Lots of Pinging Going On This Summer

There is an awful lot of pinging the system going on right now. Testing defenses? Dry runs? I know some of you out there think the whole al Qaeda thing has been blown out of proportion. Well, this administration’s incompetence in virtually every matter has made us less safe to the real threats. One’s similar to what happened today. This from Stratfor:

Twelve passengers from a Northwest Airlines flight from Amsterdam, Netherlands, to Mumbai, India, were arrested Aug. 23, Dutch TV reported. The plane requested to return to Schiphol Airport under escort after the crew noticed some of the passengers acting suspiciously. U.S. air marshals were aboard the flight, which landed safely.

And this from the Seattle Times:

Northwest Flight NW0042 was escorted back by two F-16s after crew members reported several passengers were acting suspiciously, the Defense Ministry said earlier.

Several passengers on Northwest Airlines Flight NW0042 to Bombay were taken off the plane for questioning after it landed safely, airport spokeswoman Pamela Kuypers said. Others were questioned at the gate.

The Counterterrorism Blog says all 12 were using their cell phones after takeoff. I’ve flown NW Flight 0042 before and that kind of behavior would have set me on edge as well.

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Sean Paul Kelley

Traveler of the (real) Silk Road, scholar and historian, photographer and writer - founder of The Agonist.

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  • About how this date (Aug. 22) was supposed to be significant as a “terror” date. Not only because of the nuclear announcement which was delivered by Iran, but also because the date has some significance in Shi’a Islamic history.

    There was some indication that the authorities were taking the chatter seriously, and that may be the reason why these fellows were nabbed up. I dunno. I reckon lots of people come out of Amsterdam acting suspiciously, though.. I leaning towards overreaction.

  • If no one is supposed to use their cell phones why are passengers allowed to carry them on their person? Why wouldn’t security make people put their cell phones in their baggage? If lipstick and mascara isn’t allowed, it seems preposterous that cell phones are. Is there no uniformity about items that are banned from one airport to another?

    Second question: Did the people who used their cellphones realize they weren’t supposed to and that other passengers and flight crew would regard their behaviour as ‘suspicious’?

    Third question: What was different about these particular passengers that they weren’t aware this was a ‘suspicious’ activity?

    Fourth question: Did any member of the crew ask any of the passengers that were using their phones, why it was they felt they needed to use their phones while the flight was underway? If not, why not? Seems a logical thing to ask rather than call the flight deck and tell the flight crew, passengers were engaged in using them.

    Fifth question: Was there any other activity by passengers on the flgith that was regarded as ‘suspicious’? Or was using cell phones the sole criteria for turning the plane around, and requesting an escort of F16’s?

    Sixth question: Were the people who undid their seat belts, the same people who used their phones? What’s suspicious about undoing your seat belt before the light says you can? Were the people who undid them fat? Did any member of the flight crew ask the passengers why they had unfastened their belts? Was there announcement over the public address system, “Please do not unfasten your belt until the light goes off! “We request that for passenger safety.”

    12 arrests out of a total of 149 is a very high number of the entire passenger list??? Were the passengers drunk or mentally ill patients bring transported from one hospital to another?

  • The ‘security’ measures are primarily designed to keep passengers calm and docile. I can’t really come up with other plausible explanations for the way things are done at US airports. AFAIK passengers are allowed to use their cell phones until the cabin door closes, and then when the cabin door opens.

    The benefit of proscribing cell phone use is questionable at best, especially considering that passengers are still allowed to use a variety of other electronic devices such as laptops and ipods.

  • that laptops, cellphones and ipods are routinely carried on airplanes when lipstick, perfume, and soft drinks are banned?

    It isn’t the passengers that are insane it’s US security. Why don’t Americans laugh at their tomfoolery? We have on several occassions (not to their faces; that would be stupid on our part), but privately we do.

  • using a cell phone while in flight in a big no-no, in any country. It was also how the 9/11 plotters communicated when they carried out their attacks. Crew members should not have to ask people to not use their phones while in flight. They simply demand that the phones be hung up. Period.

