Passengers Describe Flight as a Terrorist Dry Run

Passengers describe flight as a terrorist dry run (Washington Times)

The Homeland Security Department’s inspector general is investigating an incident involving 14 Syrian passengers aboard a flight from Detroit to Los Angeles last summer described by many federal air marshals and passengers as a dry run for a terrorist attack. The investigation began shortly after the June 29 incident, but did not become public until the final phase of the inquiry when passengers reported facing hours of questioning in March from inspectors. The interviewed passengers said the questioning by inspectors suggested the flight had faced a serious situation. Some federal officials have dismissed the incident and suggested passengers had overreacted and were never in danger.

Annie Jacobsen, a passenger on Northwest Flight 327 who blew the whistle on the incident, said she felt “vindicated and relieved” after learning the investigation had been ongoing since July.


When the men were detained briefly for questioning after the flight, only two of the 14 were questioned and officials did not notice the men’s visas had expired, inspectors said. Dave Adams, spokesman for the Federal Air Marshal Service, said the inspector general’s office is “looking at all aspects of the flight” and confirmed marshals aboard the flight had been interviewed. “I’ve said publicly our federal air marshals acted appropriately on that flight, other than that, I’m not going to make any more comments on that,” Mr. Adams said.

Mr. Adams initially dismissed Mrs. Jacobsen’s account as coming from “untrained civilian eyes,” in spite of other passenger reports backing her account. Inspectors also confirmed to Mrs. Jacobsen that September 11 hijacker Mohamed Atta was on a flight prior to that attack with actor James Woods, who reported to the pilot he believed a hijacking was about to take place. Mr. Woods has recounted that incident to reporters, but it has never been substantiated by law enforcement.


Michelle Malkin has more on the James Woods angle and has been covering the Jacobson allegations for months.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. SoloD says:

    This story has been around for a while — long enough to have already been debunked by (See

    (Snopes, of course is the authority on urban legends.)

    I don’t really understand why this has taken such a hold on some conservative commentators, especially since it really does seem to have been an overreaction by the witness, other than this Ms. Jacobsen is a conservative commentator herself.

  2. McGehee says:

    (Snopes, of course is the authority on urban legends.)

    Ovver the last year or so, a significant amount of irony has drifted into most people’s use of that description. Just thought you might want to know.

  3. Attila Girl says:

    Given a choice between accepting Snopes’ evaluation and that of the DHS, I’ll take the DHS.

  4. SoloD says:


    But you aren’t taking the DHS’s word, you are taking Jacobsen’s word for what the DHS told her privately, but won’t say publicly– a significant distinction since it is Jacobsen’s credibility and ability to evaluate a situation that are the real issues here.

    The DHS spokesman said “I’ve said publicly our federal air marshals acted appropriately on that flight, other than that, I’m not going to make any more comments on that.”

    If the agency believes that they appropriately, then there was no real threat, merely an overreaction by a passenger who was then able to make this into something that it is not, and who has the ear of some people who are willing to believe her side of the story.