TSA: Leave Your Weird, Fancy, Arty, Utterly Un-Dangerous Watches at Home, or To Jail You Go

Infuriating Transportation Security Administration (TSA) foolishness at Oakland Airport sends an arty guy with a funky homemade watch (described in many reports as "steampunk" though I'm not sure that's exactly what I'd call the aesthetic, but it doesn't matter) to jail, with no charges eventually pressed natch, as he hadn't done anything wrong, except confused TSA agents and cops with arty matters beyond their mundane comprehension. (The watch in question is pictured to the below right.)

The bare facts from an AP report:

Geoffrey McGann, 49, of Rancho Palos Verdes was taken into custody Thursday night after he tried to pass through airport security with an ornate watch that had switches, wires and fuses, according to Sgt. J.D. Nelson, a spokesman for the Alameda County Sheriff's Department.

A bomb squad arrived within five minutes and determined there were no explosive materials in the watch, Nelson said. The checkpoint was closed while officers secured the area.

McGann was taken to Santa Rita Jail in Dublin where he was charged with possessing materials to make an explosive device, sheriff's officials said...

McGann told Transportation Security Administration officers that he's an artist and the watch is art, Nelson said.

While no actual explosives were found, McGann was carrying potentially dangerous materials and appeared to have made alterations to his boots, which were unusually large and stuffed with layers of insoles, Nelson said.

McGann was eventually released by the Alameda sheriff's office with no formal charges pressed.

Anti-TSA avenger Amy Alkon vents, with an editorial note from Lisa Simone noting credulous reporting from news sources:

 All over the country, news sources are printing and repeating irresponsible, misleading headlines. Examples: Man wearing ornate watch with bomb-making supplies arrested at Oakland airport, authorities sayGoeffrey McGann, ‘Artist’ carrying homemade ‘watch bomb’ with fuses and circuit board arrested in CaliforniaMan arrested after airport screeners see bomb-like watch; on and on. There were no “bomb-making supplies.” There were no bomb-making materials. There was no “watch bomb.” There was nothing “bomb-like.” The irresponsibility of the mainstream media is grotesque. -Lisa Simeone

Alkon says:

Will this be enough? Creative dudes getting arrested for having creative watches and funny shoes? What will it take before people start to realize they could be next? And that the degradation of our rights and the sheeplike, blinking acceptance of that paves the way for more and more degradation of our rights?

TSA's maddening official web spokesperson "Blogger Bob" says, hey, art is A-OK. It's all dripping with an awful "cool camp counseler" vibe, just remember, it's cool to be cool, just follow the rules (that we make up as we go along based on our officious foolishness)!

Anyway, guys, just remember when you travel not to do anything that might confuse our literal-minded "officers"!:

From comments I’ve read on the web, some think we overreacted to a piece of steampunk art, while others understand why we would be concerned.


Is this watch dangerous? Not at all. However, we didn’t know that until the explosive detection team arrived and cleared the item. You see, when something is considered to be a potential deadly threat, it is protocol not to open the bag.


Terrorists take everyday items and attempt to manipulate them to make improvised explosive devices. Our officers are trained to look for anomalies such as this one.
After clearing the watch, law enforcement officers (not TSA) made the decision to arrest the passenger. TSA officers do not have the power of arrest.


Please take a moment to think about what you’re traveling with and how it might appear to TSA. I happen to think this watch is pretty cool, and I’m a fan of all kinds of art and homemade DIY gadgets, however, they’re not always the best things to travel with. 

As if the arrest would not have happened minus TSA advice and over-reaction, and as if our liberties to move through the nation should be restricted to the narrow range of things an average TSA drone would understand. This is the country we have chosen.

Reason on TSA.

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  • Heroic Mulatto||

    Yes, we all know the easiest way to sneak an explosive aboard a plane is to make it look like a cartoonish "bomb".

  • Brutus||

    I might as well turn myself in now. I'm shipping several pallets of control panels in another week or so that are chock full of fuses, wires and lots of other stuff with blinking lights that might look like bomb-making materials to a TSA ignoramus.

  • Heroic Mulatto||

    Imma report you.

    IF YOU SEE SOMETHING, SAY SOMETHING!

  • Brutus||

    It's only a matter of time before we're all on the list of suspects.

  • anon||

    As if we aren't already.

  • sarcasmic||

    After clearing the watch, law enforcement officers (not TSA) made the decision to arrest the passenger.