  • But y’all do realize that this flight was out of Amsterdam, right?

    American security had very little to do with this incident.

  • U.S. Airport security is something between a travesty and a farce.

    In practice, the ‘increased screening’ has decreased security for passengers since TSA baggage inspectors can easily open and steal things from luggage.

  • I’ll correct myself. I spoke too soon. This was the NW flight to Mumbai. KLM also has a route to Mumbai out of Schiphol, I believe, but this one was clearly secured by Americans.

  • …from Minneapolis-St. Paul on an A330-300 – it continues from Amsterdam on a DC-10-30. I don’t know whether it has cabotage in Amsterdam or not, but certainly some of the folks on the originating leg must stop in Amsterdam, given that the DC-10 seats 25 fewer pax (given these figures, I’d guess that it does have cabotage [the right to pick up passengers in Amsterdam and take them to Mumbai]). I’d guess the security of both countries is implicated.

    “We declared war on terror, it’s not even a noun, so, good luck. After we defeat it, I’m sure we’ll take on that bastard ennui.” – Jon Stewart.

  • refused a long time ago to be hostage to stupid ringing device. We don’t have an answering machine on our telephones at home. People just call us again if we’re not home. No way will we buy cellphones!!!

    I had suggested that a flight personnel ask why someone was using a phone because it seemed a better option that calling the flight crew to tell them people were using them that caused the flight crew to turn the aircraft around.

    Yes, it has been a long time since we’ve flown. The last time we went on a holiday we figured we lost an entire day of a ten day holiday standing in one line or another or being herding about because of flight delays and/or trapped in departure parts of airports where food was sold at ridiculously high prices. That could be as much as 20 years ago…refused to ever fly again and we just haven’t!!! We drive everywhere we go. What’s more, we won’t bother to come to the States, if the line ups are too long, or security pulls us in for too many inspections–we refuse to be hassled by devices, rules or people that inconvenience us.

    Travel is meant to be enjoyablable…when it’s not, you choose another way to travel or stay closer to home. Telephones and devices aren’t supposed to intrude on your time, ring when it’s inconvenient. You don’t buy more of them — so you’re inconvenienced or bothered by unwelcome callers, you pitch them away and reclaim the time that is yours. I’ve seen people with cell phones and other devices scrolling through their messages. What is so important that it can’t wait ’til you get to a more conventional phone? Any good paper diary is far superior to lights that flash, buzz and play ridiculous elevator music that is intrusive. Crapola that’s supposed to have twenty functions and doesn’t do any ‘one’ thing exceptionally well.

    We did at one time have CB radios in our cars. We ended up calling each other to tell the other person to pick up a loaf of bread on their way home or talking about some equally inane matter that took up valuable time. Additionally, we had to listen to people with silly usernames. It was a toy with no real use that became an irritant. We don’t own cell phones because people would call us when we’re driving or otherwise occupied. What’s more they cost money for us to be irritated. We value our time, most people don’t. They allow themselves to become slaves to people who call that have no real purpose and that includes useless technology. If we have appointments, we write them down, and get there on time. Our daughter has a blackberry that’s she’s constantly fiddling with entering this, that and other … a calendar that fits in her purse would serve the same function and it doesn’t ring or do anything except have appointments in it.

    People are nuts, we don’t have to join them. We’ll do without passports if it means we have to get our retinas scanned. Lots of places to see that doesn’t invade our privacy–retina scans and fingerprints would be the last straw!!! To hell with the world–we’d prefer to live in the Arctic with the penguins–they don’t carry guns and are pleasant to look at. Far better than yahoos that would kill us. We’d even share our food with them and they don’t have cell phones either–perfect companions for us. Penguins are gentle creatures that have never hurt another sole on the planet–all they want is an ocean to swim in and somewhere to mate and raise their families. People a long time ago, also used to mate, grow their own crops and raise their families. Civilization has lost so very, very much about life and what’s important! Family comes first!

