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Posted at 10:38 PM ET, 04/ 7/2010

Nature of incident on D.C. flight unclear

By Terri Rupar

Updated, 2:35 a.m.

A man aboard a United Airlines flight from Reagan National Airport was taken into custody in Denver on Wednesday night after federal air marshals responded to a passenger causing a disturbance, authorities said.

The exact nature of that incident aboard United Flight 663, which involved a Qatari diplomat, remained unclear early Thursday. News reports, citing unnamed U.S. officials, said the man was trying to sneak a smoke in an onboard bathroom.

Air marshals approached the passenger after he exited a lavatory that smelled smoky, officials said.

No explosives were found on the plane nor traces of explosives on the shoes of the passenger, a U.S. official said. Broadcast networks initially reported that, inside the lavatory, the passenger had attempted to ignite explosives, possibly concealed in his shoes.

Instead, he might have been lighting something in the lavatory, perhaps to cover up a smell, an official said. Another official suggested that the disturbance might have resulted from a “misunderstanding” created by the passenger’s response to marshals’ questioning. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because of the ongoing investigation.

The incident was still under investigation Thursday morning, and Transportation Security Administration spokesman Greg Soule said, “All steps are being taken to ensure the safety of the traveling public.”

President Obama, traveling to Prague aboard Air Force One, was briefed about the incident by National Security Adviser Gen. Jim Jones and National Security Chief of Staff Denis McDonough at 8:50 p.m., said a White House official, speaking on the condition of anonymity.

The Washington Post confirmed that the passenger was Mohammed al-Madadi, whom the State Department lists as the third secretary at the Embassy of Qatar, on M Street NW. Madadi has been in Washington since at least 2007, according to his online biography at LinkedIn.com, which states that he pursued a master’s degree in information systems technology at George Washington University.

A security guard at the Qatari Embassy rebuffed a request for comment Wednesday night, saying that officials would not be available until Thursday morning.

The Boeing 757 was carrying 157 passengers and six crew members, a spokesman for United Airlines said.

The United flight, which was bound for Denver, landed without incident shortly before 9 p.m. Eastern time, a half-hour ahead of schedule. Two F-16 fighter jets escorted the plane into the airport, the North American Aerospace Defense Command said.

The incident came three months after a Nigerian man trained by al-Qaeda attempted to blow up a flight to Detroit on Christmas Day using explosives hidden in his underwear. U.S. authorities have since ratcheted up security measures, including beefing up the air marshal ranks.

--Spencer S. Hsu and Clarence Williams

By Terri Rupar  | April 7, 2010; 10:38 PM ET
 
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Comments

My prediction? The wingnuts, led by Fox News, wet their pants, dive under their beds, cry WOLF!, scream, clutch their pearls, blama Obama and Pelosi, and then find out that it was a young guy who may or may not have been smoking in the airplane restroom who smarted off to the U.S. marshal on the airplane. After finding that out, the wingnuts, led by Fox News, wet their already damp pants, dive under their beds, clutch their pearls, blame Obama and Pelosi, and go back to lying about health care reform.

Posted by: jlelijah | April 7, 2010 11:04 PM | Report abuse

"something as innocent as smoke a cigarette"?? That's against federal law!

Posted by: julyhorn | April 7, 2010 11:05 PM | Report abuse

CNN says the dude was in the bathroom and smoke appeared. The air marshal got nervous and the guy said he was trying to light his shoes on fire. It sounds like he was sneaking a cig in the bathroom and decided to be a smart a$s to the air marshal - who didn't find it funny. Diplomatic immunity gets to some people.

Posted by: ElrodinTennessee | April 7, 2010 11:06 PM | Report abuse

The all-seeing, all-knowing Bitter Bill is getting a vision. Yes, yes. This man is not a Christian.

Posted by: Bitter_Bill | April 7, 2010 11:09 PM | Report abuse

I am guessing the diplomat made a joke over him smoking in the bathroom and the air marshal was not impressed...it is a federal offense either way.

