Man questioned for “suspiciously” speaking a foreign language.

These days it seems there’s nothing that can’t get you labeled as a possible terrorist whether it’s wearing the “wrong” kind of t-shirt or simply speaking another language:

A 32-year-old man speaking Tamil and some English about a sporting rivalry was questioned at Sea-Tac Airport and missed his flight Saturday because at least one person thought he was suspicious.

The Port of Seattle dispatched its police officers to investigate the case, which occurred Saturday around noon, said Bob Parker, airport spokesman. The Chicago man was preparing to board an American Airlines flight to Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport.

The man was speaking Tamil, a language largely used in India, Sri Lanka and Singapore, on his cell phone at the departure gate and on the aircraft. An off-duty airline employee heard the conversation and informed the flight crew.

Parker said the man was cooperative and boarded a later flight to Texas. He told officials that he would not speak in a foreign language on his cell phone at an airport in the future.

Is this really the America we want to live in? Where even the tiniest suggestion that someone might be suspicious is grounds for calling in the police to detain and question them? Land of the free my ass.

53 thoughts on “Man questioned for “suspiciously” speaking a foreign language.

  1. I gather you’d rather sit in an exploding airplane, than have suspicious persons held up by the police. You should change blog your name to extremely bright devil.

  2. Well, y’know there’s been a media blitz advising people (New Yorkers for sure, how many other cities/groups it reaches, I have no idea), “If you see something, say something.” It would appear that someone speaking an unrecognizable language is cause for alarm—to some people, at any rate.

    Sadly, it would appear that the War on Terror has been an abysmal failure, since rather than feeling safer folks have been terrorized to the point that they’re jumping at shadows (or languages, overheard, that are unfamiliar to them). It’s maddening.

  3. I gather you’d rather sit in an exploding airplane, than have suspicious persons held up by the police. You should change blog your name to extremely bright devil.

    I know this was directed at Les, but I’m going to comment anyway.  Perhaps it’s just because we’re sporting IQ’s 30+ points higher than those to whom the message of “report suspicious people” is directed, but someone talking on their cell phone in a foreign language prior to getting on a plane wouldn’t make ME suspicious of that person. For one thing, I’m pretty sure anyone planning to blow up a plane they’re preparing to board would be smart enough not to make a call about it, even in a foreign language, because it’s quite likely someone overhearing that call would UNDERSTAND exactly what was being said. Jihadis may be delusional and violent, but they’re definitely not stupid.

  4. Andreas, please demonstrate one example of this way too typical form of overreaction that has resulted in the detention of someone at an airport who was an actual, verifiable threat.

    I await your reply with bated breath.

  5. I gather you’d rather sit in an exploding airplane, than have suspicious persons held up by the police.

    It appears that Andreas is fond of logical fallacies, particularly the false dichotomy and the straw man.

  6. I’m sure it was an honest mistake and fairly common among multilingual people.  When speaking to my friends, I often switch between french and english without thinking about it.  What`s more surprising is that this type of thing hasn`t happened more often, given the current “fear everything” mentality in the US.

  7. Well O.K. I do have more to say! After all, what the hell can you do without going on a rant.

    I now pratice the same philosophy as the guy who went into the doctor and said; Doc, it hurts when I do THIS! To which the doctor said; “So don’t do that!”

    When I lived in Sarnia we went into Port Huron all the time for shopping, nightlife, etc. etc. Now, I just “don’t do that!”

    I fiqure that going into the States is a lot of unnecessary bother and pain, especially when they tighten up the border documentaion next year ….. so I just don’t go and spend my money at home. So there!

    Your frugal scribe;
    Allan W Janssen

  8. I now pratice the same philosophy as the guy who went into the doctor and said; Doc, it hurts when I do THIS! To which the doctor said; “So don’t do that!”

    Something seems wrong with that – to me at least.

    Not doing something doesn’t make the situation go away and only tends to make it worse. I see it’s short term benefits but in the long term, it may end up hurting other people – even though you may not realize it.