  • There are Americans running the pre-boarding security interviews, and (as stated in the article), American air marshals. However, the baggage is scanned in Schiphols own systems (yes, they do detect binary agents), the checkin and passport security is Dutch, and the guys running around with machine guns in the terminal are also Dutch.

    The Dutch do not take security lightly.

    Unfortunately, as I pointed out in another comment, I think there were some jumpy security apparati around the world today, due to the significance of the date (Aug 22), and Americans on their way to Mumbai may have been among the most jumpy.

  • …this trying to hand cellphones to other passengers sounds a lot like some sort of “pull my finger” approach to hijacking…

    I did note from the CNN images posted of the Dutch F-16s that they are not messing about – some sort of quite large missile (looked like an AMRAAM, but my ID skills are rusty and what I know about Euro missiles could fit in a teacup) on the wingtip rails; I don’t think they trust the Sidewinders to do the job quickly enough by themselves on a large aircraft.

    “We declared war on terror, it’s not even a noun, so, good luck. After we defeat it, I’m sure we’ll take on that bastard ennui.” – Jon Stewart.

  • an entire craftcraft just because someone was ‘suspicious’ about activity or persons on an aircraft in flight. Oops…we shouldn’t have done that! Oh well, we’ll tighten ‘security procedures’ and not do that again. Think the public will learn about that ‘little’ mistake??? Maybe 50 or 100 years down the road…at the time…NO WAY would any country admit to such a horrendous error.

    Produce the evidence or stop profiling and alarming passengers needlessly. Security procedures themselves have become the new terrorism and are placing undue restrictions on the movements of people – just like cell phones intrude on people’s valuable time. There does come a time when cells phone cease to be a convenience and become a burden instead. Security too can fall into that same category. Roll back security and return to the world of sanity before a missile brings down a passenger plane.

  • chose to live without. But many people in the modern world feel that there is little they can live without. Yours is an old fashioned idea that really needs to come back into fashion. 🙂

  • I was involved with computers (central processing units CPU’s) in 1969 when computers took up large rooms, card readers (input devices) were 5′ long x 5″ high x 3′ wide. Computers (CPU’s) were a bit larger and (output devices) printers were 6′ long x 5′ high x 4′ wide. I too was fascinated by them and was introduced to programming languages (Fortran IV, Assembler (1’s and 0’s), and a couple of others.

    I’m not an expert by any means, and have owned several personal computers starting with a 286, 386, 486. The new (disk operating system, DOS) operating system that Microsoft developed turned computers from being instruments for specialists to everyday users. Languages and operating systems became user friendly and allowed casual users to operate home systems with very little knowledge about how computers actually work (1’s and 0’s)…that hasn’t changed. It’s the sophistication that increased so people no longer have contact with how computers actually work. Computers do exactly what they’re programmed to do, nothing more and nothing less.

    Technology has to be placed in reference to the usefullness to the person. Technology must not dominate the person.

    That’s not being old fashioned–it’s just being practical and knowing the rudiments of computers and growing up with the advances that have been made in my time. Sure I had an enormous telephone that hung on a wall that had a party line…operators were engaged to speak long distance or for information. My old phone number from being a child was General 98416. No idea why that ancient number has stuck in my memory–I suppose it has been a reminder of how far technology has advanced.

    Technology has limits–the brains of people aren’t as confined. It’s people, their marvellous brains that improve technology. Computers have become instruments to use akin to the abacus and rulers and the marvellous Arabic numbering system. The Abacus wasn’t replaced–it’s still used in many countries by people who are very skilled with manipulating the beads. Similarly rulers haven’t been replaced.

    You can safely throw away old wall-mounted telephones, but not the Abacus, the ruler, a piece of paper and pencil, and the Arabic numbering system.

    Grow with technology, but don’t let technology become the master. Technology serves mankind, not the other way ’round. Examine carefully the technology you use on an everyday basis.

