War on Terror

They Also Questioned a Guy Who Was Seen Watching Independence Day About His Plans to Blow Up the White House

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A.P. reports that two "Middle Eastern" men who were flying from Orlando to San Diego on Saturday night were detained and questioned by the FBI during a stop in Phoenix based on "suspicious" behavior reported by a fellow passenger. The men aroused suspicion because they were "talking loudly to each other in a foreign language" and one of them "got up from his seat while the seat belt warning sign was still lit." The same man was "watching what appeared to be footage of a suicide bombing"; it turned out to be a scene from the 2007 movie The Kingdom (apt tag line: "Trust No One"). I will pass over the questionable assumption that nonterrorists rarely disobey the seat belt sign to ask why a terrorist would watch "footage of a suicide bombing" while carrying one out. To brush up on the finer points one last time?

I'm curious what readers think about this incident, which is emblematic of the better-safe-than-sorry approach we are bound to see in the wake of Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab's abortive attempt to sabotage a Northwest flight from Amsterdam to Detroit on Friday. On one hand, the detained passengers, though humiliated and delayed, were ultimately allowed to continue their trip. On the other hand, the pretext for questioning them seems self-evidently moronic. Is this the "proper balance" between security and liberty?

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72 responses to “They Also Questioned a Guy Who Was Seen Watching Independence Day About His Plans to Blow Up the White House

  1. Their names weren’t Harold and Kumar, were they?

  2. It is depressing to watch a nation of 300 million bring itself to its knees over a man whose diabolical plot consisted of setting himself on fire. O mores, O tempores, eh, motherf*cker?

    1. Nice snark, worthy almost of the Daily Show, but if the detonator had worked properly, his plot to kill everyone on board and several more on the ground might very well have succeeded.

      1. This is what the NYT had to say:

        Had Mr. Abdulmutallab, sitting in seat 19A of Northwest Airlines Flight 253 on Friday from Amsterdam to Detroit, been able to set off the explosive, it might have blown a hole in the side of the airplane and caused it to crash, experts believe.

        So if he had detonated the explosive, it might have blown a hole in the cabin, which might have caused the plane to crash, which might have killed everyone (or no one).

        But the plastic explosive he was using requires a blasting cap to set it off. Instead, he injected it with some sort of fluid, a fluid that 1) did not cause the explosive to detonate, 2) did not blow a hole in the cabin, and 3) did not cause the plane to crash. Sounds like a plan. Sounds like a very bad plan

  3. College football players watch footage of “The Gipper” to psych themselves up for a football game, seems reasonable that watching footage of other attacks would do the same for a suicide attack.

    1. During timeouts? Really?

  4. Really, at this point all the terrorists need to do to bring air travel to a screeching halt is to pretend to try to sabotage flights. Like someone else suggested, pour out the bottle of airline vodka and hold a match to it and laugh maniacally. Nothing really has to happen, but if you get five guys doing it simultaneously, everything stops for days.

    1. Been covered in detail pretty much since 9/11. We’ve got documented proof that fear of a terrorist is as effective as real terrorism. I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again, if the Al Qaedas of the world really wanted to cripple this country, they could do it without killing anyone.

      But because they’re apparently full-retard Romantics, they insist on hitting high-drama, high bodycount targets all in the transportation sector.

  5. stupidity on the part of authorities to actually hold them

    stupidity on the part of anyone even remotely muslim looking (I know retarded as that statement is this is America) doing anything remotely suspicious on an airplane

    common sense will go a long way on both sides of the aisle

    1. By suspicious, do you mean joining the mile high club?

  6. Anyone know how to search if The Kingdom was ever shown as the in-flight movie?

    1. I once saw Meet the Parents as an in-flight movie. They removed the scene in which Ben Stiller throws a hissy fit on an airplane and screams about having a bomb.

  7. stupidity on the part of anyone even remotely muslim looking (I know retarded as that statement is this is America) doing anything remotely suspicious on an airplane

    Blaming the victim, damn liberal.

    1. Context. Do you see how you missed it?

      That and the fact there was no blame placed on anyone, just a pronouncement of stupidity.

