Government Says Mechanic Who Sabotaged American Airlines Plane May Have Connection to ISIS

News that an American Airlines mechanic in Miami sabotaged an aircraft before it prepared to take off with passengers was truly shocking. The man admitted that he wanted to delay or cancel the flight out of frustration with union contract talks, and to force more overtime work to fix the problem he had caused.

The claim that he wanted to force more overtime work was odd, because the illegal job action undertaken by some mechanics involved refusing to work overtime. I just chalked that up to anyone that’s going to sabotage a plane isn’t likely to make total sense.

Talks between the airline and mechanics have been ongoing this week. American’s operational performance has been somewhat improved since obtaining a permanent injunction against mechanics in federal court. And both the union and American condemned the actions of the lone mechanic and underscored their commitment to safety.

And of course while the mechanic did manage to force a flight cancellation, it doesn’t appear anyone was ever in serious danger.

The mechanic was denied bond this morning. Federal prosecutors will often over-charge, and use tenuous connections to terrorism, especially when a defendant is named Abdul-Majeed Marouf Ahmed Alani.

According to the government,

  • An “Islamic State group propaganda video” was found on his cell phone (which he voluntarily allowed the government to search)
  • His best friend’s sister’s boyfriend’s brother’s girlfriend heard from this guy who knows this kid An American Airlines employee “told government officials that Alani had once said his brother was a member of ISIS”
  • The man’s roommate “told authorities the trip [to Iraq] was not to visit his brother, but had been because his brother had been kidnapped.”
  • He “sent $700 to someone in Iraq” (where he was born and has family, this is normal)

Authorities do not even know if these unverified second hand stories refer to the same brother. It seems equally likely that a mechanic who would sabotage a plane is delusional.

Most importantly the man admits his behavior, and has offered no indication that his one-off obstruction of an air data module on an aircraft was motivated by anything other than unhappiness with a union contract – and being delusional. Certainly someone influenced by ISIS would have chosen another technique if their intention was even more nefarious. Based on what we know now, he seems like a moron not a terrorist.

Rhetoric between the airline and its mechanics has been more muted in the past week and a half since the incident.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. Call me racist or whatever. People working on aircraft need to be vetted for competence and political risks. The same rules that might limit activities by a pilot with serious psychiatric issues should also apply to mechanics. And YES, if they save ISIS videos on their phone they definitely warrant serious attention.
    This guy should never go near a plane for some of these reasons, pick whichever you choose.

    I believe psychiatric issues might be akin to a disability, Sympathy is warranted, accomodation is mandated but there are jobs that are safety critical. I would not want to be under the knife of a delusional surgeon or a passenger in an aircraft flown or repaired by an insane person. My statements apply to serious, active disorders and not to peoples history.

  2. Gene – where did he mention Donald?

    By your “give me a break” comment, are you saying you don’t have an issue with a plane mechanic having ISIS videos on his/her phone?

    Obviously, we don’t know the truth and maybe never will, but I’d put more trust in the govt and it’s charges than the crazy mechanic, as you and Gary seem to be doing.

  3. @gary your article is very one sided. Everyone is presumed innocent, until proven guilty. So this man deserves a fair trial, and the lawyers will all need to do their due diligence, but we cannot discount any potential links to terrorism. Hopefully, it comes back empty, but your writing should not be bias, and leaning towards the government is making those allegations up.

  4. @Gene Leave it to you to bring partisan politics into this for no reason at all. If someone is a Moslem, is from Iraq, and watches ISIS videos just for fun in his spare time, I don’t want him working on a plane that I or anyone I love is going to fly on.

    But frankly, if that plane had just you as a passenger, that I’d be okay with. 😉

  5. Gary, the comments on your blog used to be a strength. Now it’s a cesspool. Winky face or not, the post above mine is repulsive. I know it’s an impossible task, but I’d love to see zero tolerance for commenters who don’t treat others with respect, whatever positions they hold on whatever issue.

  6. If you want to treat an ISIS sympathizer with respect, it’s your prerogative. When they treat my culture with respect, that’s when I will treat theirs in the same fashion. In the meantime, I will be defending my culture by not allowing those people near the planes I fly.

  7. What could ISIS hope to gain by instilling fear in everyone thinking of traveling by air? Oh, wait…

    I hope this investigation yields a clear verdict on whether or not this mechanic was radicalized.

