“…cleared for the flight…” (with update)

Okie dokie, so let me get this straight.

On Sunday, it was hot enough here in Charleston that I burned my feet on the sidewalk outside our apartment while walking our dog.  A few hundred miles to the west, in Birmingham, Alabama, the high temperature reached near ninety degrees despite rain.  At the airport there in Birmingham, a Muslim gentleman from Detroit, Michigan named Ahmed Mohamed Nasser al Soofi arrived to catch a flight.  He was flying to Amsterdam, connecting once at O’Hare International in Chicago.

Despite being in the deep South in late August, al Soofi wore such bulky clothing as to attract enough attention from airport personnel that he was referred for further screening.  According to an ABCNews report, security officials in Birmingham found that he was carrying $7,000 in cash, and a search of his checked baggage revealed

  • A cell phone taped to a bottle of Pepto-Bismol
  • Three cell phones taped together
  • Several watches taped together
  • A box cutter
  • Three large knives

Thankfully, al Soofi and another man were arrested and charged with “preparation of a terrorist attack.”

Too bad the pair weren’t arrested until they reached Amsterdam.

That’s right.  Despite the bulky clothing, the cash, the knives and the taped watches, phones and liquid container, according to the ABCNews report al Soofi and his luggage were cleared for the flight from Birmingham to Chicago.

That’s right, he was cleared for the flight.  You and I need to take off our shoes and keep our shampoo in little containers.  We need to keep pickable locks on our luggage, if we lock our luggage at all.  Ahmed Mohamed Nasser al Soofi overtly was testing the water when it comes to airport security, and he was cleared for the flight.

Even better, once al Soofi landed in the Windy City, security officials learned that his checked luggage didn’t quite make it to Chicago with him.  At least not all of it.  Nope.  Ahmed Mohamed Nasser al Soofi checked some of his luggage on a flight to Washington, D.C., then to Dubai, and then to Yemen, even though he himself wasn’t on any of them.  Is that even possible?  As far as I knew, the airlines don’t run a baggage-shipping service — heck, they charge passengers on the flight $15 just to check a bag to the same destination.

And yet al Soofi, who in Chicago met up with a Yemeni named Hezem al Murisi, was cleared along with al Murisi to fly from O’Hare to Amsterdam.

Have we gone insane?  The folks at ABC are careful to point out that at no point were explosives detected anywhere within the luggage which either went to Amsterdam via Chicago or Yemen via D.C. and Dubai — but did anyone check al Soofi’s underpants?  What about the other guy’s britches?  Between the shoe bomber and the scrotal bomber, I think it’s fair to say that the terrorists are a step or two ahead of our security officials, despite a fortunate problem with execution; would it not be prudent, given the obvious, to secure the lives of those other passengers on those other flights–Birmingham to Chicago, Chicago to Amsterdam, Birmingham to Washington, Washington to Dubai, Dubai to Yemen–by keeping al Soofi and al Murisi on the ground and subject to interrogation?

And yet we did nothing of the sort.  Instead, neither were arrested or detained until after they put hundreds and hundreds of innocent lives in danger.

At this point, why even bother with the TSA?  Why even bother with Homeland Security?  If we’re going to just let anybody on an airplane regardless of what they bring with them or how they’re behaving, why not allow innocent passengers to arm themselves?  Why not just allow a free-for-all?  Why only load one round when we’re playing Russian Roulette?

The political correctness has to stop. If it were me, a 6’3″, 260-pound white guy with the bulky clothing and taped-together electronics, would I be cleared for the flight?  I’d hope not, because it is patently unfair to those other passengers who expect that every reasonable step necessary to secure their safety will be taken by the airlines and by all parties involved.  If Dutch officials were satisfied that al Soofi and al Murisi were overtly planning a terrorist attack, what exactly was so different here in the States?

If we are not able to see what is directly in front of us, what hope do we have with regard to recognizing those working behind the scenes to bring about our demise?

