Charges dropped against man arrested for wearing an elaborate wristwatch

Yesterday Cory wrote that "Geoffrey McGann, a southern California artist, was arrested at Oakland airport for wearing an assemblage sculpture/watch he'd made."

[UPDATE: I think this is the watch McGann was arrested for, not the one at the top. I'll bet McGann made them both, though.]

Matthew says:

I thought you might like to know the San Jose Mercury news has posted photos of Mr. McGann's watch.

Mr. McGann's attorney says his client has traveled with the watch before and has never previously been arrested. In fact, Horngrad said the first time McGann traveled with the watch, he showed it to a TSA supervisor at Los Angeles International Airport and the supervisor told him it was OK to wear it on the plane.

All the charges have been dropped.

(This happened to Star Simpson a few years ago, but she didn't get off as easily.)

Oakland: Man suspected of wearing 'bomb' watch at airport released, no charges filed


  1. And thank you TSA and associated law enforcement for putting a guy in Jail because his watch “looked scary”.  Seriously, we give these people guns.  Is anyone else not concerned by this?

    1. Man wears watch that looks like bomb, gets stopped for having something that looks like a bomb on his wrist.

      I’m sorry, but I for one was worried that this is what it would look like, hoping it was far more innocent.

      This is not to suggest that this watch was ever likely to be a bomb, it’s cliche and far too obvious.  But really? Of all the times to hassle the TSA about their actions is this one of them?

      1. It doesn’t look like a bomb. 

        It doesn’t look like a bomb, especially if you recognize the components.

        It doesn’t look like a bomb, especially if you’re trained to recognize bombs, say, the bomb squad that looked at it.

        It doesn’t look like a bomb: a dial watch, some plastic reptiles, a older SPST switch,  a few slo-blo glass fuses, some KTK fuses, some duct tape, and some coiled wire, all unconnected to each other do not a bomb make.

        It does not look like a bomb.

          1. “This is subjective” – Why not ask trained experts if it doesn’t look like a bomb? 

            “Several people disagree..” with me, OKAYFINE.  Do these people know what they’re talking about?

            The bomb squad that the TSA called looked at at it and stated that it wasn’t a bomb.  I’m a field service electronics/computer/photo technician, I recognize all of the components on the watch.  None of them are explosion-capable.

            Really, should our emergency response system, er, respond to decisions made by idiots, and who pays for it, eh?  Do you ask your garbageman whether that mole is cancerous?

            People get killed needlessly, businesses fail, people die, ecological systems are destroyed, when decisions are made by uninformed idiots.  Not every opinion is valid.

          2. “Why not ask trained experts if it doesn’t look like a bomb?” I assume that they did. But causing potential alarm is a real thing – shouting ‘bomb’ in an airport also implies no realistic bomb facsimile is present, but you’ll still get arrested – it’s a public order thing I would have thought (or US equivalent).

            “with me, OKAYFINE. Do these people know what they’re talking about?” I doubt it, me included, but what’s the relevance of this? This isn’t the equivelant of a plane full of people being terrified because a muslim is on the plane, this is a genuine response to something tangible, if not real.

            “The bomb squad that the TSA called looked at at it and stated that it wasn’t a bomb.” Sounds like a sensible outcome.

            “Really, should our emergency response system, er, respond to decisions made by idiots, and who pays for it, eh?” I’m guessing you’ve never lived in a major city whereby citizens are actively encouraged to report unaccompanied bags to the police? These also don’t look like bombs.

            The man should never have been arrested, based on the information I’ve seen at least. Should he have been stopped for having a suspicious looking device on his wrist? Of course he bloody should have.

            I agree that involving the bomb squad was a bit silly. But we’re crossing arguments if your point is that someone’s time was wasted, because my point is that it’s in no way ludicrous that this man be stopped for wearing this watch.

          3. About a decade ago, I used to work for an insurance company which for some reason received regular bomb threats. If I recall correctly, one of the evacuations I took part in was triggered by someone mailing what I believe turned out to be an otherwise empty box with some trailing wires glued to it, to the post room.

        1. Even if it doesn’t look like a bomb to trained experts, there will be people whose first reaction is to think it’s a bomb. If that watch goes on an airplane and gets spotted by one of those people, panic ensues. Even if the watch is technically harmless, I can see why it might not be such a good idea to bring it on a plane.

  2. Yea, about that extra attention drawn to him because of that watch… 

    a) “No shit, Sherlock”

    b) You wear that watch in public to get attention

    c) He got it

    1. It’s that “c)” that’s the issue. He shouldn’t have got it, not from TSA. That’s what John Adams meant.

      1.  I don’t mind the TSA or the police stopping the guy to ask him what’s up and let him know that they were attracted to do so by his watch.  That’s perfectly fine.

        The problem is they arrested this guy.  Brought him to a jail.  And they put him in Jail. 

        They had no earthly business doing that.  That was wrong. 

        More to the point, it’s possible they actually thought this guy was a terrorist.  And that, that watch could have been part of a terrorists kit.  And that insane supposition is a clear indicator that these guys are getting their training on how to look for bombs from merry melodies.  That’s scary.

        1. Meanwhile, several dozen watches just as likely to be bombs, escaped detection and siezure.

          We’re on the same page here.

          1. I’m more worried about the tyranny of individuals in the modern world than the worries of Americans in the 18th century.

          2. Taking care of that tomorrow at lunch..

            I guess we’ll have to wait and see how his ‘constitutional’ rights were actually violated…

    2. i’m a sculptor, and when i saw the earlier post i was thinking great, wtf, tsa, somebody put some circuit boards on a watch band and you morons had a coronary…

      but man, that watch looks like it could be a bomb. 

      you don’t carry an obviously-plastic ak-47 into an airport, either, even if it is art. rules like that have been in place since before i started flying in the mid 80s, 15 or so years before the TSA was around. you don’t say “bomb” in the airport. period.

      we still need to get rid of the TSA.

      1. It looks like a “bomb” as defined by the creators of 007 movies / MagGuyver episodes.

        I would hope our first line of defense against air terrorism were more discriminating, and less discriminatory.

        1. true, but i don’t expect tsa employees to be that discerning when they encounter something that might be a bomb made up to look like a stupid watch, nor would i want them to be.

          maybe i’m just not trusting enough, but i wouldn’t feel comfortable watching someone walk on my flight wearing something like that.

          1. @elusis:disqus – the mistake wasn’t thinking it looked suspicious. The mistake was arresting him after determining it was not a bomb.  Pretty sure police make >10 an hour, and made a mistake. My evidence is his being released without charge, but with his watch.

          2. can you explain to me how your watch, which looks nothing like a bomb, is less likely to -be- a bomb just because it doesn’t ‘look’ like one?

            The standard in America is not supposed to be that other people lose rights because you, or a poorly trained government employee, are  uninformed and scared.

          3. Any one who looks at that contraption can be excused for thinking it might be a bomb.

            It’s got a trigger, It’s got “explosive-like” component, it’s got wires up the ying-yang.

            I agree with Flugfrei Jones. That guy was begging to be stopped when he took it to an airport, much less trying to get it onto an airplane.

            “Gee, can’t all TSA employees be hip and dig the Maker Scene, man?”  Sorry, hipsters, no.  Not all TSA employees can be hip and dig the Maker Scene.  Man.

            Given what they _miss_ in the various tests that are administered with dummy bombs, we should all be glad they at least caught this.

          4. The right to wear to an airport something designed to look like most people’s image of a bomb, yet have all authority figures be knowledgeable enough about electronics and — i dunno, postmodernism or something? — to recognize it as some sort of clever artistic statement… that’s pretty far down my list of rights worth fighting for.

            edit: also, I think we have to take as an axiom that the more something looks like a bomb, the more likely it is to be a bomb.