  • They’re just like regular phones, but more convenient (and also more pricey…). I use mine maybe two or three times per day for about 5 – 10 minutes total, though sometimes I’ll have really long calls (maybe once per week at the most). The key is also to not pick up unless you want to. If it starts ringing and you’re inconvenienced (or just don’t want to talk), you can simply press a button to forward the call to voice mail. My phone is designed so that I don’t even have to take it out of my pocket to do this… I just feel for the large button on the side and press it. Sometimes you can catch it before the second ring. You can also do what my mom does and keep your cell phone off until you want to talk to someone and check any missed calls.

    Honestly, I think the problem is that most people who own cell phones don’t know how to use them. They leave the ring on its max volume, scream into the phone in public, talk while driving, etc.

    And they’re hugely convenient when travelling in a group with multiple cars or when at a large event with crowds of people. A quick “Where are you?” call can save you a lot of time locating your friends or family.

    But I will add that I’m pretty disgusted with the amount of time that a lot of teenagers spend on their cell phones now. I’m 24 and live in the US, so I missed a lot of the cell phone craze for that age group. But now I see them walking around everywhere with their ears glued to the phone… I don’t think that’s healthy.

    I tried those electronic organizers (Blackberry, etc.) and agree with you. They’re generally a waste of money at this point.

    “Travel is meant to be enjoyablable…when it’s not, you choose another way to travel or stay closer to home.”

    I actually have a thing about not bringing a camera while on vacation. It’s better to remember the trip for yourself than to go somewhere, search for great shots, and then relive the trip vicariously through those later on. Although taking pictures for your kids to see later in their lives has some merit…

  • AMRAAM on the wingtips and Sidewinders under the wings. As you say, they weren’t fooling around.

    I think it’s quite indicative, though, that they haven’t increased the threat level at Schipol….

  • … it baffles me why liquids are banned on planes now but personal electronics and cell phones are still permitted. That said, my cell phone actually has an “Airplane Mode” where I can shut off the phone part of my phone but still use applications on the device. When crossing time zones, the clock doesn’t update until “Airplane Mode” is turned off and the phone can get a signal again. I’ve seen this option on a number of phone models.

    I’m speculating here, but I don’t think when someone is detonating a bomb with a cell phone, they actually call a person and hold a conversation. How would a flight assistant or Air Marshall know if my phone was in “Airplane Mode” or not? Why would the cell phone industry create this feature? Why are cell phones permitted on planes at all?

    Have to admit I’m curious about what else will come from this news report.

  • was from Hallfax, NS to Newark on Continental. When I got to security and started to empty out my pockets I realized I had a cigarette lighter in the (verbotten by the TSA) he Canadian seccrity guy said “that’s not our rule” and waived me through.

  • the Ascension of Mohammed. A public holiday here in Indonesia (actually on 21st). We get to celebrate Islamic, Christian and Hindu holy days as public holidays, which means we get a few…

  • when I went on trips, but then I went on a trip with a friend and he took pictures and I didn’t. A few years later I saw the photos and realized I’d been in error not taking photos whilst on vacation.

    I rarely answer my cell phone. Just ask my wife. It’s easier for her to email me sometimes. LOL. I hate phone and prefer email. That way I can address isues I want to and ignore the one I don’t want to deal with. LOL.

  • The reason that cellphones, laptops, Blackberries, PDAs and the like are allowed on planes, when lipstick and baby milk are not – Business.

    Corporate money is what keeps the airlines going, and if business can’t continue in flight, then these corporations stand to lose a lot of money.

    My theory, especially after the ‘terror plot’ fiasco recently played out in the UK, is that big business lobbied the government and threatened them with huge compensation claims if they were not allowed to carry their ‘business tools’ with them on a plane.

    I can think of no other logical reason for these devices to be allowed in the cabin of an aircraft while the ‘risk’ of a terrorist attack is so high.

