Witness: I Saw a Second Man Arrested in Detroit

Interview conducted Dec. 31, 2009. Listen to the interview.

Scott Horton: It’s New Year’s Eve 2009. We’re going to start off the first hour though with our first guest today, Kurt Haskell; he is, I guess, becoming semi-famous here as the guy that saw something that is something seemingly quite important that is apparently being left out of the typical narrative of the attempted bombing of the airplane over Detroit on Christmas day. His name is Kurt Haskell and he’s a lawyer, I believe, in Detroit, is that right Kurt? Welcome to the show…

Kurt Haskell: Hey, thanks for having me. I am an attorney in a Detroit suburb.

Horton: In a Detroit suburb, okay. I guess it’s important that you’re an attorney because that shows you passed the bar and the other attorneys let you be one of them and that kind of thing, right? So there’s some kind level of, some level of credibility that goes with that. I don’t want to overstate it, but you’re a professional and you’re putting your professional reputation on the line in that sense.

Haskell: That’s correct. We have an ethical code we have to go by from the state bar administration too. But, yes.

Horton: Which means that, if you go fooling around off-topic on something like this but what you’re doing is dishonest, that you could get in trouble with the bar for that – is that what you’re saying?

Haskell: I could have my license removed, that is correct…

Horton: Even for something that is not actually part of, you know, like misrepresenting one of your clients or something like that.

Haskell: Oh, absolutely. Any act of dishonesty.

Horton: Okay, well, so that is what it is. People can take that as weighing, whatever they think it weighs, and that’s fine. I’m glad I had a chance to let you explain how that works. So, let’s get to the controversial part of this story; I’m looking at MLive.com, one of their articles anyway is called “Report: Customs Says Second Person Detained After Flight 253 For Reasons Unrelated To Attack,” and this is an update; this is I guess, the official response to what you told MLive.com, which was that you saw someone, a second person, arrested in Detroit at the airport, after the plane landed safely, in connection with the attack and I guess they’re saying they arrested somebody that had nothing to do with that. Do you have any way of knowing whether that’s right or how certain are you that the guy who was arrested, was arrested somehow in connection to the attempted bombing there?

Haskell: First of all, thanks for starting on this topic because this is exactly where I wanted to go with the show today. I’m chomping at the bit to respond to this one. Let’s start with the official response. Well, first of all, as anyone has seen in any of my interviews or blogs or anything, I have been talking about the man dressed in orange that was arrested when we were being held in Customs, shortly after we got off the plane in Michigan, about an hour later; and what happened was, about an hour into our detention, bomb-sniffing dogs were brought in. One of the dogs sat down near a carry-on bag of the man in orange; a law enforcement officer immediately came over, took the man back into a room for interrogation. He was gone approximately an hour, not handcuffed at this time. I saw him come out of that room about an hour later, he was handcuffed and taken away. Shortly after this, an FBI agent came up to the group of the rest of us passengers and said the following “You’re being moved to another area. It’s not safe here. I’m sure you all saw what happened and can read between the lines and why you’re being moved.” We were then escorted out of this large area into a small, longer hallway.

Horton: Well, what did you read between the lines? Well, to be clear, it sounds like he thought it would be obvious that you would all conclude the same thing of what he was talking about, but what was that thing, that you all concluded?

Haskell: Well, again, I’ve been trying to keep my opinion out of the shows I’ve done and trying to…

Horton: Well, what I want to know is not what you think now; what did you take that to mean when he asked you? When he said “read between the lines, you know what I’m taking about.” What did you take that to mean at the time?

Haskell: My opinion of that was the man had a bomb in his carry-on bag.

Horton: You believe now, that that’s what the officer was attempting to imply there?

