Los Angeles Times Magazine Articles

“ELEMENT OF SURPRISE” Los Angeles Times Magazine, January 2012
When Green Berets stormed out of their helicopters at Son Tay, in North Vietnam, they’d completed one of the most elegantly executed special-ops infiltrations in American history. If only the prison hadn’t been empty. 


“OUT OF IRAN” Los Angeles Times Magazine, January 2011
Buried within WikiLeaks’ exposed secrets is one L.A. dentist’s great horseback

“WHAT LIES BENEATH” Los Angeles Times Magazine, October 2010
The harrowing true-life account of a CIA deep-sea search for Soviet nuclear warheads off the U.S. coast—and the role L.A. played.

“LOOKS CAN KILL” Los Angeles Times Magazine, March 2010
Kim-Maree Penn is one of the world’s most respected bodyguards— and she’s absolutely gorgeous, too.

“CAMPING WITH QADDAFI” Los Angeles Times Magazine, February 2010
Spending quality time with the Libyan dictator is in the realm of living dangerously.

“KABUL LULLABY” Los Angeles Times Magazine, September 2009
Making music in post-Taliban Afghanistan can be playing with fire.

“FROM MOJAVE TO THE MOON” Los Angeles Times Magazine, August 2009
With a moon touchdown in their sites, scientists and engineers gathered in California’s Mojave Desert to plan, design and eventually fly a futuristic contraption called the Lunar Landing Research Vehicle.

“THE ROAD TO AREA 51” Los Angeles Times Magazine, April 2009
After decades of denying the facility’s existence, five former insiders speak out.

“WHAT PLANE?” Los Angeles Times Magazine, March 2009
During the Cold War, the Lockheed Aircraft Corporation’s Skunk Works division built top secret spy planes like OXCART in the heart of Burbank, California.


Northwest Flight 327

Yes, that’s me.

In June of 2004, I was on a flight from Detroit to Los Angeles with my family when thirteen Middle Eastern male passengers, also on board, acted as if they might try and hijack the airplane. Federal Air Marshals were pulled out of cover during the commotion. When the flight landed at Los Angeles International Airport, a group of federal agents—including men from the FBI and the Joint Terrorism Task Force—met the airplane.

After I learned the suspicious men were questioned only briefly and let go without further scrutiny, I wrote about my experience on that airplane flight. My article became an Internet phenomena, was reprinted around the world in many languages, and triggered an inquiry from the White House Homeland Security Council.

Ultimately, the Department of Homeland Security, Office of the Inspector General produced a report. Originally classified, the Inspector General’s report was finally released. That official report determined:

•The leader of the group of Middle Eastern men was involved in a similar incident, with seven other men just five months prior to the incident on Northwest flight 327. That first “dry run,” as it would later be called, was on Frontier Airlines Flight 577, in January 2004.

•Twelve of the thirteen men on Northwest Flight 327 were flying in the United States on expired visas.

•Eight of the thirteen men on Northwest Flight 327 had preexisting positive hits with the Interagency Border Inspection System (IBIS), a database of names and other identifying information used to deter and apprehend suspects—including suspected terrorists. These same men were cleared for entry into the U.S., wound up on Flight 327, and slipped through federal law enforcement scrutiny for the third time, when they were questioned by federal law enforcement at LAX.

Further reading:

U.S. Department of Homeland Security, Office of the Inspector General, Review of Department’s Handling of Suspicious Passengers Aboard Northwest Flight 327, March 2006. (Download 4 MB pdf file)