    I guess a senario that comes to mind is… more people take your advice and just stop visiting.  Now you have a few people who need to come over or still like coming over… but they are now harassed even more because “If all the other Canadians don’t want to bother with us, why would these guys?  What are they up to?”.  Then people who really need to come over now have an even harder time because the borders figures Canadians hate us and the only ones who want to come over are ones that “mean us harm”.  Who’s to argue with that?  The few people who come over?  No one going to listen to them because most Canadians don’t speak up for those guys because they decided to “not do that”.  They don’t even know there is an issue because they just stayed at home.

    Maybe it seem dramatic but I never know what people are thinking now-a-days and it seem plausable given all the crap we do to anyone who tries to do anything (even our own people).

    Anyways, I just needed to get that out.  I do see where you are coming from and short term wise, it seems like it would be the best thing to do – that’s if I thought all this crap would blow over.  It’s not though… *shakes her head*  so I just think that we just need to address it rather than “don’t do that”.

  9. I see you don’t suffer from a brevity of words! 

    Hahahaha… you don’t want to catch me when I’ve been drinking.  wink

  10. Just in from Reuters

    … Detective Winston Smith said “We arrested him after a fellow passenger pointed out he was a man- exactly the same gender as all the 9-11 hijackers, most rapists and a majority of violont offenders …

    Kantpronounceitstani officials today confirmed they would arrest all Texans on the basis they can think of at least two who have bombed neighbouring countries…”[we] cant risk that happening” said a government insider…

    The International Olympic Commitee today confirmed it will press for all white men to be banned from visiting all future Games inside the U.S., as the all terror attacks on U.S games have been committed by white men.

  11. I especially like the sound of the African Bushmen’s clicking language…

    As in the !Kung? It’s believed that the “clicking” sounds might be prototypes of some of the earliest forms of human language. I remember reading that in a college anthropology class.

    Oh yeah, and The Gods Must Be Crazy? Great film.

  12. I can’t imagine what you’re all on about.  Imagine the oddity of hearing an unfamiliar language spoken in an international airport!  A sure sign of a terrorist plot because all non-terrorists have the good sense to speak English even when talking to their mothers.

    I have had Indians apologize spontaneously to me for speaking Hindi in my presence.  I just smile and say ‘Quite all right – you were not speaking to me’.  What wonderful music one’s own language must be when living in a foreign land.

  13. The U.S.A. has never been the “Land of the free”.

    It was taken by force from its original inhabitants. [Native Americans]

    The “new” Americans then revolted against their former rulers. [The Revolution].

    But even then all men and women weren’t free. [Slavery].

    Even after emancipation the former slaves were second-class citizens subjected to all kinds of prejudice and barbaric acts. [Segregation & lynching]

    Then there is the “American Dream”, which has resulted in a materialistic society that ultimately puts the needs of Americans before all other peoples, to the extent where the world is heading towards a disaster unprecedented in human history. [Globalisation, Global warming, Oil crisis, Disease, War, Famine, Pestilence, Armageddon … woe is me and probably everyone else in time]

    PS If the U.S.A doesn’t like your government, even if it is democratically elected, they will undermine or overthrow it and place some dictator or puppet regime in charge instead, all in your own best interests of course!

    [/rant]

    Always Look on the Bright Side of Life (from Monty Python)

    words and music by Eric Idle

    Some things in life are bad
    They can really make you mad
    Other things just make you swear and curse.
    When you’re chewing on life’s gristle
    Don’t grumble, give a whistle
    And this’ll help things turn out for the best…

    And…always look on the bright side of life…
    Always look on the light side of life…

    If life seems jolly rotten
    There’s something you’ve forgotten
    And that’s to laugh and smile and dance and sing.
    When you’re feeling in the dumps
    Don’t be silly chumps
    Just purse your lips and whistle – that’s the thing.

    And…always look on the bright side of life…
    Always look on the light side of life…

    For life is quite absurd
    And death’s the final word
    You must always face the curtain with a bow.
    Forget about your sin – give the audience a grin
    Enjoy it – it’s your last chance anyhow.

