Friday, September 21, 2007

Be afraid, be very afraid

Updated Increasingly, however, the proper response is to ask "Afraid of who?" This is from today's Boston Globe:
An MIT student wearing a device on her chest that included lights and wires was arrested at gunpoint at Logan International Airport this morning after authorities thought the contraption was a bomb strapped to her body.

Star Simpson, 19, was wearing a black hooded sweatshirt and approached an airport employee in Terminal C at 8 a.m. to inquire about an incoming flight from Oakland, according to Major Scott Pare of the State Police. She was holding a lump of what looked like putty in her hands. The employee asked about the plastic circuit board on her chest, and Simpson walked away without responding, Pare said.

Outside the terminal, Simpson was surrounded by police holding machine guns.

"She was immediately told to stop, to raise her hands, and not make any movement so we could observe all her movements to see if she was trying to trip any type of device," Pare said at a press conference at Logan. "There was obviously a concern that had she not followed the protocol ... we may have used deadly force." ...

"Thankfully because she followed our instructions, she ended up in our cell instead of a morgue," Pare said.
Okay, follow along here. She was surrounded by machine guns, threatened with being shot down in cold blood - and if she had it would have been all her fault for not following "protocol" - and arrested. The reason for all this? Some paranoid ticket clerk flipped out over a circuit board with blinking lights on the front of a sweatshirt! Oh yeah, sure, like some terrorist suicide bomber is going to light themselves up like some department store Christmas tree.

As just as the script demands, when it developed that Simpson was no threat and the device was harmless (and the "putty" proved to be Play-doh), she was arrested, the better to cover the cops' collective ass. The charge was possessing a "hoax device" - this even though there was no hoax, she never pretended or gave any indication the device was anything other than what it is, neither made nor even vaguely hinted at any threat of any sort.

If that seems silly remember that Boston is the city that in 2004 laid the same charge against a student re-enacting the famous photo from Abu Ghraib of the hooded prisoner on a box. In his case, the "hoax device" consisted of wires dangling from his wrists down to an empty milk crate. The charges were later dropped.

The city did it again in January of this year in the notorious "Mooninite scare" when the city went into a panic over some LED ads in the shape of cartoon characters. Again, the charge was "hoax devices" and again the charges were later dropped, although in this case the city managed to extort a $2 million settlement from Turner Broadcasting to pay for official costs supposedly incurred in the incident and wring some hours of community service from the two defendants. (Sidebar: The devices were also put up in nine other cities - New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Atlanta, Seattle, Portland, Austin, San Francisco, and Philadelphia - without incident.)

Still, still, Minor Pare called Simpson's actions
"a serious offense ... I’m shocked and appalled that somebody would wear this type of device to an airport."
Oh, grow up, you wimp. What's shocking and appalling here is your Keystone Kops approach to security and your petulant, childish attempts to push the blame for your own panic onto someone else.

I mean, this is beyond maddening, it is outright frightening. Frightening that so many are so ready, even so eager, to see constant danger all around us and that so many police are so ready, even so eager, to whip out the threat of deadly force at the least provocation - and then blame the terrorized victim when the official paranoia proves unwarranted.

Naomi Wolf has a new book out suggesting that the US is slipping toward a dictatorship on the grounds that the Bush administration is undertaking every one of the 10 steps she identifies as having in prior cases been necessary to destroy political freedoms. Number one on that list and clearly visible here, is "invoke a terrifying internal and external enemy." And if it develops you're not an enemy, well, dammit, you could have been so be grateful that we only imprisoned you instead of killing you.

Updated with a Footnote: A footnote that I meant to include last night and forgot.

I thought about Pare's statement that Simpson was told to stand still so cops could "see if she was trying to trip any type of device." It took me literally less than 10 seconds to see a flaw in that procedure.

Suppose I'm a suicide bomber. (I wonder if that phrase is going to set off any alarms at some web-scanning computer somewhere in officialdom.) I've decided that if I can't get to my target, if I'm stopped, I'll set the bomb off where I am and take as many people with me as I can.

The bomb is triggered by a switch released by pulling a pin. That pin is attached to a cord that is in turn fixed, perhaps by tape, to my arm in such a way that the very act of raising my hands pulls the pin. Cops catch me, I put up my hands in "surrender," and boom.

If I could think of that almost immediately, what makes anyone think that people who spend weeks or longer planning a bombing couldn't?

No comments:

// I Support The Occupy Movement : banner and script by @jeffcouturer / (v1.2) document.write('
I support the OCCUPY movement
');function occupySwap(whichState){if(whichState==1){document.getElementById('occupyimg').src=""}else{document.getElementById('occupyimg').src=""}} document.write('');