Weird Terrorist Threat Story from the Raleigh Airport

This is all strange:

In a telephone interview, Fischvogt also told me, “we received word from the pilot about the suspicious activity before the flight landed.” Fischvogt explained that when Flight 518 landed, it sat on the tarmac for 45 minutes before FBI “took jurisdiction,” boarded the plane and arrested two people. DHS and local law enforcement were also present on the tarmac but “FBI took over the sight and the situation,” Fischvogt said.

“Wait a minute,” I asked, “The passengers were stuck inside the plane with two bad guys for 45 minutes before law enforcement boarded the aircraft?” I wanted to make sure I heard Fischvogt correctly.

“Yes,” Fischvogt confirmed.

Consider the agencies present 24/7 at the federalized Raleigh-Durham International Airport: FBI, DHS, (TSA & Federal Air Marshal Service), Joint Terrorism Task Force, ICE (Immigrations and Customs Enforcement) and airport police. And yet it took seven law enforcement agencies some forty-five minutes to put a single officer on the plane to counter the threat and secure the aircraft?

My analysis is that the delay was caused by FBI and DHS fighting over who had jurisdiction; protocol over ‘acts of air piracy’ are a constant source of bickering between the two agencies and have been the subject of at least one DHS Inspector General’s Report.

Of course the threat was a false alarm, but still….

EDITED TO ADD (10/9): Read the comments. The author of this blog seems to be a fear-mongering nutcase. (I should have read more about the source before posting this.)

Posted on October 8, 2007 at 1:56 PM29 Comments


Sum Dum Guy October 8, 2007 2:21 PM

That blog’s got an extreme pro-fear bias – look at her reporting of the Star Simpson events and especially her reporting of the passenger who was shot in the back on the tarmac leaving an airplane. She’s quick to assert that there was a bomb threat and the shooters were following protocol when even the article she links to at CNN says that no other passengers on that plane heard a bomb threat.

She’s got a little cognitive dissonance going on with the Raleigh-Durham events – fear that the passengers were trapped for almost an hour with a scary scary terrorist versus fear that the agencies involved are ineffective. She’s on the cusp of grasping the “security theater” meme, but it goes against years of indoctrination…

Eric C October 8, 2007 2:35 PM

I’m not seeing any information stating what the two individuals actually did to cause this type of response. Were they doing the usual terrorist things like reading a Q’uran or speaking in Arabic?

not_Kurt October 8, 2007 2:42 PM

@Eric C, Yup. I’m still looking for more info. Thank god there was no “Jean Charles de Menezes” type event, but if they were/are guilty of being Muslims or Arabs, I wonder what charges they’re currently facing.

Jess October 8, 2007 2:52 PM

@not Kurt:”if they were/are guilty of being Muslims or Arabs, I wonder what charges they’re currently facing.”

Or more problematically, not facing. At least Lincoln had the courage to suspend habeas corpus all at once, instead of chipping away at it so slowly over two terms so that our courts haven’t noticed.

Anonymous October 8, 2007 2:59 PM

I agree with Dum Sum – the woman is high with Kool-Aid:

“Star Simpson was charged with possessing a hoax device and ordered to return to see the judge on October 29. What kind of penalty will the judge impose? Let’s hope the harshest of punishments. Her behavior wasn’t just outrageous, it was intolerable.”

Andrew October 8, 2007 3:20 PM

I’m voting for too little info.

Maybe the 45 minutes was because of all the agencies involved, only FBI had any kind of local SWAT team capability, and then they had to set up for a hasty assault. Perhaps the suspects had to be “rendered” and thus local law enforcement could not be involved.

More likely, bureaucratic toe-tapping. Let’s all be grateful that it wasn’t any kind of real emergency. Right?

FP October 8, 2007 3:38 PM

In an emergency, a pilot can always declare “mayday”, get priority for landing, and then evacuate the aircraft using emergency slides with first responders standing by. People will get hurt by gravity or stampede.

Obviously the pilot didn’t consider the situation that critical. More likely — and this is pure speculation –, someone mentioned “suspicious activity” to a flight attendant, who then dutifully informed the pilot, and from there it was passed on by a CYA mentality until it ballooned out of proportion: the pilot made an incident report, law enforcement was involved, and so on.

How long the aircraft was sitting on the ground is largely irrelevant. If suspicious passengers don’t act during approach or taxi, then they probably won’t act during any quarantine, whether it lasts 5 minutes or 300 (at which point the other passengers mutiny anyway).

IMHO, it would have made much more sense to taxi to the gate as normal, to give the presumed bad guys a false sense of security, before grabbing them as they exit into the terminal.

But the officers in charge probably realized their chance for a good training drill, a media event, or both.

Filias Cupio October 8, 2007 4:23 PM

Off-topic: here’s a widely reported security failure. A paedophile distributed illegal pictures including himself on the internet, but obscured his face with a swirling effect. The police reversed the swirl to get a clear view of his face.

As a defender, this is one of those situations where your security has to not only be currently unbreakable, but unbreakable for perhaps 40 years. This guy wasn’t even in the right ballpark.

tjvm October 8, 2007 4:25 PM

Interestingly, the blog article links to a local news story, but seems to ignore the fact that, according to that news story, the incident was not actually a threat:

“The FBI early Saturday said a misunderstanding apparently sparked an incident on a flight from Florida that Raleigh-Durham International Airport officials initially classified as a possible terrorist incident.