    Unless of course there is no risk of a terror attack, and our governments are just trying to keep us all just scared enough that we’ll accept their reasons for going to war with Iran. Will see the logic behind 90 day detention without charge, and house arrest for people deemed to be dangerous by our oh so reliable police and intelligence services. Will understand the need for compulsory biometric ID cards, and will accept that owning a map of Afghanistan and a copy of The Anarchists Cookbook makes you a terrorist, but only if you are a Muslim.

    All the nonsense that has happened over the past few days is exactly what the likes of Osama bin Laden wants. People ARE terrified, but not by any concrete provable threat, not by an actual event, but by what our own governments are telling us in order for them to push forward their own agendas.

    Osama must be sitting in his cave and laughing.

  • As I understand, it also corresponds with the day Jerusalem fell to the Islamic warrior Saladin, in 1187. Nasrallah has been likened to Saladin among the faithful, apparantly.

  • How much would you pay for a case of chronic bronchitis? How many dollars are hunchback whales worth? Frank Ackerman and Lisa Heinzerling discuss the sordid world of cost-benefit analysis.

    [ Interview by Carrie McLaren ]

    For years, the cell phone industry has harbored a dirty little secret: talking on a cell phone while driving is about as dangerous as driving drunk. Even the pro-business Harvard Center for Risk Analysis recently estimated that the use of cell phones by drivers may result in approximately 2,600 deaths and 330,000 injuries each year. Yet attempts to ban cell phone use in cars in the U.S. have as of yet proved feckless. New York and several other municipalities forbid drivers to use handheld phones but allow “hands-free” versions, which, research shows, aren’t any less dangerous.

    In their excellent new book Priceless: On Knowing the Price of Everything and the Value of Nothing (New Press, 2004), Frank Ackerman and Lisa Heinzerling show how the cell phone industry has managed to escape regulation for so long: by enlisting some of the country’s most influential economists to perform cost-benefit analyses.

    In the case of cell phones, cost-benefit analysis works like this: economists assign dollar amounts to the lives of people killed annually in cell-phone–related car crashes, then compare that number to the amount of money that people behind the wheel spend on cell phones. Since, by the economists’ calculations, the money spent on cell phones is greater than the “value” of those human lives, they’ve concluded that cell phone use in cars shouldn’t be regulated.

    How do you put a price tag on a human life, you ask? Number-crunchers at think tanks such as the Harvard Center for Risk Analysis, the AEI-Brookings Joint Center for Regulatory Studies, and the Cato Institute have for the most part focused on workplace data. Dangerous jobs at construction sites, nuclear plants, and coal mines tend to pay more than low-risk ones; economists maintain that this wage difference indicates the price people are willing to pay to avoid death. Through some fancy math involving comparing risks to wages, that works out to be about $5 to $6 million.



  • But the twelfth Imam isn’t part of the tradition, so no worries in August. In any case, jewish holidays may have more significance to the typical muslim.

  • The plane took off this morning at 9am, delayed 22 hours and without the 12 passengers who were removed. The men who were removed may be held up to three days without being charged (in extraordinary circumstances). Nobody has an official statement about what happened, but there seems to been a birthday celebration involved.

    No additional security measures have been implemented at Schiphol.

    A passengers account (he was seated in business class, though. So likely saw very little.

  • will security measures include IQ tests before passengers are allowed into departure areas and bans put on birthday celebrations?

    Wouldn’t a consistent policy about cell phone policy on aircraft and signs indicating where they can’t be used make more sense? Signs can include other languages. Or just make passengers leave them in their luggage. This is not the fault of the passengers–it is the fault of a lax security system for not informing people about what is allowed and what isn’t as well as flight crews who aren’t well trained in how to tell passengers what is required without creating panic.

  • if moving around before the seatbelt sign was off, and cell phone use in flight, always ended up with diverted flights, a lot of flights I’ve been on would’ve been diverted. However, the offenders in those cases weren’t Muslims/Arabs/Asians, which seems to make the difference.

  • The Dutch Justice Minister has now stated that the “grounding of the US NorthWest flight NW 42, from Washington to Mumbai via Amsterdam is not terrorism-related”.

