Last Updated: January 01. 2010 4:37PM
Jennifer Chambers and Paul Egan / The Detroit News
Detroit -- A federal customs and border protection official
reversed himself today, admitting a passenger from Northwest Flight 253
was placed in handcuffs, searched and released after a canine alerted
officers to his carry-on luggage.
Ronald G. Smith, chief U.S.
Customs and Border Protection officer in the Detroit area, sent an
email to The Detroit News late Thursday apologizing that the
information on the passenger -- which was reported to federal
investigators by a pair of Taylor attorneys who were passengers on the
flight -- was not made available earlier.
Federal officials had
denied the details of the incident despite repeated accounts by
attorneys Kurt and Lori Haskell of Taylor who say they saw a man get
questioned by federal officials and be led away from the airport
baggage area in handcuffs after a sniffer dog reacted to something in
the man's carry-on luggage.
The couple said the man, who appeared to
be in his early 30s and of Indian descent, was taken to a room for
questioning and later led out of that room in handcuffs.
email, which was also sent to the couple, Smith said he had just
received a piece of information he did not have previously and hopes
"it will clear up the matter."
Smith said the man was
handcuffed and escorted to a room where he was interviewed and
searched. Nothing was found. The man was not arrested or detained, and
no further information was available about him, Smith said.
"This information is consistent with eyewitness accounts," Smith said.
previous statements, the FBI has said only one man from the flight was
arrested. That man, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, a 23-year-old Nigerian
being held at the Milan federal prison, is charged with trying to
destroy an aircraft and taking a destructive device aboard an aircraft.
He created a small fire before landing when he tried to set off
explosive chemicals hidden in his underwear, according to court
Passengers jumped on him and put out the blaze with the help of the flight crew.
previous interviews Smith said the Haskells' account was a composite of
two events that occurred at the airport around the time passengers got
off Flight 253.
The incidents were:
• A man from another
flight -- Northwest Flight 249, also from Amsterdam -- was arrested at
the jetway as he got off his flight and would have been led handcuffed
through the area where the Flight 253 passengers were gathered, Smith
said. The name of the man was not released, Smith added, because he was
arrested on suspicion of immigration violations, not on a criminal
• A sniffer dog reacted to agricultural or food
products inside the bag of a third man, who was off yet another flight,
Smith said. He was questioned and may have had some items confiscated
but was not arrested, Smith said. Smith could not identify the flight
number for the man found with prohibited food or plant products.
Haskell said Thursday that she and her husband stand by their original
story and alleged the government was concealing the facts about the
Today, reached by phone, Lori Haskell said the email was a small victory for the couple yet it angered them at the same time.
just want them to look into our claims," Lori Haskell said. "Our story
has been the same since Day One because we are telling the truth. This
is the FBI's fourth story."
The Haskells, who were questioned
Tuesday by FBI agents at their law office, earlier told The Detroit
News that Kurt Haskell saw Abdulmutallab in Amsterdam apparently trying
to board the flight without a passport.
Kurt Haskell said he
saw a well-dressed Indian man, who was older than the Indian man
arrested at Detroit Metro, attempting to negotiate with airline
officials to get Abdulmutallab on the plane without a passport. He
appeared to be trying to pass Abdulmutallab off as a Sudanese refugee,
Nigerian officials have said Abdulmutallab
presented a valid Nigerian passport and multi-entry U.S. visa when he
began his trip in Lagos. Federal officials seized both documents in
Detroit, a person familiar with the investigation said.
have said Abdulmutallab's name was included in a large database of
people with possible terrorist ties but was not on the more exclusive
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