- The Washington Times - Friday, February 7, 2003

Federal authorities yesterday grounded three airline flights around the country because of suspicious activity among passengers, including three men who were detained after a flight that ended in Baltimore.
An FBI spokesman declined to identify or disclose the nationalities of the men, who were questioned for about three hours and then released without being charged.
"We don't want people to become narrowly focused on one certain type of people or group," said Barry Maddox, spokesman for the FBI's Baltimore office.
"They were very cooperative and very concerned as to why they were picked out," he said, adding that the men were in their late 20s.
The three were on Northwest Airlines Flight 1134, which left Detroit at 6:48 a.m. and arrived at Baltimore-Washington International Airport at 8:06 a.m. The crew reported that the men were behaving suspiciously, Mr. Maddox said. He declined to elaborate, saying he did not want to give hints to potential terrorists about how to appear inconspicuous.
The Associated Press reported that unnamed sources said the three men were acting nervous, changing seats and speaking a foreign language during the flight.
When passengers alerted crew members to the behavior, the pilot radioed air traffic control. The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) alerted the North American Aerospace Defense Command, which dispatched two F-16 fighters from Andrews Air Force Base about 7:55 a.m., said Maj. Barry Venable, spokesman for the command. The jets accompanied the airliner to BWI as a precaution, he said.
The plane landed at BWI and taxied to a remote area, where federal agents apprehended the three men. The 48 passengers were not allowed to deplane for more than an hour while authorities searched the plane, Mr. Maddox said.
Last evening, authorities questioned a woman at BWI who was believed to have breached security at San Francisco's airport.
About 1 p.m., part of a terminal at San Francisco International Airport was evacuated for more than an hour after a woman moved a table out of her way to pass through a gate.
About 10 domestic flights took off in that time, and the airport notified all destination airports, so passengers would be screened when they deplaned.
BWI spokeswoman Melody Miller said the passenger who caused the breach in San Francisco was questioned after the flight landed at BWI about 7 p.m. but could not say how the woman was identified.
Earlier, Northwest Flight 1821 to Mexico City left Detroit at 8:05 a.m. and was diverted to Indianapolis because of a passenger who had to be restrained by fellow passengers, said TSA spokesman Brian Turmail.
The passenger, a Canadian citizen, was "described as being agitated and noncompliant with flight attendants' instructions," and was arrested by federal agents, said Doug Garrison, spokesman for the Indianapolis FBI office. The flight then continued on to Mexico City.
Indiana's U.S. attorney filed a complaint against the man. No details were available last night.
In a fourth incident, American Trans-Air Flight 295, with 90 passengers, returned to the gate at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport about noon without taking off because of a suspicious passenger.
As the plane taxied, a 19-year-old passenger handed a note to a flight attendant that read "fast, average, neat" and asked that it be given to the pilot, said a TSA spokeswoman. The attendant "found the note disturbing and the kid's behavior disturbing" and alerted the pilot.
The pilot, who did not understand the note, brought the plane back to the gate, where police escorted the passenger off the plane.
The passenger told authorities that he was an Air Force Academy cadet and that his note was code that the pilot would have known if he had flown in the Air Force, AP reported. The TSA spokeswoman said the passenger was not an Air Force cadet.
The flight to Chicago's Midway Airport left an hour late without the young man, who was questioned for several hours by police and then released without being charged.

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