Pakistani couple was singled out by flight attendent

August 21, 2010 12:05:28 AM PDT
There are new details about why one particular couple was singled out during Thursday's hijack hoax at San Francisco International Airport. A flight attendant on board American Airlines Flight 24 told police that two people who happened to be from Pakistan were acting suspiciously. Now, there are accusations of racial profiling.

San Francisco police and FBI agents approached the Pakistani couple, handcuffed them and escorted them off the plane. Sources say it was a flight attendant who pointed them out after learning of the possibility of a hijacking.

Police defended their actions saying in that kind of situation, a lead is always taken seriously.

"We treat everyone as a suspect until we determine otherwise," SFPD spokesperson Lt. Lyn Tomioka said. "Several passengers were interviewed yesterday, everyone was released, there were no arrests but for some reason two people more than others alerted the flight crew suspicion."

Former FBI agent Rick Smith says they take no chances when things are uncertain.

"When they show up on the plane and someone provides information discussing specific passengers, then they are going to scrutinize that even more," Smith said.

The Council on American Islamic Relations has been keeping an eye on the incident to see if there was any racial profiling by the crew member.

"The threat was not even credible and so I'm curious to see how this plays out and what more information we obtain, but was the response proportional to the level of the threat and at the same time, was the threat credible at all from the beginning," CAIR spokesperson Zahra Billoo said.

A spokesperson from the Association of Flight Attendants said, "Flight attendants are trained to recognize certain suspicious behaviors. They are not trained to racially profile any passengers."

The jetliner was grounded just before takeoff Thursday after someone called a phone clerk at a hotel in Alameda.

"The phone call went on like a rant, very jumbled, kind of made no sense, the only thing he was able to gather from it was 'American Airlines Flight 24' and 'hijacked,'" hotel manager Dhruv Patel said.

Every single passenger was taken off the plane and checked.

Late Friday afternoon, CAIR got in touch with the Pakistani couple. The couple said they felt singled out and were interrogated in a police car beneath the belly of a plane for hours before being released. They said they kept asking police, "Why us?"

CAIR says they are considering taking action against police and the airlines.


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