UPDATED: Defense Contractor Makes Up Wild Islamic Terrorism Fantasy; Right-Wingers Act Like it's 9/11 All Over Again

Posted by Joshua Holland, AlterNet at 11:34 AM on December 6, 2009

True story. A right-winger who obviously reads too many of those really hard-core Islamophobic blogs emailed around a detailed account of how he had heroically thwarted a terrorist attack on a flight from Atlanta to Houston.

According to the story, which proliferated on conservative blogs and rose as high up the wingnut food chain as Glenn Beck's website, Ted Petruna was on the AirTrans flight waiting to taxi when he saw a bunch of "Muslims" acting suspiciously. They spoke to each other covertly on their cell phones from different locations within the plane. In Arabic, of course. They refused the crew's orders to turn off the phones; instead, they started watching pornographic films (this is what religious fundamentalists tend to do before launching suicide attacks, according to Petruna). When the group stood up and started walking towards the flight deck, Petruna and a brave fellow Texan who had also noted the suspicious doings of the men took action. They manhandled the outclassed young Muslims into compliance and secured them until Air Marshals boarded the plane and took the group into custody.

Then, shockingly, the airline -- no doubt entirely staffed by PC liberals -- tried to allow the men to board again and resume their journey. But Petruna and a bunch of other fine upstanding Americans had had enough. They threatened airline personnel with violence if they weren't re-booked on other flights. The airline relented, and the flight was canceled.

All of this was of course covered up, as usual, by the terror-loving liberal media.

BradBlog offers a sampling of that feverish meme from Debbie Schlussel, who, when referred to at all, is almost ubiquitously dubbed the "poor man's Ann Coulter":

... she notes that she's spoken to Petruna, so she now knows that [her bold] "it's all true. WAKE. UP. AMERICA. We are under siege."

"As we know," the delightful Schlussel informs us, "authorities think we shouldn’t know about these things. They don’t want us to panic or to be suspicious of Muslims, when they’re busy doing outreach over shawarmeh at 'Ahmed’s Falafel Hut.'"

You know where this is all going, right?

Petruna was never on the airplane in question. He had had a reservation, but missed a connection and couldn't make the flight. There was in fact a group of brown people on the flight Petruna missed. But they were speaking Spanish. One of them didn't understand the crew's instructions to turn off his cell-phone. Crew members asked him and a companion to step off the plane and speak to security personnel, which they did without fuss. There was no altercation. No other passengers had to get involved. No air marshals boarded the plane.

Everything got straightened out, the men got back on and the flight continued to Texas without incident after a 2-hour delay.

Detailed story here, here and here.

It's a typically funny tale of conservative bravery! And I want to highlight a couple of what I think are key chunks ...

One is his email signature: Petruna, Tedd J. (JSC-DX12)[RAYTHEON TECHNICAL SERVICES COMPANY.] [Ed: see update below.]

From a company description:

Some people talk about supporting the troops but this company really does. Raytheon Technical Services Company (RTSC) is a leading provider of logistical, operational, and technical support services for the US military and other agencies of the federal government.

So here's a frustrated desk-warrior, deeply influenced by the neocon night-sweats that have propelled his industry since 9/11, dreaming of finally getting in on some real War on Terror action!

And then this:

... a Facebook message Friday ... intended only for friends and family, made the rounds online this week after a friend apparently forwarded it to others. In a matter of days, Petruna's account appeared in chat rooms and blogs and on conspiracy theorists' Web sites.

He missed his flight. He was probably in the gate area during the delay. He may have seen a group of dusky passengers get off the plane and speak with security personnel.

So rather than tell his friends and family a boring tale like this ...

Mr. Petruna’s trip originated from Akron-Canton, Ohio (CAK) on AirTran flight 205. This flight arrived at the gate in Atlanta at 5:06 p.m. Eastern Standard Time. Flight 297, the flight which Mr. Petruna allegedly wrote a first-hand account of, originally pushed back from its gate in Atlanta at 4:40 p.m. EST, a full 26 minutes before flight 205 arrived at the gate in Atlanta making this flight connection impossible.

... he made up this wild tale of daring, never intending the lie to be examined by anyone beyond the small circle of friends on his Facebook page.

But he underestimated his ideological fellow-travelers' hunger for fresh war-porn, for a rare win for the good guys. He didn't anticipate the story would proliferate around the internet. But it did, and real investigative reporters with the Atlanta Journal-Constitution ended up shredding Ted Petruna's sad little attempt to gain some macho bragging-rights among his Fox News-loving friends.

Update: TPM:

There's one other wrinkle to the story: Petruna sent the e-mail out from an account marked "Petruna, Tedd J. (JSC-DX12)[RAYTHEON TECHNICAL SERVICES COMPANY]." Raytheon partners with NASA on the Neutral Buoyancy Lab, where Petruna is a diver. And Petruna told us he works for Raytheon as well as NASA.

But Raytheon spokesman Jon Kasle tells TPMmuckraker, "This individual is not a Raytheon employee." Kasle says he's not sure why Raytheon's name is on Petruna's e-mail account, and declined to comment on whether the company is looking into the matter