taken off a plane for appearance

Tah - posted on 09/13/2011 ( 4 moms have responded )




Shoshana Hebshi, Airline Passenger, Says She Was Strip-Searched Over Her 'Appearance'

This photo supplied by Shoshana Hebshi was taken Tuesday, Sept. 13, 2011.

By JEFF KAROUB 09/13/11 10:58 PM ET

stumble DETROIT -- An Ohio woman said Tuesday that she endured nearly four hours in police custody that included being forced off an airplane in handcuffs, strip-searched and interrogated at Detroit's airport on the 10th anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks – all, she believes, because of her Middle Eastern appearance.

Shoshana Hebshi, 35, told The Associated Press she was one of three people removed from a Denver-to-Detroit Frontier Airlines flight after landing Sunday afternoon. Authorities say fighter jets escorted the plane after its crew reported that two people were spending a long time in a bathroom – the two men sitting next to Hebshi in the 12th row.

Hebshi said she didn't notice how many times the men went to the bathroom. "I wasn't keeping track," she said.

"I really wasn't paying attention," said Hebshi, a freelance writer, editor and stay-at-home mother of twin six-year-old boys who lives in a suburb of Toledo, Ohio. "I was minding my own business – sleeping, reading, playing on my phone."

The FBI has said the three didn't know each other. One man felt ill and got up to use the restroom and another man in the same row also left his seat to go to the bathroom. The FBI said they never were inside together.

Hebshi has written extensively on her blog about the incident, saying she felt "violated, humiliated and sure that I was being taken from the plane simply because of my appearance."

Hebshi, who describes herself as half-Arabic, half-Jewish with a dark complexion, told the AP after they landed, she noticed police first surrounding, then storming the plane. She said she was surprised when they stopped at her row and ordered her and the men to get up.

Her Twitter posts from Sunday bear that out. At one point, she wrote: "A little concerned about this situation. Plane moved away from terminal surrounded by cops. Crew is mum. Passengers can't get up."

Later she wrote, "I see stairs coming our way...yay!" Her last post said, "Majorly armed cops coming aboard."

It's then that she says the officers ordered her and the men, whom she described as Indian, to get up.

She said she was patted down and taken by car to a holding cell. A uniformed female officer eventually came in and told Hebshi to take off her clothes.

After the strip search, another officer who identified herself as a Homeland Security agent led Hebshi to another room, Hebshi said. There, a man who identified himself as an FBI agent asked her a series of questions while a female agent took notes, Hebshi said.

Hebshi said that when she asked what was going on, the male agent told her someone on the plane reported that she and the men on her row were "conducting suspicious activity."

FBI spokeswoman Sandra Berchtold said the three passengers were questioned but not arrested before the FBI determined there was no reason to suspect or hold them. She also said FBI agents who questioned the passengers were not involved in any strip searches.

"We received a report of suspicious activity on that particular plane," Berchtold said. "We did not arrest ... these passengers. ... We didn't direct anybody to arrest them."

Airport police are under the supervision of the Wayne County Airport Authority, which operates Detroit Metropolitan Airport.

In an email to the AP, agency spokesman Scott Wintner said airport police "responded appropriately by following protocol and treating everyone involved with respect and dignity. "

Hebshi said that finally, after being fingerprinted and allowed to call her husband, she was told she and the men were being released and that nothing suspicious was found on the plane. She said an official apologized and thanked her for understanding and cooperating.

Hebshi said she received another call of apology from an FBI agent Monday, before she wrote her blog post.

"I can understand they were just doing their job," she told the AP. "My beef is with these laws and regulations that are so hypersensitive. ... Even if you're an innocent bystander, you have no rights."

AP left email and phone messages seeking comment Tuesday night with Frontier.

The flight was one of two for which fighter jets were scrambled Sunday after crews reported suspicious activity on the 10th anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, officials said. In both cases, it involved bathroom use. In neither case did authorities find anything to substantiate the suspicions.

On American Airlines flight 34 from Los Angeles, three passengers who made repeated trips to the bathroom were cleared after the plane safely landed at New York's Kennedy Airport.

