Um, Does This Make Any Sense?

Rather than allow the plane to land and then detain the person they didn’t want to allow into the country, the U.S. government turned a flight around and sent it back to the United Kingdom. Now, even if the responsible bureaucrats thought that the existence of one dodgy character on the plane might indicate a plot to use the plane as a flying bomb, couldn’t they instead have warned aircraft personnel to surround the suspect and make sure he didn’t get near the cockpit?

I rarely second-guess decisions when I don’t know the details, but this one seems pretty absurd.

4 Responses to “Um, Does This Make Any Sense?”

  1. I’ve been wondering the same thing. Reportedly, the flight was about half-way to its destination when it turned back. I simply can’t figure out what advantage was gained. If we were worried about where he was going or what he was doing or who he was meeting, wouldn’t it have made more sense to keep him under quiet surveillance so that we could find out for sure? This looks more like theatre than counter-terrorism. But I’d love to be corrected.

  2. Well, in all fairness to the US authorities involved, the first paragraph of the story doesn’t quite jive with this part of the story: “The U.S. official said the United States requested the flight be diverted to Bangor, Maine, but British Airways asked for permission to return to London.”

    The BBC just reported the same detail. It sounds to me like British Airways and not the US government wanted to turn the flight around. Considering how bent out of shape so many Brits are about nationals of theirs that we have detained, it wouldn’t surprise me to hear that someone at BA would try to avoid turning someone over.

    I’m supportive of a fairly expansive fight against Islamist terrorist groups even if a group in question hasn’t attacked the U.S. or U.S. nationals. Unfortunately, I think that, given the passenger in question is suspected to be a member of a Moroccan group, we wouldn’t be able to get away with holding him.

  3. Tom G. Palmer

    The fact that BA wanted to return to London does sound like concern for the one passenger more than for the others, who might have preferred a touch down in Bangor (it’s Bangor — who wouldn’t?) and then a continuation to New York. But even so, it seems odd that the U.S. bureaucrats would prefer not to pick the guy up in New York, given that he (or at least someone with the same name, or someone about whom it was suspected that…) was already on the plane. Perhaps the fear of another hijacking is so high that no one wants to be the one “on whose watch” something bad happened; thus, the bureaucratic CYA (“Cover Your Ass”) imperative trumps all other considerations. (That seems to be one reason why so many small fry — or just innocent passers by — have been held so long at Gitmo; who wants to be labeled the one who let one big fish get away?)