Sorry for the lull – work is crazy busy and I went on our annual Memorial Day motorcycle trip on the new bike.
I’m almost done with Nick Cohen’s ‘What’s Left’ and loving it – he’s talking about Bad Philosophy and Dirty Hands like he’s been reading me. I wish it was a little less polemical, but will have a lot to say about the book if I can get a few hours to put something together.
But what prompted me to write and use the Stealers Wheel lyric as a title were two newsblips – Newsweek’s trumpeting that Valerie Plame was, in fact ‘covert’, and the Washington Times stirring the pot on Annie Jacobsen’s instabook charges that Northwest Flight 327 was a terrorist dry run.
Boy, I’m just shaking my head over both of these.First, let’s go to the left side of the board.
Glenn Greenwald (writing as himself) trumpets this on Salon: Right-wing noise machine: Plame not covert. Well, great – except that it’s prosecutor Fitzgerald’s filing that makes the claim. Now there’s an obvious joke about leftists, Stalin, and show trials, but personally, I’m unhappy with the thought that Greenwald might grant someone – say, Patterico – the right to make claims like these and suddenly enshrine them as fact. When the legal process concludes that she was covert, I’ll happily accept that determination – and even apologize to whichever of Greenwald’s personae he deems appropriate.
Now, the right.
In the Washington Times, Audrey Hudson comments on the release of a federal report on how the Flight 327 incident was handled and leaps directly to the Isle of Conclusion:
The inspector general for Homeland Security late Friday released new details of what federal air marshals say was a terrorist dry run aboard Northwest Airlines Flight 327 from Detroit to Los Angeles on June 29, 2004.
Several portions of the report remain redacted. The release stems from a Freedom of Information request by The Washington Times in April 2006. The Times first reported on July 22 that this and other probes and dry runs were occurring on commercial flights since the September 11 terrorist attacks.
Let’s be clear. Nothing in the report (pdf available here) makes that conclusion. I’ll repeat. Nowhere that I could find it in the real report was it so concluded.
Hudson cites current and former air marshals:
“This report is evidence of Homeland Security executives attempting to downplay and cover up an unmistakable dry run that forced flight attendants to reveal the air marshals and compel the pilots to open the flight deck door,” said Robert MacLean, a former air marshal who was fired last year for revealing that the service planned to cut back on protection for long-distance flights to save money.
Look, I think our air marshall program is inadequate. I know that the agencies running them are bureaucracies full of careerist trolls.
But none of this is remotely dispositive. Patterico thinks that the marshalls onsite – the ones who said “We Don’t Freak Out In Situations Like This.” – are in CYA mode. C’mon Patrick – that’s silly. They made contemporaneous comments to that effect. They controlled the situation. And to bring up what they said at the time:
LOS ANGELES | July 22, 2004 – Undercover federal air marshals on board a June 29 Northwest airlines flight from Detroit to LAX identified themselves after a passenger, “overreacted,” to a group of middle-eastern men on board, federal officials and sources have told KFI NEWS.
The passenger, later identified as Annie Jacobsen, was in danger of panicking other passengers and creating a larger problem on the plane, according to a source close to the secretive federal protective service. (hat tip Patterico)
I’ve written a bunch about this, and nothing here (in the current blog posts, news articles, or in the report itself) changes my view of what probably happened or of the relatively useless morass airport security has become.
XLRQ cites the report:
TSA noted in comments that it disagreed with our report language that there was a lack of coordinated action between the FAMS and FBI. Our audit identified examples where the Departmentâ€™s investigators were interviewing individuals and taking other investigative actions without the direction or knowledge of the FBI. Because we also found activities where the FBI and the Department were clearly coordinated, we revised the report language to say the investigations were “sometimes” uncoordinated.
TSA also commented that it believed a referral of the suspicious activity that occurred on Flight 327 did not merit referral to the HSOC. TSAâ€™s comments note, “The decision not to contact the HSOC was decided only after the FAMS and FBI leadership jointly determined that the subjects could be cleared. The reported suspicious activity was determined to be unfounded, and not a terrorist threat and therefore did not merit an HSOC referral.” We believe the HSOC clearly signaled a referral was merited by logging the Flight 327 matter into its database on July 26, 2004, following a July 22, 2005 Washington Times article, and an inquiry from the White House Homeland Security Council.
So the air marshals onsite are in CYA mode – but the bureaucrats in Washington aren’t?