FBI agents determined that a “misperception” caused the alert and said there was never any threat to passengers or crew members.

Early reports said the FBI arrested two passengers, but hours later, the FBI said it had arrested no one and was closing the case.”

Panic Attacks Often October 8, 2007 4:35 PM

Alan: That “fear while flying” story is highly disturbing. I’m having a hard time deciding if it’s masterful propaganda or just the normal “true believer” delusions.

I love how “fear of the guards” is dismissed as irrational, when it’s the main reason I cannot go to an airport. I guess those of use with bad panic attack problems don’t exist in her world…

Eam October 8, 2007 4:46 PM

Panic Attacks:
What do you expect from a woman who thinks retards should be shot “as is protocol”?

This woman should be sent to the smallest, whitest, most backwards hick-town the US has to offer. She’ll fit right in, and hopefully be so far removed from real society that she won’t be able to terrorize any more Syrians.

Just pray to God no retards wander onto her front lawn while she’s sitting on her porch cleaning her shotgun.

Joseph October 8, 2007 4:52 PM

“My analysis is that the delay was caused by FBI and DHS fighting over who had jurisdiction.”

This is probably true. It’s amazing how much jurisdiction fights occur in law enforcement. There is a certain block in DC that you can run down and go through something like six police jurisdictions (the National Park Service, the Secret Service, the Supreme Court police, the transit authority, the DC Metro Police, and one other that escapes me). Running down that street with officers in pursuit can lead to months of haggling over who had the real jurisdiction.

breniir October 8, 2007 7:00 PM

I have to say, her fear of dying while flying bit is overboard, not to mention completely made up. She cites a study done at Heathrow Airport about stress levels at airport check-in, then throws the study out the window to say it’s really all terrorists. That’s some real good logical thought processes right there.

joe October 8, 2007 7:40 PM

It was not a false alarm– an act of terrorism DID in fact take place.

Many dozens of people were taken hostage by men with guns who threatened to kill them if they did not kowtow to their demands.

That these men with guns eventually released most of their hostages does not make it any less of an act of terrorism.

Further, who knows how long the two remaining captives were held or what violent acts they were subjected to before being released.

The terrorists in this country are all three letter agencies.

Laconic October 8, 2007 10:09 PM

I’m not sure that ICE works the airport, but Customs and Border Protection (CBP) does. And I’ll bet the CBP supervisors were all trying their hardest to stay out of it.

Alan October 9, 2007 2:12 AM

@Panic Attacks
I’ve been reading through the site, trying to decide the same thing – is Annie Jacobsen a true believer or propagandist?

My guess is a bit of both. She really is scared by anyone from the Middle East, but the rest of us aren’t. It’s therefore her mission to bring the rest of us around, by any disinformation that works.

Mix that in with trying to cash in ala Ann Coulter, and you get that blog …

Keith October 9, 2007 3:18 AM

I thought the point of setting up the DHS was to decide which agency had jurisdiction?
Poor, foolish European me…

TheDoctor October 9, 2007 5:11 AM

@Keith: Sometimes this blog is like…
…have some popcorn and coke and have fun watching.

But we Europeans catch up, security madness spreads like plague.

Matt from CT October 9, 2007 9:50 AM

I thought the point of setting up the
DHS was to decide which agency had

FBI remains outside of the bit of political theater called DHS. It’s still under the Department of Justice.

Actually, let’s tie this back to the recent post on random security checkpoints:

If all our security agencies are on one playbook, doesn’t that make it easier to find and exploit structural weaknesses?

I’ve never supported the concept of DHS and still don’t. Better communication and coordination was needed, but more diversity in the safety & security systems by having them under multiple departments provide better diversity and resillency against attacks.

Any given breach is both more likely, but more contained; with a single overall structure put in place a single failure of the “best practices” will impact directly more agencies simultaneously.

Dave October 9, 2007 11:18 AM

I was in a similar circumstance the week after 9/11 at O’Hare. We spent about five minutes taxiing to an extremely distant chunk of runway, followed by about ten minutes waiting on the tarmack. At which point no less than twenty vehicles and easily fifty gendarmes of various varieties arrived to take us out the back of the plane (one-by-one, after being sniffed by a dog) and to an employees cafeteria for questioning. FBI were clearly in charge, though.

bob October 10, 2007 7:18 AM

@Jess: Apparently you left out a digit; twelve terms is spelled with a one AND a two – the current “government needs to be everywhere all the time” started under Johnson; although there was some breathing room gained under Reagan, its subsequently been recouped.

Visual Dragon November 1, 2007 5:14 PM

@blikksem; @Kees:

Hartman’s Law of Prescriptive Retaliation:
Any article or statement about correct grammar, punctuation, or spelling is bound to contain at least one eror.

Odiee NAser Anazleh November 8, 2007 7:05 PM

I think that you diidn’t see that they where only stalling becuase they where seeing if anymore therats where going to happen. But htey where a little late on the arrest.

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