Here is a web site with his picture. He looks the age to crack a joke on this but then who know....he's the one on the right.

http://washingtonlife.smugmug.com/2010-Photos/EmbassyChefChallenge2010/11557064_N47d8#814005387_uz4Kv

Posted by: mil1 | April 7, 2010 11:17 PM | Report abuse

you forgot to say 'tiny' pearls....

Posted by: SofaKingCool2009 | April 7, 2010 11:20 PM | Report abuse

Yes, smoking on a flight is a federal offense, but not something worth scrambling fighter jets over.

Posted by: simpleton1 | April 7, 2010 11:20 PM | Report abuse

An arrogant swine, that Qatari bàstard. Although we can't throw him in jail because of his diplomatic passport, I hope the cops gave him a good working over to teach him to control his stupid mouth in the country that had thousands killed by Islamic aircraft terrorists. That's the least he deserves.

Posted by: RichardHode | April 7, 2010 11:38 PM | Report abuse

jlelijah:

A couple of screws, up in your head loose. Way to try to be an Independent thinker and blame FoxNews for covering some idiot violating, how many federal laws? Just admit you're an idiot and let's be done with it. Is this what the Dems have succumbed to now that poll after poll after poll shows independents (like me) are fleeing the Dems side? Got to get better than that. Or maybe you can just call me a racist like you Dems call everyone else.

Posted by: schrute | April 7, 2010 11:39 PM | Report abuse

"the wingnuts, led by Fox News, wet their already damp pants, dive under their beds, clutch their pearls, blame Obama and Pelosi, and go back to lying about health care reform."
Darn, I sure do like that description of the wing-nuts. The only thing I would include in the picture is: grabbed their hateful signs.

What a picture!

Posted by: snutty | April 7, 2010 11:42 PM | Report abuse

I just bet he was hoping there would be a big hoo-rah when he was lighting up, then he could say, boo hoo you mean Americans.
I want an apology, not from the U.S. but from this arrogant diplomat.

Posted by: kls1 | April 7, 2010 11:47 PM | Report abuse

I am always amazed at how angry and paranoid the Liberals are. Why are you s afraid of the tea party???

Posted by: smc635 | April 7, 2010 11:47 PM | Report abuse

Given what we know about the risks now, there can be no such thing as just trying to sneak a smnoke in the restroom. Get yourself some nicotine gum if you are that hooked. This guy should have been restrained. I would tell him that if he ever pulls a similar stunt again, he will be expelled from the country and placed on the "no fly" list.

Posted by: bbigtim | April 7, 2010 11:51 PM | Report abuse

If it's good enough for the Man Child on AirFarceOne, why not here ???

Light 'em if you got 'em !!!

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Posted by: itkonlyyourr | April 7, 2010 11:53 PM | Report abuse

We liberals are not afraid of the tea party at all. It is the thought of one of them on the plane who would have smuggled a gun aboard and shot the thing up that scares the heck out of us.

Posted by: gonfrmtn | April 7, 2010 11:54 PM | Report abuse

If he hadn't been middle eastern there would have been no incident. I haven't been on a cross country flight in ten years where some one hasn't snuck a smoke in the head. If caught the usual punishment in confiscation of cigs and a finger shaking.

Posted by: crete | April 8, 2010 12:06 AM | Report abuse

A guy tries to get a smoke and we scramble fighters to intercept the airline. The terrorists have won and we have lost and the joke is on us.

Posted by: fenoy | April 8, 2010 12:11 AM | Report abuse

The only good Arab Qatari is a dead Arab Qatari.

"Thank God, I've never had anything to do with an Arab man. In my opinion, there is something about Arab men that is disgusting to women of good taste."
--Oriana Fallaci, in "The Rage and the Pride," 2002

"The Arabs are one of the least developed cultures. They are typically nomads. Their culture is primitive, and they resent Israel because it's the sole beachhead of modern science and civilization on their continent. When you have civilized men fighting savages, you support the civilized men, no matter who they are."
--Ayn Rand, 1974

Posted by: pat1425 | April 8, 2010 12:12 AM | Report abuse

Doesn't anyone know yet the terrorists have no humor and no irony. it should have been obvious he was no terrorist.

Posted by: siren1 | April 8, 2010 12:12 AM | Report abuse

"...something as innocent as smoke a cigarette."