    You made us work. Fuck you. You're going to jail.

  • anon||

    I'm actually surprised anyone even noticed his watch.

  • Brutus||

    It set off the metal detector.

  • anon||

    I dunno what the watch looked like, but if it were bomb-looking (not that I'm sure I could spot a bomb), he shouldn't be surprised when he gets the full cavity search. Of course, that presumes you -want- airport security of the TSA type.

    Of course, my "Airport Security" would be to issue each (qualified) passenger a firearm upon boarding.

  • GroundTruth||

    Anon: get your own search routine! I've been pushing that one for about 10 years.

  • Loki||

    I dunno what the watch looked like

    ...this despite the picture of the watch in the article. Not the picture of the chick getting fondled, the first picture.

  • Pound. Head. On. Desk.||

    Of course, my "Airport Security" would be to issue each (qualified) passenger a firearm upon boarding.

    Issue? Make them buy their own.

  • In Time Of War||

    Correction...this is the country that has been chosen for us by nimrods. Majority rule FTW!

  • goneGalt||

    Well, to be sure, 50% of the populace is below average intelligence. Then you add in those who are having an off day or low blood sugar...

    And you are right. Majority rule FTW!

  • The Late P Brooks||

    They called the fucking bomb squad. For that.

    "Nobody move, or the nigger gets it!"

  • Ptah-Hotep||

    They called the fucking bomb squad. For that.

    And you just know some TSA agent flipped the toggle switch a couple of times to see what it did.

  • anon||

    Oh if only it were a real bomb...

  • Brutus||

    All real bombs have countdown displays. Haven't you seen any movies the last three decades?

  • Pound. Head. On. Desk.||

    All real bombs have countdown displays. Haven't you seen any movies the last three decades?

    and bright, blinking lights for when you hide them.

    and double-action revolvers go "ZZZ" when you spin the cylinder.

  • Adam330||

    "Please take a moment to think about what you’re traveling with and how it might appear to TSA."

    Translation:
    "TSA agents are dumb as rocks. Haven't you seen those guys drooling on themselves? If your retarded 11-year old cousin might think it's a bomb, our stupid agents are going to think so too."

  • nicole||

    This

  • Brutus||

    They're obviously illiterate, too. The fuses in that pic are cleary labelled as such.

  • GroundTruth||

    Alternative translation: "If your retarded 11-year old cousin might think it's a bomb, she should start working for us!"

  • rho||

    TSA training excels in removing both a sense of humor and perspective.

    They're not stupid, it's just that they're paid to be humorless pedants.

  • Ptah-Hotep||

    While no actual explosives were found, McGann was carrying potentially dangerous materials.

    So identify the "potentially dangerous materials" ass-hats. Otherwise STFU and admit you fucked up.

  • anon||

    Betting it was a pencil.

  • Rich||

    identify the "potentially dangerous materials"

    Sorry, no can do. Matter of National Security, you know.

  • Loki||

    Just about anything could be be considered "potentially dangerous materials". Neat huh! This way they could potentially detain anyone they want to at any time. "You could beat someone to death with that laptop." Or, "You could possibly strangle someone with that headphone cord." "Detained! Now, STOP RESISTING!"

  • The Late P Brooks||

    I did a run of shirts for a friend's band featuring a down-the-barrel view of a kind of sort of Navy Colt -style revolver.

    I sure hope nobody (I like) tries to board a plane wearing one.

  • tarran||

    Remember that girl from MIT who had homemade brooch incoporating electronics on her sweatshirt when she went to pick up her boyfriend at the airport?

    HEre's an interview with Star Simpson a year after that sad incident.

    There were many dates, they were mostly dates to postpone the hearing. Finally I had court date in June, 2008. My fourth D.A., the judge was retiring. My lawyers recommended that I make a deal with the D.A. and end the case, and after an entire year I was definitely very tired and also wanted to end everything also. So the deal made with the D.A. was to perform 50 hours of community service, to not be arrested in Massachusetts, for an entire year, and that I had to issue a public apology to Boston.

    Fucking troglodytes.

  • SIV||

    There was that Semtex Play-Doh she was brandishing too

  • tarran||

    A flower made out of playdough that she had dried after inscribing "for Tim".

    Bunch of troglodytes.

  • nicole||

    I have to say I'm kind of annoyed with her though for folding. I mean...I get it. But seriously, fuck the fuck off, slavers.

