John McCaslin

A Washington lawyer aboard US Airways Flight 532 earlier this month from Miami to Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport, with a stopover in Charlotte, N.C., says the pilot of the flight made an intriguing, if not alarming, announcement over the intercom.

Shortly before touching down in Charlotte, the pilot announced to passengers that the landing was being delayed because somebody was "jamming" the plane's communications with the control tower.

"We have a jamming problem," the lawyer, who asks not to be identified, paraphrased the pilot. "We've gotten word from the tower that our radio frequencies are being jammed."

Then these words: The problem could "involve national security."

"Upon deplaning I went up to the captain and said, 'Did I hear you correctly ... that it could be by someone who is trying to do us harm?' And he said yes, there is a problem here. It's happened before."

In the 26 years he's been in the business, John Mazor, a spokesman for the Air Line Pilots Association, tells The Beltway Beat that every so often there is a "flurry" of such incidents, including cases where somebody gets on the same radio frequency and imitates an air traffic controller, or else pretends to be a pilot.

As far as frequency jamming, he says: "Unless you find the source, you're not sure if it's inadvertent or on purpose. As you know from reporting on the lasers (being beamed at pilots from the ground), laser incidents go back 10 years. But it wasn't until the Sept. 11 attacks that we have to look at everything through national security lines now."

Frequency jamming, like laser attacks, take on "a new dimension post-9/11. And it's better to be safe than sorry," he says.


Perhaps he's a Democrat. Or maybe he's just fed up with paying more than $2 for a gallon of gasoline.

Either way, observes the official White House pool report on one of President Bush's more recent motorcades: "Few people were out watching the passing convoy, though we did spot one man at a gas station doing an emphatic thumbs-down."


A memorable vignette in honor of the late Sen. J. James Exon, the three-term Nebraska Democrat who died Friday at the age of 83:

It was sometime in the mid-1990s and Exon was on the Senate floor offering an amendment to restore funding to some forgotten program in some forgotten spending bill. After arguing that opponents of his amendment were insulting the nuclear family, undermining national security and pretty much destroying the American way of life, he asked for a roll-call vote.

John McCaslin

John McCaslin is a contributing columnist on and author of Inside The Beltway: Offbeat Stories, Scoops, and Shenanigans from around the Nation's Capital .

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