How soon we forget the reason that we have smoke detectors in airline lavatories. Shortly after most airlines became non-smoking flights, Air Canada Flight 797 departed Dallas-Fort Worth for Toronto on June 2, 1983. While in flight, a passenger went into the lavatory to sneak a smoke. The passenger apparently disposed of the cigarette in the trash bin and a fire started. The fire spread to the space between the inner lining of the plane and the out skin and soon filled the plane with toxic smoke. By the time the cockpit crew got the plane on the ground in an emergency landing, 23 of the 41 passengers had been killed by smoke inhalation. Hopefully, the furtive smoker was among the dead.

This flaming POS needs to be charged with reckless endangerment. If Qatar refuses to waive his diplomatic immunity, something that is routinely done in cases of egregious criminal misconduct, then he and at least one other high-ranking Qatari diplomat should be declared persona non grata and expelled from the US in 48 hours as a diplomatic protest.

This was a much bigger deal than "just smoking a cigarette."

Posted by: hisroc | April 8, 2010 12:17 AM | Report abuse

Better to be safe than sorry.Great credit to the Air Marshals.Good job guys. Keep it up!Certainly not a good idea to try and sneak away to light up anything in an Aircraft......especially if you are from the Middle East... just basic common sense...

Posted by: Obamarama1 | April 8, 2010 12:19 AM | Report abuse

@gonfrmtn -

#1. Tea Partiers would be no more inclined to smuggle a gun on board than a lib.

#2. The possibility of someone blowing up the plane doesn't seem to bother you.

Posted by: waterfrontproperty | April 8, 2010 12:20 AM | Report abuse

It's fascinating that liberals are still in a frenzied rage. It evidently began when Bush won Florida after the U.S. Supreme Court stopped the vote recount that Al Gore wanted.

The libs STILL claim that Bush stole Florida and thereby was fraudulently elected President.

But, the libs somehow conveniently ignore the fact their their own newspaper, the New York Times, told them after an independent media study that Bush would almost certainly have won Florida anyway.

Google N.Y. Times Florida recount and you can read the story.

As for the left tirade against "RW Nuts," they didn't vote for Obama. The Left did. Are you happy with the higher unemployment numbers?

Are you happy that Obama has worsened our relations with some key allies and other countries?

Posted by: vrytix | April 8, 2010 12:24 AM | Report abuse

Another example as to why immunity for diplomats, in cases of clear, deliberate violations of important laws, is questionable. The person responsible for this incident should be at least deported.

Posted by: Aprogressiveindependent | April 8, 2010 12:27 AM | Report abuse

zionists and thier white suprimacist t baggers are having a field day on this talkback. The best solution is total separation between US and all arab countries. cuba is the model. apparantly both arabs and americans despise each other so lets get on with total separation

Posted by: MumboJumboo | April 8, 2010 12:34 AM | Report abuse

Thanks for that on-topic post, vrytix. Your thoughts on the 2000 vote count brouht some valuable insight to the debate on whether the Qatari diplomats should be allowed to ignite cigarettes or shoes in airplane restrooms with impunity.

Posted by: exco | April 8, 2010 12:48 AM | Report abuse

What, is United saving money by removing the batteries in the smoke detectors in the bathrooms? You know the drill, lavatories are supposed to have smoke alarms. I hope the FAA investigates why this one wasn't working and if it is endemic to the troubled, finacially ailing business case example of failure.

Posted by: ChrisW1958 | April 8, 2010 12:58 AM | Report abuse

Fortunately for Mr. Al-Madadi, he has diplomatic immunity. Unfortunately for Mr. Al-Madadi, diplomatic immunity does not protect him from placement on every no-fly and aviation watch list the Federal Government can get its hands on.

For making what under the circumstances could only be treated as a credible threat and tauntingly abusing his diplomatic immunity in doing so, he deserves to be denied the privilege of entering or traveling within the United States aboard a commercial aircraft for at least a very, very long time.

Posted by: Akger117 | April 8, 2010 1:04 AM | Report abuse

jlelijah,


that was funny!

Posted by: coqui44 | April 8, 2010 1:16 AM | Report abuse

I would have thought that a diplomat would have known that this was a pretty embarrassing thing to do.