  • Except that nearly everyone on that flight is local. There’s sikhs, muslims, and christians (although given that the pre-boarding interviews were conducted by Americans, this aspect was not identified, leading to further suspicion) and nearly everyone is of Indian/Asian lineage.

  • Asian MEP says he was ‘treated like a terrorist while travelling’


    In these times you have to be an optimist to open your eyes when you awake in the morning. ~ Carl Sandburg

  • although it seems in this case the (over-)reaction came from the flight crew and marshals. Every story that I’ve seen on this mentioned that some had beards, some wore shalwar kameez… as if that was reason enough to be suspicious of them.

  • here in the largest Muslim nation on the planet both Easter and Xmas have quite an accepted significance. It always amuses me to see the Dept Stores changing their Idul Fitri decorations for Xmas decorations.

    I would imagine too, that the Jewish holidays have little signifigance to the many millions of Muslims in much of the rest of Asia.

  • I haven’t seen it mentioned, but cell phones nowadays do more than just place calls. Some have cameras and hold photos and videos, some have Palm style features, games, mp3 players, all sorts of things.

    I’m going out on a limb here, these guys had been to a birthay party, as mentioned above, and they all took some great videos and photos with their phones.

    They were all sharing and talking about it and perhaps others who were uncomfortable with them passing phones around and ‘using’ them made comments, the ‘cell phone’ gang probably teased these people. Bunch of damn paranoids…

    End of story. I haven’t read anything to say this, just the thread above, but it seems most likely to me right now.


  • often uses her iPaq to play games in the air and has been told many a time to turn her phone off by zealous inflight staff. That it has a flight mode simply seems to confuse them. I’ve been told to put away my old Palm (no phone/ bluetooth etc) several times and on Qantas told that it was a phone, as per their training, I simply didn’t know how to use the thing. We had words…

  • First vacation hubby had borrowed his Father’s. It was a very complicated camera and we hadn’t realized the cap was on the lens. All the film we took was black.

    Second holiday: Made sure we took the cap off the lens. Took the film to be developed–the film was defective. Result: No pictures.

    Third holiday: Forgot to put the camera in our luggage. Did pack the film.

    Those three…we had to put in our book of memories, which was fine by us.

    Fourth holiday: By then, digital had been invented and we did get some pictures. We make sure to include people when we take pictures because without familiar faces, we might as well be looking at much better ones in National Geographic.

    Family photographs are mostly of interest to the people who actually were there and took the original pics. Secondary use is for close relatives. Photographs taken by amatuers are useful to supplement family memoirs of stories that are told and re-told. Or they can be used on the Internet as information for fellow travellers. Very limited value as pieces or art.

    Professional photographers have much better cameras which take exceptionally high quality pictues. Details don’t get lost in either digital or still photographs. Exceptional photographers are also acquainted with software that enhances or corrects minor mistakes that were made at the time the button was pressed.

    If you’re interested in leaving something for family posterity…do include pictures and writings of your life. There usually is a family historian within families that will have an interest in genelogy. (Recording and tracing of roots) Do them a favour and leave lots of material for them to read and devour with their eyes. Videos are great too transferred to CD’s, enhanced with music. Remember stories you were told by older relatives and include them too. Try to include pictures of their times in your meanderings about your life. Fine details about people in your family are often lost because no one took the time to write them down and organize them in a coherent, logical, and pleasing format.

  • The english news reports are now calling it a stag party.

    A stag party in Amsterdam… I can understand how there could be pictures, and perhaps even a followup SMS, or two.

    Sounds kinda fun, actually.

    Too bad they had such a good time.

  • But not stag and doe? It’s my understanding this group of fun-loving people included both genders. Were this group from the red light district of Amsterdam and prepared to take off their clothes and engage in … ? Did they have some of their wacky tabacky with them…that would really upset US security. Silly suggestion…everyone knows, there is no smoking on aircraft! 🙂 Smoking would be the ultimate sin, especially mood cigaretttes that often result in unrestrainable giggling–mere possession can result in jail time!

