False reporting and racial prejudice is scarier than airport security issues

This is an email from a relative of one of the 3 JFK detainees mentioned at the bottom of this Washington Post article. It contains an email from one of the detainees (jump to the email). Names have been deleted for privacy.

I watched the news in horror when I saw that "another possible hijacking attempt was avoided" in NY yesterday and that 10 people were taken into custody. They interviewed people on board who had watched as the SWAT team took people in handcuffs off the plane. And these people said one of the men was "resisting arrest". Scary stuff.

I found out later that evening that one of the people apprehended was my brother-in-law, and that, even as the news continued to cover this incident as an attempted hijacking, most of the people apprehended (including my brother-in-law) had been released because they were COMPLETELY unrelated to ANYTHING involving the hijacking.

Part of the real story is as follows (told to me by my father-in-law):

The man with the false identity I know nothing about. But three of the others were:

- My son, VP and CFO of a $3 Billion company on the west coast

- An American female employee on this business trip with him (as WASP as you can get)

- An Indian National who had just flown in from Hong Kong and immediately fell asleep on the plane.

After they boarded the plane and sat in their seats a swat team stormed the plane with guns and took the three off the plane very roughly after handcuffing them. They were then put in separate detention cells and submitted to intensive interrogation before being released. Their crime: The business executive has an Arab name (he has been in the US since the age of 8 and has gone through the US education system from elementary to grad school) His only problem was his Arabic name. The lady: just because she was traveling with him. The Indian, probably because he is dark skinned and woke up in a panic when seeing the guns and stated screaming at the top of his voice, probably thinking he was being high jacked. He was slapped in the face and treated more roughly than the others because of his reaction.

My son was interviewed by the Today show and they promised to air it. It was suppressed and only the story of detaining "suspicious individual" was aired.

(end of father-in-law excerpt)

Questions the news DID NOT ANSWER is:

- How did national news channels report that "they all had knives" when in fact, this is COMPLETELY untrue?

- How did news channels report that "they all had fake ID's" when it is UNTRUE?

- How did they report that these people were trying to pass off as crew when in fact, they were detained because they had suspicious looking bags - NOT bags that said "crew"? Now, the reports are that the "suspicious" part of their baggage was a series of LEGITIMATE stickers for a Boeing conference they were going to.

- How did they report that of the "9 men and one woman" taken, "The woman was probably in a support role rather than an active terrorist." - when in actuality, she was an administrative assistant to a Business Executive, both of whom were in NY for legitimate business?

- How did the officials decide to take each of these people into custody in the first place? Not all of them had suspicious looking baggage. In fact, some of them only had Arab-sounding names.

- WHY does the news report things according to "one source" and who are these sources? Why do they not check the ACCURACY of their report before blowing it into a sensationalistic story?

I understand that "10 people apprehended" at the airports and the fact that the airports closed down because of that is reportable news. But the COMPLETELY BASELESS and false "facts" they reported with it is irresponsible and down-right scary.

I have remained positive throughout this whole ordeal that our Government, the Media, Law Enforcement, and others in positions that effect our lives and our perceptions regarding these events will make thoughtful and educated decisions about the next courses of action to take. But this manipulation of information has thrown me for a loop, has made me very sad, and has knocked my level of trust down a notch.

I would ask all people to accept personal responsibility for the part they play in this situation. Whether you are a reporter, an editor, an anchor person, an investigator, or a citizen being interviewed, know your facts. Do not "opinionate" or "surmise", just give the facts that you know. As more facts are known, the story will come into focus. Do not over-simplify everything you hear. Question it. Know that there is always more to the story. We don't need anyone to fuel baseless fears or baseless prejudices. We have enough of that already.

Thank You for your Consideration.

Remainder of email is a letter from one of the 'apprehended" passengers:

greetings to friends and family,

I arrived home safe late Friday in a charter jet after a traumatic week in NY. My colleague and I arrived on Monday evening in NY, we were expecting to go to a meeting at the NY stock exchange late Tuesday morning but instead watched with the rest of America in horror the events that ensued. We were at our first investor visit when most of the attack and occurred and watched TV monitors in a "bullpen". We could also turn around and see the smoke rising from downtown. We realised very quickly that life as we knew had changed forever. As we walked back to our hotel there was an immediate realization that a very hectic week which included at least twenty investor meetings in which we would discuss our company and its bright propects had vanished and our only agenda now would be to follow the curent events and find a way home.