Posted by: apn3206 | April 8, 2010 1:20 AM | Report abuse

Posted by: julyhorn | April 7, 2010 11:05 PM
"something as innocent as smoke a cigarette"?? That's against federal law!"

Hummm .... I take it you don't fly very often or you don't pay attention when you do fly.

Posted by: knjincvc | April 8, 2010 1:48 AM | Report abuse

Of course the whole episode is because of Pelosi, Obama and Reed! As a tea drinker thank God that only Fox news could know how I feel and well qualified to only reports the “news” and then it allows me to “decide”. I also think the country is becoming a communist country, especially after knowing GS is making more money and Geitner is running the Treasury! And no I’m not paranoid and I’m not bi-polar and not missing my daily medication.

Posted by: WBuffetCo | April 8, 2010 1:49 AM | Report abuse

The flush toilet was developed and promoted by Thomas Crapper. So, an idiot violated a federal law by smoking in the "crapper."
Why anyone playing with a full deck would suck formaldehyde, nicotine, carbon monoxide and cyanide into their lungs is beyond me. But, tobacco is so addictive that people quit dope, go to meetings and brag about how long they have been "clean" and then they are sucking toxic cigarette smoke into their lungs as soon as they can get out of the meeting room.
Smokers take a cigarette out of the pack, stick it, you know where, set fire to one end of it, suck on it and somehow smoke comes out of their mouth and sometimes out of their nose.
You knew what the news was. Now you know the Rest of the Story. (I miss Paul Harvey.)

Posted by: hurleyvision | April 8, 2010 2:05 AM | Report abuse

Is this what passes for witty liberal discourse?

Go ahead and try the same thing and see how funny they think it is. Go ahead and make some terroristic threat on a plane, only to later say it was a joke, about trying to light your shoes. See how many years in prison it gets you. Real funny.

As for this guy, if he is lucky, the best thing that will happen to him is that he is immediately expelled from the country and barred from re-entry forever, with the worst being that his diplomatic immunity is waived and he is treated like every other joker who makes jokes about bombs on airplanes.

Posted by: ooyah32 | April 8, 2010 2:18 AM | Report abuse

This signature aggressive behaviour of US Airline crew and Security people when dealing with muslims and arabs might not get a prompt response from the other side, but eventually this would boil into anger where we would see innocent American expatriates and travellers (who are in thousands!) all over the Gulf region being subjected to similar discriminatory actions. The US seriously needs to hire educated people as its Airport Security Staffs who just dont automaticaly assume every muslim or Arab looking guy as a suspect. This has happened far too often to be just brushed aside as a petty incident.

Posted by: yasseryousufi | April 8, 2010 2:24 AM | Report abuse

Who is dumb enough to light-up on a plane, especially now days - I'm a frequent flier, and remember when smoking was allowed. But have never been on a flight since the smoking ban where someone lit-up, never. Seen lot's of drunks, saw a few get escorted off planes in cuffs, but not toilet smokers. I guess in Qutar you can bring live chickens on board too. Nothing will happen to this dude.

Posted by: googleer | April 8, 2010 2:32 AM | Report abuse

Send the smart-mouth "diplomat" home. He's obviously not sensitive enough to American culture to be an effective representative for his country.

Posted by: Apostrophe | April 8, 2010 2:35 AM | Report abuse

if the President needs to be briefed each time an addict lights up on an airplane, we'll know why nothing else is getting done.

besides, what would the fighter jets do?

shoot down the plane full of...non-smokers?

Posted by: forestbloggod | April 8, 2010 2:49 AM | Report abuse

Hey, the poor guy was just a medical marijuana patient who needed a quick toke to quell his pain. Besides, he's a diplomat and has full diplomatic immunity. He's home free. Pat him on the back and refill his prescription.

Posted by: dsrobins | April 8, 2010 3:17 AM | Report abuse

It's important to note that other news sources were reporting, at least without confirmation, that the diplomat joked that he had been trying to ignite his shoes when confronted by the air marshals. Apparently, he knew he had diplomatic immunity and thought he would take advantage of it to taunt the security team by making the false shoe-bomber claim.