  • India protests Dutch handling of diverted flight

    New Delhi — India on Friday lodged a strong protest with the Netherlands at the way it handled Indian passengers from a Bombay-bound flight that returned to Amsterdam shortly after takeoff, a foreign ministry spokesman said.


    The incident underscores jitters in the airline industry in the weeks since British police revealed an alleged plot to blow up several U.S.-bound airliners simultaneously using bombs crafted from ordinary consumer goods.

  • the guys running around with machine guns in the terminal are also Dutch.

    I suppose there are none running with machine guns. That would be a little bit too Soviet Union style in Europe.

    — Happy fishing in ocean of noise!

  • How would a flight assistant or Air Marshall know if my phone was in “Airplane Mode” or not?

    By simulating a base station they could but they do not bother to check. The disturbances caused by the phones are rather small. Especially if nobody is speaking to the phone.

    Directing the calls via on board base station to a satellite is techinically possible.

    Why would the cell phone industry create this feature?

    So that you could play the java games in your phone during the flight.

    Why are cell phones permitted on planes at all?

    You can report lost luggage after arrival with it.

    — Happy fishing in ocean of noise!

  • The armed security at Schiphol carries automatic rifles. Loaded and held at ready. You can find testimonials from people who have actually spoken to the guards as they were waiting for their flights.

  • There has been military police looking after *cargo* after the robbery since 2005. I don’t know how visible they are to public.

    — Happy fishing in ocean of noise!

  • LINK

    I walked near the H area, was asked by a machine gun armed security guy about my interest while I´am sitting near a gate

    There are other accounts out there as well. These fellows (never seen a woman in the role) appear to be members of the military on guard, as opposed to rental security or police. I’ve flown through Schiphol many times and they’re always there.

  • …been quite a number of heavily armed security forces in European airports at various points. Even pre-9/11 things I’ve seen with my own eyes in European airports include: British armed police officers with MP-5 carbines [semi-auto trigger group]; French Gendarmerie Nationale officers accompanied by French Army NCOs armed with FAMAS assault rifles; Italian Carabineri armed with Beretta M12s; and Germans [Border Police, I believe, but maybe Army] armed with MP-5s and G-3s (and an IFV!). I won’t even get into the yahoos in Greece and Spain, except to say that I consider myself lucky not to have been shot by accident.

    Responsibility for airport security at Schiphol appears to rest with the Royal Netherlands Marechausse, which is their version of the Gendarmerie, serving both as military police and a civil paramilitary police force. They look to field the MP-5 as one of their duty weapons and I’d be quite unsurprised to find it in use in this role.

    “We declared war on terror, it’s not even a noun, so, good luck. After we defeat it, I’m sure we’ll take on that bastard ennui.” – Jon Stewart.

  • Gatwick and Charles de Gaulle, both before and after 9/11. CRS with – it might have been Mat-49 SMGs if I recall – was sometimes the rule rather than the exception on the Left Bank in Paris. In some periods you actually used to see them more often than beat cops.

    Over the years I lived there in several countries, police carrying a SMG in densely populated areas seemed basically as casually accepted by Europeans as those carrying a pistol are by Americans.

    My personal favorite was basically having to walk in front of the muzzle of a levelled heavy machine gun in the cupola of an armored car to go to work every day in Spain. I was always vaguely hopeful that there would be no accidental car backfires just as I was passing.

    Some of this stuff is very much “yesterday’s headlines” to Europeans. One of my European friends had been in the airport in Rome during the terrorist attack in ’85. She told me the story in explanation once she awakened from a dead faint caused by some American students unexpectedly letting off some Fourth of July firecrackers near us in Zurich.

    Europe long ago figured out the lesson that the Bush Administration apparently learned ass-backwards: interfere in foreign cultures enough and inevitably the people of those cultures will eventually say “we’ll fight them over there so we don’t have to fight them over here”.

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