  • tarran||

    Nicole,

    I was a witness in a criminal trial at the Concord courthouse a year ago. The whole fucking thing is a travesty. They'll grind and grind a person until they are destroyed. HAd she fought she would have gotten jail. Instead they got to declare victory and she got her Continuation without a Finding of Fact, which basically means that after her probation ended she had no conviction.

    The problem here is MIT hung her out to dry. Had they defended her, their influence would have led to the case being dismissed. But you can't endanger all those lucrative Homeland Security grants by defending one of your students' against a bullshit prosecution.

    Fuck MIT, fuck Menino and fuck all the cops like Dunphy who act as the muscle for this bullshit.

  • nicole||

    Oh, I can imagine. I probably would have folded too. That's just how much the whole thing sucks.

  • NoVAHockey||

    right to speedy trial? non applicable? fuck you that's why?

  • sarcasmic||

    My lawyers recommended that I make a deal with the D.A.

    That's what public pretenders do. Their job is to get convictions for the person who is paying them.

  • tarran||

    In this case she wasn't convicted. She got a Continuation without a Finding of Fact. Technically she didn't plead guilty and hasn't been convicted. Once her probabtion was up, the judge dismissed the charges and she has nothing on her record.

    I'd accept that deal. The state officials wanted her apology to justify their hysterical behavior.

  • sarcasmic||

    the judge dismissed the charges and she has nothing on her record

    Oh, I'm sure there's a record of what's not on her record.
    I bet that because of what's not on her record, she would fail a background check for a security clearance.

  • tarran||

    Oh yes...

    But then again, that's a good thing; The fewer talented individuals can get security clearances, the better off we victims of the government are.

  • ||

    While no actual explosives were found, McGann was carrying potentially dangerous materials...

    There are very few things in this world that are not "potentially dangerous".

  • Broseph of Invention||

    More people drown every year than were killed in the 9/11 attacks. Why would anyone carry water in their bladder through a checkpoint, if not for terrorist purposes?

    Relatedly, looking forward to the day when a "feces-fueled bomb" makes a scare and we all have to purge our intestines before boarding a plane.

  • ||

    Sounds like an episode of Southpark.

  • Eduard van Haalen||

    Don't give the Southpark people any ideas, much less the TSA.

  • Loki||

    No, please give the South Park people ideas. With the exception of the Sarcastaball episode this latest season was kind of uninspired, IMO.

  • Eduard van Haalen||

    One thing where they *don't* need additional advice is jokes about body functions. Unless the advice is to drop those jokes.

  • The Late P Brooks||

    While no actual explosives were found, McGann was carrying potentially dangerous materials and appeared to have made alterations to his boots, which were unusually large and stuffed with layers of insoles, Nelson said.

    Was he flying to Lowell, Mass?

  • Heroic Mulatto||

    appeared to have made alterations to his boots, which were unusually large and stuffed with layers of insoles

    And I'm sure Sgt. Nelson made this determination through his vast knowledge of the methodology of Applied Boot Science, with findings that are repeatable and falsifiable.

  • Sevo||

    "Please take a moment to think about what you’re traveling with and how it might appear to TSA."
    Fuck you.

  • ||

    No shit. That's now been elevated to the highest priority of travel.

  • Broseph of Invention||

    *Starts putting donut into carry-on bag*

    *Remembers Blogger Bob's advice*

    *Eats donut*

  • GroundTruth||

    Just like the current definition of harassment: anything that the person supposedly being harassed considers to be harassment.

  • Mr Whipple||

    While no actual explosives were found, McGann was carrying potentially dangerous materials...

    While I am sure that wires and switches are used in making bombs, they are also used for other purposes. C-4, not so much.

    and appeared to have made alterations to his boots, which were unusually large and stuffed with layers of insoles

    Well, trying to appear taller than what you are is definitely a violation. It's like a sock in the pants, or tissues in the bra.

    Amirite?

  • Brutus||

    Why any wannabe terrorist would put fuses in his bomb is beyond me. To make sure the wires don't overheat?

  • Mr Whipple||

    Those aren't fuses. They are little mini sticks of dynamite.

  • Mr Whipple||

    They actually do look a little like pipe bombs.

    How do you get a pipe bomb on a plane? Put a fuse label on it.

    Hmmmmmm......

  • Belgian||

    That is why they keep fondling all those womens' breasts.

  • ||

  • sarcasmic||

    This is why I will absolutely never travel by air again. Ever.

    I have very little respect for authority, and zero respect for retards with power. None.