          5. yeah, i understand the blind ideology part, but ideology reaches a point where it diverges from common sense, and allowing people to bring fake bombs on to passenger aircraft, even if they are made out of hot dogs and licorice strings, is way past that fork in the road.

            at the VERY least, you have to question the sensibilities of an individual who is going to strap a fake bomb to their wrist and try to get into an airport. what else is that individual capable of doing?

            it isn’t ignorance or phobia when the guy is actually waving something that looks like a bomb in your face.

          6. Any one who looks at that contraption can be excused for thinking it might be a bomb.

            ‘anyone’ isn’t who made the mistake. Professionals are who made the mistake. The mistake wasn’t ‘noticing something provocative’ the mistake was ‘arresting him’.

            Please, keep your strawhipster to yourself.

          7. Given what they _miss_ in the various tests that are administered with dummy bombs, we should all be glad they at least caught this.

            Why should we be glad? I am so not getting you. Because mistakes get made, this was correct?

          8. professionals, who have detected -zero- bombs throughout the existence of their organization, so why do you assume the tsa has any idea what a bomb looks like? 

            granted, the watch looks like a google pic caricature of a bomb, but.. the watch looks like a google pic caricature of a bomb. i mean COME ON, if even a quarter of the people in freaking oakland international airport were ignorant to what exactly dude is wearing, you’ve scared the crap out of a quarter of the people in oakland international airport. that’s more than 10 at 4am.

            are you arguing that people have no right to a reasonable expectation of safety in their immediate future? no matter how dumb they seem to you, because art?

            sorry, but no.

          9. @boingboing-06eadc83d46d0fdf2a557040f32c1fb8:disqus “The right…”

            You also have the right to say bomb in an airport.

            I’ll wait here while you go try it out.

          10. “are you arguing that people have no right to a reasonable expectation of safety in their immediate future? no matter how dumb they seem to you, because art?

            Not ven close. I’m arguing that it’s unreasonable to be afraid so much. But having that discussion with you Flugfrei, is equally unreasonable since you keep erecting strawmen in front of me. Quite the hobby.

          11. it isn’t ignorance or phobia when the guy is actually waving something that looks like a bomb in your face.

            looks to WHOM? A 7 year old? Or a trained professional? To me it looks like a statement. And it looks like he got punished for it, and you seem to be sort of reflexively deferring to anonymous authority, and to fallacies that what -you- believe is the gold standard for freedom.

          12.  “a trained professional”

            You keep using that phrase.  I do not think it means what you think it means.

          13. If you want, I can design two operational bombs: one that looks like a cartoon bomb, and one that looks like a ham n’ cheese sandwich. The TSA frontline workers aren’t trained to recognize every possible bomb out there – how many thousands of bomb experts would we need then? They cast the net wide out of necessity. As for this guy being detained, well, they can’t exactly let him walk while they wait for a trained expert to verify that it’s artwork.

          14. @google-f0d7f610ee732c7e5f8fc4e9ce102477:disqus – my entire issue, because I read the article, is that they arrested him -after- determining it was not a bomb.

          15. The problem is that this attitude makes you less safe.  It doesn’t just fail to protect you from terrorism, it actively makes you more vulnerable to it.

            It’s not that you’re not trusting enough, it’s that you’re suspicious of the wrong thing.  Real bombs do not look like the ones in movies.  Real terrorists do not look like the ones in movies.  So when you act uncomfortable about the watch, you’re diverting resources away from checking any of the 3000 watches which went past without comment which were much more useful as bomb components.

            And as members of the public, this attitude puts pressure on the TSA to look for movie plots instead of terrorists. Which they’re already guilty of doing. They’re badly trained and ignorant, and when we applaud them for that we prevent the problem being fixed.

            Your discomfort with the watch is not a fact about the threat level posed by the watch, it is a fact about your state of mind.  The correct security answer is for you to alter your state of mind.  (As a rule of thumb… if something is out of place and makes you uncomfortable, it’s definitely not a terrorist plot.  Terrorists try to fit in.)

          16. What? Terrorists could just as easily employ reverse reverse psychology then – make it look like a bomb because they’ll be expecting me to not make it look like a bomb.

          17.  terrorists are more likely to scare you until you jump at anything different, thus destroying the very thing that makes us strong.

          18. (reply to Colin; hit thread limit)

            They *could*, but it’s great if they do.  If terrorists are going as far as reverse reverse psychology in order to use an especially conspicuous tool when an unremarkable one would do, you’ve already won.

      2. It looks like a watch with a lot of unnecessary stuff on the band.

        Which part, exactly, looks like a bomb?

        1. “Which part, exactly, looks like a bomb?”

          The switch, the wires, the small canisters…In other words all the stuff that isn’t necessary for a watch to function. How are tsa employees supposed to know what is a bomb and isn’t just by looking at it? The guy deserved jail time for stunt like this. Imagine if he had pulled this out in mid-flight forcing an emergency landing.

          1. this looks as much like  bomb as the “ACCESS DENIED” screens in movies look like when you get your password wrong.

          2. I think it looks like what the artist imagined for a bomb to look like. 
            Which is similar to what a person previously unemployed in the field of janitorial services, now “working” for TSA, imagines for a bomb to look like. 

          3.  but the explosives experts determined it was not, and then he was arrested.

            Are we not reading the articles?

          4. s/action movies/saturday morning cartoons/

            Not only does it not look like a bomb — it looks completely like the kind of thing that someone who had never seen a bomb would think a bomb looked like seventy years ago. If your job is to inspect people and look like bombs, you should have actual training in what bombs look like, how they are constructed, and what they don’t look like. TSA trainees should be building and detonating bombs to see how they react.

          5. Isn’t their job to know what’s dangerous and what isn’t?

            If not, WHY DON’T THEY HIRE SOMEONE WHO KNOWS???!?

          6. Since they’ve undoubtedly seen multiple films where the villain makes a bomb the size of a lentil out of common household items, it might take some fundamental reorientation to reality. And they’re already too busy trying to find the ENHANCE button on the pornoscanner.

          7. Wait what? Jail time, really? Listen, he wasn’t arrested for attempting to cause a fake bomb scare. He was arrested for possession of materials to make an explosive device. But he wasn’t carrying any explosives, which to my limited engineering knowledge would be the bare minimum for such a plan.

            It was fine for them to query it, fine for them to double-check it, fine for them to perhaps refuse that he take it on the plane if they were really scared of it. _Maybe_.

            But not fine to ARREST him and JAIL him on a bogus charge that they subsequently dropped after VERY minimal investigation. Because it was clearly bullshit all along.

            But yeah, by all means *imagine* if HE had been the one to cause a ridiculous scare and waste everyone’s time. Then he would indeed have been the bad guy here. I just don’t think that “imagining if he did something” is a reasonable substitute for due process.

        2. Would you, with your skill set, work for TSA, please? 
          No?  Not at ten bucks an hour?  But you get a neat uniform.

          1. so that device is supposed to look like what, a toaster? it’s true, i’m no expert on IEDs, but button, timing device, canisters, hooked up with wires.. i’m not picturing a cell phone here..

          2. i think, based on the dial and proximity to his wrist, that it’s supposed to look like a watch, and cause some thought. You know. ART.

            I’m really enjoying the part where other people are responsible for the conclusion you jump to.