Haskell: Absolutely 100%. Now mind you, this is a man that walked off the plane in my group and I never lost contact with him the entire time we were being held. He was standing approximately 20 feet away from me. This man was on our plane. There is not a shred of a doubt in my mind that he was. I know for a fact he was; and also mind you, we were in such a restrictive state at this time, we could not drink water – we could not eat – we could not use our phones – we could only go to the bathroom one at a time with an FBI agent. Not a single person was on the floor, in the floor we were in, in this baggage claim area. There weren’t any other flights coming in. There were no employees at all. Strictly law enforcement personnel and the passengers of our flight. Not only that, any other plane that landed after ours, the passengers were held in their planes on the runway for several hours and not allowed to get off of the plane. So, I’m pointing this out because, first of all, for four days, the FBI denied the existence of this man at all, and then the FBI amazingly came out yesterday morning and said the following “Yes, another man was arrested from that flight but he is being held on immigration charges indefinitely. We’ve had him held the entire time.” Okay, well, why didn’t this come out in the four days before; and the explanation for that is, because several of my other passenger mates came out and backed up the story that I have been saying all along about this man and there had to be some official response from FBI.

Horton: Well, and that’s detailed in the MLive.com story today. They have links, they provide links, to a man named Daniel Huisinga who told this to MSNBC and then of course there is a guy named Roey Rosenblith who actually wrote a piece of his own for the Huffington Post who also saw this guy being arrested.

Haskell: And that forced them to come out and make these statements, but the bombshell of this is what happened later last night, early last evening, and which has made me extremely angry over this and it has pointed out something very obvious to me and that’s what I’m going to tell you right now. Mr. Ron Smith of Customs came out and clarified their position last night…by the way, this is now their third story of this event…first of all he didn’t exist, second of all he has been and is being held indefinitely on immigration charges, and then number three last night is the kicker of them all…he wasn’t on our plane ever! It’s such a blatant lie by Mr. Ronald Smith that I am calling him out to get out of his cubicle and come out and debate me anywhere, anyplace on this that this man was not on our plane. This man was, without a shred of a doubt, on our plane the entire time, he stood by me, he never left any area I was in. There is no question in my mind he was on our plane and read into that what you want, but there is only in my interpretation, one explanation of why Mr. Ronald Smith – and I dare you come out in the public and debate me – on why he made such a blatant lie on Mlive.

Horton: Well you know, that’s a pretty strong challenge by you and I don’t know if this show has the prominence to propel that forward but I certainly hope this continues to develop. And I guess I don’t want to get too far off the details of the story but well, frankly this does seem to be quite significant, that as we’ve talked about here, you sound to me like a credible witness with no obvious reason to be making up any of this stuff. We have corroboration from two other witnesses of at least part of your story here, and yet in fact, from Googling around a little bit, it looks like you’ve been on National Public Radio, you’ve been interviewed by some pretty mainstream sources I guess, and yet, I’m not so sure this whole “there were a couple of Indian guys around” is making it into the official narrative of what happened here. TV is not saying anything. And I’d like to get to the details of the other guy that you say you saw help put this guy on the plane in the first place, but you know, TV is saying “well, it was some guys that we let out of Guantanamo Bay who put him on the plane” where they have their whole narrative, but it seems like your part of the story is not being included in it. Do I have that right?

Haskell: Uh, huh. Yeah, apparently it is hard for them to admit the truth. And by the way, two FBI agents stopped by my office yesterday also with a series of photos. One of the photos appeared to me, what I would call, to be the man in orange, and I looked at the photo and I looked up to them because I couldn’t believe the audacity of them to show me this photo, knowing what I had said to the media and knowing that they have been not admitting that this man exists, and I said “You know, isn’t this a picture of the man that you arrested in Customs with the apparent bomb in his bag that you have refused to admit exists up to this point?” And I looked at them straight in the eyes and they had no comment.

Horton: They just didn’t answer you at all?

Haskell: No answer. No response. This is the kind of treatment I’ve been getting from the FBI all along and I’ve been trying to stay neutral on it, but look, this story by Mr. Ronald Smith yesterday – I’m getting a little irritated.

Horton: Well, I guess I could see that as a direct challenge to your credibility when he’s saying, well, he’s not really calling you a liar or anything right? He’s just saying you must be confused, you got the guy from the wrong plane here…

Haskell: Ronald Smith is without a shadow of a doubt trying to destroy my credibility…intentionally. And I’m angry about it and I call him out. Come out into the public out of your cubicle, Mr. Ronald Smith. I want to see who’s more credible, you or me.

