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Terror in the Skies By: Jamie Glazov
FrontPageMagazine.com | Monday, September 18, 2006


Frontpage Interview’s guest today is Annie Jacobsen, a regular columnist for Women's Wall Street where her controversial Terror in the Skies columns were first published. After over a dozen instalments, Spence Publications contacted her to write a book of the same title. For the past two year, Ms. Jacobsen has interviewed over 100 federal air marshalls, dozens of FBI and DHS agents, government officials, scores of pilots, over 100 flight attendants, and even the ambassador of Syria. She joins us today to discuss some of the wealth of information she has discovered about our airport security.

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FP: Annie Jacobsen, welcome to Frontpage Interview.

 

Jacobsen: Thank you for having me. 

 

FP: First and foremost, why don’t we begin with how you came to this topic and concern. Northwest Flight 327 from Detroit was obviously the catalyst.

 

Jacobsen: Two years ago, In June of 2004, I was on a domestic flight with 14 Syrians who acted like they might hijack the plane. After I first wrote about the incident, I was contacted by federal agents who believed the flight was a "dry run" for a future terrorist attack here in America -- one where terrorists would assemble a bomb in an aircraft bathrooms so as to blow it up over a heavily populated city. 

 

FP: Can you give us a brief background on the history of terrorists' probes, surveillance missions and dry runs?

 

Jacobsen: Ramzi Yousef practiced for his Bojinka Plot first by placing a bomb he'd built hidden under a seat in the Greenbelt theatre in Manila. The bomb exploded after all the theatre-goers had left so no one was killed. By doing this, Yousef was simulating the physical conditions he would face later when he did a test run on Philippines Air 434. With that test run, there were deadly consequences; a Japanese businessman was killed. In that instance, Yousef's bomb was too small to bring down the massive 747. Instead, the pilot was able to perform an emergency landing. Yousef went home and began fine tuning his bombs to be bigger next time -- hence the need for these practice runs. 

 

We know from the 9/11 Commission Report that the 9/11 hijackers took no less than 33 test flights before they flew their final suicide missions. They performed at least one final "dry run" -- a dress rehearsal where they all but walked through their plan. Mohammed Atta and three of his men were seated in first class on an American Airlines flight in August of 2001 and so was the actor James Woods. Woods was so alarmed by the behavior of these four Middle Eastern men that he notified the captain who in turn notified the FAA. No one followed up with Woods or the four men -- not until after 9/11. This is a great tragedy. 

 

Probes have continued to go on since 9/11. I have seen Air Marshal mission reports on probing incidents that raise the hairs on the back of the neck.  There was one flight which I write about in my book, United #925, where Air Marshals were so alarmed by the behavior of nine Pakistani men they had their guns out under their blankets. The pilot wanted to divert the plane -- it originated in England -- but was told to proceed on to Washington D.C., our nation's capital. Two of the Pakistani men, it turned out, were on the no-fly list. 

 

FP: Tell us what the air marshall program is. What are its weaknesses?

 

Jacobsen: The air marshals' official mission statement is "to detect, deter, and defeat hostile acts targeting U.S air carriers, airports, passengers and crews.” But air marshals tell me their mission statement ought to read "to get on the plane, to get off the plane and to go home." The great weaknesses of the Federal Air Marshal Service lie it its gross mismanagement, corrupt officials and conflicting polices -- all of which prohibit rank-and-file Air Marshals from effectively doing their jobs. 

 

FP: Why did Department of Homeland Security officials refuse to admit dry runs were going on after 9/11? The White House ended up publicly admitting they existed right?

 

Jacobsen: When I first wrote about flight 327, few people had ever heard of the phrase "dry run" in the context of terrorism. After the recent terror plot was thwarted in London, the White House started using the term. "They often do dry runs,"was what President Bush's homeland security advisor, Fran Townsend, said when discussing the London plot with the press. Before that, Homeland Security officials were loathe to admit such a thing. Imagine the horror! Terrorists probing our skies and getting away with it -- right under the noses of our armed, federal air marshal force. 

 

FP: What are some examples of how political correctness, conflicting policies and unqualified leaders facilitate terror in our skies?

 

Jacobsen: At the time of the flight I was on, there was an information circular directed at law enforcement in the aviation domain that went like this: Be on the lookout for a group of five or more Middle Eastern men who might try to build a bomb in an aircraft bathroom. And at the same time, there was a policy that went like this: if you have a group of Arab males, and you pull over more than two for secondary questioning, you can get a fine from the Department of Transportation for discrimination. How can those two policies exist at the same time? Of course they can't. If we had qualified leaders, they would be addressing this conundrum and others, not avoiding them. Same with probes. How can we address threatening facts that we can't even face?

