Plane Diverted After Implant ClaimBy JOHN H. CUSHMAN Jr.
New York Times
May 23, 2012
WASHINGTON — A passenger flight to Charlotte, N.C., from Paris was diverted on Tuesday to Bangor, Me., because of security concerns set off when a passenger told the crew that she had a surgically implanted device.
Airline and government officials said US Airways Flight 787, carrying 179 passengers and a crew of 9, was escorted safely to land by military aircraft, the standard precaution when a flight is diverted when a flight crew becomes suspicious of a passenger’s behavior.
There was no indication that a bomb or any such device was involved in the case.
The woman was arrested, according to Senator Susan Collins of Maine, the ranking Republican on the Senate Homeland Security Committee. Ms. Collins said that John S. Pistole, the head of the Transportation Security Administration, told her: “A female passenger passed a note to a flight attendant stating that she was carrying a surgically implanted device. Two doctors on board the plane examined the woman, but found no evidence of surgical scars or incisions.”
Airlines and counterterrorism agencies have been on the watch for the possibility that terrorists would try to conceal or implant a bomb on a passenger. The state of alert was heightened after intelligence agencies penetrated the Qaeda network in Yemen a few weeks ago and captured a bomb designed to be hidden in a person’s clothing.
Ms. Collins said, “My understanding is T.S.A. issued security directives recently to airports, airline carriers, T.S.A. screeners and foreign governments advising them to take added screening precautions and to be on the lookout for indicators of surgically implanted explosives.”
The flight originated at Charles de Gaulle Airport near Paris, and was diverted to Bangor, where it was met by law enforcement officials, the T.S.A. said.
In a statement, Representative Peter T. King, Republican of New York, chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, said he had been told that the arrested woman was born in Cameroon and was traveling alone.