Wednesday, July 10, 2002

A PILOT'S TALE: Little Green Footballs brings to my attention this story from Newsmax, by Christopher Ruddy, which reads in part:

In April I received an e-mail from a pilot for one of the top three airlines. It confirmed my worries.

The pilot wrote: "I am a pilot for [name not revealed] Airlines. And I have information about a flight that took place on Friday, March 29. This flight probably had terrorists on board who were testing our defenses against them and were riding around the system checking out other airlines' responses to their presence." ...

Look: The source is problematic at best. Newsmax is hardly the epitome of honest journalism or fair debate. They have a undisguised right-wing agenda -- and if it takes an anonymous, wholly unverifiable anecdote to advance their agenda, so be it.

This anecdote has all the earmarks of a fiction. A "pilot" narrator is automatically elevated to the status of a trustworthy authority figure -- yet, oddly, he recounts far too many second-hand details about what supposedly took place, many of which would not even be available to a pilot who had actually been on the March 29th flight. Where is the corroborating testimony of the passengers, who could verify the details of his story, and add to them?

What possible reason would there be for the "pilot" to be unwilling to go on the record with his own name, and the name of his employer? For fear of being fired? The public would never stand for it! Surely he must realize that as long as he hides behind a cloak of anonymity, he might as well not even bother to come forward at all, for all the good it will do.

For that matter, if his accounting of events were true, why bring it to a right-wing mouthpiece like Newsmax, whose standards for fact-checking are questionable at best? Why not take it to Fox News, which at least has a veneer of legitimacy -- or the Washington Post, where it might be given more serious attention?

Sorry. This is an Urban Myth, constructed to support Chris Ruddy's agenda.

But that said, I urge you to read the original Newsmax piece anyway. Ignore the "creative writing" portion of the essay. All of the arguments Ruddy makes -- for racial profiling and arming pilots -- are right on target, deeply disturbing, and cannot be dismissed as mere fear-mongering.

Here we are, closing in on the first anniversary of the attack, and airline security is even more of a joke than ever. "Hijacking a plane, again," says Ruddy, "and crashing it into a building, again, would be just the type of audacious goal al-Qaeda would love to accomplish." Ruddy might have added that the threat is all the more serious because the 9/11 mission was a partial failure! Flight 93 did not successfully take out the White House, as al-Qaeda had intended. And as we know all too well (from the failed 1993 attack on the World Trade Center), this enemy is very, very patient. They'll finish the job the moment we let our guard down, when conditions are in their favor.

I believe that the Bush administration has made a quiet policy decision; They've decided to "bet the farm" that they may safely skate by on cosmetic changes to the organization chart -- that any future attacks will not come in the form of hijacked airliners, so it would be a colossal waste of resource to concentrate on a threat that no longer exists.

What unmitigated arrogance! -- to imagine that they can second-guess the enemy's next move, using the exact same people, resources and intel which so utterly failed their predecessors.

Sadly, I fear that we will have to suffer at least one more Islamakazi attack -- successful or thwarted -- on American soil, and one more election, before the public gets mad enough to throw out the policy-makers who failed to secure the airlines in response to 9/11.

UPDATE: Andrew Olmstead and his readers comment here.


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