Against my better judgement I’ve had to fly a few times on business during COVID and it hasn’t been fun. Long lines, cranky passengers, anti-maskers, etc. Every time I did it I hated it – so I just thought about 9/11 and how that had changed things for everyone and how I needed to be patient – they were keeping us safe after all.
Or so I thought. Then Malik Faisal Akram came for a visit.
This upstanding British citizen ranted about wanting to die on 9/11 – with the terrorists – and commuted from his temporary home country to Pakistan on a regular basis on behalf of a group dedicated to purifying Islam. I would have thought that would be enough to land you on some sort of Watch List – certainly in the UK if not in the US, and I have since learned that he was.
It didn’t matter. Because while I was getting patted down by a sweaty TSA agent in Dallas Malik was flying here on a valid visa, arrived at New York’s JFK International Airport and – in true American fashion – bought a weapon of some kind “on the street.” Two weeks later he made it to Texas, burst into a local synagogue waving his mystery gun and took four people hostage including the rabbi.
His own brother asked: “He’s known to police. Got a criminal record. How was he allowed to get a visa and acquire a gun?”
Good questions. Eleven hours later, with all those Foreign Office officials, MI6 people, FBI, TSA agents home and asleep in their beds – it was the Rabbi who threw a chair at the hostage taker and rushed for the exit with three others behind him, Akram probably so distracted he didn’t see the FBI SWAT team come in, drop a flash bang and then shoot him dead.
Who did their job here? I say the Rabbi, and you can argue that the FBI entry team did what it had trained long hours to do. Meanwhile those TSA lines get longer and I’m not feeling any safer. Are you?
Derek Kaye/ Walnut Creek