U.S. Intelligence - Case of Mistaken Identity
25 December 2003
by Anai Rhoads
America was swamped with a steady stream of media days before Christmas as the terror
alert rose from yellow to orange to reflect the urgency. Intelligence reports came through
with what was considered to be an intense level of chatter.
This understandably invoked a sweeping panic among the administration which prompted officials
to hit the airwaves to announce that America must remain vigilant in the event of attacks. As
with any warning, one must take it seriously. But the concern over Crying Wolf had top
officials weighing the risks carefully before announcing the threat level change to orange.
Six Air France flights between Paris and Los Angeles were cancelled for two days after
U.S. Secretary of State, Colin Powell notified France that suspicious people had purchased
tickets for those flights.
Powell, spoke with French Foreign Minister, Dominique de Villepin just hours
before flights were due to depart from France to Los Angeles, California. It was believed
that overseas terrorists had masterminded a plot to employ French airliners to collide on
U.S. soil. French Prime Minister, Jean-Pierre Raffarin then ordered the planes to be grounded until
France's Le Parisien newspaper did not hesitate to confront this issue after French intelligence
sources told the media that it was a false alarm.
"The people with Arab-sounding names turned out to be, for example, a diplomat and a
sports player. There were no terrorists," one police officer told the French newspaper Thursday.
All passengers on the flights, 450 in total, were checked by the French police and no
terrorist connections were found. The seven men suspected of plotting against America included five
Algerians, one French, and one American. There were no arrests.
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