Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Houston, Do We Have A Problem?

Houston Police and the Federal Transportation Security Administration disagree over who is responsible for allowing a man with what appeared to be bomb components board an aircraft at Hobby Airport last week.

A Middle Eastern man with a ticket for a Delta Airlines flight to Atlanta from Houston shook his head when screeners asked if he had a laptop computer in his baggage, but an X-ray machine operator detected a laptop.

He was searched, and the man's baggage revealed a clock with a 9-volt battery taped to it and a copy of the Qur'an. Another screener examined the man's shoes and determined that the entire soles of both shoes were gutted out.

A Police Officer was summoned and questioned the man, examined his identification, shoes and the clock, then cleared him for travel. A TSA screener disagreed with the officer, saying "the shoes had been tampered with and there were all the components of (a bomb) except the explosive itself." The officer retorted, "I thought y'all were trained in this stuff."

The report says the TSA screener notified Delta Airlines and talked again with the Officer, who said he had been unable to check the passenger's criminal background because of computer problems.

Read the whole story here.

So, apparently the man failed to declare his laptop, his shoes were hollowed out, and he had possible bomb component items short of the actual explosives, but since he lacked that final ingredient, he was allowed on to board the plane. This sound wrong to anyone else?

Could this have been a terrorist conducting a trial run?

Could it be he was drawing attention to himself while someone else got through security?

Could someone else on the same flight had the other components for a bomb and they were going to put the various pieces together in flight?

Could it be he was trying to set them up for a lawsuit by improperly detaining him or racial profiling?

Either way it's kind of unsettling.

I believe the TSA did the right thing. Conducted a search and called in the Police. It was the Police Officer who decided that because his computer was down (no background check) and no explosives were found, to let the suspect go.

The Officer involved in the dispute, J.O. Reece, has been transferred to a desk job, "the same place they send officers who are relieved of duty," said Chad Hoffman, attorney for the Houston Police Officers Union.

Thankfully the TSA also notified the FBI. FBI Special Agent Stephen Emmett in Atlanta said agents there have investigated the passenger.

I'm glad we don't arrest people for being suspicious, but the Police Officer should certainly have detained him longer and perhaps scrutinized his behavior a little more than the was done in this case.

Any type of suspicious activity around aircraft should be taken very seriously in these days.


Anonymous mre said...

We need to get draconian about restrictions on passengers. If you violate a regulation (including LYING about having a laptop) then you STOP FLYING until and unless it can be proved you should be allowed! Suspicious behavior should ALSO put you on the NO-FLY list.

Hollowed out shoes alone would sure count as suspicious to me.

12/7/06 16:33  
Blogger Tracy said...

Crazy. I'm forwarding this story to my friend that is a US customs agent ... he will freak. This is absolute nonsense.

13/7/06 09:10  
Blogger Digital Fortress said...

I'm just glad the TSA had the sense to notify the FBI. At least then they could keep tabs on his and see if he was really up to something or not. It would be real bad for that Police Officer if a terrorist cell is found connected to this guy.

14/7/06 13:44  

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