    So always look on the bright side of death
    Just before you draw your terminal breath

    Life’s a piece of shit
    When you look at it
    Life’s a laugh and death’s a joke, it’s true.
    You’ll see it’s all a show
    Keep ‘em laughing as you go
    Just remember that the last laugh is on you.

    And always look on the bright side of life…
    Always look on the right side of life…
    (Come on guys, cheer up!)
    Always look on the bright side of life…
    Always look on the bright side of life…
    (Worse things happen at sea, you know.)
    Always look on the bright side of life…
    (I mean – what have you got to lose?)
    (You know, you come from nothing – you’re going back to nothing.
    What have you lost? Nothing!)
    Always look on the right side of life…

  14. given the current “fear everything” mentality in the US.

    There are signs in Australian airports that if you make a joke [about something security related, i.e. say ‘bomb’], they are going to check you out rather promptly.

    While it makes a lot more sense than the example given here, it still shows how far into the fear-mindset we have gone.

    The final straw is really that it was an AIRLINE employee. Yeah, very wordly of you, guy. Just came in from the sticks to work in the big city, did ya?

  15. Stupidity of my countrymen seems endless these days.

    I really like that song though.  Alyways look on the bright side of life.  Funny as hell, and a great way to end “The Life of Brian.”

  16. I was gonna point to a YouTube ALWAYS LOOK ON THE BRIGHT SIDE OF LIFE clip as a comment on your pessimism over here.
    Glad I didn’t. 

    Hope you liked my little rant, it was done late at night and i was quite tired at the time, the inclusion of the lyrics to Always Look.. was just to emphasise that I do have sense of humour.

    As OB pointed out, if a terrorist was going to attemt a bombing the last thing they would want to do is draw attention to themselves.

  17. if a terrorist was going to attemt a bombing the last thing they would want to do is draw attention to themselves.

    Not intentionally.  And yet there are detailed (very effective) behavioral profiles of terrorists, used by security people in the know.  (Think El Al, not TSA)  For obvious reasons the details of the profile are not public.  But I betchya talkin’ loudly on a cell phone ain’t part of the profile.

  18. UBL and his cohorts are, generally speaking, a lot smarter than most NAmericans, unfortunately. ElAl’s profiling can be easily countered.  And, with a little research one can learn what pantomimes are security flags.

    Let’s remember the following:
    [] alQaeda knows how-to and trains individuals to circumvent/mask such security-risk pantomimes (e.g., many suicide bombers are given drugs before a mission)
    [] alQaeda has developed fabrics which are soaked in explosives (e.g., we even recovered kids’ dolls dawning such explosive-fabrics during the Bojinka flat raids)
    [] alQaeda has researched surgically implanting explosives into humans, in both adults and children (and tested such)
    [] puffer-machines can only look for explosives they are programmed to sift against—do you think alQaeda has chemists working on new types yet unknown in the West?

    One day…
    [] You will apply for a licence to “mass-travel”
    [] Your body will be x-rayed
    [] You will dawn a disposable jumpsuit when flying
    [] You will not be allowed to carry *anything* onboard

    We need better security, and we need to be seven steps (hard-ware/technologically and theoritically in terms of research) ahead of alQaeda.  And, the public needs to better educate *themselves* about such threats, as is common elsewhere.  (NAmericans are the Earth’s most evolved ostriches.)

    Such stories as this thread result from Disneyland-born-mentalities and general ignorance, so common amongst NAmericans.  Wake up while you still have cities and mass-transit worth saving.

    rob@egoz.org

  19. [] Your body will be x-rayed

    I beg to differ.  The day the gov wants to X-ray me before I fly somewhere is the day I stop flying.  The highjackers on 9/11 used boxcutters and other stuff that is no longer allowed to carry onto flights.  And items that should have been picked up by the metal detector.  I see no need for the X-ray device.