Horton: Well, and you know, presumably some kind of cable TV venue would be the place for that. Let’s hope something along those lines can get done. Let me ask you this, and I would like to give you a chance here hopefully, if you’d like to tell us all about the other guy, the first guy that you saw. We sort of started with the second part of the story because it’s the recent development, but in both of these cases I believe you say that they were Indian, but I wonder how it is that you know that? Because how many different ethnicities are there from, I don’t know, somewhere in southern central Asia that may or may not be an Indian nationality, you know what I mean? Did you hear them talking and it was a Hindi accent or something?

Haskell: Let me just respond to that real quick. The man appeared to be Indian to me, but please take no offense if you’re Indian, because I cannot tell between a Pakistani, an Indian, a Bangladeshi, etc. That was just a phrase that I used. Southeast Asian might have been a more appropriate term.

Horton: Okay. Because I think that is important too, because people immediately start wondering about implications and so forth like that. So we should be careful about that. So, for people who are just tuning in, the guest right now we’re talking to on the show is Kurt Haskell. He’s an attorney in sort of a small town in the suburbs outside of Detroit, and he was on the plane on Christmas day with this attempted bombing by this young Nigerian. And he’s got a part of the story that’s been somewhat corroborated, at least in part, by other passengers that has a couple of guys who don’t seem to fit the narrative that we’re being fed so far, being involved with or having something to do with this attack. A man who was arrested after they safely landed who apparently was arrested and taken away for having a bomb in his bag after they landed and then another guy who apparently helped get this guy on the plane. And this is something else that has been disputed in a sense, although I’m reading here at MLive.com that you’re disputing-the-disputing really quick here. They’re saying, I guess Dutch security is saying, that you say he didn’t have a valid passport and visa, but "Yes, he did too." So what’s you’re response to that?

Haskell: That was never the issue whether he had a passport or not. The issue was whether he tried to board without a passport and whether he made it. You see, the media is trying to cloud what I’m trying to say and discredit me. I’ve never sad he didn’t have a passport. That was never an important part of my story. Please take a look at the MLive article and read it and why I explained what I saw and they they’re trying to discredit me where I clearly state my explanation for that story.

Horton: Well, on these two stories, the major footnotes here are “Commenter says he was aboard NWA flight 253, saw suspected terrorist board the plane,” that’s one; and they basically quote your whole comment that you left here; and then there’s a follow-up right where this lady Sheena Harrison from MLive.com, she went ahead and interviewed you and had some follow-up questions and then has continued to cover the story over there at Mlive.com.

Haskell: Uh huh.

Horton: Okay, so now, tell us the whole story of this thing. I mean obviously, you didn’t make the case that you know he didn’t have a visa or passport, what you were taking about was what you saw at the airport. Now how certain are you and how can you be so certain that what you saw was a man attempting to get on the plane in the Netherlands on this plane to Detroit without displaying or attempting to use his passport or visa to do so?

Haskell: Okay, I’m going to explain to you what I saw, since that’s what I’ve been repeating all along and I don’t really want to quote my opinion into the story. I’m going to stick to the facts and the facts are as follows: We were in the boarding area, getting ready to board our flight, my wife and I, and there were no seats available in the boarding area. It was a crowded flight and a lot of the passengers had put various luggage on different seats and there weren’t two together anywhere. So we had to sit on the floor, and what we did is we took, near what I would describe as the final ticket agent, the person that checks your boarding pass right before you get on the flight, and we were approximately 10 feet away playing cards; and you know, I was just kind of people-watching while we were playing cards, and two men approached the ticket agent; that kind of caught my eye. They weren’t acting strangely at all, but just the fact that the two of them were together is what caught my eye. And let me explain: the first man looked to me like a poor black teenager, I thought he was around 16 or 17; the other man appeared to me, again, to be an Indian or southeast Asian, wealthy 50-ish man in a suit and what struck me as weird was the two were traveling together and I was trying to figure out why. And they approached the ticket agent about 10 feet away from me and only the Indian man spoke. To this day, I have never heard the black man speak. And the Indian man said as follows, “This man needs to get on the plane, but he doesn’t have a passport.” The ticket agent then responded, “Well you need a passport to get on the plane.” And the Indian man then responded, “He’s from Sudan, we do this all the time.” And the ticket agent then said, “Well, you’ll need to talk to a manager and referred the two of them down a hallway to talk to a manager.

