Saturday, September 22, 2007

Careful what you wear to the airport

Or the train station I presume.

I am of course referring to the story about MIT student Star Simpson who was arrested for wearing a so-called hoax device (a fake bomb, if you prefer), which of course was nothing of the sort.

The Machinist over at Salon has the story

Star Simpson, a 19-year-old MIT student, was arrested at gunpoint Friday morning at Boston's Logan Airport when officers suspected that a circuit board and battery she had pinned to her sweatshirt was a bomb. Indeed, every news outlet is now referring to the thing as a "fake bomb," and Simpson has been charged with possessing a "hoax device."

But pictures of the sweatshirt that officials are putting out show something quite less scary -- I have no idea what a real bomb looks like, but I don't think it's a plastic board with a 9-volt battery on it. Simpson's explanation is that the jacket was a wearable-art project she made so she could stand out at her school's career day (the plastic board lights up). All information now streaming in supports that view, and suggests that the affair could have been a misunderstanding, one that very nearly turned tragic.

This is my speculation only, but it seems quite possible that rather than intending to deliberately walk into Logan with a fake bomb, Simpson might instead have rolled out of bed with an art jacket she often wore around campus and slipped it on in a rush on her way to pick up a friend -- forgetting that she was heading into the all-fear-all-the-time black hole that is U.S. aviation.

First of all, Star Simpson was extremely lucky that she was smart enough to not start debating with the cops when they pointed the guns at her. Second of all, wearing that jacket was a foolish thing to do - but only so in this climate of fear.

I live in a country where there haven't been any terrorist attacks for quite a few years (the latest was back in 1992), so it's of course quite easy for me to ridicule overreactions like this. On the other hand, last month, eight people were arrested for making bombs and planning terrorism in Copenhagen. Before them, a group of people were arrested in 2005, of which one was convicted, and a group was arrested in 2006 - their trial started earlier this month.

So, bomb scares are not entirely unknown here.

We've also had some issues with biker gangs fighting each other, which included incidents of bikers attacking each other at the airport.

What I am trying to say, is that I have some understanding of the level of care being extra high at airports, but there has to be some proportions. When the airport security arrested Simpson, it was a bit of a overkill, but that's understandable. When she's charged afterwards, it's crazy. The charges against her carries up to five year in prison. They should be dropped immediately!

Hopefully the legal authorities in Boston will come to their senses.

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