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MIT Student Arrested For Wearing 'Tech Art' Shirt At Airport 1547

SuperBanana writes "According to a report by the Boston Globe, MIT Student Star Simpson was nearly shot by Logan Airport police who thought she was armed with a bomb. She approached an airline employee wearing a prototyping board with electronic components, crudely attached to the front of her sweatshirt and holding 'putty' in her hand. She asked about an incoming flight, and did not respond when asked about the device. Armed police responded. 'Simpson was charged with possessing a hoax device and was arraigned today East Boston Municipal Court. She was held on $750 cash bail and ordered to return to court Oct. 29. "Thankfully because she followed our instructions, she ended up in our cell instead of a morgue," Pare said. "Again, this is a serious offense ... I'm shocked and appalled that somebody would wear this type of device to an airport."'"
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MIT Student Arrested For Wearing 'Tech Art' Shirt At Airport

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  • by spud603 ( 832173 ) on Friday September 21, 2007 @04:04PM (#20701611)
    I think you're approaching this all wrong. The point is that it was not a "stunt" or "prank" or "joke". The way I read it she really was just wearing the thing.
  • by SuperBanana ( 662181 ) on Friday September 21, 2007 @04:13PM (#20701833)
    Someone edited my story and added sensationalist quotes I could swear I didn't include. Oh, and added a link to Boing Boing, which was pretty pointless, given I linked to an actual newspaper.

    Key facts:

    • She was wearing an electronic circuit board taped to her chest which contained an assortment of wires, components, LEDs, and a battery.
    • She was holding a "putty like" substance in her hand which could easily be viewed as plastic explosives.
    • She approached an airport employee, asked for information about a specific flight. The employee asked about the circuit board on her chest, and she turned around and walked away without answering.
    • Airport security responded to the description of what sounded like a suicide bomber.

    I am rabidly for freedom, privacy, and personal rights. I'm quite set against abusive use of police force. This was not even remotely an unreasonable action by the airport police, and it has NOTHING in common with the whole "mooninite" incident, save similarities in the type of device.

  • by Martin Blank ( 154261 ) on Friday September 21, 2007 @04:25PM (#20702153) Homepage Journal
    Unless they thought her boobs were filled with plastic explosives there's really not much there.

    While this incident may have been an overreaction, two Russian airliners were brought down on the same day in 2004 with explosives suspected to have been hidden in the bras of two female passengers. It's not that far-fetched.
  • by MalleusEBHC ( 597600 ) on Friday September 21, 2007 @04:30PM (#20702287)
    Lack of common sense should not, in a sane society, involve worrying about whether your LED shirt looks like a bomb. She was also at the airport to pick somebody up. She did not try to get through a security checkpoint, nor was she attempting to conceal the LEDs. Both of these things should have made a sensible security person think twice as to her possible danger level. Simply verifying that she did not have the breadboard attached to explosives should have been sufficient to confirm her lack of explosive potential.

    When an employee asked about the device, she "walked away without responding" according to the article. At that point, it would negligent for them to ignore her as a potential threat. It would be one thing if she was assaulted, tazed, shot, etc., but they arrested her without incident and later released her on bail once they verified that there was no real threat.
  • Re:reality check (Score:4, Informative)

    by yuna49 ( 905461 ) on Friday September 21, 2007 @04:43PM (#20702645)
    I taught at the Institute for about a decade, and kids wore stuff like this all the time. She could have easily put it on to wear to class then drove out to the airport to pick up her friend.

    I'm not saying she shouldn't have been more cooperative, but perhaps having guns pointed at her for probably the first time in her life might have made her a bit tongue-tied.
  • by fishbowl ( 7759 ) on Friday September 21, 2007 @05:21PM (#20703575)
    This will probably scare you: It's legal to go into the airport in my city carrying a gun. Openly, in a holster on your hip, if you want, or, concealed if you have the state-issued permit to do that. It's not legal to go into a checkpoint with a firearm under any circumstances (even the law enforcement people have a process for getting a gun into the secure perimeter.)

    Flying with a firearm is fairly easy; I've done it many times: In the check-in line when it's your turn, you say "I have a firearm." You open your bag,
    take out your gun case, open it, take out your gun, open it/ rack the slide, whatever they want to see to show it's unloaded, they watch you lock the case up, and they confirm that ammunition is in a separate box, they hand you your ticket and send you on your way.

    I love seeing the look on the faces of the people behind me when the ticket clerk asks me to show them my gun, out comes the gun, and then I get my ticket and "have a nice flight" or whatever.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday September 21, 2007 @07:28PM (#20705753)
    I am seriously curious: in your opinion, under what conditions should security detain someone?
    At what point should airport security shoot to kill? I'd love to hear what you think and why.