  8. Too much credit going to ISIS.
    It was the PLO that pioneered planes and airports for terrorism.

    Must be another lone wolf with mental illness. Millions of lone wolves with same ideology. Pattern?

  9. @Gene
    Who someone votes for is immaterial and personal in the USA. I see no sense in your statement.

    I assume everybody in the world but you will consider the actions of the aforementioned mechanic dangerous and possibly terroristic. I recently heard an acquaintance of mine had his driver’s license revoked after being hospitalized with sudden dementia. There was mandated reporting of his condition and the revocation was with immediate effect, no appeals nor discussions. A automobile driver with dementia could represent a danger to others. This level of care must apply to those that repair (or booby trap) our aircraft.

    Smell the coffee. Many of the readers here hope to live another day in order to enjoy life rather than just complain about President Trump.

  10. Ironically whether he is a terrorist or not, pretending he is gives the mechanic’s union an easy way to save face:

    “He wasn’t sabotaging planes on our behalf, he was isis!”

    AA will be happier with stopping a terrorist than having mechanics who will sabotage them for $$

    Presumably AA and the Union will make some mumblings about being against terrorism, and patch up their relations and eventually sign a contract.

    But Mr. Multinames will end up in gitmo.

    Also, always make them get a warrant, this isn’t 1775

  11. Remembering a related event:

    On May 1, 2010, someone tried to set off a car bomb in Times Square. Luckily the bomb did not work properly and was disarmed before causing any casualties.

    According to Real Clear Politics (5/4/10) (Hencforth referred to as “RCP”): Many politicians blamed the “right-wing” for the failed attempt. However, I remember politicians blaming the right wing, because I worked the Times Square area at the time.

    RCP reported that
    –‘Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-NY): “Whether the guy who did this, or the people who did this were with some Islamic terrorist group or whether they were some right-wing nut group or whether they were by themselves, in one sense it doesn’t matter.”‘
    –‘CNN Terrorism analyst Peter Bergen says its probable the Times Square car bomb attempt was by a “right-wing” terrorist.’
    –‘ MSNBC’s Chris Matthews and NBC News Terrorist Analyst Roger Cressey discuss the theory of someone with a “right-wing” agenda.’

    Even New York Mayor Bloomberg speculated on TV that the bombing attempt might be some out of work white guy, but I cannot find a cite.

    It turned out that the Bomber was Faisal Shahzad, a 30-year-old Pakistan-born resident of Bridgeport, Connecticut, who had become a U.S. citizen in April 2009 and who had trained at a Pakistani terrorist training camp.

    Not sure if this is the same type of circumstance. However, I am sure that it will be spun the same way.

  12. So if you’re going to vet everyone for political correctness working on aircraft (be it AA or any other line) does than mean off-shore repair stations as well?

  13. @Larry: Chill out. Don’t you know Robert Hanson is in federal prison for life…for spying ? Look it up. He still gets access to email though.

    Ooops, sorry Bob, that’s Robert Hanssen. NVM.

    Have we forgotten about the first amendment? Or did you guys decide it was ok to trade your constitutional rights to terrorists in return for thinking you can sleep more safely at night.

  14. Gary Leff, with respect to you (because I enjoy reading your articles), this deduction of yours is out of line. What if his name was Roger Moore? they wouldn’t have invoked a specter of terror?

    “The government is going to be as aggressive as possible in going after him, invoking the specter of terror, especially since his name is Abdul-Majeed Marouf Ahmed Alani. “

  15. The man was captured on video committing the alleged crime. Tampering with an aircraft is a federal crime which can yield a 20-year sentence. As the man was a mechanic, he KNEW that. It’s sick. Despite a pilot catching it prior to take-off, this wasn’t a “harmless” crime, it will have lasting repercussions. Further, it’s NOT normal to have ISIS propaganda on your cell phone. And it’s seriously suspicious to be sending money into a terrorist country where your brother is a member of ISIS. Hopefully he does time for his “alleged” crime which he was filmed committing. It would be a relief to have this deviant locked away from the public! I’m all for a fair trial that includes the video of him tampering the aircraft.
    In addition, it’s alarming and abnormal for Gary to make excuses for probable ISIS sympathizers. Hopefully he ceases that.

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