Hello, he must be going: Shahzad almost slips through the net
I don’t know about you, but I can’t remember the last time I booked a flight to Dubai while I was already driving to the airport, and then paid for my ticket with a wad of cash.
I guess I’m just not spontaneous enough to be a suspected terrorist.
Of course, even the suspected terrorist wasn’t suspected—not by the people who sold him the ticket, anyway, and then allowed him to board the plane.
It’s still not my style, though. I mean, every once in a while, when I get to the self-service check-in kiosk and I see they’ve stuck me in the middle seat of a fully occupied three-across and there are plenty of empty aisle and window seats still available, I’ve been known to make a last-minute seat change—but that’s about as freewheeling as I get, air-travel-wise.
Not the same thing.
The last-minute seat change, you see, doesn’t have that crucial whiff of desperation about it. (Claustrophobia, maybe, but not desperation.) As opposed, say, to “Hi, I’m on my way to JFK—do you have anything going to the Middle East? Soon?”
Which seems to be approximately the way Mr. Faisal Shahzad of Shelton and Bridgeport, Conn., found himself on board Emirates Airline Flight No. 202 bound for Dubai on Monday night. Before, of course, he found himself being removed from Emirates Airline Flight No. 202 and in the custody of several members of the American law-enforcement community.
All of which raises one immediate question: Did you know there was an airline called Emirates?
But that’s hardly the only question. Here’s another one: Huh?
Or in standard English: Did the people at Emirates (or the computers they work for) not think there was anything even the slightest bit suspicious about a same-day, cash-pay purchase for a ticket out of the country, whether or not the guy’s name had been put on a no-fly list by the time he bought the ticket? And whether or not Emirates had bothered to check the latest version of that list?
Just on general principles, I mean—and setting aside the small but potentially significant fact that SOMEBODY HAD JUST TRIED TO BLOW UP TIMES SQUARE!
And the further minor fact that THERE WAS A MANHUNT ON FOR THE PERSON OR PERSONS RESPONSIBLE!!
And the further teeny-tiny fact that BOTH OF THOSE OTHER FACTS HAD BEEN ALL OVER THE NEWS NONSTOP FOR ALMOST TWO DAYS!!!
Do you think certain alarm bells might have gone off in certain Emirates ears?
Meanwhile—and we’re talking about American eyes and ears now—how would you like to be the FBI person or persons responsible for having Faisal Shahzad under surveillance on Monday afternoon, and then losing him? Possibly for hours, if the stories are correct—enough time for him to slip the net and make his break for the airport.
Not the sort of thing you’d want to have to explain to a supervisor. (Unless, of course, you’ve been looking forward to “spending more time with your family,” in which case it’s the perfect thing to have to explain to a supervisor.)
Fortunately, the Shahzad trail got warm again, and the authorities were able to nab their sudden traveler just before his plane was airborne.
But only just before. We caught a break this time. And next time?
“Attention, passengers: Will the threat to civil society as we know it please pick up a white courtesy phone? Will the…”
Rick Horowitz is a syndicated columnist. You can write to him at firstname.lastname@example.org.