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.)

A watch with fuses, wires, and a toggle switch.

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.