted by luser at 8:40 AM on March 27, 2002

donkeyschlong, to be sure that's what I'm asking. My point is that informed or uninformed, necessarily biased arguments about genericly worded reports are futile unless you can test them specifically against your own behavior. What YOU would do in similar circumstances.

luser, your attempt to censor how one may think, or post is unbecoming to open discussion. To limit contributions to diatribes is perhaps your way. I'm more interested in various perceptions and reactions to events that provide no clear answers, and tests one's imagined principles against active reality.
posted by semmi at 9:09 AM on March 27, 2002

It sounds like either the facts were messed up on this case, or the guys were doing it purposely to see what would happen.

Would I fly next to them? Sure, because I don't have access to any of their information, they'd just be a couple of passengers to me. Are you asking if I would fly on a plane sitting next to anyone of pakistani descent, knowing nothing about them? I don't see why not, it's not my job to sniff out evil-doers, that's supposed to be the job of the people at the airport and those guys in camo with the big guns.
posted by mathowie at 9:22 AM on March 27, 2002

Actually, the article said they were of Palestinian descent, which would make more sense vis-a-vis wanting to visit Israel -- not that it makes any difference.
posted by donkeyschlong at 9:32 AM on March 27, 2002

mathowie and donkeyschlong, my original question was, "Having the information, whatever you think it proves, would you get on the plane to find out what's behind it? " In other words, if you had the information about their references to meet their god, etc.
posted by semmi at 9:39 AM on March 27, 2002

it is true that 'jihad' has long had far more complex connotation than just violence/terrorism 'in the name of allah'.

anyway, i don't care what their letter says. if they didn't have any luggage (i.e. no bombs), and they didn't have any weapons, THEY WERE NOT BREAKING THE LAW.
posted by milkman at 9:43 AM on March 27, 2002

Given that there's no realistic way one would come across this information during a flight (short of, what, rifling through their belongings?) I don't see how it's a valid question.
posted by donkeyschlong at 9:46 AM on March 27, 2002

semmi, I couldn't tell what this thread was about, from reading the initial post. I'm not looking to censor the discussion, but could you add a little more information next time? Just a couple of descriptive words. Saves time on a busy front page.

Answering your question, I would want to investigate further, seeing that letter, but happily I don't have anything to do with airport security. I do think that if you're trying to keep planes secure, you have to start with a little suspicion. I would have thought "six weeks in jail and $42,000 dollars on legal fees" a bit steep, though.

Orthogonally, would I expect to be investigated if I had a letter in my bag which appeared to allude to drug-smuggling? It might be an innocent letter about my Uncle Charlie's impending visit, but then again I might be selling crack to schoolchildren. Not that my Uncle Charlie is coming around anytime soon, I hasten to add ;-)
posted by walrus at 9:54 AM on March 27, 2002

According to the criminal complaint filed against Idris, he and El-Yacoubi wanted new passports because their old ones had Saudi stamps that they feared would alienate Israeli authorities.

So why pay cash for the tickets, carry $2K in cash on your person, and have no hotel reservations or itinerary? And what's up with that letter? Why'd he have it with him? He explains by saying his brother is an "overachiever"? wtf does that mean? Why get new passports *specifically* to avoid raising questions just to turn around and do so much that's sketchy enough to get you detained, your baggage searched, and ultimately you sent back to the other side of the earth?

To answer sammi's oddly-worded and seemingly irrelevant yet hopefully provocative question: obviously, flying with them to Israel was safe enough... I dunno if I'd take them up on that slice of pizza/cup of coffee offer in downtown Jerusalem, though.
posted by techgnollogic at 10:01 AM on March 27, 2002

it's completely not a valid question, and i suppose you're just baiting people so you can call them racist. regardless, if by some miracle i found out what the letter to him said in some normal way (i.e. not digging through his bags) and it said that, i would not want to get on the plane. and it really has nothing to do with who he is. if he was white and the letter said,

"When I heard what you are going to carry out, my heart was filled with the feeling of grief and joy. . . . I have no right to prevent you from your migration to God and His holy messenger, but it is incumbent upon me to encourage you and help you, because Christianity urges struggle for the sake of God. . . . I hope that this letter will arrive before you travel to God and His messenger."

you can be assured i would not be very willing to get on that plane either. any religion that extreme puts me on edge, and i like staying alive.
posted by rhyax at 10:05 AM on March 27, 2002

So why pay cash for the tickets, carry $2K in cash on your person, and have no hotel reservations or itinerary? And what's up with that letter?

none of which is illegal.
posted by milkman at 10:27 AM on March 27, 2002

Certainly not, milkman, but the questions are these: do the airlines or FAA have the right to boot them from planes for those reasons, and does Israel have the right to refuse them entry? I would say "yes" to both; wouldn't you?