          3. i’m really enjoying how your argument hinges so perilously on your refusal to admit that someone could mistake this for a bomb.

            could you make a bomb that looks like this? sure. in fact, you could make it WITH this. pack the fuses with simtex, hook the wires up to connect to the minute hand at a set time, and put a safety switch on the battery line. functioning bomb.

            i came up with that in 15 seconds, but i simply can’t IMAGINE how anyone else could concoct such a device, using some explosives and the device we already have here.

          4. “i’m really enjoying how your argument hinges so perilously on your refusal to admit that someone could mistake this for a bomb.”

            Who is refusing to admit that? Anyone could make that mistake.

            My entire point is that that mistake was not made. His watch was checked. It was NOT a bomb. Then, he was arrested, then released without charges.

            He lost some freedom that day. How’s your ability to admit mistakes doing?

        1. when was the last time anyone in this discussion thread saw a bomb?  there seem to be a lot of self-appointed experts here.  the point is it’s a suspicious item and they’re paid to identify suspicious items.  I think the TSA is an enormous moron soup, but this is precisely what I was hoping the watch didn’t look like.  I wouldn’t want that sitting next to me on the plane, period.  and it’s very easy to say otherwise on a discussion thread sitting on your couch at home–“it wouldn’t bother me at all, etc.”.  right.

      3. I know right?

        I knew when i was 5 not to say ‘bomb’ in an airport.  This guy is only just finding out now that they might be concerned if he looks like he actually has one?

        He succeeded in getting the attention he wanted.  He should never have been arrested of course, I imagine they did that almost out of spite (which is a whole different issue in itself).

      1.  Right, he put on that watch and thought “this won’t be an issue at all”…he almost certainly did this as self promotion for his crappy art…it’s either that or he’s the dumbest SOB on the planet.

        1. Your presumption does not speak to the artists intent any more than Jim’s.

          You’re blaming him for getting what he had coming, the way I read it.

          Any chance he’s just freely expressing himself? Not that it’s his right or anything.

          1. Airports are not places that have historically been upheld by the courts as having unlimited free speech rights – to “‘fire’ in a crowded theatre,” map “‘bomb’ in an airport boarding area.”

            I am as against the security theatre of the TSA as they come but I understand perfectly why carrying something that looks like a bomb, even a childish version of a bomb, onto a plane is Just Not Done.  Let’s recall that Richard Reid was wearing a shoe with a fuse sticking out of it.  Ha ha!  A shoe with a fuse sticking out!  Idiotic!  What is this, a Pink Panther movie?  Inspector Gadget?  Hilarious!  Must be a harmless prank, something so obvious!

          2.  So you ask the guy to take the watch off because it’s likely to scare the other passengers, and stow it.

            You don’t arrest the guy, for something that is pretty obviously not a bomb to someone who is supposedly trained to recognize bombs.

            So we’ve got AT LEAST two serious problems:
            *Incompetent Employees (likely an institutional problem).
            *Overzealous Response

            Both are serious issues made abundantly clear here no matter WHAT the artists intent was.

          3. But he didn’t shout bomb. That’s a seemingly false equivalence, based solely on the evidence of his release without charge.

            But, someones amygdala did shout bomb. Probably a lot of people.

            When fear overrides reason, that’s no way to run a free country.

            Oh, good, they checked. And it was not a bomb. Phew.

            But they arrested him ANYWAYS, and then released him.

            Is the over-firing of someone elses amygdala now MY sole responsibility? That’s just no way to run a free country.

            Also, what @gryphGlyph just said

        2. Being a dumb SOB isn’t a crime. It isn’t punishable by the government, but it was, and you’re cheerleading. Is that a fair assessment?

        3. Self promotion? Way to assume and jump to the negative conclusions.

          If I made something like that myself I most certainly would want to wear it in my daily life. What’s the point of making something functional that you think looks interesting if you can’t actually use it in your daily life? That kind of thing doesn’t have to do anything with self promotion. Not that wearing something you made, on yourself, as a form of promotion would be a bade thing in the first place.

        4. You know – yesterday I got to read all kinds of speculation about how Geoff was a terrorist (not so much on Boingboing but on other sites) — today I get to read how he did this intentionally to sell his stuff. Neither characterizations are true.

          This is the first time I’ve ever know someone – and known the truth about someone – who’s in the news and then saw all the worst (and most false) assumptions being made, read the mean-spirited criticisms and piling on. Frankly it makes me think about all the comments I’ve made over the years and I just hope I didn’t say anything similar. 

          Geoff makes art, does ad work, has friends and family – he’s just a human being , flawed like the rest of us. He’s not a violent criminal and he’s not an attention hungry maniac. He’d travelled with this watch before and had no problems. 

          He did show the TSA people images of his watch that he had posted on his website– but by then the police had been called and things were in motion that couldn’t have been stopped easily.  (I’m assuming the photos were taken down shortly after.) 

          Everyone is of course entitled to his/her opinion about all kinds of things– etcetc – I’m just appealing to your humanity here. 

  3. If that is the watch that he was wearing, I could certainly see pulling him aside to find out what was going on…maybe even swabbing it, but arresting him for no real reason? sigh….

    1.  He had more than one insole in his shoe  – WHO DOES THAT? I’d be just terrified. (/sarcasm)

    2.  Exactly.

      “Sir, can I have a look at that watch?”
      *test for residue*
      “Please explain to me how this works and why you’re wearing it”
      “Looks cool, have a nice flight”

  4. Huh… At the risk of making myself enormously unpopular, I can see how that kind of thing would cause panic from airport security officials. Not wearing this on board a plane seems like a matter of common sense. Obviously this is not a great situation for the artist, though. 

    1. >Obviously this is not a great situation for the artist, though. 

      Are you kidding? Do you know how much an artist would have to pay to get this kind of publicity?

    2. I agree, and doubt your sentiment is going to be all that uncommon… It’s specifically made to look like a bomb, with the extra plastic venomous animals as “additional irony.”

      Yeah, I get the intent, and the artistic/political statement. 

      But that statement is “HEY, LOOK AT ME! I WANT YOU TO THINK I HAVE A BOMB STRAPPED TO ME! (giggles!)”

      1.  It doesn’t look like a bomb to me. At all. More post-apocalyptic, rust-punk, etc. Plus, as I commented above, the big image Mark posted is quite possibly not the actual watch he was wearing.

        1. I think the one in the article you posted looks even worse, with 4 charges and the big red and black cable.

          I’m glad he went free, but I can’t believe this wasn’t a publicity stunt. 

          If the watch above was the first attempt and then the one you posted is the second, it’s hard not to assume he was going to keep ramping up the resemblance to a bomb until it got this kind of reaction.

          1. Unlikely it was a publicity stunt. He just thought it looked cool. Plus, his dogs were left alone in his house for 4 days, when he expected to be back the same day. He’d already flown with it several times and been told by a TSA supervisor that it was OK to wear.

            As for it looking more or less like a bomb, I still don’t see it. It’s a bunch of inert electrical fuses (the purpose of which is to KEEP things from blowing up), an appliance switch, a radio mic cord, and a cheap analog watch. At the very least, when JD Nelson said that it was “on a direct timer” and was everything needed to create a timed detonation device, that was a complete lie. I thought it would at least have been a digital watch with a beep alarm that could be used to activate a detonator, not just some simple analog watch.

          2. Assuming the watch hands are metal:
            1-Bore a small hole in the crystal in an area that only the minute hand will sweep. Remove the minute hand if you need more than ~50 minutes.
            2-Push wire strand through hole
            3-Connect electric current to bezel

            Analog watches were capable bomb timing devices long before transistor computers were the size of only a small basement. Regarding simplicity, it would add to their value in this role.

            @Antinous you have my blessing to alter this content to make it site apropriate.

