Don't Say You Don't Have a Fucking Bomb

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A 17-year-old was charged with a felony count of making a bomb threat Friday when baggage screeners found a note in his luggage. What did the note say?

"[Expletive] you. Stay the [expletive] out of my bag you [expletive] sucker. Have you found a [expletive] bomb yet? No, just clothes. Am I right? Yea, so [expletive] you."

Expletives redacted by the Boston Globe. Link via Jeff Jarvis.

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  1. Can the person in question sue for wrongful arrest and get any satisfaction, or are our laws sufficient to punish even a blatant NON-threat as if it were a threat?

    An actor named Dean Cameron makes metal cards, on which are engraved the Bill of Rights (http://www.securityedition.com/index.asp). You toss ’em in your luggage, and the luggage screeners get a civics lesson for their trouble. That approach is a bit more subtle than the one used in the current case, but it’s basically the same idea. I wonder, has anyone been hassled for having one of THOSE in his luggage, yet? (What’s in YOUR wallet? 😉

  2. Although I share the kid’s sentiments, he probably wasn’t very bright. Leaving an abusive note to the unaccountable (and likely vindictive) gorillas who are going to be pawing through your luggage, is about as smart as insulting the fast food workers who handle your food. Anyone who ever worked in a restaurant can tell you those aren’t urban legends. If you are an obnoxious shitheel who treats people in service jobs like shit, it’s quite likely that you’ve eaten more than one meal with added bodily fluids.

    And like restaurant workers, baggage handlers are poorly paid people doing a shit job, with plenty of opportunity to take out their frustrations on anybody who rubs them the wrong way.

  3. Good point.

    It isn’t wise to piss off people who have little or nothing to lose.

  4. ”But when [we] see the word `bomb,’ we take it very seriously. In today’s security environment, there’s no room for that sort of joking.”

    I think there’s the problem. There’s no room for joking but no room for common sense either on the part of the security. Reminds of “zero tolerence” laws when I was in high school.

  5. I disagree, Kevin. Actually, I don’t necessarily insult anyone, but when I enter a fast-food place and see people in the kitchen NOT wearing plastic gloves, I very clearly (for all to hear) mention that fact to the cashier when she asks, “May I help you?”

    Then I walk out (without ordering) and go across the street to the competition that does put such barriers between bacteria and what I eat.

    We all happen to have these little disease-causing organisms on our hands. (That mouse your fondling right now is full of them.)

    So when I make that fact known at fast-food places, it’s not an insult. It’s an education.

    They’ll learn.

  6. I think the punk deserved it…stupidity isn’t necessarily a crime, but deliberately antogonizing security personnel who are *trying* to ensure the safety of airlines…dumb, dumb, dumb.

  7. It seems funny that the way in which the article is written makes it seem perfectly reasonable that this kid and his family be treated the way they were for the letter.

  8. Long ago, years before 9-11, one of my college materials engineering professors told a story: he had had a graduate student from a foreign country who was going to present a paper at a conference. At the upstate NY munincipal airport near the college, one of the checkers what was in one of the cases. Forthrightly, the student announced “A bomb”. Obvious reaction. The professor had to be roused at around midnight and go to the county holding jail to explain that a “bomb calorimeter” is polymer research apparatus; that it’s commonly called a bomb in the lab; and that in spite of the name, there is no inherent explosive potential – it’s the calibrated vessel that the test feedstock is burned in.

    So, no sympathy for surly teenagers.

  9. While I am not entirely unsympathetic to the sentiment, something a little more subtle and certainly less personally abusive to the screener would have been more appropriate. The screeners have a thankless, annoying, and not entirely unnecessary job.

  10. You guy walked, this kid is going to court. I think it’s bullshit. Who the fuck cares he was crude, he shouldn’t be charged with a crime.

  11. Remind me not to bring along a copy of Dr. Strangelove Or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb next time I fly.

  12. Matt:

    The headline you gave is inaccurate.

    Nowhere in the note does the teenager say he does not have a bomb.

    In fact, I suspect he was hauled in because the baggage screener interpreted this as possible taunting from someone who may have hidden a bomb very well (or that said bomb may be someplace othre than the luggage).

    No, not likely that this is correct, but then the main lesson of 9/11 is that you better cover your ass from even the most tangential hint of a threat to civilian aviation.

    If the baggage screener ignores this and then a bomb later goes off on the flight, you can bet your ass we’d be seeing Congressional hearings on why the screener ignored such an obvious red flag.

  13. “I think the punk deserved it…stupidity isn’t necessarily a crime,…”

    What?! This is tyranny! In the words of the founders: “This is a land of laws not men” The criminals here are the security personnel and the crime is wrongful arrest. Also, for the crack down on anti-war activists in airports see: http://news.independent.co.uk/world/americas/story.jsp?story=430073 story via antiwar.com a libertarian anti-war, ant-foreign intervention site.

  14. Is there no middle ground anymore? Is it either leave the kid totally alone or arrest him? Instead, the goons in charge could have pulled him (and family) off the plane for a good yelling at and left it at that.

    Everyone associated with this has to realize that there’s no way this kid will be convicted of making a threat if the case goes all the way through the courts. Maybe he’ll plead to disturbing the peace or something dumb like that but he’d be nuts to give in and plead to any kind of offense that could be construed as terrorist in nature.

  15. Brian — By gum, I think you’re right!

  16. When this kid applies to college, for a job, for car insurance, etc. he’s now got to check the box that says he was arrested for a felony.

