Friday, September 22, 2006

Yemeni Young Man’s One Liner to Screeners: ‘Take My Knife—Please!’

I’ve decided Al Jazeera must not be airing re-runs of Get Smart!, because if he'd ever watched it one young Yemeni male, Mohammed Ghanem, would have known better than to think airport security would fall for the ridiculous ploy Agent 86 once referred to as “the old knife in the hollowed-out address book trick.” That TV show was still on about the last time this corny trick was tried, and as I recall now, C.O.N.T.R.O.L. Agent Max Smart wasn’t fooled when KAOS tried it on him, either.

Part of me wants to see this incident as a small victory for the good guys and a reason to revise downward my estimation of jihadist terrorists, and my estimation upward of law enforcement; but I’m not quite ready to be that optimistic just yet. Let's see first if this guy actually goes down for this, and stays down, or if he gets off for not meeting what appears to be the prima facie standard for an attempted terrorist attack—that is, actually completing it. If you don’t think that ever happens, check this out on Debbie Schlussel’s blog.

If there is any consolation to this glaring indicator that Al Qaeda in southeast Michigan and elsewhere is still experimenting with how to get lethal weapons on board our airplanes, it's that this particular experiment failed this time, and perhaps AQ will have to figure out some better way. There is no telling how many times it has succeeded in the past already. And though I hate to think about it, there is no telling how many other young Arab males breezed through security in front of or behind this guy and boarded that same flight with their hollowed-out books intact, knowing that Metro Airport security had already met their quota of scrutiny of Middle Easterners, and because we're all sharply forbidden to add two plus two if it adds up the horror of profiling.

Is that so absurd? Think about it: you’re airport security, you just caught Middle Eastern male number one with a knife, and look up to see a handful of his countrymen waiting in line to board, glaring at you in defiance that you'll do something the ACLU isn’t going to like. Now you just know what isn’t going to happen next, because it is considered to be against the law. Now I have no way of knowing if something like that really happened when they busted Ghanem, or on any other occasion, but based on the restrictions our security personnel are forced to operate within, I can imagine it. And we all remember that a failure of imagination brought upon us 9/11.

As it was, Mohammed Ghanem’s lawyer, Nabih Ayad, was on the scene following Ghanem’s detention before the target flight’s onboard chicken dishes had a chance to properly get cold. Ayad has no problems with his imagination, glibly explaining how someone else hollowed out his client's address book and planted a knife unbeknownst to the innocent Yemeni pasenger. (Who, by the way, says he was on his way to get married. Somewhere in Yemen I'm sure Ghanem's almost-bride is quietly indulging herself in the Happy Dance). Attorney Ayad thinks the arrest of his client is an obvious misunderstanding fueled by anti-Arab prejudice, and complained that the half-million dollar bail the judge set was a punishment for his client being Middle Eastern. Which makes perfect sense if the judge just discounted the evidence of the knife, the attempted deception, and the jihad prayer "artfully" secreted in Ghanem's KAOS gadget book.

Let’s hope now these dry runs are nipped in the bud and don’t lead to someone having to tell America after another airline massacre, “Sorry about that, Chief.”

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