-The Man In Orange and the Merry Go Round of Ron Smith/U.S. Customs-
As many of you know, my wife Lori and I were passengers and innocent victims of Northwest Flight 253 (Flight 253). We have repeated our story many times to various reporters, television and radio stations ,both across the country and abroad. Our story has never changed. What I would like to emphasize in this article is that not only did we almost lose our lives in the air, but we also almost lost our lives after our plane landed. Let me explain.
When Flight 253 landed, the passengers were forced to stay on the plane on the runway for 20 minutes. We were forced to do this despite not knowing whether there was a further bomb on our plane held by another passenger, in a carry on bag, or in the cargo hold. This action taken by law enforcement further endangered the lives of every passenger on flight 253.
After we were removed from the plane all of the passengers of flight 253 were taken to an empty baggage claim area of an airport terminal. We all had our carry on bags with us and we stood together for nearly one hour until bomb sniffing dogs arrived. Three dogs arrived, one lab, and two German shepherds. The dogs were split up and one German shepherd sat next to a bag of “the man in orange” who stood 20 feet from me the entire time until he was detained (see my post yesterday for more detail). This man in orange was immediately taken into a room for questioning. He was not handcuffed at this time. After approximately one hour, the man in orange was taken out of that room, handcuffed, and led away. At this exact time, a law enforcement person came up to the group of flight 253 passengers and said the following (approximate quote) “You are all being moved to another area because this are is not safe. You all just saw what happened and I’m sure you are smart enough to read between the lines and figure out what is going on.” We were then escorted out of this baggage claim room and taken to a long narrow hallway. While we were being held in this area, an FBI agent announced the following to us 253 passengers “We have those (Plural) we believe are responsible for this in custody we will now be doing interviews with each of you and then you are free to go.” He went on to state two further references to more than one person, which I cannot specifically quote. I have repeated this exact story hundreds of times since flight 253.
The “official” story regarding the man in orange has now changed numerous times.
Version 1: This was the official story from 12-25-09 to 12-30-09. This version was that only Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab was involved or detained.
Version 2: After some of my fellow passengers supported my claim in media accounts, this version 2 was released and became the official story on December 30, 2009.. This version was that, yes, another man was taken into custody, but he was being held indefinitely on “immigration charges”.
Version 3: This version came out late in the day on December 30, 2009. This version provided that yes another man was taken into custody, but he was from another flight. This story was the most ridiculous version to date and made myself write the current article on Mlive.com.
Let me explain.
Ever since the passengers of flight 253 got off of the plane, we were “quarantined”. By this I mean that nobody was allowed on our floor of the terminal or anywhere near any of us passengers. As a matter of fact, we never saw anyone except law enforcement personnel the entire time we were held by customs (6 hours). To say that the man that was being held was from another flight, and is the same one I saw 20 feet away from me the entire time, defies logic. We were in such tight security that we were not able to drink, eat, use our phones, or go to the bathroom by ourselves (without a law enforcement officer). However, this version tries to make the American public believe that passengers from other flights were by us commingling the entire time. This did not happen. To think that law enforcement would let anyone else near the passengers and crime scene of the biggest terrorist attack in 8 years is simply beyond comprehension. Further, every plane that landed for quite some time after we did, held its passengers on board for a long time. The man in orange was taken away one hour into our detention period (during which, I do not believe any other flights allowed their passengers to get off of). Most certainly however, no other passengers were on the baggage claim floor that we were. When I wrote the above Mlive article I predicted that I would soon see version 4 of the “official story”. I was overwhelmed to find not only a fourth version, but a fifth version.
Version 4: Shortly after 6PM eastern time on December 31, 2009, Ron Smith of U.S. Customs sent an email to various reporters across the country. I received my copy from a reporter that I have been corresponding with. Here is a copy of the email:
Thank you for your patience and accuracy in reporting the events of December 25 at Detroit Metropolitan Airport. Everything we have talked about has been accurate concerning these events
That being said I have just received a piece of information that I did not previously have and hope it will clear up this matter.
As I have explained, there were no other passengers from flight 253 arrested or detained. The eyewitness accounts coincided with a separate issue concerning a passenger from a separate flight arriving at the airport. That passenger was escorted from the arriving plane to the CBP area. He was handcuffed at that time and could have been observed by the passengers from flight 253.
This still remains true; however, I now know that a passenger from flight 253 did have a canine alert to his carry on baggage in the baggage area of the CBP facility. He was placed in handcuffs and escorted to an interview room where he was interviewed and searched. There was nothing found during that search. Following the negative search results he received an explanation of why he was searched. He thanked the officers for doing their job and departed the facility along with the other passengers from flight 253.