          3. Oh for fucks sake. Leaving aside the fact that those “charges” are fucking fuses and all the innumerable other arguments against that watch looking anything like a bomb or even less likely being a bomb, your argument sounds suspiciously similar to the “She was dressed slutty, she must have been asking for it” rapist defense. 

            Just because the context is less stark doesn’t make the argument any less repellant.

          4. I’m unclear on the parallel between raping someone and arresting someone; could you go over that again?

          5. allenmcbride / acerplatanoides
            It’s not that great a cognitive leap — both are instances of abusing ones power over another. At any rate, the point I was getting at was the “blame the victim” mentality reflected by commenters like Jim Saul. But hey, reading comprehension is hard.  

          6.  4 charges? You mean ancient fuses. But your lack of knowledge means someone else was one upping and trying to get this reaction from you?

            How about not putting Jim Saul in the judges seat for just a second. Put Jim Saul in the artists multiple insoles for a few minutes and think that maybe, just maybe, he was wearing a watch that someone with some power was offended by.

        1. Here’s a t-shirt design to raise legal funds then.

          I’m quite glad that it wasn’t in the middle of a flight that someone noticed the “art.”

      2. But that statement is “HEY, LOOK AT ME! I WANT YOU TO THINK I HAVE A BOMB STRAPPED TO ME! (giggles!)”

        How do you know this? This sounds like apologism to me, and the sort of thinking people engage in to blame a victim for making choices inferior to ones own – as though it will ward off the TSA the day YOU look odd to them.

        But by all means, conform faster than everyone else, that’s the American way, right??

        1. Wait a second… if I conform faster than everyone else, wouldn’t that make me the only non-conformist, since I set the trend before everyone else rushed to conform to it?

        2. This blaming the victim charge you level make me wonder: does any action ever rise to the level of “too stupid and what did you think would happen?” Never ever? Not this but something dumber / more misunderstandable? I am imagining some sort of continuum from “huh, why would anyone care/”. edging toward “maybe I should think this all the way through before I start,” ending up at “are you fucking kidding me?”.

          P.S. Could I get a note to wear my road flare & alarm clock Halloween costume vest to the airport? Everyone at the bar thought it was hilarious.

          1. Man, you are high and mighty tonight/always. And you didn’t answer the question posed. the former one, not the latter jokey one. Can someone go too far and have some responsibility? I’m guessing that’s a big no from you. Pray explain.

          2. I’m glad you think I am mighty. It’s a real sign of a good argument when you attack the person holding the opinion. Yeah. ad hominem, google it.

            does any action ever rise to the level of “too stupid and what did you think would happen?”

            I believe there should be different standards for when the government is involved. Does not mean there ARE such standards, but the idea, as posed by the founders of the nation, is that there would be.

            If it seemed I was ignoring your questions it was because I can’t disagree with you about your point, but your point was preeeeeety far away from mine. And not, as far as I can see, related.

          3. Your road flare and alarm clock vest was, I assume, designed solely for the purpose of looking cool and like a bomb stereotype for Halloween.  (Kudos, by the way, that’s a great costume idea!)
            If you made it competently, then yes, wearing it to the airport would be genuinely stupid.

            The watch, on the other hand, was designed for the purpose of looking cool in day to day use, and doesn’t look remotely like a dangerous device.

            So yes, there’s a continuum here, but this guy didn’t come ever vaguely near the ‘stupid’ part of it.  All stupidity belongs to the arresting officers.
            Check the watch, sure, why not.  Ask a quick question, sure.  Test watch for explosive residue if you want.  Arrest was mind-bogglingly stupid; that it happened proves that, as in the Star Simpson case, the police simply don’t have a “false alarm” setting. 

            And that’s a deadly threat to all of us which terrorists can and do exploit.  Because by the nature of security, almost all alarms are false alarms.  If every false alarm leads to an arrest… then the security system is more dangerous than the threat.

          4. Not even *remotely* like a dangerous device? If you found that, say, hooked up to the inside of your mailbox or attached to the gas tank of your car, you wouldn’t think it looked like it might be dangerous?

          5. If you found that, say, hooked up to the inside of your mailbox or attached to the gas tank of your car, you wouldn’t think it looked like it might be dangerous?

            Your context implies trespass. That’s not what he did. What he did was wear an edgy watch, in a place where he was told it was okay, and get harassed for it .

            And no, aside from that, I wouldn’t think it was dangerous per se, no more than an other time I’ve encountered people sabotaging my personal vehicle. Thank you for asking. I guess I’m the sort who notices the sky, is not in fact, falling.

      3. With apologies to Poe’s “Purloined Letter”, it’s pretty damned obvious that if you’re trying to sneak a bomb onto a plane, you’re not going to wear it on your wrist and make it look strange and eye-catching.

    3.  If you can see how, could you spell it out for me in more detail? I am not seeing ho that necessarily -would- cause a panic.

  5. So they called the bomb squad, but not animal control? Jezuz, there’s a scorpion right there!!! And a snake!

  6. Why didn’t we hear of the scorpion?!! That’s the most dangerous thing on this watch … I mean, it’s got venom and whatnot, and a little kid could choke on it!

  7. May this be a lesson to the rest of you who glue shit together and splatter feces on canvas and call it art. You will get arrested for making such claims.

  8. Hmmm. This does not bode well for my planned art project involving me driving around in a white van with “Free Candy” spray-painted on the side while a loud speaker plays the cries of children from the back.

  9. Okay, I’m much less sympathetic now that I’ve seen this moron’s watch. I was picturing some sort of elaborate Omega watch, or maybe something from Tokyo Flash. Something that a normal person would look at and say, “Oh hey. Neat watch.” That would’ve been standard TSA overreach.

    But this? Yeah, I’d kinda want them to stop a guy wearing a device like this into the airport, cuz that sure does look damn suspicious. And I’m okay with him being taken into custody and arrested over pulling a dumbass stunt like this.

    This is the second or third time that I’ve seen an article about some moron wearing “art” full of electronics and wires into an airport and then hooting about being unfairly treated when the TSA does its job. I can’t fault ’em for this one.

    1.  Did you read the article? “Horngrad said the first time McGann traveled with the watch, he showed it to a TSA supervisor at Los Angeles International Airport and the supervisor told him it was OK to wear it on the plane.” Link

      1.  Cuz all TSA supervisors are connected in real time, and share  judgment calls in a mutually binding way. I can’t get consistency between any two bar tenders on how to make a Manhattan. How is anyone going to get two different TSA supervisors to come to the same conclusion twice at totally different times about something like a stupid looking watch, when they can’t  figure out any of the fairly moronic, quotidian puzzles they face such as: my cupcake’s frosting, an impermissible gel & possible explosive or a tasty addition to a baked good?

        It’s like arguing with the customer service folks that the last rep said that they would waive that charge. Maybe they did, but it isn’t in the notes. “The last guy said my dumbass watch was OK, don’t arrest me, no really take my word. He’s a lot smarter than you and can recognize obsolete electrical fuses and crap duct taped to a Timex.” Yeah, right, that’ll work out fine. At the TSA, you are dealing with professionally suspicious, professionally humorless, twitchy folks who have seriously imperfect understandings of their own policies in regards to common things like sizes of toothpaste tubes. In a more perfect world we would have a different system, reasonable and respectful, effective and intelligent staffed with well-educated, insightful, courteous folks with deliciously wicked senses of the absurd and a background in hardware store stock items, who can distinguish bad collage from incendiary devices. And we wouldn’t need them in the first place because terrorism would be unthinkable. International conflict would be solved through epic break dance battles, not bombs. Not yet my friends, but there is the dream.