Horton: And that’s it?

Haskell: Oh, I’m sorry. The Indian man never boarded our flight, and the black man was the man that later tried to blow up our plane.

Horton: Right…well…so they say. Now, where on the plane were you sitting? Did you see the fire and all this nonsense actually happening on the plane when he was trying to set off the explosive?

Haskell: I saw part of it. He was eight rows ahead of me and I missed the start of it because I wasn’t watching, but I had a clear view once I looked up.

Horton: Uh, huh. I guess I’m glad that you just stick to the facts; I mean I guess I kind of want to go off on a tangent speculating about what that means, maybe he didn’t want them to see the word Yemen on his passport even though he did have one or you know something like that, I don’t really know…

Haskell: Right, there is a lot of speculation that can be made, which I speculated on a couple of my posts on the Internet; as you know, there’s a barcode on passports that once its run through a computer, a wealth of information about yourself comes up and the Amsterdam airport security came out a few days ago and admitted that this man, the terrorist that tried to blow up our plane, did not go through what, and I quote, “normal passport screening procedures.” That’s a quote. Now what does that mean? I would love for the Amsterdam airport security to explain what that means. You know, what part of the passport checking procedure did he not go through, and why didn’t he go through it? I’d love to know the answer to that because that statement seems to corroborate what I’m saying. I never said he didn’t have a passport. All I said was, you know, what I saw, which you can make your own interpretations from.

Horton: Sure. And it’s very important of course that you differentiate the way you do between what you know and what you’re speculating about. Of course the problem here is not just the question of your credibility, but you could have died on this plane too, right? So you’re taking it a little personally there, that this guy was allowed on the plane, somehow…

Haskell: Hell yeah! Hell yeah! And I’m mad about it. And I’m mad. Just to follow-up on my last thought, there is close circuit of this area in question. Airport security has admitted that there is. They admitted they have been reviewing it. The FBI has reviewed it. You know what, where is it? Isn’t it amazing that it’s not appearing anywhere when this could corroborate my claim or prove that I’m a liar? Where is it? It’s easily found. It happened right before we boarded. It was about 2-3 minutes in length. It would be easy to pick it out, you know, my wife and I are on the floor playing cards. A black man and a southeast Asian man approached the counter. Let’s see the video. Why has this video not come out? And there is only one explanation I can have – I’m right. They don’t want to admit it. And by the way, I expect, because I’m calling them out on this too, that they’ll do some kind of cut job on this video and show about 2 seconds of it. The entire video should be about 2 or 3 minutes and I’m calling you out FBI and Amsterdam security: show the whole unedited video. Show what happened, turn the volume up; let everyone make their own decision. I dare you. But I don’t think we’ll ever see it.

Horton: Well, now, I wonder about your interview invitations. It was mentioned before. I guess I brought up that you were on NPR the other day, and I don’t know who all you’ve been interviewed by, but you’ve gotten some pretty mainstream coverage as we’ve talked about here Kurt. Your story is clearly being left out of the official FBI spokesman narrative, but it hasn’t completely been left out of the media narrative. Of course, their tendency is to just go with whatever the FBI spokesmen say. So, I guess what I want to know is how much momentum is there behind your story? How many more invitations do you have to come on TV and tell your side of it? I mean in the way that you’re saying it now, I don’t know that, and I guess, you know, I don’t know what all interviews you’ve done, but have you been calling them out like this? Saying, you know, you’ve challenged the FBI to a duel and all these things?

Haskell: Let me say this. I have been 100% supportive of the investigation. I’ve cooperated in every way. I have not gotten angry about it at all until early last evening when my whole temperament changed from this article of Mr. Ronald Smith because to me this changes the whole ball game. Because Mr. Smith, you know and I know what the truth is and you know why I am mad about it Mr. Smith. And you know why, if people don’t want to have me on their program because I am taking this position. You know what? I am taking this same position that I have taken all along and that is to put the truth out there. If someone doesn’t want me on their show for telling the truth, so be it. All I want to do is tell the truth and that is all I have ever wanted. It’s not my problem that someone else doesn’t want to tell the truth.