      1. And if chicks would wear such short skirts…

      2. Again, blame was not placed. I don’t know many woman running through the hood in short skirts. Every black man I know, regardless of education or wealth, doesn’t start shit with cops (that goes for most people I know). There’s a time and place for everything. If you are so socially inept that you can not understand that some actions in some societies will get you in trouble, regardless of your belief structure, then you’re an idiot. Do you deserve to be harassed? No. Are you going to be harassed? Ya.

        Just because something done to someone is wrong, doesn’t mean the person could not have avoided it. And just because your rights were violated doesn’t mean your actions weren’t stupid. I don’t go jogging through crack neighborhoods for a reason. I have every right to do so without my rights being violated, however when I don’t get shot or jumped by officer Bob because white guys don’t belong there, then I chalk my not running there up to common sense.

        For the record I don’t do stupid shit on airplanes either. I’d rather not be detained and make what is always a shitty experience a worse experience.

        Please continue the libertarian purity test and raging against common sense.

        1. If you have a diaper on your head, expect to be questioned.

          1. They aren’t diapers any more, they are tea towels now.

        2. Open carrying an AK-47 pistol painted to look like an airsoft toy is pretty stupid if you want to avoid attention.Pretty clever if you are seeking it.

      3. Ron Paul’s campaign worker being detained and questioned was stupid and a violation of his rights.

        Carrying large sums of money on airplanes is stupid. Especially in today’s world where you can deposit and wire money instantly for almost nothing.

        The authorities were wrong, the silly guys speaking loud and doing stupid shit were stupid. There’s no sense in entering a pissing into the wind contest to see how far it will go. Regardless of whoever wins everyone is getting pissed on.

        1. I disagree. The RP Campaign worker was taking an action he likely knew would get him questioned. Even if he didn’t expect it, he knew his rights. He did that because it should be done and he knew they had nothing on him. If no one does anything to lead to a betterment of the system we are all less free. Maybe you or I would avoid such a situation because we are traveling for vacation or work, but when your work is trying to advance the cause of liberty you occasionally fight the man when and where he gives you a reason to fight back.

        2. Carrying large sums of money on airplanes is stupid.

          Its an Iron Law:

          You aren’t free unless you are free to be wrong.

        3. Freedom to wrong and freedom from incurring delays for doing stupid shit are different things.

          Having a long history of being wrong and doing stupid things I never once assumed there was not a price for either.

          Part of being responsible for one’s self is realizing that shit you do, will have repercussions. Regardless of whether the repercussions are just or not. So try to avoid the stupid shit and life becomes much easier.

          1. Everyone should now start calling hmmm “Toby”.

            Thanks.

        4. Freedom to wrong and freedom from incurring delays for doing stupid shit are different things.

          Having a long history of being wrong and doing stupid things I never once assumed there was not a price for either.

          Part of being responsible for one’s self is realizing that shit you do, will have repercussions. Regardless of whether the repercussions are just or not. So try to avoid the stupid shit and life becomes much easier.

          1. While your at it will you please start flogging the fucking IT/web guys.

  8. I wonder when it will reach the point that the only way Americans feel safe while flying is to round up anyone looking like one of them Islams and put them in some kind of camp until the WoT is won?

    1. The Siege? You’re killin’ it with the pop culture references today, double b.

  9. I think your points are well taken, but after what just transpired, you’d think those two guys would be a little bit more careful (assuming they knew about it.)

    Perhaps they wanted to create an incident?

    1. I’m going to assume, for my own sanity, that you’re being sarcastic and not serious here.

  10. Next step: Arrest a guy reading the FairTax book on a plane flight. Those radical types might be terrorists, y’know.

  11. Firecracker between two seats?

    http://wcbstv.com/local/laguar…..93663.html

  12. This is really easy to solve. Dispense with all the x-raying carry bags, the metal detectors, the moronic TSA employees…you get a cop with half a brain and a bomb sniffing dog. You check in the with the cop. Just use the El Al security procedures. Ask people a couple of questions–where are you going, are these your bags, innocent questions that take about 20 seconds. Most people aren’t up to anything, they breeze through. A guy steps up who is drugged out of his mind who has recently been from a country with a per capita income of about 2k/year who has been flying to Yemen and Europe and now the US, gee, something is probably up with him. You send him to a room for a thorough security check. If a guy looks like a dirty wizard like Richard Reid, he’s going to get pulled aside. 99% of people getting on planes have no desire to explode them. So 99% of people should get on without an invasive and stupid security check. It is obvious to anyone with an IQ above room temperature that most people aren’t dangerous.