        1. It’s a federal agency. There should be some consistency. Currently it’s run by the random whim of whomever is on shift.

          1. I agree, they should make correct judgments and make them the same way every time, but I’m not going to hold my breath about it. And the first supervisor he saw should have said that he couldn’t guarantee that the next guy would know that the watch was harmless. My point is if I can’t get policy consistency on a everyday thing like damn tube of Crest I took on a plane ten times with nary a peep from the TSA dudes and had to toss on the 11th trip (because they are belligerent douchebags at O’Hare), then how can anyone expect something so out of the ordinary to evoke the same response in two TSA supervisors at widely different times. We would need a perfectly trained TSA agent, then clone him/her/Robocop, to achieve consistency. Until them, we are stuck with Bubba (insert your preferred regional LEO cliche here), who couldn’t get on at the sheriff’s department because of that pot possession ticket he got when he was 17, and there ain’t no training Bubba out of being Bubba.

          2. We don’t need a clone robo army. We just need a basically competent TSA training policy.  Which does not yet exist, anywhere.  Which is the problem.

            The police are trained to arrest criminals.  Firemen are trained to put out fires.  Accountants are trained to handle finances.  But TSA agents are NOT trained to detect or stop terrorists.  The entire organisation is actually worse than a useless waste of public money; it actively endangers lives just by existing.

            But when you make the case that the TSA isn’t consistent, I say: actually, where it counts, it is.  EVERY TSA agent, everywhere, is useless for detecting terrorist activity of any kind, ever, under all circumstances.  Not their fault, many of them are dedicated and professional people; it’s just that nobody ever actually bothered to design the agency for that purpose.

    2. Are wires dangerous? No.

      Lithium batteries *are* dangerous, and they’ll let you carry armloads of them on an airplane.

    3.  Checking to see if it might be a bomb is indeed their job. Arresting him when it should be very clear to these supposed “experts” that it’s NOT a bomb is absolutely unforgivable and outrageous.

    1.  It looks like a bomb to anyone who’s seen one in a cartoon or an action movie. Shouldn’t a professional know better, though? I’m not saying they shouldn’t have stopped him, or should have known from a simple glance, but they should have been able to tell by a close examination, and should certainly have no excuse to arrest the man. Of course, that’s all based on the premise that these are competent professionals whose interest is keeping people safe, rather than barely-trained thugs who took the job because they like having power and easy opportunities to steal laptops and cell phones. But since pretty much everyone (including, one would think, the artist) knows what the TSA really stand for by now, you’re arguably correct.

        1. I think with only one or two small modifications (one of which is just changing “TSA” to “police”), my point still stands.

  10. Ever since I heard about this I have been really interested in seeing the actual watch, now I have.

    Wow…… just wow …… I really, REALLY, didn’t think I would hear myself saying this but serves the guy right.
    I mean a cursory glance from anyone with a general background in electronics and its fairly obvious that the watch doesn’t do anything but something like that has about as much business in an airport as a vest made out of road flares.

    1. The difference is, a vest made out of flares has room for enough hypothetical explosive to be a mass danger, and is made to look like it.  Unlike this watch.

      1. There is no replica dynamite on this watch band, only some standard electrical fuses whose only resemblance to anything dangerous is being cylindrical.

        Would the same fuses be considered dangerous if carried in one’s pocket? No. They’re inert.

        This whole episode is proof that the TSA is protecting us against the threat of cartoon violence, not of real violence.

        1. This whole episode is proof that the TSA exercised good sense and investigated a potential threat to a tube of aluminum filled with people hurtling through the sky at 700 MPH.

          Did they arrest him and press charges? No. charges were later dropped so No.
          Did they send him a bill for damaging the bones in their hands and denting their batons? No.

          His watch is unusual and made of electrical components and should have been investigated in a calm, reasonable manner with plenty of time so they could fully examine it.

          1. “Did they arrest him and press charges? No.”

            Actually, YES.

            Being released and having the charges dropped does not mean “not being arrested” for a piece of clothing.

             Do you see the problem now?

          2. “Perhaps but in a TSA thread not generated around a jackass.”

            Oh, so rights are about who’s ‘cool’. Gotcha.

          3. Yes, rights are about who is cool. This guy’s watch was uncool and required investigation for him to get on a plane with it.

            And at this point we’re sarcastically sniping at each other and not driving the conversation forward. I bid you and your honestly held opinion adieu, sir/maam/other.

          4. Yes, rights are about who is cool.

            that’s not sniping, that’s trolling x last-wordism. Speak for yourself.

            You’re fine with different == arrestable, even when you weren’t there, and the whole story isn’tt known, Yes? I am not.

          5. -I acknowledge that you will say something after this.
            -I acknowledge that it is time for you to step away from the comments or focus your energies on a few conversations rather than replying to everyone that has a different opinion from you. It is obnoxious.
            -I acknowledge that I am not comfortable with all of the powers given to and assumed by the TSA.
            -I acknowledge that this guy did look different in a way that greeted increased attention from anyone, not just TSA, responsible for the safety of passengers. If a truck drove around with a prop version of Fat Man and did not warn the authorities or have any way to identify easily to someone with an IQ of ~80 that it was not actually an atomic device, I would expect it to be stopped numerous times and the device inspected by experts who may not be readily available. Not as harassment but for the interests of public safety.


          6. Okay, as long as it’s about you, ILYB. Thanks for answering my questions in good faith, and not labeling everything in sight. Perhaps in future you can be the source of your own salvation, and ignore me.

          7. “It was the Alameda Co Sheriff’s office who arrested him, not the TSA.”

            And it was the same department who released him without charge, because he did nothing wrong.

          8. You are completely correct, that is exactly what should have happened.

            Unfortunately, it bears no resemblance to what actually did happen.  Read the article again.

  11. To the lay-person, ie, TSA agent, it looks like a home-made bomb…. especially if he was actually wearing the watch in the second pic.  Freedom of speech/art, aside, I agree with the comments above stating that the dude is more or less an attention seeker and/or total lame-brain.

  12. Man wears watch that looks a lot like a bomb element (like a lot, a lot) to the airport. TSA arrests him. TSA examines watch and determines it’s not a threat. Man is released and charges dropped.

    This seems fine to me.

  13. The number of common sense responses here is refreshing.  “You know, let’s just think about this for a minute.  I’ll just keep that knee still and not let it jerk right away.”

    1. Interesting, how the common-sense responses appear to be from the people who actually read the article.

  14. He got what he wanted, and maybe a little more to boot (no pun intended), can we talk about something really important now… like Twinkies going belly up (there I go again…)

          1. Well, since a personal acquaintance of  the artist has in fact already responded on this thread, and answered that question, then yes.  I think we are in fact now better armed to avoid knee-jerk accusation.

            If we choose to.

          2. do you have a mouse in your pocket?

            How do ‘we’ feel about me asking the person making an assertion, how that person (not you, not the mouse in your pocket) expects us to believe that.  While true that Zulia mentioned that elsewhere, it’s also true that Zulia did not mention that here.

            In short, it was an honest question, and your response really disrespects my question.

      1. It’s like I tell my daughter, if you wear your hair in a blue Mohawk you can’t get pissed when people stare, obviously you want the attention.   If you wear a watch that has been turned into a wearable fake wrist bomb/detonator art piece to an airport don’t be pissed if you end up in trouble.   Do you really think for a moment he didn’t realize that he was pushing things here????  If I saw this guy boarding a plane in front of me with that thing peeking out from under his cuff I would have run the other way.  Defend him all you want, my opinion won’t change.