Horton: Well, you know, I think it is going to be a problem for the FBI if they just want to leave this story out or just basically blow it all off with, “Oh that guy, yeah that had something to do with some other plane” and I guess the quote here is some reporter said, “What was it, drugs? And the cop says ‘yeah, something like that.’”

Haskell: Something like a bomb.

Horton: Yeah. So in other words if there is a pretty lame lie and not just you but your two corroborating witnesses, Daniel Huisinga, which actually I have the clip from MSNBC, I am going to play here at the end of the interview and also this guy Roey Rosenblith who wrote for the Huffington Post, his story about it. It seems like it is going to be pretty hard to say there is no John Doe 2 this time, although then again they can get away with things like that sometimes.

Haskell: You know, I would be pretty embarrassed if I was the FBI too, leaving us on the plane for twenty minutes on the runway and then later finding a bomb in a carry-on bag. Also leaving us standing by this man for an hour before any bomb sniffing dogs arrived. It could have been absolutely disastrous and obviously it would be quite embarrassing for the FBI if what I am saying is in fact corroborated.

Horton: So that’s what you think the problem is, is that they left you on the plane for that long?

Haskell: Hell yeah! You know what? I called them out immediately when we were on the plane. Immediately! "Let us off this plane!" Know what their response was? “Sit down and shut up. You are not getting off the plane.”

Horton: Wow! That’s what they said to you?

Haskell: “Sit down and shut up, you are not getting off the plane.” You know what that feels like after someone just tried to blow you up and you don’t know if there is another bomb in the plane?

Horton: Did anyone try to explain to them that that was the concern, that like, “Hey man, you know the problem is that we don’t want to get blown up and we would like to be away from the plane in case it’s going to blow up?”

Haskell: Trying to explain something like that away to the FBI ….I don’t think that that is possible.

Horton: Yeah, well…..

Haskell: To try and talk reason to these people. By the way I have been in almost every mainstream TV channel in the country and I have been on probably thirty to forty radio stations all over the world. Maybe more than that. You asked me that earlier, so I’m just responding.

Horton: Yeah it sounds like the momentum at least so far, for getting your story out there is going on – I guess has been going pretty strong. We’ll have to wait and see if that continues.

Haskell: And for the record I don’t care if it continues. I am just putting the truth out there, if anyone wants to report it. I am not in control of that. So I’ll leave it at that.

Horton: Well, obviously you do care whether it gets reported or not because otherwise it sounds to me like somebody who there is at least a high probability was involved in this attempt on your life could get away scot-free. I mean that’s what happens when you pretend there is no John Doe 2. It means John Doe 2 actually doesn’t get in trouble for the terrible thing that he did.

Haskell: That’s true.

Horton: Well that’s the way of things I guess. Okay, well I can’t remember what anymore of my awesome questions were Kurt, so I guess I will go ahead and let it go with this. I appreciate your effort to stick by, you know, trying to get your story out here, and I wish you the best of luck and hopefully, you know, as we find out more maybe you can come back on the show and talk about it too.

Haskell: Hey, I will be glad to come on the show any time. I will never waver from the truth and they will never intimidate me.

Horton: All right, thanks a lot.

Haskell: Thanks a lot.

Author: Scott Horton

Scott Horton is editorial director of Antiwar.com, director of the Libertarian Institute, host of Antiwar Radio on Pacifica, 90.7 FM KPFK in Los Angeles, California and podcasts the Scott Horton Show from ScottHorton.org. He’s the author of the 2021 book Enough Already: Time to End the War on Terrorism, the 2017 book, Fool’s Errand: Time to End the War in Afghanistan, and the editor of the 2019 book, The Great Ron Paul: The Scott Horton Show Interviews 2004–2019. He’s conducted more than 5,500 interviews since 2003. Scott’s articles have appeared at Antiwar.com, The American Conservative magazine, the History News Network, The Future of Freedom, The National Interest and the Christian Science Monitor. He also contributed a chapter to the 2019 book, The Impact of War. Scott lives in Austin, Texas with his wife, investigative reporter Larisa Alexandrovna Horton. He is a fan of, but no relation to the lawyer from Harper’s. Scott’s Twitter, YouTube, Patreon.