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The saga continues

By Michelle Malkin  •  July 19, 2004 10:52 AM

Via Michael Smerconish’s radio show this morning, we learn that Annie Jacobsen will be posting a follow-up to her Terror In The Skies, Again article at womenswallstreet.com around 9amPST/12noonEST.

Jacobsen’s parents e-mailed me some family background:

Annie Jacobsen is our daughter!! She is NOT the science fiction writer nor the psychic (with the same name). She is well-educated (an ivy league school class of 89 and a top prep school graduate) and is quite rational. She is a world traveler. She is apolitical. Her mother is a registered republican – her father a registered independent. This is not a hoax. She and her family were with us in CT to celebrate our 40th anniversary. Our still-shaking daughter and son-in-law called us immediately after speaking with both the FBI and the LAPD upon their return to their home. We had expected the call several hours earlier so we were quite concerned.

Still nothing from the Washington Post or other MSM. No Drudge link to Jacobsen’s story, but snopes.com has posted an entry.

(Background 1 2 3 4)

Meantime, here’s some good flashback reading: Stuart Taylor Jr. on the case for using racial profiling at airports from September 25, 2001.

Update: Here’s Jacobsen’s update.

Update II: As Rod Dreher says at The Corner, there’s not much new in Jacobsen’s latest story. Glenn Reynolds takes this Homeland Insecurity Moment to say “I told you so.” Hey, me, too: here.

Update III: More Syrian band research from Bluemerle. And a reader passes along another blogger’s hair-raising flight experience.

Update IV: Donald Sensing remains “underwhelmed.”
He makes much of Annie Jacobsen getting the timeline incorrect on when TSA issues its “no congregate” directive, citing references to stories about the directive from January 2004 and not July 2004, as Jacobsen had mentioned.

Sensing writes:

I found all these references with ridiculous ease while writing this post. So why did Jacobsen insinuate (and insinuate she certainly did) that the “no congregate” policy somehow originated from the trips to the john the 14 Arab men made on her flight? She is a journalist. Why didn’t she check the news record to determine whether the policy pre-existed her four hours of terror (her description, not mine)?

Because, as I said in my first post, her story is not objective, it is not unbiased. It is a fear-soaked article seeking to justify the writer’s fear. Let me repeat: It is factual she was fearful, but her fear doesn’t provide facts.

Just a minute, though. I did some quick research on Nexis and found that the TSA directive from January applied to international flights, not domestic flights. As this article from May 28, 2004 shows, domestic carriers were still struggling to figure out what the policy was and should be here at home:

Chicago Sun-Times

May 28, 2004 Friday


LENGTH: 400 words

HEADLINE: Airing on the side of caution: Not always OK to walk in jet

SOURCE: Wall Street Journal

BYLINE: Scott McCartney

You’re on a long flight and, heeding medical warnings, you want to stretch your legs. But these days, airline crews sometimes leave you trapped between security directives and the fully reclined seat in front of you.

The federal Transportation Security Administration told airlines in December to police gatherings of passengers on planes for possible security risks, especially near cockpit doors. Since then, airlines have interpreted that edict differently.

Four hours into a recent five-hour trip from Orlando to Los Angeles on United Airlines, Andy Thorson wanted to stretch. So he slipped into a rear galley of the Boeing 757, only to be shooed away by a flight attendant who said he wasn’t allowed to congregate in a galley for “security reasons.”

“I told her I wanted to stretch a little bit, was aware that I could not go up front to do so and so was back here,” says Thorson. Then, he asked, “Where should I go to stretch my legs?”

The answer, according to Thorson: “This aircraft, unfortunately, does not provide for that.”

United says that isn’t its policy, and that its flight attendant was confused. The TSA has instructed airlines to ban passengers from congregating in any galley on international flights bound for the United States, but not on domestic flights, says United spokeswoman Chris Nardella. “We want our customers to stretch their legs,” Nardella adds.

The TSA says it has directed airlines only to tell crews they can break up lines or gatherings if there might be a security danger.

While the security issues are real, there are other concerns. The ultra-dry cabin climate can dehydrate passengers, and sitting in cramped quarters for long periods can facilitate blood clots, doctors say.

Still, airlines vary in policies:

*Delta Air Lines says it has no policy. “You’re free to move about the cabin, as long as it doesn’t interfere with the crew,” says Delta spokeswoman Catherine Stengel.

*American Airlines, on the other hand, says its flight attendants sometimes ask passengers lining up for bathrooms in the rear of the plane to sit and wait.

*Continental says it asks passengers not to congregate near any lavatory, particularly the front. But flight attendants let passengers line up for the rear bathroom.

*Northwest Airlines says its flight attendants monitor activity around the cockpit door and discourage congregating there.

Given this continued confusion through the spring and then the subsequent announcement of the TSA directive a few days after she landed in Los Angeles on June 29, I think Annie Jacobsen’s suggestion that the TSA tightened its policy because of what happened/didn’t happen on her plane is entirely reasonable.

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Categories: Airline Security, Homeland Security, Politics