        1. “Do you really think for a moment he didn’t realize that he was pushing things here?”

          Wha? No. Nor do I care. It’s his right. That’s not up for popular vote.

  15. I used to get stopped a lot by TSA for “random” pat-downs.  Finally I asked one of them why I was stopped so often.  I was told that wearing a long, flowing skirt — while it might be comfortable to me — means I could be hiding something underneath.  Didn’t matter that there was nothing else about me to suggest any concern.  I started wearing leggings or yoga pants, a tight t-shirt, and some sort of over-shirt/sweater which I take off when going through security.  I’ve actually been complimented a number of times by TSA agents: “you know exactly how to dress for this, don’t you?”

    I want to get through the checkpoints as efficiently as possible.  If I know certain things will flag me, I will chose not to wear/carry them.  Just like I won’t make jokes while in the security line.  Fighting the bigger fight to change how airport security works as a whole is very important, but it isn’t done in a security line; fighting an individual TSA agent (who might be one of the good ones, or one of the idiots) is not an appropriate use of my time and energy.

  16. UPDATE 2:
    The artist is 10 years old and maintains that his totally not supposed to look like a bomb watch is still super rad.

  17. “He was released after bringing his watch up to code by installing circuit breakers.”

    (Cartridge fuses have always been a pain in the ass. And if its a 220v circuit, its quite possible for only one of the two cartridges to blow, leaving 110v live on the other leg. not good.)

    1.  This is true, he need to use a ganged three pole magneto-hydraulic breaker instead of that switch-fuse combo.

      Just say it and you know it’s good. magneto-hydraulic. makes ya tingle.

  18. ::bats his eyes:: “I have no idea what you’re talking about. The wristwatch I designed isn’t supposed to look ANYTHING like a bomb.” 

    I don’t care if he calls himself an artist. We already have well-thought-out free speech exceptions SPECIFICALLY for jackasses like McGann.   See:

    1. Geoff did not do this to get attention – he’d worn it before with no problems. Truly and honestly he just wanted to look cool (and taller.) 

      He may be guilty of not thinking this through – but the assumption you’re making is incorrect. He absolutely did not do this to get arrested or get attention. 

      1. That’s completely fair. I don’t know the guy and I wasn’t there. But the appearance of the watch requires one of three conclusions: 1) he was thoughtless in bringing it to an airport, 2) he thought his art was worth a panic, or 3) he’s not a very good artist, because his giraffe-themed wristwatch doesn’t look at all like what it’s supposed to.  

        We’ve ruled out 2).

        1. Your conclusion #1 was also ruled out when Mr. McGann checked with a TSA supervisor, who examined the watch and told him it was OK to wear it on the plane.

          1. What does a 49-year-old male need with MULTIPLE insoles per shoe? I could have so much egg on my face if he’s handicapped or something, but otherwise, you can see why I’m wary that this might have been performance art. Fool me once, Internet, Lonelygirl15, Andy Kaufman, etc.

            And whatever, if it WAS performance art he should fucking OWN it. Dude made an (unintentionally?) biting remark on the over-zealous TSA.

            (there are finite re:s, so if I’m wrong, and there isn’t space, just start a new one; I’m happy to eat crow).

          2. Because I would imagine the TSA lists elevated heels on a man who is neither old, short, nor foppishly attired as a red flag after the shoe bomber.
            And because that would ALSO function as antagonizing-the-TSA-cum-art, creating a motif. (or modus operandi, if you’d prefer).

          3. Perhaps he wears insoles because his shoes were two sizes too big, because he bought them at a thrift store and liked their style but they didn’t fit properly.

            There are people who do that. Often, they’re artists.

  19. I honestly can not believe how much blaming the victim there is in this thread.

    If this was a US senator saying that a rape victim deserved it because of the way she was dressed you’d rip him to shreds, regardless of how short her skirt was.

          1. No, he is negating the assertion that the watch was a “fake bomb”. If I say that you are not a fake platypus, or a fake Martian, or a fake intellectual, I am not asserting you are a real one. It’s called logic.

          2. I think I am being complimented by your implication that I am not a fake intellectual. If this is the case, I thank you.

  20. Wearing that watch to the airport I would NOT expect to be arrested, and I don’t think the gentleman in the article should have been.

    But I also would not expect to actually make it through security on time for my flight. Even with no TSA I would expect that watch to cause me delays. (And probably politely asked not to wear it visibly on board the plane as it may cause actual panic in other passengers who see it, whether the panic is grounded or not. If I was feeling like a jerk, I would wear it onboard anyway.)

  21. The following are my ill-informed opinions regarding this arrest and subsequent release based on the limited facts available, and are in no way meant to be understood as factual statements. Also, I am writing extremely generally, and am skipping over a lot of (extremely interesting) rules and issues (which you should totally look into)

    1) TSA agents are not armed (at least in my experience, and this is coming from someone that declined the x-ray scan three times over the weekend, and so was subjected to multiple pat downs by TSA in the sort of proximity that probably would have made any holstered weapons obvious). This is in response to an early commenter.

    2) Police (generally) do not “charge” persons for crimes (there are some rare “direct file” cases in which police may charge a defendant, but they are generally for traffic and misdemeanor offenses). Rather prosecutors (city attorney’s, district attorneys, attorney generals, etc) file charges against people. The charging is usually done by means of grand jury indictment, complaint, or something called an information. See generally:

    3) Police may arrest people if they have probable cause to believe that a crime has been committed (I’m simplifying matters here), even if the crime committed is an extremely minor one (such as driving without a seat belt, although usually to arrest someone for a misdemeanor, the police must have personally witnessed the crime).

    4) Police may arrest someone and incarcerate them pending a probable cause hearing, which almost always must occur within 48 hours. This is when you are taken before a judge, and the prosecutor shows that the police had reasonable grounds to believe that probable cause existed for support the arrest. It is a fairly low standard to show PC existed (it is not the fairly difficult standard of “proof beyond a reasonable doubt” that comes into play when prosecutors attempt to prove actual guilt). The prosecution may also decline to pursue the matter before the PC hearing, in which case the defendant is released.

    5) Being arrested as a result of valid Probable Cause does not mean that you are guilty, only that the police had reason to believe you were involved in a crime. Conversely, it is quite common for people to be arrested properly (ie. there was valid probable cause), only to either be found not guilty at trial, or to have the prosecution fail to file and charges, or drop charges post filing for a variety of reasons. Just because the gentleman was arrested here does not necessarily mean that the police acted improperly in anyway, as again, this sort of situation is fairly common in the criminal justice system (arrests with valid PC that do not result in criminal charges being filed).

    6) Prosecutors generally have wide latitude to file charges within a fairly broad scope of time. A person who is arrested may be released without having charges filed, only to be informed later (sometimes years later, depending on a variety of circumstances, such as the severity of the crime) that they are now being charged criminally. I would like to point out this issue confuses practically everyone, and is extremely common: here is an example — person gets arrested for getting in a fight. Police take person to jail, but then release person the next day. Person says to himself “Yippee!” 4 months later, person is informed by mail that they are being criminally charged with assault, person is bummed.

    With those things out of the way, based on the facts available without an attempt to look into the matter any further than what is in this post (such as the posted photograph) I am on the fence as to whether probable cause existed in this situation to support an arrest (but I’m leaning towards no valid PC). That being said, it is often difficult to form an opinion based solely on news reports, and without seeing the police reports / witness statements, etc.

    For instance, I would assume the police / TSA did the usual swab test on this thing; did it come up positive or negative? I don’t know of any cases on point, but I’m guessing the look of the watch + positive bomb swab test would be enough to support PC (which again, does not mean anyone is guilty of anything).

