April 26, 2005

Annie Jacobsen

. . . entertained several agents from the Department of Homeland Security a few days before she delivered her second son. The details were typical: she got a call beforehand on her cell phone (the number for which was unlisted), and all four agents were on the line. There's something to be said for these "Men in Black" flourishes, of course.

The upshot: Jacobsen was right to be concerned about the security protocol associated with her flight last summer, and it appears likely that the DHS feels it could well have been a probe of some sort, a la the infamous James Woods flight.

In fact, Malkin sees the main significance of the latest in Jacobsen's "Terror in the Skies" series as confirmation by Federal agents that Mohammed Atta was on the same flight as James Woods some weeks before 9/11. Woods has publicly stated that two other participants in the 9/11 attacks are people he positively ID'd as having been on the flight. That gives us an idea that at least three of the four guys Woods saw were 9/11 terrorists. Clearly, it was some kind of dry run. Woods is of course not saying much these days, as he could be required to testify in the Zacarias Moussaoui trial, but we can infer from his observation that the "teams" that worked the evil of 9/11 were not discrete "cells"—rather, part of a more deeply interconnected group.

Joe Gandelman, writing in Dean's World, discusses one of the main implications of Jacobsen's latest article:

It seems from her piece that there are two government attitudes on this. The security-types, law enforcement at Homeland Security who seemingly do suspect there was something happening on that plane versus the more diplomatic types who want to take the official Syrian explanation and move on or downplay it.

There is also tension between two different approaches to security: those who would like to do their jobs as discreetly as possible, telling the public only as much as it needs to know—so as not to "tip off" the terrorist planners—and those who would like to convince the media and public that they really aren't asleep at the switch.

I'd really prefer the former approach. However, in a post-9/11 world we cannot simply sit back and assume that the people we hired to protect us are doing their jobs properly without any sort of scrutiny whatsoever. Whatever ambivalence I've felt about Jacobsen's series has not had to do with any sort of suspicion that she's a "racist." That's just nonsense. It has simply been that I wish the work of keeping the nation safe could go on under the radar.

But we cannot trust that this will happen: not when agents of the FBI field offices were unable to get their concerns addressed until thousands of Americans were dead and the U.S. economy had taken a direct hit it has yet to recover from.

The penultimate article in Jacobsen's series discusses an incident on British Air in which someone was removed from a flight departing from London—at gunpoint. Yet there have been nearly no media accounts of this occurrence. Naturally, I'd like to think that the authorities in the UK are "handling" it, and that the media blackout is part of an attempt to enhance safety through discretion. This particular event is complicated by its international character, but the principle remains the same: neither Britons nor Americans are in a position to utterly trust those who are obligate to protect them. And that's scary.

In this country, our assurance that public officials do their job lies in monitoring their efforts. It's tragic that this is so, but for right now that's the way it is.

Previous entries on Jacobsen's work:

My discussion of the "is this significant?" debate, after the original "Terror in the Skies, Again" story broke.

And some other updates.

UPDATE: Joyner has more.

Posted by Attila at April 26, 2005 03:30 PM

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