Over the next two days we walked miles and miles and miles in Manhattan and everywhere we went we saw a very organized, calm and sad city. I can not say enough about the mayor and city organization which seemed in control of the devastating situation within hours. Police were on every corner sharing the latest news of how to get out of the city, MTA were at the top of every subway stop announcing the latest openings and closings of routes and hospitals blocks were barricaded to allow fast access to the too few ambulances that would arrive.

Wednesday with little to do and no way out of town, we decided to go down as close to the Twin Towers as we could to pay our respects. We were able to get to about 20th street before the city landscape changed, humvees and military were banded around a reservist building, then the street sweepers and rescue vehicles came into view. By the time we got to the vehicle barricades at 14th street the smoke had become heavier and the police prescence had increased, we also ran into the actor who plays Tony Soprano. We traveled another ten blocks to Houston Street and here we saw the awesome amount of resources that were waiting and availble to deploy into the crash site. Hundreds of trucks, heavy moving equipment and sweepers as well as many more rescue vehicles. The might of America was certainly evident in the amount of resources that we had mobilized in just that short period of time.

After that walk felt much more confident about where America would go from here. The sheer determination of the country, the patriotic way workers were being cheered on. Restaurants open and serving free food to the rescue workers all symbolized hope for the future amidst the rubble of this tragedy.

Thursday dawned with an anxiousness to get out of NY and be back with our families. We left for our 4pm JFK flight at noon. The trip took an unbelievable twenty minutes! The recently reopened roads were empty and the airport had just reopened. As we checked in at American i asked if there should be any extra steps taken as far as security since i had an Arab surname. The American people said, "oh no, sir we know you vey well, you're fine". I would come to regret those words. At three pm we left for the gate an hour early and were "wanded" which we felt good about since it demostrated a bit more security. The airport was still quiet but there was more activity. The palne was delayed an hour due to alck of crew. There were several deadheading stewardesses in tears, obviously having lost friends in Tuesday's crashes. At five, crew arrived and we were ready to board but then we were told of another delay as tha pilot had to brief the crew. After half an hour we were put on board and the as we got into our seats the pilot (later to be found out to be a security officer) started to chat with us. He wanted us to work together, to be a team, to be careful. That the crew had not liked his tougher security tactics. but after four days of training now understood and were "on board". The obnoxious chatter from him continued for the next hour as he continued to come chat with us. He confiscated my colleague's and my headsets which we had just bought so that we could actualy hear the on board music. He said they could be used as communication devices. After being on the ground for another hour and a half the pilot anounced that the airport had opened and we would take off soon. A few minutes later we could see containers being off loaded and i became sure the flight was about to be cancelled. Then all Hell broke loose. I have copied an article from today's Orange County Register:

Executive held before being cleared

September 15, 2001

From staff and wire reports

A business executive from Laguna Hills was among about a dozen travelers of Middle Eastern descent detained at two New York airports Thursday and later cleared of any connection with this week's terrorist attacks.

[name removed from article] told KCAL-TV/9 that he was aboard an American Airlines plane at John F. Kennedy International Airport, awaiting departure to Los Angeles, when police rushed in and removed him at gunpoint.

Two other men also were taken off the plane.

"They had us sit down on the floor and then somebody yelled at me, 'What's your name?'" [interviewee] said during the televised interview.

"I told him my name and he said, 'Get up,' and he slapped cuffs on me and dragged me off out of the flight."

He said he was interrogated for four hours and released.

He was expected home Friday night on another flight.

[Interviewee], who was born in Cairo, Egypt, but is now an American citizen, said investigators told him that they could not guarantee he would not be detained at some other time while traveling.

"I do understand why there's extreme security measures under what's going on now," he said.

"But to just pick up people with Arab surnames, just at random like this and then to assure me that probably they'll do it again and again, is, you know, how do people live a life?"

[Interviewee] joined his company as CFO in June 1999 and previously held executive positions at Aetna Health Plans and PepsiCo Inc.

Register staff writers Aldrin Brown and Bernard Wolfson, City News Service and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

[end of article]

In closing, I am grateful to be an American and love this country but we need to be careful about how we implement security measures. To do a cursory check of passengers at check in and then storm planes and traumatize everyone isn't right. The proper work is screening passengers first. i volunteered and would have complied to any search of my person and luggage and could haveanswered all the questions later put to me by the FBI in the hours preceeding boarding. But the humiliation of being dragged off a plane as a common criminal in front of my peers and the ensuing press coverage was inane.

I'm being very vocal about this now because we need to change attitudes about what security means now. Security isn't storming a plane and dragging off Arabs, its doing the right background checks and thorough searches of luggage before boarding!

I will be hugging my family a lot more today.