Also Sunday, a GoJet Airlines flight bound for Washington was still on the runway in St. Louis when the pilot returned the aircraft to the gate and requested all passengers be re-screened after crew found paper towels stuffed in a toilet, according to a United Airlines spokesman. GoJet is a regional carrier for United.


Associated Press reporter David N. Goodman in Detroit contributed to this story.



was she treated unfairly??


Jane - posted on 09/15/2011




"Plus I think we need to give the Bush bashing a rest."

This a country of laws. If you don't like the laws you a) need to work on changing them and b) be aware of the history of the laws in question so you won't elect folks who will keep those laws going. It isn't bashing anyone to remind folks that it was Bush and the conservative Republicans who were responsible for these laws. Many of those same Republicans are still in office and fighting to keep things as they are.


View replies by

[deleted account]

Well then you can blame me too. I voted for Bush and have absolutely no regret in doing so, even now. I vote Republican and most likely will always because of my beliefs, pro-life and pro-right to keep and bear arms. And don't lump me in with those psychotic teapartyers. Not all Republicans are teabaggers just as all Democrats are not all liberals.

[deleted account]

I feel the way she was treated was completely unfair. Obviously someone totally freaked and made such a huge stink and grossly over exagerated the situation because they are prejudice. For them to go to that extent I am thinking a flight attendant turned them in. Either they were so freaked about having to work on the 10th anniversary the had a lapse in judgement or a passenger freaked so bad it made one of the crew turn it in as a precaution that it snowballed out of control from there.

Plus I think we need to give the Bush bashing a rest. It's getting old. Laws and rules are put into place and many of them are written rather grayly. Some people take it to the extreme and others more lax. I work for the the Navy and all of our procedures are written by our company and the Navy as a joint effort. Most of the policies are not black and white. We all read the procedures differently. It's a real bitch when people don't follow procedure and the Navy knows it to mean one thing and the person in trouble takes it to mean something different. All gets settled in a hearing with the Navy and the company.

Sorry if rambling, been a long day.

Jane - posted on 09/13/2011




Probably she was, but with everybody all very aware of a "credible report of an Al Queda plan to attack on the 10th anniversary of 9/11" the agents probably worried about what might happen if these folks were actually up to no good and were not stopped. No one wants to be responsible for the deaths of another 3000 people. Or even just 1 or 2 or 3.

And for those who don't like the Homeland Security set-up just remember who brought it to us: Dubya, Chaney and the Republicans were the spearheads. Think of THAT the next time you hear someone talking about "Nobama."

OTOH, whoever reported the "suspicious activity" is the one actually at fault, but since no one seems to know who that is or why they did it, we have no idea whether these people really looked suspicious, why anyone thought that they were together just because they were sitting in the same row, or if this is another case of "flying while foreign-looking," a new version of DWB (Driving While Black).

I don't look at all Middle Eastern but rather am a basic WASP type, at least on the outside. Nonetheless I have been given a hard time by a TSA agent for no better reason than he was in a bad mood. The official reason he gave was that I had a fair amount of change in my purse and that was "suspicious." I have kids, I'm in an airport full of vending machines, so of course I have change. That doesn't mean I plan to blow anything up, and it doesn't give him permission to dump everything I own out in an untidy heap, paw through it, refuse to put it back, and then get mad because I couldn't put it back as quickly as he had dumped it out. Fortunately, one of his fellow officers intervened, sent him off on a wild goose chase, and apologized to me.

I think we have to chalk this up to being human. Some humans are stupid, some are prejudiced, some want to make sure to keep everyone safe, and some like to abuse their power. A few are just plain evil. The combination can create some really awkward and unfair situations.

I am always amazed at how little otherwise intelligent and educated people know about others outside their own small groups. The other day we were reading bits of the Old Testament of the Bible and came across a statement about God telling Moses that the people should set aside a Day of Atonement. Even though folks in the room included university professors, teachers, and other well-educated folks, not a one understood what a day of atonement might be, and said they thought maybe the Jews used to have such a day but didn't know if they still did. So I told them about Yom Kippur and explained atonement to them.

I also can't tell you how many times my Indian friends have been thought to be Arabs of some sort.

As long as this sort of thing is publicized and criticized as being wrong and we can speak of it freely, I think we are still on the right track. The time to worry is when these things happen and no one says a thing. Or when anyone who does say something suddenly disappears.

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