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From King Sifax to John Doe: Reporting Suspicious Behavior

From King Sifax to John Doe: Reporting Suspicious Behavior

Author: Annie Jacobsen
Publication: WomensWallStreet
Date: April 18, 2007
URL: http://www.womenswallstreet.com/columns/column.aspx?aid=1205

During a terror raid in Manchester, England, British police officers searched an Al Qaeda member's home and discovered a manual outlining terrorists' tactics for jihad. The manual, available through the Department of Justice's Archive, is particularly interesting in its behind-the-scenes revelations about how terrorists gather intelligence about their enemy and conduct espionage in the enemy's camp.

The manual offers by-example reconnaissance tactics, citing spies doing fieldwork in such diverse situations as the Tel Aviv airport in the 1970's and a British post office during World War I. My favorite is the episode involving ancient Roman spies who got the better of a King named Sifax by using a decoy in the form of a horse.

They [The Romans]…freed one of their horses and started chasing him around the [King's] camp. After they learned about the extent of the [King's] fortifications, they caught the horse.

In other words, because King Sifax mistook the horse for being just a horse the spies were able to figure out how the King's security system worked. According to the Al Qaeda training manual, a little while later the spies returned to the King's camp and burned it to the ground.

I think about King Sifax being duped by that horse every time I read about the flying imams. The flying

imams, in case you don't follow news from the aviation domain, are the six Muslim clerics who acted suspiciously during the boarding process of a November 20, 2006 US Airways flight, were escorted off the plane, missed their flight and subsequently filed a federal lawsuit over it.

The imams' federal lawsuit is particularly cunning in a King-Sifax-and-the-horse kind of way because the suit names the passengers on the flight as defendants, not just the deep-pocketed airlines -- as has been the case in every airline/racial-profiling suit since the enemy flew planes into our buildings and the metaphorical camp burned to the ground.

The cunning part of the lawsuit is summed up in an April 14, Op-Ed piece from the New York Times written by James Zumwalt:

"Some security experts suggest the imams' conduct may have been intended to identify aviation security weaknesses. Their John Doe lawsuit tends to support this theory, as such a complaint can also serve to manipulate our legal system to silence those who might otherwise report suspicious activity."

I am John Doe, in spirit, and I'm also John Doe in reality. I am Annie Jacobsen and three years ago, I saw something on an airplane and I said something about it. I wasn't sued -- but a whole lot of other things happened instead.

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