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Tuesday, July 20, 2004

News: Terror in the Skies II 

Annie Jacobson's account of her encounter with 12 Syrian passengers on a recent cross-country flight spread like wildfire throughout the blogosphere last week. Many people expressed skepticism at her ordeal, which was picked up on by several major news outlet. Of course the NBCs and such scrambled to verify the details, and as best I can tell, no one came up with any certifiable falsehoods in Jacobson's story.

Today Annie offers a follow-up. In it she tells of subsequent correspondences that she had with various airline personnel and journalists. One section, however, stood out to me:

Gary Boettcher, Member, Board of Directors, Allied Pilots Association, said, "Folks, I am a Captain with a major airline. I was very involved with the Arming Pilots effort. Your reprint of this airborne event is not a singular nor isolated experience. The terrorists are probing us all the time."
During a later phone conversation I had with Boettcher, he told me that based on his experience, it was his opinion that I was likely on a dry run. He said he's had many of these experiences and so have many of his fellow captains.They've been trying to speak out about this but so far their words have been falling on deaf ears.

How have multiple "dry runs" managed to stay out of mainstream news coverage? I realize that airlines wouldn't want to immediately alert the public, for fear of decreased travelers. But if Boettcher's comment has even the slightest bit of validity to it, then what is wrong with those passengers?

I've flown on five occasions since 9/11 -- three times to Omaha, Neb., once to Las Vegas, and once to Denver. The first thing I've done on each flight was to scope out my fellow passengers, usually before I even board. And when I see anyone that even looks Middle Eastern, I keep an eye on them for the duration of the flight.

Call me what you want, but there's probably no way in hell that I stay on a flight with eight Arabs, much less 14. And if I did, and they proceeded to engage in the types of activities Jacobson originally detailed, I would guarantee that the story would be in some newspaper the following morning. It would be my duty to do so.

The more I hear about incidents like this, the more I worry that we're staring another 9/11 in the face. America needs to get its act together. We're at war, folks, whether we want to pretend otherwise or not. As far as I'm concerned, this is the only issue facing us right now of major consequence.

Now I don't want to politicize this and turn it into a George W. Bush campaign spiel, but I do think he's the only choice when it comes to the War on Terror, national security, and protecting us from Islamafacists. You're free to agree or disagree, and I can respect the dissenters' opinions, if they truly believe that Bush's policies make us less safe.

But everytime I see a poll onthe news that shows 40% of Americans more worried about Social Security than Homeland Security, I cringe in disbelief. Wake up, America.


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