  17. Buggy Fingers writes, “. . . when I enter a fast-food place and see people in the kitchen NOT wearing plastic gloves, I very clearly (for all to hear) mention that fact to the cashier . . .”

    off topic, i know, but we may have been better in the old days when having clean hands was something to worry about. now all you have to do is wear plastic gloves. pick your nose or handle sweaty money with the gloves on? no worries. they’re magic! i’ll take yesteryear, thanks. gloves are making things worse in many cases. they aren’t changed often enough, and food workers don’t even consider hand cleanliness anymore. the gloves take care of that. uh huh!

  18. this is not a pipe! it is sad when people are afraid of words.

  19. I have to go with Larry here–OK, the kid was an ass, but a felony is way out of proportion.

    I also like the comment by the neighbor, “I thought he was a good kid.”

    He is, but he’s a teenager. They do these things. Should we jail every kid who says “stay outta my room”? After all, if they’re innocent they have nothing to hide…

  20. Larry, it’s to the point where there really is no middle ground anymore. With some concept of ‘fairness’, which increasingly means ‘treat everyone the same crappy way’, the powers-in-charge are adopting policies that apply across the board. Sometime (not often enough, tho) REASON contributor Jonathan Rauch has talked about this phenomenon as a fight between ‘hidden law’ and ‘bureaucratic legalism’. Interesting reads.

  21. I don’t think subtelty will connect with the lamebrains who can’t get any other job besides baggage check at an airport.

  22. Highway:

    You hit the nail on the head. Bureaucratic attempts at “fairness” lead to stuff like “zero tolerance” policies. If one of the little zombies in the human resources factory comes out of his Ritalin-induced coma long enough to point a chicken strip at somebody and say “bang! bang!” he gets expelled.

  23. Or the authorities could have soaked the contents of the bag in water or some other chemical and left a note: “As your threatening note seemed to be directed at discouraging us from conducting our search, a more thorough approach was determined to be warranted.”

    ok … so I am kidding. He deserved a lecture at least and at most …..

  24. So, for the good little statists who support charging someone for a crime for writing a non-threatening note, do you think he should’ve been charged if he had instead just written:

    “[Expletive] you. Stay the [expletive] out of my bag you [expletive] sucker.”

    Alternatively, if someone travels with a copy of Albert Jay Nock’s “Our Enemy the State” in his bag, should he be pulled off the plane as a potentially violent anti-government extremist? (Which seems about as equally probable as someone who wrote the original note being a suicide bomber.)

  25. My wife and I found ourselves continuously discussing lip balm on our last overseas flight. We kept it real quiet to avoid confusion.

    “No bomb. BALM. See? Lip balm? BALL-AM, fugnutz.”

  26. I’ve had my suitcase checked once, and there was stuff missing when I got it back (my complaint is still “being processed”). That kid has my full sympathy; whenever I fly I feel like doing the same. Instead, however, I do what I used to do when I was sending packages to Czechoslovakia, which was communist at that time: on the top of the stuff in my suitcase I include a $20 bill with a note that if the luggage screener feels it’s necessary to take something, he should take the bill and leave everything else in the suitcase.

    Now I only hope that the luggage screeners in the US have as much personal integrity as the postal workers in Czechoslovakia during communism who only took the bill and left the rest of the package intact.

  27. Some have implied this already, but let’s break it down clearly to there being two questions here. One is: Did the kid behave foolishly and obnoxiously? And: Was it unfair and not right to charge him with a crime? One can answer yes to both without contradiction.

    Coo Clucks Claim, you make a valid point about human nature. Still, one would think it’s the point of law and principle to balance the arbitrary nature of gut level reactions.

  28. Buggy:

    I agree–that wasn’t an insult. But you were probably wise to take your business elsewhere. Just mentioning unsanitary practices may have got the wheels turning in their heads: “Oh, he’s worried about UNSANITARY, eh?”

  29. Ah youth. Don’t piss off the people who make your food. Don’t piss off the people who handle your baggage. I know it’s hard to grasp, for some it’s a difficult concept. But please, the kid had it coming. The law is a poor substitute for common sense, and in this case stupid behavior was handsomely rewarded by a trip to court, with interest.

    I know all you libertarians want to get all outraged by such arbitrary, egregious and disproportionate use of security enforcement against our “freedoms,” but geez in the real world this is just a natural extension of human behavior. It’s revenge, it’s getting back at a snotty brat who thought he could upset the authority of the pecking order. To pretend otherwise is just willful ignorance of reality. So consider it a lesson in reality for the kid. Of course it’s not fair, what is?

  30. Perhaps he could say in defense, “Pardon my French! I mean, Pardon My Freedom!”

  31. Matt, you do realize there’s a simple, non-coercive thing we all can do about the real problem here: Nazified airports with Gestapo checkpoints?

    Cheerfully, peacefully … withhold cooperation
    by Vin Suprynowicz

    The Passengers Were All Disarmed
    by Vin Suprynowicz

    Stop complying now…
    by Vin Suprynowicz

    Don’t Finance the Murder of the Bill of Rights
    by Aaron Zelman

  32. “No, not likely that this is correct, but then the main lesson of 9/11 is that you better cover your ass from even the most tangential hint of a threat to civilian aviation.”

    What I got out of 9/11 was that all the centralized security apparatus of the government and airlines failed, while a group of citizens with cell phones managed to foil part of the terrorist plot. But from the view of government employee CYA, you are probably right.

  33. “An actor named Dean Cameron makes metal cards, on which are engraved the Bill of Rights … I wonder, has anyone been hassled for having one of THOSE in his luggage, yet? (What’s in YOUR wallet? ;-)”

    I dunno. Sounds awful close to hate speach to me.

  34. > Everyone associated with this has to realize
    > that there’s no way this kid will be convicted
    > of making a threat if the case goes all the way
    > through the courts.

    No, but they could threaten him with being an unlawful combatant if he doesn’t plead guilty…

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