    I am not "gun crazy". I don't own a firearm, I don't support unfettered access to firearms and I definitely do not support a "shoot first, ask questions later" approach. However, security policy MUST take into account every possibility.

    AFAIK current policy draws heavily on advice from israeli security experts, who have considerable practical experience dealing with this sort of thing. The reason they shoot people in the head is to try to prevent suspects from triggering explosives by instantly disabling motor skills. Shooting someone in the legs does not prevent them from triggering a bomb if they so desire.

    I personally don't have very much sympathy with people who don't understand the level of security in american airports. Just how much crap should the security personnel tolerate?
  • by stuntpope ( 19736 ) on Friday September 21, 2007 @07:53PM (#20705999)
    State of fear? Hardly. In the late 1990s I visited Italy and was surprised to see police (perhaps Carabinieri) in Genoa holding submachine guns. The only state of fear put into me wasn't of them (or the Italian state), it was wondering if I'd wandered into a bad neighborhood.

    Back then you didn't see that kind on weaponry on police in the USA, so it had a "whoa" factor for me, but now you sometimes do see it, especially at airports. Doesn't bother me in the slightest. They aren't suppressing me. "State of fear" describes standing in sight of the Pentagon on the morning of 9/11, and hearing reports that another plane was on its way.
  • by Oktober Sunset ( 838224 ) <> on Friday September 21, 2007 @08:02PM (#20706099)

    The article specifically states that she ignored questions about the shirt and putty then walked away.
    And newspapers specifically stated that Jean Charles de Menezes [] was wearing a bulky jacket with wires sticking out and jumped over the ticket barriers.
  • Hey Zonk (Score:3, Informative)

    by zCyl ( 14362 ) on Friday September 21, 2007 @08:42PM (#20706505)

    Someone edited my story and added sensationalist quotes I could swear I didn't include.

    That's definitely NOT a professionally correct thing to do, especially for a news site. Zonk, please be more careful when editing to NOT attribute the edited portions to someone who did not submit them.

    And also, please do not move links from text which clearly describe what they are, like "report by the Boston Globe" over to things which make it very difficult to figure out what the link is about, such as, "who thought she was armed with a bomb". Think about it. The first section, as chosen by the original submitter, clearly shows that this link contains an article discussing this story. The second text portion looks like it's supposed to link to a blog entry by someone who thought she had a bomb. It makes no sense to change it. We should not have to guess the contents of links when they can be easily labeled.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday September 21, 2007 @08:47PM (#20706557)
    After having spent multiple deployments in Iraq and Africa guarding against the same types of situation, I would consider her lucky to be alive. The training we get teaches to to tell the difference between something that appears suspicious and something that just appears wrong. Who knows how to spot a homicidal or suicidal maniac? Can you honestly tell me you know or can spot when someone is going to spontaneously explode? All you can do is use your best judgment and hope your not wrong. I always tell my boys to err in on the side of self preservation. If you neutralize them, one person is lost. If you miscalculate, many people will die. I'm all about originality and all, but use some common sense please!
  • by zenkonami ( 971656 ) on Saturday September 22, 2007 @02:23AM (#20708599) Homepage Journal
    I haven't been blown up by a terrorist ("yet", the current administration attempts to remind me.)

    40,000 Auto related fatalities a year
    40,000 Gun related accidents a year
    That's just in the U.S.

    Average total casualties of terrorism (currently) worldwide is roughly 10,000(and was significantly less prior to 2004, in spite of the attack on the World Trade Center.)

    Terrorism Statistics: GTD []

    Terrorists want people to live in fear that today could be their last. Now who is for letting the terrorists win?

    I for one welcome our MIT overlords.

  • by el americano ( 799629 ) on Saturday September 22, 2007 @03:08AM (#20708781) Homepage
    The prosecuter during her arraignment said that she answered the employee that it was art. Everybody panic!

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday September 22, 2007 @04:00AM (#20708983)

    I mean, who the hell WEARS electronics (excepting a digital watch) anyways?

    Not a lot of people, unless they happen to wear on their person:
    • Digital Watch (as you said)
    • PDA
    • Cell phone
    • iPod (check out those arm straps)
    • Pager (actually I don't suppose anyone wears these anymore)
    • Shoes or other clothes with built in electronics
    • A laptop in a backpack
    • GPS
    • FirstAlert button
    • Digital Blood Sugar meter (diabetics)
  • by Mr. Slippery ( 47854 ) <> on Saturday September 22, 2007 @10:07AM (#20710441) Homepage

    What exactly does wires and batteries attached to a T-shirt look like then? My first thought would be "bomb".

    It looks like a homemade version [] of a raver's blinking lights toy [].

    If your first thought is "bomb", if you're in such a constant state of fear, then the terrorists have won.

We all like praise, but a hike in our pay is the best kind of ways.