UPDATE, 7:45pm Tuesday

Okay, we need to clear a few things up.

First, the two men–al Soofi and al Murisi–apparently did not know each other and were not traveling together.  Second, both were flying to Yemen and missed their flights, explaining the different trip for al Soofi’s baggage and the coincidence that they would be on the same flight from Chicago to Amsterdam.

Nevertheless, I still have two problems with the whole situation.

First,why arrest al Murisi?  As far as we know, he wasn’t wearing bulky clothing and did not have odd items in his checked luggage.  If it’s the case that Dutch officials arrested al Soofi with cause and just wanted to detain any Muslim man sitting near him on the airplane, I can’t endorse that.  However, as we still don’t know many details, I’m going to reserve judgment until we learn more.

Second,it still doesn’t change the common sense angle to this.  Both men were traveling to Yemen, certainly the new hotbed of terrorism if there is one.  Certainly one of the two was traveling with questionable–though not illegal–materials, absolutely enough to raise questions sufficient to err on the side of prevention and keep al Soofi off of the flight.  Finally, when I hear that the Department of Homeland Security cautions Americans “not to jump to conclusions,” I think of the initial response to the Times Square bomber, the president’s failure to recognize the Fort Hood shooting and the Arkansas military recruiter shooting as acts of terrorism.

This administration has cashed out whatever political capital it ever had when it came to recognizing, preventing and fighting radical Islam across the world.  I don’t trust them, not when it comes to distinguishing good from evil.  So, while the initial assessment of the facts by ABCNews and by myself may have only partially been correct, it absolutely, unequivocally does not change the systemic problem at hand.

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Comments

  1. Kevin J says:

    Okay this REALLY sucks…so if this was a trial run (a test of our security apparatus) by those that want to kill –any and all of– us, we can conclude that our US airport authorities failed the test (AGAIN!)…can one of the newspapers or someone in the mainstream media figure out which group of TSA/Homeland Security is responsible for this error and make sure that their asses get fired?

    We’re in deep doo-doo, this PC crap has to stop.

  2. Anonymous says:

    oh, these were just radicals.. no big deal. :rolleyes: similie

  3. John Buyon says:

    I hate Political correctness too

    but this story seems incomplete
    there must be more to this, the TSA can’t be this incompetent.

  4. Jeff Schreiber says:

    This IS the TSA, John. “Incompetent” is what they do!

    But I agree — I’m looking forward to the official TSA report. How they could let these dudes on the plane is incomprehensible.

  5. Lilly says:

    There HAS to be more to this. I heard that the US called them and asked them to arrest these two before they landed.

  6. Anonymous says:

    I’d walk across country before I’d ever fly again… until this country gets smart.
    Kudos, Napolitano.

  7. whats_up says:

    Jeff,

    Correct me if I am wrong, but it is not illegal to carry knives in your checked luggage. Nor is it illegal to carry cell phones or watches. It does sound like their is more to this story but if that was all you had to go on, exactly what law did they break?

  8. Boston Blackie says:

    This is so scary on so many levels – the clothing, the cash, the cell phones, the luggage sent to a different destination. We all need to see the official report of what happened when Soofi was referred for further screening. What the hell do we have TSA for anyway. Yet each time my mother goes to work for a certain national airlines, she must take off her official, company issued uniform raincoat and put it through the screener even though the TSA workers know her by name. All I can say is thank God that these terrorists so far have been idiots, but for how much longer.

  9. Dee says:

    Amazing! I wonder when the real thing will happen.

  10. Jeff Schreiber says:

    What’s up — common sense here … would you have let them on that plane? Given the anniversary coming up in a few weeks’ time?

    At what point do we become proactive? If we’re wrong and delay them unnecessarily, give ‘em a flight voucher. I don’t care. Why put ourselves in the position of counting bodies later and wishing that we had heeded common sense?

  11. Brian says:

    If we’re giving up liberty for security, we would at least expect it to be security that works. That isn’t the case. What they’ve given us is theater, in the hopes of scaring off attackers. But the terrorists are bold and sneaky. We know who they are, but political correctness doesn’t allow us to do what is necessary. It’s just a matter of time before another attack.