    Yes, if you question people, most people who get pulled aside are going to fit a demographic. Males, 18-35, regardless of race or religion, are going to raise suspicion more often than not. Males in that demographic who have been traveling to and from various countries with no governments or psychotic theocracies are going to always raise red flags with screeners. Males in that demographic who are not journalists are probably going to get pulled into a thorough screen. And yes, of that subset, most of them will be Muslims. That sucks I suppose. But a half way decent screener would pull aside the Timothy McVeighs of the world too (he did look kind of creepy).

    But you focus all the high tech screening on checked bags out of site, and then just use a person asking questions and a damn dog that can smell explosives and also tell when someone is acting squirrely, and you’re going to catch most of the lunatics. Nevermind that most of the demographic that tends to try to blow up planes have issues with dogs. They’re not going to want to deal with them. I mean cover the seats in the planes with pigskin too if that helps. Or make people go through a bacon mister before stepping on the plane.

    So gee, actually check for explosives before people board and actually ask people if they’re going to start some shit. If they have no bombs and they want to start some shit, just stick crowbars under every passengers seat, and then make it clear that should they start shit without their bomb, passengers will beat them into a pulp. Martyrdom ain’t so sexy when a grandma is laying iron into your face.

    1. 99% of people getting on planes have no desire to explode them.

      Crap. I will never fly again.

      1. So any plane with 100 passengers is skrood? Crap.

        1. Those guys were lucky. They only had one instead of 2.57 of them!

          1. The partial terrorists are the most terrifying kind. ::shudders:::

            1. Yeah, they must have already succeeded at blowing something the hell up.

    2. IMO People are quick to call anything “odd” to the attention of those in charge because we/I have no faith that the TSA is competent. If we used the Israeli method people would be pissed that they are inconvenienced. We want security checks for everyone else.
      Our current system of randomness is just window dressing. Sadly it will take further terrorist attacks for teh feds to wake up & change the screening process, while trashing the remainder of our liberties.

    3. The odds of two people having a bomb on the same plane are astronomical. Therefore if you carry a bomb on the plane with you your plane will most likely not be bombed, unless you do it.

      Right?

      1. Damn, hmm, I like the way you think. You should be a counterterrorism expert/statistics professor.

  13. My Zone-O-Driving-Not-Flying just expanded by a couple of hundred miles, at least.

    A couple of years ago, it expanded to include any state neighboring my own (Texas).

    Now, it probably extends to states neighboring those, and may well include the entire continental US.

    Not because of Abdulmawhatever and his ilk. Because of the TSA.

    1. Texas counts as three states. Since driving across any section, bar the panhandle, takes a fucking day.

  14. Yes, if you question people, most people who get pulled aside are going to fit a demographic.

    BZZZT. Not permitted. Pls. report to Re-Education Camp 243/B. Bring your entire family (just to be sure).

  15. On one hand, the detained passengers, though humiliated and delayed, were ultimately allowed to continue their trip.

    Here’s a thought: detain the “tipster”. Keep him in the back room (for further questioning) at least as long as the “suspect”.

  16. This and another report this morning have me doing an about face on the Nigerian from Christmas, at least part of it.

    The guy’s father alerted American authorities about his son, but adding people to watch lists just because of an accusation like that would quickly dilute the watch list.

    Apparently he was on one in England from trying to renew his student visa with a made up the name of a college and that got him on their list.

    I fell into the same trap as many others, thinking that the accusation should have had him under suspicion. It is more like the lack of a passport, plus other things, should have done the trick.

    1. Well, when the accusation came from a “Nigerian banker and government official”, they probably just thought it was some kind of scam.

  17. If you are really concerned about civil liberties, you will want the next attack prevented and be willing to sacrifice some nonessential liberties to stop it. Every successful attack will tear out a huge chunk of our liberties. Think about the real world – it does not give a shit about perfection or purity. A truly scared public will throw liberty out the window. We are not scared yet.

