Kevin Drum: Flight 924 and crisis PR

From Drum’s Political Animal blog @ Washington Monthly:

FLIGHT 924 UPDATE….Mark Schlueb of the Orlando Sentinel follows up today on the question I asked yesterday: what did Rigoberto Alpizar really say as he was running off Flight 924 on Wednesday?

A Miami-Dade police spokeswoman said Thursday that multiple witnesses reported that the 44-year-old was yelling that he had a bomb as he made his way down the aisle with a backpack slung across his chest. Later, the agency’s chief of investigations insisted that Alpizar was yelling about a bomb but declined to say whether he was on the plane at the time.

Seven passengers interviewed by the Orlando Sentinel ? seated in both the front and rear of the main passenger cabin ? said Alpizar was silent as he ran past them on his way to the exit. One thought he had taken the wrong flight. Another thought he was going to throw up.

“I can tell you, he never said a thing in that airplane. He never called out he had a bomb,” said Orlando architect Jorge A. Borrelli, who helped comfort Alpizar’s wife after the gunfire. “He never said a word from the point he passed me at Row 9….He did not say a word to anybody.”

Two teens seated in Row 26 agreed. So did Jorge Figueroa, a power-plant operator from Lakeland seated a few rows behind first class.

“He wasn’t saying anything; he was just running,” Figueroa said. “I said to myself, ‘It is probably a person who took the wrong plane.’ “

And Drum concludes:

To be clear: the air marshals who shot Alpizar may have reacted properly. Maybe he started yelling about a bomb after he got onto the jetway. But they don’t do their own case any good when they seemingly decline to tell us the straight truth about exactly what happened and why Alpizar was being pursued in the first place.

The first law of crisis PR is: talk to the press and tell the truth. If you don’t, people will concoct stories far worse than anything you can imagine. I think the Federal Air Marshal Service needs some lessons in this.

Is the U.S. shrugging off American hostages in Iraq?

American Hostage
The report of an American hostage killed Thursday, if confirmed, represents the first foreign hostage killed in Iraq in four months and the first American in over a year.

Who is this reportedly slain hostage? NBC affiliate KTUU in Anchorage, Alaska reported Wednesday:

Family members have confirmed that the American hostage on a video released Tuesday is, in fact, Ronald Schulz of Eagle River.

Schulz grew up a farm boy in North Dakota and later became a marine, according to Thursday night’s KTUU news, which included footage of his family members at a press conference:

?Our family is aware that the Iraqi people have concerns regarding the U.S. government presence in their country. However, murdering Ron will not solve these issues,? said Julie Schulz, Ron Schulz?s sister.

It appears that Schulz, an industrial electrician, purchased a round trip ticket from Anchorage to Amman, Jordan, where some believed that he was to marry, others were unsure whether the trip was for business or pleasure, according to KTUU.
family of Ronald Schulz

While the kidnapping of Schulz is confirmed, Thursday’s claim that he was murdered was posted on an Islamic militant website as reported by CTV:

“[T]he American security consultant for the Housing Ministry was killed after the end of the deadline set to respond to the Islamic Army’s demands.”

The U.S. government squelched the claims immediately, and it rotated to the back of most news round-ups.
Continue reading “Is the U.S. shrugging off American hostages in Iraq?”

U.S. bars Red Cross from visiting detainees

BBCNews reports:

The US has admitted for the first time that it has not given the Red Cross access to all detainees in its custody.

The state department’s top legal adviser, John Bellinger, made the admission but gave no details about where such prisoners were held.

Correspondents say the revelation is likely to increase suspicion that the CIA has been operating secret prisons outside international oversight.

Video report at streaming at the BBC

In past visits to detainees in Iraq the Red Cross confirmed treatment “tantamount to torture,” and authorities were pressed to admit that 70 to 90 percent of Iraqi detainees had been arrested by mistake.

read: Sidney Blumenthal’s “Condi’s Trail of Lies” Salon column (free Spiegel online mirror)