On June 29, 2004, Annie Jacobsen took what sounds like the most terrifying flight of her life. Returning from Providence, Rhode Island with her husband and four-and-a-half-year-old son to her home in Los Angeles, with a plane change in Detroit, Jacobsen, a freelance writer, describes a haunting flight in which 14 Syrian men spent the entire four hours of the Detroit-L.A. leg shuttling back and forth to the lavatory with a bulging sack from McDonald’s, congregating in the first-class cabin, and giving various signals to each other.
When the plane landed, the men were taken for questioning by federal agents and ultimately cleared, according to TSA officials. But it’s still unclear whether this was a terrorism rehearsal, which the feds understood but were powerless to do anything about since no concrete evidence of wrongdoing was ever found, or pure coincidence.
NOW FOR THE PLOT TWIST: As people are (understandably) captivated by Jacobsen’s story and want to know more, lots of red flags are starting to appear, suggesting that possibly this is, at worst, a hoax; at best, a less-than-credible account. And in this hyper-charged political climate where faux reporter Karen Ryan helped pass a White House-backed Medicare bill (in which the true cost was hidden until long after the vote), one can’t be too skeptical.
But one topic that remains largely un-addressed in stories like these (real or not) is how the airlines themselves should handle such incidents. How do these companies avoid racial profiling and yet still provide a level of comfort for the rest of its passengers (not to mention actual safety)?