F-15 fighters were scrambled “to escort an Air France plane bound for JFK airport” yesterday (HT: Alan H.).
Anonymous threats had been phoned into police, and another JFK and two Newark flights were affected. Apparently a Boston flight was affected as well as well as one headed for Portland and Chicago.
The two F-15s “flew in a way so that the passengers and crew would not be able to see the military planes”
One law-enforcement source said he believed the threats were an elaborate hoax and “none of this was real.’’
In all of the coverage over the incidents there’s nonchalant reference to an ‘escort’ by fighter jets. Reporting on the scrambling of military fighter jets is so matter of fact, and none of it outlines the purpose of implications of the jet ‘escorts’.
At most, this is hinted at.
“I’ve learned since [landing] we were followed in by two fighter jets, so that’s scary,” said Kelsey Straight, of Brooklyn. “I was a bit panicked.”
The only thing a military fighter jet is equipped to do in this circumstance is shoot down the plane. None of the coverage points out that these fighter jets could only have been used to kill everybody onboard.
Fighter jets have been scrambled in the past in situations where passengers fought over reclining a seat in economy. The government response is to prepare to kill all the passengers.
There’s a different moral question to wrestle with in a situation where a plane is actually taken over with the intention to use it as a missile. That happened one day 14 years ago. Scrambling jets now, though, without firm knowledge that this is occurring barely raises an eyebrow.
Bonus question for legal scholars of the internet: is the use of military air power to kill American citizens in U.S. airspace (there were certainly Americans onboard these flights, and US airlines have similarly been ‘escorted’) authorized by any Act of Congress? I don’t presuppose knowledge on this subject, but it seems like an interesting issue.
Either way, it would seem like awareness of the possibility, and its legal basis, isn’t broadly understood by the public at large, and thus worth noting in a news story on military fighter jets being scrambled in order to be in a position to shoot down a commercial airliner.
And it would seem worth noting under whose direct authority the fighter jets were scrambled, and who directly would be giving the order to kill everyone on board?
Aren’t these difficult moral questions that deserve greater discussion than that a plane was ‘escorted’…?