    Personally I think it would be smarter to allow the cockpit access to a tazer or a gun that shoots rubber bullets.  Something that can stop a terrorist pretty damn quick but wouldn’t puncture the hull of the plan.  Or have the cockpit door mechanically shut itself once the plane starts moving, and only is allowed to open when the flight has docked at the airport.  Either one would do more than an X-ray machine ever would.

  20. As i said…

    UBL and his cohorts are, generally speaking, a lot smarter than most NAmericans, unfortunately.

    Case in point:

    …The highjackers on 9/11 used boxcutters and other stuff that is no longer allowed to carry onto flights.  And items that should have been picked up by the metal detector.  I see no need for the X-ray device.

    My-o-my, we’re in deeper ignorance than i even thought possible. Since when do magnatometers detect explosives ?  Not all bombs (or detonators) are metal in nature.

    Learn:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fuse_(explosives)

    Shed your Disneyland-mentality.

  21. Rob, where does

    The highjackers on 9/11 used boxcutters and other stuff that is no longer allowed to carry onto flights.  And items that should have been picked up by the metal detector.  I see no need for the X-ray device.

    say explosive?

  22. Perhaps you neglected to read:

    “I see no need for the X-ray device.”

    My post, quite decidely, explained in rather graphic details why x-ray machines are certainly necessary.

  23. My-o-my, we’re in deeper ignorance than i even thought possible. Since when do magnatometers detect explosives ?  Not all bombs (or detonators) are metal in nature.

    Learn:

    Shed your Disneyland-mentality.

    Last time I flew, which was a while ago, I had to remove my coat as I walked through the metal detector.  Explain to me how a bomb isn’t going to be seen through clothing.  Also the pyrotechnic fuse needs to be started by a flame.  How the fuck do you plan on getting matches or a lighter pass TSA.  Why don’t you not only fix your link which doesn’t work, but fucking read it before you post on here and basically call me an idiot.

    Shed my Disneyland-mentality?  Ok yea hold on let me awake from my fantasy land I am apparently living in.  Oh wait… that’s right, there hasn’t been a single reported case of a bomb being brought on a plane and ignited.  Unless I missed the article, but I couldn’t find one.  Especially one that was brought on through the USA.

  24. Webs, I wouldn’t read too much into what Rob Adams writes. To put it gently, he’s a little “out there” regarding some of his ideas.

  25. 1) FUSES, DETONATORS, and BOMBS: Not all bombs are detonated by flames. By merely mixing chemicals, or injecting a chemical into a body’s surgically implanted cavity, a bomb can be easily ignited.  These are called “binary bombs”.  These were widely reported on, recently, due to the UK Flight Plot foiled by British security services.

    2) WHERE BOMBS ARE PLACED: Your coat was, i hope, x-ray’d, even though it could have been soaked in an explosive (see my post re Bojinka dolls).  And, not all bombs are hidden underneath clothing (see my post regarding surgically implanted cavities).

    3) COPY_N_PASTE TUTORIAL: Merely copy-n-past the link i provided.  The closing paranthesis was, due to the forums’ parser, left of the URL.  It worth your effort, as it will elucidate many of your questions, and misunderstanding.

    4) DISNEYLANDER:  alQaeda has not attempted to bomb US-originating flights since 9/11v1, yet.  Even American security knows alQaeda has, willingly, not tried this since 9/11v1—because their waiting for a big, multi-theatre event, rather than a small attempt that might cause us to ramp up security.

    I’ve posted this before, i believe, here, but…
    Before 9/11 UBL spoke regarding the future campaign effort to destroy America as a world-power.  Describing the upcoming 9/11 he raised his arm and pointed to his finger tip:
    “This is the first stage, G-d willing. Then, the second event is of this measure, in increasing magnitude [pointing to his wrist]—- and this is the last that shall destroy America as a world-power [pointing to his elbow]” (paraphrased)

    Beware the Disneylanders.
    They’ll get us all killed with their ignorance.

    rob@egoz.org

  26. Webs, I wouldn’t read too much into what Rob Adams writes. To put it gently, he’s a little “out there” regarding some of his ideas.

