The identity of a passenger removed from Frontier Airlines flight 623 last Sunday has been confirmed by the Associated Press. A half-Arab half-Jewish Ohio housewife named Shoshana Hebshi, who claimed on her blog earlier this week that she had been detained in Detroit, strip-searched, and interrogated, was in fact one of three passengers escorted off flight 623 by WCAA police on September 11.
Hebshi wrote on her blog that she and the two Indian men sitting her row were pulled out of their seats and handcuffed without being told why. Hebshi was then put in the back of a police car, driven to an airport facility shared by WCAA and the Department of Homeland Security, and placed in a holding cell. Authorities kept Hebshi at the facility for four hours, during which time she was interrogated about her personal life and travel itinerary, and strip-searched. At no point was she told what she did to earn this treatment:
I asked him several times what was going on and he wouldn't answer me. It was like I was invisible. I felt so helpless and shocked. I was being treated like a criminal.
A plainclothes officer stood came to my door and asked me if I spoke English. Something in me snapped at that question. Of course I spoke English I'm an American citizen, you asshole! Well, I left the expletive out. "Ok," he said and stood watch outside my door saying he wanted to make sure I didn't "flush anything." He also wouldn't tell me what was going on.
Eventually a female uniformed officer came in….I was to stand, face the wall in a position so the camera above the toilet couldn't see, and take off my clothes. I complied…
"You understand why we have to do this, right? It's for our own protection," she told me.
FBI Spokeswoman Sandra Berchtold denied to the Associated Press that it instructed airport authorities to "arrest" Hebshi and the two other passengers: "We received a report of suspicious activity on that particular plane. We did not arrest…these passengers….We didn't direct anybody to arrest them." To further emphasize that the agency had nothing to do with Hebshi's treatment, an FBI agent called her on Monday and apologized, according to the AP.
The Wayne County Airport Authority, on the other hand, told the AP it was following protocol: "[We] responded appropriately by following protocol and treating everyone involved with respect and dignity." But if everyone was being treated with respect and dignity, why were Hebshi and the two Indian men handcuffed and strip-searched, while every other passenger on the flight was moved from the plane to the facility by bus, without cuffs, and without strip searches?