    The airlines can go out of business for all I care, but if they did you can bet that the TSA agents would still be there in the otherwise empty airport.

  • Heroic Mulatto||

    The airlines can go out of business for all I care,

    I'm still convinced the TSA is part of a government conspiracy to nationalize the airlines, a la Amtrack.

  • nicole||

    There are so many things I don't understand about the airlines, their relationship with passengers, and their relationship with the TSA/govt that I can only think you are right. I'm a semi-frequent flyer, and these are my questions:

    1. All those people who bring rollerboard suitcases as carryons that are clearly larger than the carryon container--why do the airlines allow them to do this?
    2. Those same people--is it really possible they are packing enough to need a full-size suitcase but don't have to bring more liquids with them than TSA allows in carryons? Are they all secreting extra liquids in, or do they just pack way differently from me? (Yes, pun intended.)

    My only real conclusion is that the airlines know how much people hate checked-bag fees, so they figure they can just let the TSA force some percentage of passengers to check bags because of liquids and get their baggage fee that way, and then anyone who makes it through the TSA gauntlet gets to bring their bag for free, no matter how big it is. (Well, not "no matter," but little matter.) I.e., the TSA is channeling money toward the airlines, so the airlines have no incentive to complain that their customers are being routinely abused (of course, the airlines owe more than just that to govt as well, but yeah).

    But my questions are serious, they bug me all the time!

  • Auric Demonocles||

    I purposely bought my luggage (a sort of duffel bag with a built in suit roller thing) so that it would be sized appropriately for carry on. At first I was amazed they didn't make me check the size of it before boarding the plane. Now I feel like a sucker.

  • nicole||

    I actually don't mind the money or anything, I would gladly pay $25 each way to not drag a heavy case around the airport. I virtually always travel alone and I find that a huge pain in the ass. But there is no one I hate more than the assholes who take forever to board the plane because their shit doesn't fit. When you lose your takeoff slot at LGA...argh

  • Mr Whipple||

    Please take a moment to think about what you’re traveling with and how it might appear to TSA.

    Hanlon's Razor

    Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity.

  • sarcasmic||

    I think back to when I was a teenager, moving from one parent to the other, and I took my favorite Estes model rocket in my carry-on since I figured it was the only way I could keep the fins from being broken off.

    They saw it in the x-ray and were a bit surprised. I was able to explain to the person what it was. A painted paper tube with a hollow plastic nose cone, a parachute, and some balsa fins. I didn't pack any motors.

    They let it go. No big deal. The guy actually had a brain and wasn't a petty tyrant, drunk on power.

    Had the TSA been around in '88 I'd probably still be in prison today.

  • anon||

    So, when did they let you out?

  • Citizen Nothing||

    It's all dripping with a maddening "cool camp counseler" vibe,


    Blogger Bob is the fucking worst.

  • NoVAHockey||

    My wife and I are flying with my 3 year old and her grandparents who are in their 70s on Sunday. so one who can't sit still and two who can't move. joys of joys.

    and if you're behind me at DCA sunday morning, sorry.

  • The Late P Brooks||

    Imma report you.

    IF YOU SEE SOMETHING, SAY SOMETHING!

    Strangely enough, this morning as I was watching the newsbots yammering about "teh Holiday Travels" I was briefly overtaken by the urge to go to the airport and hang around drinking coffee and savoring the despair of the less fortunate.

    What stopped me? The suspicion that somebody would report me as a suspicious character, resulting in some sort of unpleasant episode of authoritarianism gone wild.

  • nicole||

    What stopped me? The suspicion that somebody would report me as a suspicious character, resulting in some sort of unpleasant episode of authoritarianism gone wild.

    At first, I thought you were going to say that was your reason for wanting to go.

  • anon||

    authoritarianism gone wild.

    This sounds like it could be a good porn

  • Eduard van Haalen||

    Ilsa, She-Wolf of the TSA.

  • Eduard van Haalen||

    Or the caption to the second photo: Irma, She-Wolf of the TSA.

  • Bobarian||

    Would make good alt-text for second photo...

    or 'Ooo, getting me some side-boob'

  • The Late P Brooks||

    There are so many things I don't understand about the airlines, their relationship with passengers, and their relationship with the TSA/govt

    Here's my question:

    Every time I see an airline commercial extolling their dedication to "the flying experience" I rudely (and loudly) ask the teevee screen, "Well then why don't you band together and evict the TSA from the airports? How the fuck can you possibly pretend the "flying experience" is anything but medieval torment as long as your customers have to endure the humiliating gauntlet of "security theater of the absurd"?