    1. Bullshit. “We” are scared. And the attacks don’t have to be successful to tear out a huge chunk of liberties.
      And no liberties are “nonessential.”

    2. So we need to destroy our liberties to save them? That’s some quality logic there. George likes spicy liberties!

  18. “On the other hand, the pretext for questioning them seems self-evidently moronic.”
    If they knew what they were doing, they would have gotten him BEFORE he tried to set it off.

  19. After an “incident” like the Nigerian with explosive nickers, it is human nature for people to be nervous, hence it is reasonable for airline passengers to report “suspicious behavior”. It’s all part of being human. Deal with it; drive to your destination.

  20. Off topic question:
    In islam, do they believe that they will pass on to paradise intact? Because this guy burned the shit out of his junk. The explosive mixture was sewn into the lining of his underwear. What are you supposed to do with 72 virgins when your penis is fried to a crisp?

    1. Fortunately, despite his malady, he now has full civil rights in Pakistan.

  21. “What are you supposed to do with 72 virgins when your penis is fried to a crisp?”

    Hell, even with an intact and functional penis what are you supposed to do with 72 virgins, they obviously aren’t interested?

    To all you virgins out there, thanks for nothing!

    1. They never tell you, the 72 virgins are all like this guy

        1. I wanna meet him her!!!

  22. This just proves terrorists don’t have to successfully blow up a plane in order to successfully carry out a terrorist attack. Abdulmutallab got what he wanted: for the US to be scared, and to overreact to the situation.

    1. Its almost like TSA sees its mission as making sure every otherwise failed attack nonetheless succeeds in damaging our economy and our liberties.

  23. In the post 9/11 world, we can no longer tolerate disruptive and suspicious behavior on airplanes. We just can’t afford that luxury.

    (If you’re hellbent on behaving like a jackass, you should stay home.)

    If the TSA was working effectively enough to inspire some confidence, perhaps we could let our guard down a little. But they aren’t so we can’t.

    1. In the post 9/11 world, we can no longer tolerate disruptive and suspicious behavior on airplanes.

      HeelClik, you forgot to close the German accent tags on your post.

      1. That’s a very un-PC and culturally insensitive stereotype, RC

  24. Talking loudly to each other? Christ, I’ve seen totally wasted Dutch businessmen doing that on a KLM flight with full participation of the enabling (and cute) stewardess. People talk loudly to each other in a loud environment all the time if they’re seated near each other and know one another reasonably well.

    Watching The Kingdom? Culturally, Arabs LOVE Hollywood shoot-em-ups with big explosions. Movies like that play to big audiences across the peninsula. Furthermore, this particular film was shot largely in Abu Dhabi, so if the guys are from the UAE or nearby, there may have been a curiosity/pride factor involved. Also, it was banned in Saudi, since it was set in Riyadh, so if they’re Saudi, it may have been their first chance to watch.

    Tempest in a teapot.

  25. What would happen if it were airlines doing the searches and not the government? Then they could deny anyone they wanted and the bacon test could easily be applied.

    1. I agree. The problem doesn’t seem to be that people were questioned, delayed, refused entry to the plane, racially profiled, or suspected of being terrorists for idiotic reasons. Those actions are not infringing anyone’s rights. Afterall, nobody has a “right” to travel on an airplane. It seems to me that airlines should be permitted to allow/disallow passengers based on their own criteria; be it racial profiling or fancy expensive x-ray machines or maybe just a couple generic questions. The consumers would then be able to choose a carrier based on their own cost/safety risk preferences. I agree that this story is a comical example of the general populations paranoia of terrorism… but is it anything more?

  26. The proper way to deal with assholes like wayne and drklik is through an organized campaign of massive false reports.

    If these dicks think it’s reasonable to report as “suspicious” the fact that someone is watching a major Hollywood release on a plane, there is absolutely nothing it would not be reasonable to regard as suspicious and we should make reports to the authorities accordingly.

    Report everyone.

    Report everything.

    Never relent or get bored or feel badly about it.

    Get 500,000 people to do that, and this shit stops.

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