Speed Reads

see something; maybe don't say something

This olive-skinned man was suspected of terrorism on his flight. He was just doing math.

On an American Airlines flight about to head from Philadelphia to Syracuse on Thursday, a man The Washington Post describes as olive-skinned and curly haired was scribbling away on a notepad and averting his neighbor's attempts at small talk.

That neighbor pulled the ol' "see something, say something," reporting the man to the flight attendant, which in turn delayed the flight. Guido Menzio, an award-winning economist at the University of Pennsylvania, was reportedly escorted from the plane and interrogated for being suspected of terrorism.

Menzio, of Italian descent, wasn't writing in Arabic (which, to be clear, is also not a good reason to suspect someone of terrorism) or some foreign code. He was, quite simply, writing differential equations. The flight eventually took off with Menzio aboard.

The economist told the Post he believes airlines use "a security protocol that is too rigid — in the sense that once the whistle is blown everything stops without checks — and relies on the input of people who may be completely clueless."