    I opted out of air travel many years ago; I would like nothing more than to see the bootlicking toadies at the airline go broke.

  • Heroic Mulatto||

    The experience is even more stark if you've ever flown from one country that isn't America to another country that isn't America on a non-American carrier. Then you realize to call American air travel "3rd World" is being charitable.

  • Bam!||

    Are those non-American carriers government-owned? Like Singapore's?

  • nicole||

    Yes, P Brooks, exactly.

  • Ice Nine||

    All over the country, news sources are printing and repeating irresponsible, misleading headlines. Examples: Man wearing ornate watch with bomb-making supplies
    ...There were no bomb-making materials.

    So, haven't those news sources libeled him?

  • The Late P Brooks||

    So, haven't those news sources libeled him?

    He only escaped prosecution by wriggling through the legal loophole of not actually having done anything illegal, the bastard.

  • Rich||

    Please take a moment to think about what you’re traveling with and how it might appear to TSA.

    What's with this "think" crap?

    Legislation outlawing "assault watches" in 3, 2, 1, ....

  • Loki||

    Sgt. J.D. Nelson, a spokesman for the Alameda County Sheriff's Department.

    Is this the same Alameda Sheriff's department bomb squad guy who helps out the Mythbusters with some of their explosive related myths? I seem to remember him being called "J.D." and seeing the name "Nelson" on his uniform. I suddenly hope for them to have an accident during filming of a myth.

  • Bam!||

    They did have an accident, at that bomb range. A cannon kicked during firing, launching a cannon ball over a hill, through a house, and eventually into a minivan.

    Not the kind of accident you're talking about, I suppose.

  • Auric Demonocles||

    That girls kind of hot, but I can't get into it without the alt-text.

  • sarcasmic||

    A U.S. Congressman has instigated a federal investigation of the TSA today after his teenage niece had her breasts exposed during a security pat-down.

    Representative Ralph Hall of Texas said his gran-niece, 17, was 'badly mistreated' when she had her dress pulled down during security screening at an airport.

    She wasn't 'badly treated', she just wasn't given 'do you know who I am?' treatment.

    http://www.dailymail.co.uk/new.....tdown.html

  • Loki||

    If this little episode gives one of the anointed just a little taste of what the rest of us proles have to put up with then great. Of course it still won't change anything until the TSA molests more congresscritter's relatives, but still.

  • Proprietist||

    There were wires and metal. Bombs also have wire and metal. Ergo, "bomb making materials."

    Maybe in libertarian la-la land, it's cool when it rains airplanes felled by steampunk watchbombs. BUT THIS IS AMERICA, PEOPLE.

  • waaminn||

    The TSA is a JOKE. Biggest WASTE of an agency there is. PERIOD.

    www.Anon-Max.tk

  • John C. Randolph||

    No, jokes are funny. TSA is not a joke, it's a crime syndicate.

    -jcr

  • ||

    Because the go-to option for an actual terrorist trying to take an actual bomb on a plane would be to make it as conspicuous as possible ...

    /facepalm

  • Reverendcaptain||

    While I'm an art supporter and have no love for the TSA...and see no reason that you'd arrest somebody for the watch, this guy sounds like an idiot or somebody looking for some attention. I suggest his next art project be to pin $10,000 to his clothes and take a stroll through Central Park. Or perhaps mold some brownies into bricks resembling heroin, shove them up his butt and come through Thailand immigration.

  • Robert Jordan||

    I don't always fly.

    But when I do, I never bathe.

    No hassles during screening and I get a row of seats to myself.

    I'll be visiting New Zealand next year.

  • John C. Randolph||

    What the goons did to the hipster in question is known by the legal term "false arrest". He should take the goons to court individually, and do his level best to make their personal litigation expenses as high as possible. As long as they get away with this shit, they won't stop.

    -jcr

  • croaker||

    This would be the same asshat who several years ago trumpeted as a "big find" and "terrorist plot averted" a poor guy who made a battery pack for his portable DVD player, given that he had a 12 flight to Hawaii.

    There is a reason why the TSA blog is called "Propaganda Village" and the chief turd polisher as "Bloghdad Bob".

  • CatoTheElder||

    So, the TSA has now assumed the role of FASHION POLICE.

    I suppose we now live in a fashion police state.

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