    What is beyond question is that police had a reasonable suspicion based on articulable facts to detain the suspect for a further investigation of the watch (which is known as a “Terry Stop”, see: ). However, this does not give police the authority to arrest anyone, only to temporarily detain people suspected of crimes to allow for further investigation.

    The good news for those who are subject to wrongful arrests generally is that they may often seek redress in civil court (aka government money checks) based on violations of their civil rights, although again, I wouldn’t want to guess on the validity of the arrest in this, or any other instance, without first reading the allegations and arrest reports, as in my experience, the parties will often have widely divergent facts surrounding an arrest.

    Good times.

    1.  I think you covered the bases well, but i think a explosives residue swab would only clear “the gentleman” as you name him of the more serious suspicions, but not of the suspicion that the watch could constitute a “bomb part”. In other words, they were afraid that it might be a timer, which I believe was reported as the original reason he was arrested.  A negative swab wouldn’t necessarily mean anything under that theory.

      1. Hey Sabeltodo, Thanks for your thoughts.
        So yes, suspicion of a crime is not enough to effect an arrest, they must have probable cause to believe that the crime has occurred / is imminent.

        The thing about the swab that I mentioned above was me just sort of spit balling to come up with some hypothetical facts that would be more supportive of finding that PC existed, as I am not totally sold on that wearing a funky watch would in and of itself satisfy the probable cause requirement (and again, I am not making a call on this particular event, since I do not have all the facts)

  22. As some have pointed out, I don’t think it’s totally unreasonable that someone thought there was something suspicious about this watch. I see some people are defending Mr. McGann by saying he’d previously shown the watch to a TSA supervisor who said it was okay. I’d guess that said supervisor was somewhat familiar with the components on the watch and knew it was no threat, telling him it’s okay.

    A lot of people posting here are also familiar with said components which makes it real easy to think stopping the guy is silly, but common sense should tell most of us that the majority of the population are not, in fact, familiar with those components and would likely be a little freaked out by this watch. I’m not blaming the wearer, but I wouldn’t say this is overreach at all. I’d say they took a perfectly reasonable and cautious approach.

    Think about it this way: if that came through your line and you didn’t know what those little cylinders were, would you want to potentially risk the lives of the people on that plane?

    1. “the majority of the population are not, in fact, familiar with those components and would likely be a little freaked out by this watch”

      So you’re okay with the idea that the professional security and law-enforcement people involved in this incident, who you are depending on to keep you safe from terrorists, have exactly as much knowledge about explosives as the average guy or gal on the street? Would you defend the surgeon who removed your gall-bladder during say, gastric bypass surgery, on the basis that, “hey, it looked kinda cancerous”?

      1. It’s possible that they are professional enough to know that some of those 1970’s era “anarchist cookbook” wannabes used household fuses to make “electric match” style detonators.

    2. The TSA is paid to recognize actual threats to safety and prevent them from boarding planes.

      They should have at least one person on staff who can tell the difference between an electrical fuse and a cherry bomb.

      1.  No, they are paid to recognize potential threats, a much lower standard than actual threats. Actual threat recognition often requires expert knowledge when the threat isn’t in a familiar form, like a gun or boxcutter. There isn’t enough money in the world to have every airport TSA security point staffed with experts in all actual threats/

        1. On the other hand, it’s very easy to have people trained in movie-bomb detection, because everyone’s seen movie bombs.

          For reals… there is NO EXPLOSIVE THING on this wristwatch. Nothing that even looks like an explosive thing. There isn’t a red paperboard cylinder, there’s no plastic lumps, there’s nothing that is bomb-like.

          Wires are not dangerous. Every TSA agent should know this. They have training, right?

          1. What kind of training do you assume they have? Wires are not dangerous, true. Things made with wires can be, like garrots and bomb timers The TSA dudes didn’t think it was a bomb. They thought it might be a bomb timer. I went and looked at the original post yesterday. Here’s a fun quote from the source (emphasis mine):

            OAKLAND, Calif. — A Southern California man was arrested at Oakland International Airport after security officers found him wearing an unusual watch they said COULD BE USED TO MAKE A TIMING DEVICE FOR A BOMB, authorities said Friday… McGann told Transportation Security Administration officers that he’s an artist and the watch is art, Nelson said.

            Your argument seems to be that the watch is so obviously not a bomb that it should have been dismissed by the bored hourly employee who is charged with looking for unusual and potentially dangerous things/people. I’m making the radical argument that you are asking too much from a TSA agent. In fact, you don’t want him/her exercising individual discretion in the face of a novel situation. You cannot reliably believe that they are equipped to handle every situation, and must default to erring on the side of caution in such circumstances. I hate the TSA. I hate flying because of them. I kinda like making Bubbas touch my balls because it squinches them out so much, but not enough to like anything else. I don’t want them using their discretion: I want them following rules. No rule? Call a supervisor. Discretion leads to discrimination. Discetion allows the frontline dudes to freelance the answers and substitute their judgment and prejudices. You want consistency and professionalism from the TSA? Then you want rules, well written and well reasoned ones, slavishly adhered to and fairly applied. You do not want Bubba making it up as he goes along. Because we ma be able to get rid of security theater and rank stupidity, but airport security ain’t going away.

          2.  Any watch or cell phone could be used as a bomb timer.

            They arrested him because they didn’t like him, plain and simple.

  23. Yes, but where is a photo of these problematic shoes ? Does he have narrow feet ? Was he wearing custom orthotics ? Was he wearing super rare WW1 boots two sizes too big ? Was he wearing footwear like he was going to a rave in 1998 ? 

  24. To the folks remarking that those were (obviously) fuses: My ex-wife once swore the same sort of fuses were shotguns shells and she wasn’t going to have dangerous ammunition in her house where a child could get ahold of it. I had to open up the fuse box and show her. Not everybody knows everything you and/or I do, even folks with two more degrees than I do, like her.

    1.  I’d expect TSA officials to know more about explosive devices and common hardware than the average person, even if she does have two degrees.

      1. Ahh, you make the fatal error of underestimating my ex-wife. We all have, to our peril. She’s not average at all. In fact, I believe she was always right, to her mind anyway. And she doesn’t have two degrees, she has four (Bachelor’s, two Master’s and a Ph.D., but they are all social sciences. Bahhh.).

        You use “officials” like it grants them some knowledge above and beyond the average humanoid in the street. They are no more knowledgeable in general than the population as a whole. True story: old friend of mine had a roommate who wanted to be a sheriff’s deputy, but couldn’t get the job because he couldn’t get a concealed carry permit, a requirement around these parts, because his mother had had him institutionalized when he was 14 because he was defiant. He has a “psych” notation somewhere in some file because of that and that nixes the gun permit. It’s just a screening method. The same notation kept him out of the Marines. Can you guess it?  Yes, he is a TSA agent now. Are you saying deputies are smarter than an average bear? Marines? Maybe about what they are trained in. But aren’t TSA agents trained? Well yes they are. Just not in things like broad classes of objects and items they can merely dismiss other than medical devices like CPAP machines. How to do a pat down. Likely methods of concealment.  How to run all sorts of x-ray machines, scanners and metal detectors, if that is your certification. A little psychology. Some tutoring in command presence. How to steal iPads (I kid).  Basically policy, procedure and what passes for customer service.