Assuming that's the case, then the matter is far beyond someone smoking in a bathroom. It would be easy enough to explain the situation for what it was -- a smoke in a lavatory -- that, at the very least, F-16s would not have been scrambled.

Posted by: Akger117 | April 8, 2010 3:22 AM | Report abuse

Good thing the smoking diplomat is from a country with lots of oil wealth instead of some Third World pisspot so they can pay for the F-16 escort. There are good reasons why smoking is forbidden on flights and it is a Federal offense to light up onboard a flight in the US as it is for all international flights. It is also against the law to argue with air marshals, also a Federal offense.

Posted by: rlgrennie1 | April 8, 2010 3:41 AM | Report abuse

"The US seriously needs to hire educated people as its Airport Security Staffs who just dont automaticaly assume every muslim or Arab looking guy as a suspect. This has happened far too often to be just brushed aside as a petty incident.

Posted by: yasseryousufi | April 8, 2010 2:24 AM | Report abuse"

Are you joking?!? You mean every Muslim or Arab man on an airplane who sets something on fire and then makes a comment about a shoe bomb? Whatever overreaction there was had nothing to do with how this guy was treated - he's an absolute idiot. At the very least he should be expelled from the country and never permitted to fly here again.

Posted by: simpleton1 | April 8, 2010 4:01 AM | Report abuse

Jlelijah would be screaming like a little girl if this had turned out differently.
I notice how communist-progressive-Nazis like him always know what conservatives are thinking....maybe because that is truly how most of them think? Could the real racists be the self-loathing Godless leftist Nazis? Yes indeed.

Posted by: PUBLIUSREX | April 8, 2010 5:22 AM | Report abuse

MumboJumboo is an anti-Semite.

It is "supremacist" not "suprimacist you Nazi dolt. I notice that the Jew haters have come crawling out, and they are always Liberal=Socialist=Communist=Nazis=Democrats

Look at how all socialist countries have treated the Jew. Nazism was socialism, and these people want that for YOU. They also call you a 'Zionist" instead of Jew as a pejorative. That way they can attack you and dehumanize you...and justify what tey are doing.

Posted by: PUBLIUSREX | April 8, 2010 5:29 AM | Report abuse

Impose a $10,000 Fine on Any person that gets Smoking in the bathroom .

Posted by: digtldesk | April 8, 2010 6:42 AM | Report abuse

Have the TSA Take all Smoking paraphernalia & tobacco products from Middle Eastern looking people BEFORE they get on airplanes.

Posted by: digtldesk | April 8, 2010 6:44 AM | Report abuse

Better bomb Iraq just to be safe...

Posted by: jhope432 | April 8, 2010 9:07 AM | Report abuse

schrute:

A couple of screws, up in your head loose. Way to try to be an Independent thinker and blame FoxNews for covering some idiot violating, how many federal laws? Just admit you're an idiot and let's be done with it. Is this what the Dems have succumbed to now that poll after poll after poll shows independents (like me) are fleeing the Dems side? Got to get better than that. Or maybe you can just call me a racist like you Dems call everyone else.

---

Are you really Dwight Schrute from The Office?

Posted by: jlelijah | April 8, 2010 3:42 PM | Report abuse

PUBLIUSREX:

"Jlelijah would be screaming like a little girl if this had turned out differently.
I notice how communist-progressive-Nazis like him always know what conservatives are thinking....maybe because that is truly how most of them think? Could the real racists be the self-loathing Godless leftist Nazis? Yes indeed."

First of all, from Wikipedia:

"... in practice, Nazism was a far right form of politics."

But even more interesting:

"In 1920, the Nazi Party published their 25-point National Socialist Program, the key tenets being: anti-parliamentarism, pan-Germanism, racism, anti-Semitism, collectivism, social Darwinism, eugenics, ANTI-COMMUNISM, totalitarianism, and opposition to economic and political liberalism."

So to be a Nazi AND a Communist is really an impossible feat, because Nazis were anti-Communist. But thanks to PUBLIUSREX for thinking that me and other progressives are capable of accomplishing the impossible.

Posted by: jlelijah | April 8, 2010 3:51 PM | Report abuse

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