I can not provide any other information about the individual because again, he was not arrested or detained and we have to protect his privacy.
This information is consistent with the eyewitness accounts.
I accept full responsibility for this information not being made available to you. I did not access the correct report that contained this information. I take pride in providing my media contacts complete, accurate information and I did not accomplish that this time. Please accept my apologies for any difficulties this may create.
I am sending this as an email because I will be traveling this evening and will not be available by phone until first thing in the morning.
Ronald G Smith
Chief CBP Officer
Public Affairs Liaison
US Customs and Border Protection
Office of Field Operations
Mr. Ron Smith now claims the following:
1. “He just received some information he didn’t previously have”. Seriously.
2. “The eyewitness accounts coincided with a separate issue concerning a passenger from a separate flight arriving at the airport”. Please see above where I explain that we were “quarantined” which makes this statement impossible.
3. “He now knows (as if he didn’t before), that a passenger from flight 253 did have a canine alert to his carry on baggage in the baggage area of the CBP facility. . . There was nothing found during the search”.
First of all, does it seem plausible that Mr. Ron Smith didn’t have and know all of this information before? Also, please see my account of events above, where I explain that the man in orange was taken away not in handcuffs, but was HANDCUFFED AFTER HE WAS QUESTIONED/SEARCHED FOR AN HOUR! Remember, we were then moved to a new “safe” area at this time and damning comments were made by a law enforcement officer(see above).
4. “This information is consistent with eyewitness accounts”. Not mine Mr. Smith.
5. “He accepts full responsibility because he did not access the correct report that contained this information.” Mr. Smith, are you sloppy and incompetent or something else? This is the most important story in 8 years and a spokesperson for U.S. Customs just cannot come out in public and make an incorrect statement of this magnitude.
6. “Please accept my apologies . . . “ Where is my apology Mr. Smith? Oh wait, I don’t get one because the purpose of this bogus story was to discredit me…………….
Version 5: I was pretty shocked to see version 5 come out this morning in The Detroit News. It seems that Mr. Smith works really hard at this. Of course it would be much easier to just put out one correct story.
This is my second favorite version besides version 3. Now Mr. Smith claims the following:
1. “My account is a composite of two events at the airport around the time passengers got off flight 253. Both events were unrelated to the suspected terrorist incident.” One of these events involved a passenger from flight 249. Come on Mr. Smith, we both know that our flight was completely “quarantined”. Please see above for a further explanation.
2. “A sniffer dog reacted to agriculture or food products inside the bag of a third man who was off yet another flight”. OK, passengers from other flights DID NOT COMINGLE WITH OUR FLIGHT!
Funnier yet, Mr. Smith is proposing that a dog sniffing for food from another flight was the same as the dog sniffing for a bomb in the carry on bag carried by the orange dressed man on flight 253, who stood 20 feet away from me the entire time until he was taken away. Oh boy is that ever a stretch.
3. “Officials did attempt to segregate flight 253 passengers but the entire baggage area was not cleared”.
Think about this one for a minute. You have the biggest crime scene in 8 years. You don’t know if there are further bombs. Federal law enforcement is involved. You don’t know if there are accomplices. You need to find evidence Yet Mr. Smith proposes that law enforcement was unable to segregate the passengers of Flight 253 and let others trample through our “quarantine area”. Mr. Smith you should become a comedian.
Please answer a few questions for me Mr. Smith before I accept the apology you have yet to give to the passengers of flight 253:
1. Why were the passengers of flight 253 detained on a plane for 20 minutes not knowing if there was another bomb on the plane, in the cargo hold, or on another passenger after the “terrorist” had admitted that he had an explosive device in his pocket to a flight attendant, tried to detonate it, and set our plane on fire? Was it gross incompetence or something else?
2. Why were the passengers of flight 253 taken WITH their carry on bags and held with them for one hour before bomb sniffing dogs arrived in the baggage claim area of the terminal, all the while not knowing if any of the bags contained a bomb? Was it gross incompetence or something else? Did law enforcement intentionally risk the ENITRE AIRPORT TERMINAL TO AN EXPLOSIVE DEVICE or was it something else?
3. Why did you indicate to a well respected reporter that our carry on bags were searched ON THE PLANE, when in fact they were never searched (except for sniffer dogs), until she told you that my wife and I adamantly disputed your claim? Then you suddenly changed the official position to, yes, the carry on bags were not searched? (This was relayed to me in confidence)
Mr. Smith, I think if you honestly answer the few questions above, we will have our answer as to why the “official” position regarding the man in orange has changed 5 times. I suspect that all of the above is tied in together. Draw your own conclusion.
By the way, I look forward to version six of the official story.
I am not going away.
---A concerned American and a victim on multiple fronts, Kurt Haskell