        The bar is pretty low to get in. High school diploma or GED, ability to lift 70lbs and to stand throughout a shift. Pass a drug test. No delinquent taxes or child support. Decent vision and hearing. No subject knowledge requirement. They simply don’t have to know what you are expecting them to know and do their jobs on an average day. For the purposes of the TSA, they need folks who can say that “I THINK that is suspicious”, because they really don’t know what they are looking for until they find it.Every refinement in security theater has come from an “oops, we didn’t think of that”moment: box cutters, shoe bombs, underwear bombs. They are always playing catch up, and one of  the most likely scenarios for another airline attack is one they haven’t thought of yet. I’m not saying they are doing a good, admirable, or effective job. I am saying you give the TSA too much credit for knowing what is a threat. Don’t use yourself, or the bulk of the commentariat here a BB as a comparison point (smarter than average, I’d wager). Use the lower half of your high school graduating class. Those are the folks who have these jobs, most of the time. Mostly decent folks just doing their jobs, but not Wile E Coyote, Super Genius, either. Don’t assume that they know anything in particular, other than to refer you to secondary screening.

          1. that’s not how idiots and bureaucracy blend. you might wind up with something that is vaguely successful at its mission, and we can’t have that.

            (at least not from the W administration)

    1. I like that there’s two ways to read this, but I wonder if you’re aware of your role. There is some outrage in this thread. I’d say you’re part of that group too.

        1. Tee hee. My story is that a year ago, I was the guy with the gizmo with wires at the airport.

          I wore my wire-festooned video coat straight from the Maker Faire to the Detroit airport, and my whole family got the four-star TSA treatment.

          The punch line? After the frisking, they let my carry eight big LiPo hobby car batteries on board, which had no overcurrent protection, and plugs that worked like 9-volt battery plugs, so I could have made four fires on the plane if I had wanted to, not that I would have wanted to.

          If the TSA had expressed any concern at all about the ACTUAL dangerous items instead of the CARTOON dangerous items, I would have some respect for them,

          1. So this is way off topic but okay. The TSA people are probably of normal technical intelligence (turn a computer on, call friend if it stops working). TSA’d have to pay triple for people with serious technical experience to trudge through the guv bullshit.

            That they allow sealed (turns on so it can’t be a bomb!) high energy devices like iPads on the plane vexes me but imagine the consumer outrage if they didn’t (sorry maam, you’re gonna have to ship that laptop both ways for your single day, turn-around trip).

            So yes, kabuki security theater is alive and raking in billions.

            I disagree that this particular guy in this particular case is a victim. There are real security risks and to decide whether an odd object is a security risk will require further investigation and that will require time. That they chose to arrest him is unfortunate but the reactions in this thread especially comparing this to what rape victims go through has been over the top. It is also starting to feel like a ritual for some any time a TSA “abuse” is reported. And that’s why I called it kabuki security theater outrage.

          2. And I agree. Most agents aren’t trained well enough or don’t have a strong enough background in what are actual threats versus cartoon dangerous items. Additionally TSA’s policies that agents are paid to enforce are often reactionary, humiliating for passengers, and mostly ineffective due to the nature of their security strategy or lack of it.

  25. He should be thrown in jail, just for the crime of being stupid.

    If he really doesn’t understand why some people in airports don’t really like his fancy custom watch (which actually looks just enough like an explosive device (unless the hipster screeners are soooo hip enough to recognize those old-school retro-fuses)) then he deserves an education in the criminal justice system. This sort of useless idiocy is a distraction from addressing the real problems with the state of public security these days.         

    As a question of aesthetics, I would not want to be sitting beside someone on an airplane with such poor design taste. I would find it offensive. 

    1. This sort of useless idiocy is a distraction from addressing the real problems with the state of public security these days.

      And what have you done to address the problems? Or is that one of those “do nothing but criticize people who do” things?

    2. In my opinion, it is fortunate for our society that the Constitution of the United States does not allow people to be arrested for being less intelligent, or even needlessly provocative, and further  generally constrains the police from arresting those based on their fashion or artistic sense, however misguided or distasteful one might find it (there are a bunch of exceptions for unprotected types of speech, but my initial impression is that this watch would not fall into any of the exceptions, and so would be protected, although I would be open to argument on this point if there are any First Amendment scholars hanging around).

      There is actually a case where someone wore a  jacket to a court house which said “Fuck the draft”


      which obviously got the wearer arrested. The Court ultimately held that the arrest was improper, as his actions (wearing the jacket) were protected by the 1st Amendment. This case is actually one of my top ten favorite cases in Supreme Court history; mostly because I am a terrible dresser, and it would just be a matter of time before I would get scooped up by the fashion police (ok, that last part was a joke / shout out to old Dead Kennedy’s records).

  26. I would be super annoyed if i were on the same flight and we ended up delayed because an *untrained* fellow passenger saw that and freaked. What kind of an ass would wear that on a plane?

    1. What kind of ass is the average American today? The only thing this guy did wrong was fail to account for Osama winning.

  27. Sorry, after seeing the “watch”, I have a lot less sympathy for the artist.  It should set off red flags for a screening agent: a modified timing device with wires, switches and other items of unknown purpose.  The guy sitting behind the screening machine is not a bomb expert.  He is trained to flag items with certain suspicious traits.  If anything should call in extra attention, it would be this.

    The idea that one TSA supervisor cleared once it so it should be fine the next time is specious.  TSA supervisors don’t join a national mind meld at the end of the day – they have no idea what other supervisor have cleared.  Getting cleared once does not mean it isn’t going to get flagged the next time it goes through screening.

    There is an assumption in many posts here that it swabbed negative.  Those test have a reasonably high false positive rate.  My sonicare toothbursh swabbed positive once, which resulted in a lot of extra screening.  I am pretty sure if a device like this swabbed positive, even falsely, the situation would ratchet up quickly.

    Also missing from the discussion is the is how the artist interacted with the screeners.  I meet a guy once who tried to take a can of root-beer through screening.  When questioned, he answered, “what do you think it is?  A bomb?”, which landed him in jail overnight.  Showing up with suspicious device and saying the wrong thing in a tense situation can land you in jail.  

    Showing up at the airport with a homemade device probably does not get you arrested.  But add one extenuating circumstance – a positive swab or an ill timed comment – and it might.  Ultimately, the device was cleared and the artist released.  It is not clear to that this should have played out in a different way. 

  28. Security theater:  wasting resources showily prohibiting the things that people are afraid of rather than things that are actually likely to cause damage.

  29. I’d be more disturbed if he weren’t arrested.  He’s an ass for wearing something like that in the first place.  Personally, I think it’s akin to screaming fire in a crowded movie theater.  He tried to instigate panic, he took up valuable TSA time and diverted their attention from more critical things, he deserved what he go.

    1. Mr. McGann did not try to instigate panic. Before the security screening, he showed the watch to a TSA supervisor, asked for and got approval to wear the watch on the plane. So Mr. McGann didn’t waste the TSA’s time. The TSA and the Alameda County Sheriff wasted the TSA’s time, the Alameda County Sheriff’s time, and Mr. McGann’s time.

      If you’re upset about people trying to instigate panic, perhaps you should direct your outrage at the DHS and the fake “terror alerts” they’ve issued since 9/11/01.

      1. If you’d actually paid attention to the article, you’d have noticed that he showed the watch to a TSA supervisor, on a separate visit to an airport, not on this visit.

        1.  and if -you- read the article, you would see that they determined using their training and equipment that it was not a bomb…..

          ……before detaining him and then dropping all charges. 

  30. Next time I fly, I’m going to go completely naked…then again they’d probably do a body cavity search thinking I had a bomb up my ass.  Seriously America, I know George W. mindfucked you all, but what’s with all the paranoia?  Nobody’s out to get you.

      1.  correct, it is the one that looks like a setpiece to a low budget TV melodrama about terrorism.

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