Monday, July 07, 2008

Christie Blantchford Experience of Saying "Illegal words" in the Ottawa airport.


Anyway, while waiting for my flight home at the Ottawa airport, I was on my cell talking to my pal Rosie DiManno, the gritty Toronto Star columnist just returned from another trip to Afghanistan, where she travelled the country all on her own but for a young interpreter.

We were meant to figure out the guest list for an upcoming party, but she said, "That's a great trial you've got going there," and off we went, soon discussing our shared frustration with those who persist in believing that youthful goofiness or general haplessness are incompatible with terrorist aims and missions. They never have been with ordinary criminals - that's why most of them get caught most of the time - so why would it be any different with terrorist criminals?

To illustrate this, Rosie mentioned a book she was reading which notes that two of those wanted in the Oct. 12, 2000, attack by an al-Qaeda cell on the USS Cole in the Yemeni port of Aden are also wanted in an earlier unsuccessful attempt to blow up the USS The Sullivans in the same harbour, an attack averted only because the thugs - oh, those goofy kids! - overloaded their small boat such that it sank.

According to a U.S. Department of Justice indictment, Jamal Ahmed Mohammed Ali al-Badawi and Fahd al-Quso were among those who allegedly salvaged their explosives, regrouped, built a better boat - and eureka, less than nine months later, pulled alongside the USS Cole and blew a 40-foot hole in its hull, killing 17 sailors.

In the same vein, I told Rosie about some evidence at the Khawaja trial, particularly the testimony of a key witness, himself a convicted al-Qaeda operative, about the loose connections between the Khawaja group and others who had succeeded - one was a London Tube bomber, and two unnamed others were described as completed a mission in Israel, presumably a suicide bombing.

It was at that point that the Air Canada clerk at Gate 27 approached me.

"Excuse me," he said, "you can't say those words. Those words are illegal."

"What words?" I asked, bewildered, given that by then I'd said probably 2,000 words.

"Suicide bombing," he whispered.

Now, I know of course one is not to make jokes or threats about bombs at airports, and properly so. But I hadn't been doing that, rather recounting some of the public evidence heard that day at a public trial in the nation's capital.

"That's not illegal," I snapped, barely restraining myself from adding "You ninny." Besides, I told him, I was a reporter telling another reporter about my work day, which was true enough.

"Do you want me to call security?" he asked primly. "I'm supposed to call security in these situations."

"You do what you like," I said, talked to Rose a bit longer, then sat down and resumed reading my book.

About 10 minutes later, a fellow passenger warned me that she thought the clerk had called security. I couldn't believe it, and kept reading, and sure enough, within a few minutes, a young woman with a walkie-talkie in her hands (I guess so if I suddenly turned into a human missile she could call for help) asked to speak to me. She'd had a report about "an incident," she said. So I told her through gritted teeth what had happened, she magnanimously agreed it was "not illegal" to say what I'd said, apologized and went on her way.

When we boarded a little later, I asked for the ninny's name. He refused and hissed, "If you make a scene, I'll call the pilot and you won't be flying tonight."

I was so very tempted to tell him to go ahead, but I knew he probably would do it and I wanted badly to get home, so held my tongue. I was quietly praising myself for my steely calm when another passenger remarked, "I didn't know you were an anarchist, Christie."


Anonymous Eric-Vancouver said...

I have nothing against Christie, shes a fine journalist, but why couldn't she just stfu? Its the law that you cannot joke about bombing in an airport. Im not sure if what she said qualifies, but why does she have to make a big case about it. Said person was just trying to do their job, and it appears they were trying to be discreet.

Mon Jul 07, 07:06:00 PM EDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It is indeed the law that you can't joke about something like suicide bombing in an airport, but she was not joking about it, and in case you missed it, the security person agreed that Christie had done nothing wrong.

I am certain Security wrote up a report of the incident however, and should have the low-level martinets' name. Christie should complain to the airport authority so that this clerk can be better trained in what is and is not acceptable behaviour, both for himself and for passengers.

Mon Jul 07, 08:45:00 PM EDT  
Anonymous Eddie Uk said...

Whilst I totally support the security staff at airports, why can't the simply use some common sense. I think this bomb bullshit at airports is getting out of hand. Stop arresting people that whilst in most cases a simple clarification of what they said followed by simple warning would suffice.
Read the following link for a bad example of this.


Sun Aug 10, 05:12:00 AM EDT  

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