  12. Jeff Schreiber says:

    “If we’re giving up liberty for security, we would at least expect it to be security that works.”

    Very well put.

  13. whats_up says:

    Jeff,

    Perhaps they let them on the plane for a reason, story I heard today was that they put Air Marshalls on the flight from Chicago to Amsterdam. Perhaps they were following to see where they were going, who they were meeting with. They knew about the items in the luggage as soon as Alabama, however as they pointed out, nothing these men did violated any regulation or law.

    I understand what you are saying about common sense, what would you hold them on as they have broken no laws. Now the article doesnt say but if they were American citizens you would need something to hold them on. You simply cant stop them for NO reason. It sounds like the folks in Alabama did exactly what they were supposed to do, they searched the subject, checked his bags. What else were they supposed to do? If there names werent on a watch list, terrorist list or any other list I ask again what have they done wrong to warrant holding them?

  14. Meanwhile the rest of us must strip down to get through a metal detector and walk on the disgusting airport floor in our bare feet. My father has to carry his surgery papers alerting airport security that yes, he does in fact have metal plates in his back. I always pity the poor young moms with four little kids and are frantically getting shoes on and off said children. Yet these Arabs get through with very questionable items in their luggage? Something very wrong with this picture.

    Let’s think about it: The TSA people make what…..$10/hr? How highly trained can they be? It’s a joke.

  15. chuck harrison says:

    Jeff,

    I would pull this post ASAP. Your facts are pretty much half baked. Reminds me of Cheney and Bush and why we went to war with Iraq.

  16. Jeff Schreiber says:

    Chuck — I’m waiting on an update. I heard that there were no boxcutters, but haven’t heard anything else. Please give me a link to why my facts are out of whack.

    Jeff

  17. Jeff Schreiber says:

    What’s up — that’s where a little interrogation comes in, if necessary. I agree that, if they’ve been cleared COMPLETELY, then it might be okay to follow them. However, I worry that the powers that be were unnecessarily putting lives in danger.

    All I know is that I’m flying to DC on 9/9 and flying back to Charleston on 9/12. With what’s been going on with regard to the airlines recently (including the folks taken off a plane in Tampa), I find myself actually a little nervous — something new to me when it comes to flying.

  18. chuck harrison says:

    Jeff

    Update: It was the TSA that contacted the Dutch.

  19. John Buyon says:

    “put Air Marshalls on the flight from Chicago to Amsterdam”

    I believe that this was the case
    the same thing happened with the times square bomber he was caught on the plane.
    because DHS wanted to spy on him and pick up contacts.

  20. Jeff Schreiber says:

    Chuck — they still should never have allowed those guys on the plane.

  21. Dee says:

    I understand that his bags were checked to go through various locations not directly with him. I thought you were not allowed to do that. I also read that his bags were removed when they discovered that he was not on the plane with them.

  22. Brian says:

    Detroit Free Press is reporting the two Yemeni men have been released from Dutch custody with no charges filed.

  23. Jeff Schreiber says:

    Detroit Free Press is reporting the two Yemeni men have been released from Dutch custody with no charges filed.

    And how is Ahmed Mohamed Nasser al Soofi’s nausea, heartburn, indigestion, upset stomach and diarrhea?

  24. Anonymous says:

    I think Snooki should marry Mr Soofi. Be fun to watch her sign her checks.

  25. Boston Blackie says:

    ” the two men–al Soofi and al Murisi–apparently did not know each other ”
    Just call me Doubting Thomas but there is that Detroit connection again with both men.

  26. Gail B. says:

    I used to love flying. Now I love staying home.

    Absolutely none of this makes any sense to me, primarily because the Department of Homeland Security, the Department of Labor, and our US Attorney General don’t make sense to me. Well, they make sense if we believe they are working for We the People. We know better than that, though.

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