    Yeah, i’m a real crazy guy.

    Everything i’ve mentioned is mainstream, if you read publications beyond Mother Earth, Utne Reader, and liberal blogs.

    Want more sources?  Just let me know.

    rob@egoz.org

  27. A passenger can be quite harmlessly scanned with THz rays, which basically show him naked to the screen. Also, explosives have a specific signature in THz range, and the system can be programmed to make them stand out.  So x-rays are really not necessary if you don’t mind someone seeing you naked.

    But THz won’t penetrate the skin, which still leaves other possibilities.  The only answer is to have passengers anaesthetized and put in transport tubes which are loaded on the plane.  Then they can be revived at the other end of the flight and the survivors can go get their luggage.  tongue rolleye

  28. Now, here’s a crazed guy, with disinformation too! (i too love to dismiss others with the such banter, but i ethically can’t do it too often, unlike some sexy posters here)

    But THz won’t penetrate the skin, which still leaves other possibilities.  The only answer is to have passengers anaesthetized and put in transport tubes which are loaded on the plane.  Then they can be revived at the other end of the flight and the survivors can go get their luggage.

    X-Rays do show explosives, given their extremely high density—a sure marker, if properly calibrated and the employee correctly trained.  Next time you fly, look at the x-ray video, and you’ll see all sorts of cool colourings: each representing a different kind of “material”.  As the machines deployed become more advanced they’ll even textually lable the material for the employee.

    rob@egoz.org

  29. didn’t we have some discussions about rob before?

    So lame.

    (Please, refute anything i said, with sources.)

  30. The plot was foiled in early 1995 when a fire broke out in the apartment where some of the plotters were working. Among the things found when the police investigated was Mr. Yousef’s laptop computer, containing a file called Bojinka. The police also found dolls wearing clothes containing nitrocellulose, according to the 9/11 report.

    http://www.nytimes.com/2006/08/10/world/europe/09cnd-bojinka.html?ex=1160193600&en=7b808038f5840895&ei=5070

    And, please, don’t get into a tirade if you can’t acess the URL.  Just email me and i can give you my access details to the site.

    rob@egoz.org

  31. Sorry, that google isn’t the best (i’m trying to juggle calls and this thread).

    More to the point:

    http://www.wired.com/news/business/0,48349-0.html

    “It absolutely can be done and very easily, and there’s no reason to believe that wouldn’t be possible,” said Dr. Harvey Kushner, chairman of the criminal justice department at Long Island University. Kushner is also a terrorism expert who testified at the criminal and civil cases that followed the bombings of the U.S. embassies in Africa, the first World Trade Center attack, and the destruction of Pan Am flight 103.

    As the article details, in security these are known as “terror mules.”

  32. But THz won’t penetrate the skin, which still leaves other possibilities.  The only answer is to have passengers anaesthetized and put in transport tubes which are loaded on the plane.  Then they can be revived at the other end of the flight and the survivors can go get their luggage.

    LOL, ok maybe I will fly in that scenario. LOL

  33. Where are the counter-sources?  Refutations?
    None?

    I guess my sources are just too “out there”, eh ?

  34. I didn’t ask for the sources to refute you, rob. I asked because I was actually interested.

    Thank you, by the way. Interesting reading. Might make good background for a story at some point.

  35. Rob: Everything i’ve mentioned is mainstream, if you read publications beyond Mother Earth, Utne Reader, and liberal blogs.

    Well, for personal ideological reasons I am drawn to the liberal side of the news media, yet I like to think that I get the bulk of my news from more mainstream, balanced sources (particularly favorites of mine are SFGate, The Guardian, the BBC, and The New York Times). In none of these news outlets or any others have I encountered anything that resembles what you have put forward, nor have I ever run across mainstream support for some of the ideas that you have propounded in the past (which seem to almost have an air of dystopian science-fiction).

