...or Did They?
Last month, there was a
rash of high-ranking officials' talking about the dangers posed to
airliners by SAMs -- surface-to-air-missiles. British Airways
suspended service to Saudi Arabia, and said it was considering
fitting its airliners with
anti-missile systems. [That service was reinstated last Friday
--ed.] Australian PM John Howard even said publicly that such
missiles were more of a danger to airliners than
hijackers. Just what precipitated those, and similar,
announcements was unknown... until now.
Last month, the Saudi police intercepted a truckload of
missiles, near Jeddah. They were in an enclosed car-carrier
trailer; and their discovery was made, we're told, by chance.
The BBC said the shipment came from Yemen; but no one will
say whose missiles -- Russian, Chinese, French, or American --
they were. No one is saying whether they were shoulder-launched
items, or more-sophisticated designs. The BBC's Frank Gardner
reported, "Documents were found in a car revealing that members had
mapped out the exact location of checkpoints and other security
Just what the connection
to the British Airways suspension of flights to Riyadh had with the
discovery was, is not being discussed openly; and it is unknown
whether other airlines may have received a heads-up on the
missiles' discovery, or not.
Interestingly, within hours, the BBC's official site seemed
to have pulled Gardner's story, and in its place was a
retraction. Apparently, Gardner must have made up the whole thing,
including the references to "confirmation by both British and Saudi
We wanted the real truth, so of course we called our
own Transportation Security Administration. Our call to the TSA's
Lauren Stover resulted in a referral to Brian Roehrkasse, at the
Department of Homeland Security, whose answering machine took our
questions yesterday morning. He never returned the call.