 

FP: Why do terrorists target the sky?

 

Jacobsen: On the jihad websites, terrorists are constantly writing things like, "the goal is the sky." And think of Bin Laden's fax to his pal, Sheik Omar Bakri Mohammed, in London. He wrote: "Bring down their airliners. Prevent the safe passage of their ships. Occupy their embassies. Force the closure of their companies and their banks." When the Sheiks talk, the jihadists listen. 

 

FP: Is there ever a time or place in which we should negotiate with terrorists?

 

Jacobsen: Never. The recent war in Lebanon reminds us that springing fellow terrorists from jail remains a high priority for terrorist organizations. That war broke out after Imad Muginya -- the man behind the hijacking of TWA flight 847 and one of the most wanted terrorists in the world -- likely masterminded the kidnapping of the Israeli soldiers. And when you considering the fact that the US now holds an all-time record number of terror masters in its prisons, it’s time to ask the grim question: could an old-school hijacking happen again? By that I mean a hijacking to take hostages rather than to commit a suicide operation.

 

FP: Tell us a bit about your interviews with Former FAA Elite Red Team Members on this subject.

 

Jacobsen: Bogdan Dzakovic, former FAA Special Agent and Red Team Leader told me that an old school-hijacking in this day and age would be fairly easy to do. The hijackers wouldn't even have to take over the cockpit, they would just hold the passengers hostage in the back of the plane. Eventually the pilot will have to land the plane someplace, and, as Bogdan said, "you'd have a Mexican standoff until the hijackers demands are met or they start killing some or all of the hostages.”  Bogdan also reminded me about a malevolent wild card to consider in the equation and that is that our government has a shoot-down policy for hijacked aircraft in US airspace. So the pilots would have to convince the jet fighters that they have control of the aircraft but the hijackers have control of the passengers. As I said before, the goal is always the sky for terrorists.  Now that Hezbollah and Al Qaeda have officially joined forces an old-school hijacking is more of a possibility than ever.
 

FP: What are your thoughts on the case of the hijacking of Indian Air 814?

 

Jacobsen: Indian Air 814 is the most important hijacking in recent history that no one has ever heard of. The flight was hijacked over Indian Air Space on Christmas eve of the millennium. The hijacked flight was flown all over the Middle East before it landed in Afghanistan where the Taliban was allowed to "negotiate" the release of the 189 passengers. There was one American on the flight, Dr. Jeanne Moore, from Bakersfield, California. When I interviewed Dr. Moore -- she talked with the hijackers during the siege -- she told me, "If I knew then what I know now, I would have pulled the pin on the grenade and killed us all." She is referring to the fact that the 9/11 plot was likely helped financed by one of the terrorists released in that exchange. That was Omar Sheik, the British Muslim who also later helped to kidnap and kill Daniel Pearl. A recent development to support the idea "never negotiate with terrorists" is the fact that another of the three terrorists released in the exchange was Masood Azhar was involved in the London planes plot that was recently thwarted. When terrorists are released from prison in a hostage exchange, they tend to move up the terrorist hierarchy. They do not go home and peacefully farm dates. 

 

FP: What can we, as American citizens, do? 

 

Jacobsen: First and foremost recognize the enemy in this war. It's not just a war on terrorism we're engaged in. As Steve Emerson recently said, that's like saying "World War II was a war against submarines." The enemy is Islamic fundamentalism. That must be made clear because what you can't face you can't fix. The second most important thing is to have a voice. Google Congress.org and type in your zip code. Send emails to your elected officials. The pen can be mightier than the sword. 

 

FP: Annie Jacobsen, thank you for joining us today.

 

Jacobson: Thank you.

 

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Jamie Glazov is Frontpage Magazine's editor. He holds a Ph.D. in History with a specialty in Russian, U.S. and Canadian foreign policy. He is the author of Canadian Policy Toward Khrushchev’s Soviet Union and is the co-editor (with David Horowitz) of The Hate America Left. He edited and wrote the introduction to David Horowitz’s Left Illusions. His new book is United in Hate: The Left's Romance with Tyranny and Terror. To see his previous symposiums, interviews and articles Click Here. Email him at jglazov@rogers.com.


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