    Am I a Disneylander? I hope not. Disney World is far superior.  smile

    P.S. It’s Mother Jones, not Mother Earth. And Les can come in here and spank me if I’m mistaken, but I would for the most part classify SEB as a liberal blog.

    Webs: ok maybe I will fly in that scenario. 

    It would certainly do wonders for those of us with airplane phobias!  LOL

  36. Well, for personal ideological reasons I am drawn to the liberal side of the news media, yet I like to think that I get the bulk of my news from more mainstream, balanced sources (particularly favorites of mine are SFGate, The Guardian, the BBC, and The New York Times). In none of these news outlets or any others have I encountered anything that resembles what you have put forward

    Ummm…  Wrong.
    I did quote the NYTimes.  (see above???)

    Maybe the CIA/Men-in-Black deleted it from your copy???

  37. Multi-continent genocide, at least in my library, make poor reading.

    Actually, I was thinking more along the lines of a spy thriller with the methods you mentioned being employed by the bad guys. Just a passing thought, don’t know if I’ll ever get around to writing it. My work at the moment is more of the hard boiled P.I. variety.

    However, I don’t think you were making a literary remark, there, just sniping back at some imagined slight. Whisch is odd, I think, as I’m one of the few in this thread who hasn’t attacked you at all. I just made an honest request for some info, and when you provided it, I thanked you. Why the attitude?

  38. Thanks for mailing me the Times article, Rob. I’ve perused it, and it’s certainly interesting (though hardly watertight proof for your ideas).

    By the way, I don’t think you’re “crazy.” I do think your ideas are often a little eccentric (or “out there,” as I previously put it), but there’s nothing wrong with that. I was responding to Webs above, who understandably got defensive at your suggestions that he was living in “Disneyland.”

  39. However, I don’t think you were making a literary remark, there, just sniping back at some imagined slight. Whisch is odd, I think, as I’m one of the few in this thread who hasn’t attacked you at all. I just made an honest request for some info, and when you provided it, I thanked you. Why the attitude?

    I don’t find real-world scenarios of mass-killings entertaining.

    Although some might imagine the above statements more sci-fi than credible (which is bizarre, given such sources: NYTIMES, WIRED MAGAZINE, etc.) these prospects that NAmerica and the EU will face the loss of multiple cities is quite real, and quite plausible.

    In the same way i would avoid contemporary fictionalizations of 9/11, i’d avoid any literary attempts at these scenarios, too.  I just think it’s bad taste, and destracts from the publics’ realization that these events, in all likelihood, shall happen in our lifetimes given the state of NAMerican security.

    Also, let’s read the above (see Sady’s bizarro comments that, somehow, ignore my sourced comments) and you’ll understand any hesitancy toward your solicitations for sourcing.

    This is not an episode of McGyver to be peddled amongst LA writer forums.  This is politics of the most lethal type.

    UBL and his killer-folk are not a docu-drama for profit or fun. They are real, ready, and waiting.

    rob@egoz.org

  40. Well, that would put Tom Clancy and Robert Ludlum right out of business.

    Personally, I’ve always felt the cautionary fiction does a better job of educating the general public on dangers than any news media has been able to do.

    Just from a criminal justice stand point, can you imagine a jury full of people that have watched CSI ever letting O.J. Simpson get away with murder?

  41. Sadie, there’s actually a Mother Earth News magazine in addition to Mother Jones.

    Mother Earth News is considered a hippie magazine as it covers topics such as Geodesic Dome Homes, how to compost, installing solar power on your house, and so on. I’m very familiar with it as my dad has had a subscription to it for as long as I can remember. I have to admit that I’ve long found the articles in it entertaining to read, but I’m not enough of a handyman to undertake most of them.

    Mother Jones is more of a political news magazine. I’m not as familiar with it, but I’ve heard good things.

    As for SEB being a liberal blog that’s more a side effect of my own leanings than an intentional design. It wasn’t really my aim to make it representative of any particular political ideology, but you can’t write about the big issues without your own ideological bent shining through.

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