(I'm with techgnollogic on their intent though: most likely terror activities in or around Israel. And knowing the contents of the letter, they'd certainly be accompanied by sky marshals afterward. Which would make me uneasy, but I could live with it.)

This is the basic conundrum of terrorism. Absent physical evidence, such as bomb materials, they're simply profile matches. It's one thing to say that airport security is overly invasive and so clumsily applied that it will largely be ineffective, but here we have a case where it was applied, and apparently the "well they have no weapons" question ended up permitting them on the plane. Once they make the match-up of weapons or bombs and approach the target, game's up.

It's going to be hard to charge these guys with anything, but if I were the INS I wouldn't let them out of my sight from now on.

mathowie, you're awfully trusting of those security procedures and armed guards. Given the overwhelming sentiments of people on this thread to point out they've done nothing wrong yet, in other words suggesting that the guards should be further emasculated such that they can't block people on mere suspicion, how safe are you, really, once that plane takes off?

Ultimately I think people yearn for some simple rule-book that would let grandma and soccer mom and even a saintly Imam pass unmolested, but as 9/11 showed if we have a rule-book (like "knives shorter than 1 inch may be taken aboard airplanes"), we create a bureaucratic loophole. The alternative, then, is handing over a certain amount of judgement to a large class of people with different motivations, from Argenbright to the National Guard to flight crews to sky marshals. That judgement, when exercised, is necessarily going to come under fire, unless we get a consensus that we'd rather have safety with occasional lapses in personal rights, versus absolute personal rights with occasional lapses in safety.

We know what Franklin said on the question, but what are we ready to do here and now given the balance of risks?
posted by dhartung at 11:40 AM on March 27, 2002

isn't the point of airline security to make sure that the plane takes off and lands safely?

it seems to me that if the plane is not threatened, and the passengers don't have illegal materials with them, and are not fleeing from prosecution, and they don't have arrest warrents, it just doesn't matter what they are planning to do once they get there.

i have a messy haircut, nerdy-chic black glasses, an assemblage of retro clothes from different eras, two earrings, and a tendency to carry books with leftist and culturally pluralist themes.

i also tend not to carry all of my pot with me on airline flights.

same thing.
posted by milkman at 11:58 AM on March 27, 2002

My opinion is that in times like this, the authorities have to take every precaution. There was clearly enough evidence to warrant a search and a hold on the flight, and after that it does get a little bit hazy, but still... if the men were travelling to visit a sick relative, or for a confirmed business meeting, or for any definite purpose I would think this is ridiculous. But even on their own terms they just wanted to take a trip. That right seems to me to have been somewhat curtailed by recent events.
posted by cell divide at 12:16 PM on March 27, 2002

People write down all sorts of wacky stuff. This was a guy's letter from his brother, for crying out loud. With someone you know as well as your brother, there's room for many levels of in-jokes, sarcasm, self-references, jibes, etc. What if the letter had been twenty pages long? How about the manuscript for a novel? Or encrypted text?

Be his intents wicked or charitable, some high-minded ideas scribbled down with no context are just drips of water in an ocean of post-modern toy marketing campaigns, TV show concepts, and proposals with no intent to carry them out.

Besides, someone who looks vaguely like milkman could be dangerous.
posted by bingo at 1:33 PM on March 27, 2002

It's going to be hard to charge these guys with anything, but if I were the INS I wouldn't let them out of my sight from now on.

Does the INS even handle stuff pertaining directly to US citizens?

It does seem to me that these dudes did so many dodgy, obvious flag-raising things in tandem that they were trying to make some sort of point.

And if they were, in fact, planning to commit acts of terror at some point, let's be thankful they were dumb about it. So was Richard Reid. And frankly, so was the 9/11 posse. It's just that we were even dumber in that instance (not processing their FBI files properly, etc.).
posted by donkeyschlong at 3:14 PM on March 27, 2002

Well. here's my opinion. Not that it matters. Personally, I doubt these dudes were terrorists. I just don't think a terrorist would say something like "It's no big deal, my lawyer took care of it." As for the 'suspicious behavior', I don't really think that counts for much. Some people *like* to use cash, it's a lot less of a hassle. And the $2k would probably have covered his hotel and accommodations or whatever.

Also, there are lot of good (IMO) excuses for the "Jihad" talk.

But anyway, I can see why you would want to be careful (seems like happened back in december). No big loss.
posted by delmoi at 11:49 PM on March 27, 2002

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