damnum absque injuria

July 29, 2004

Snopes Said It, I Believe It, That Settles It!

Filed under:   by Xrlq @ 7:10 pm

Lonewacko rightly takes Snopes to task for labeling as “false” the undetermined allegations that Annie Jacobsen and her husband witnessed a terrorist dry run on Northwest Air Flight 327 on June 29. Snopes’s research is much more cursory than what I’ve seen on a number of blogs, enough so that Kevin Roderick, who agrees with their conclusion, was unimpressed by the Mikkelsons’ pronouncement. Similarly unimpressed is Patterico and, I suspect, Michelle Malkin, Spoons, and just about everyone else who hasn’t decided that Annie Jacobsen was the real terrorist. The original Snopes entry said nothing of the fact that 13 of the 14 terrorist/musicians/cads/whatever were traveling on expired visas, so Barbara Mikkelson updated it yesterday in an attempt to swat that issue down. Quoth Ms. Mikkelson:

Much has been made of the discovery that the Syrian musicians were supposedly traveling on “expired visas.” This claim stems from a misunderstanding of what the expiry date on a U.S. visa signifies.

She then goes on to explain that technically speaking, a visa “expires” on the day it can longer be used to enter the country, which is not necessarily the same as the “exit date,” by which the holder is required to leave. Based on this, we are asked to assume that as of June 29, only the expiry dates, not the exit dates, had passed. She cites no sources to corroborate this, however. The only external source she does cite is to a U.S. State Department page that explains this aspect of U.S. immigration law generally, and which says nothing about Mehana et al. in particular (nor could it, as the page was last updated in May, 2003).

On the other hand, this article by Audrey Hudson of the Washington Times, which has been quoted extensively by several bloggers but ignored by Snopes, quotes Immigration and Customs Enforcement spokesman Dean Boyd at length. In it, Mr. Boyd confirmed that 13 of the 14 musicians had entered the country on May 30, and that their visas had expired on June 10. If, as Snopes asks us to believe, the visas had really just “expired” with respect to their entry dates, and the men were lawfully in the United States at the time, one might think that Mr. Boyd would have brought this non-technicality up. He did not. Instead, he had this to say:

“The bottom line is there should have been an ICE agent called in to participate in the questioning, but there wasn’t. We believe if an ICE agent were there, they could have detected the visas had expired.”

Conspicuously absent is a further elaboration along the lines of “but then again, they weren’t trying to enter the country, so ICE would have also ‘detected’ that there was nothing wrong.” Everything he said – or at least, everything Hudson saw fit to include in the article – indicates that ICE has confirmed that at least 13 of the 14 had visas that had “expired” in every sense of the word, just as you probably understood the term yourself before reading this blog entry or Snopes’s.

Either Audrey Hudson or Barbara Mikkelson fell down on the job.

UPDATE: Syrian Ambassador Imad Moustapha does Snopes one better by falsely claiming in a letter to the Washington Times that Mehana and his musicians had previously performed at the kennedy Center, the Lincoln Center and Juilliard. Hat tip: Michelle Malkin. When Jacobson called him on it, he denied having made that claim. O-kay.

UPDATE x2: Audrey Hudson now reports that a second passenger (h/t: Political Musings) has corroborated Annie Jacobsen’s allegedly false report. Advantage: Not Snopes.

6 Responses to “Snopes Said It, I Believe It, That Settles It!”

  1. AMac Says:

    I don’t think this completely explains the ‘visa’ issue. As I understand it (Warning! Understanding derived from reading web-logs and articles, not ‘cuz I’m an expert), the “term of art” is “overstaying.” A non-immigrant foreign artist can get a P-1 or P-3 visa, good for a certain length of time. Apparently most of the Syrians’ P-series visas were expired. However, apparently one can apply in the US for an extension of length-of-stay, and in many cases a 45-day waiver will be granted while ICE considers the extension request. This ‘waiver’ is recorded on a separate piece of paper, so it’s possible to be legally in the US with a one-time-entry visa that expired on use, and a P-1 or P-3 visa that expired less than 45 days prior to the day in question.

    I’m reluctant to jump to conclusions about the status of these musicans. This song-and-dance does point out the difficulty, under the current system, of answering what should be a straightforward question.

    No comments preview, I hope this posts okay…

  2. actus Says:

    Does the visa status matter to the snopes allegation that they aren’t terrorists?

  3. AMac Says:

    actus, it only matters insofar as Snopes goes into the visa question in some detail, asserting that the 13 Syrians were not in violation of their status.

    BTW, I got it wrong in the earlier comment and Snopes got it right: the form that records the permitted stay is the Arrival-Departure Record, Form I-94. When you cross the border, you receive a small piece of paper… [This I-94 form] indicates that you were ‘inspected’ on entry; and the the date of your departure….Please do not do what an unbelievable number of people seem to do: lose their I-94. It is stapled to your passport and should not be lost, yet they somehow seem to disappear.

  4. Xrlq Says:

    Actus: an overstayed visa makes you a scofflaw, not necessarily a terrorist. Then again, being a Muslim male between the ages of 18 and 45 who hails from a terrorist state doesn’t necessarily make you a terrorist, either. Neither does congregating in large groups near the bathroom while the flight is in descent, or gesturing a slit throat, or singing praises to the “martyrs” who conduct suicide bombings in Israel. All of these things together do, however, give reason to question the quickness of Snopes and others to jump to the conclusion that these guys were absolutely, positively, definitely not terrorists on a dry run. If ever there was a good candidate for Snopes to use its “undetermined” characterization, this is it.

  5. McGehee Says:

    Snopes disillusioned me a couple of years ago when they ran a couple of unsigned articles that I thought at the time failed to met their usual standards for evenhandedness. One of those articles subsequently disappeared but last time I looked the other was still there, taking a Michael Moore-style view of Rush Limbaugh.

    Since then I’ve decided that unless it’s signed (and Barbara seems to be the only one who does) I’ll be just as skeptical of it as I would anything else on the Internet.

    I think we can now label “Snopes is reliable” as just another urban legend.

  6. Ubique Patriam Reminisci Says:

    Greg Hill Update
    Greg Hill responds in the comments of Dave Barry’s blog entry.

    I apologize both for misspelling Mr. Barry’s name and saying blogs aren’t open to their reader’s comments. He’s a fine writer who’s hopefully losing no sleep over my error, and the…

 

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