I FEEL SAFER ALREADY

Dodd Harris reports on the more silliness at TSA. It seems a 17-year-old had the following note inside his luggage:

”[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.”

He has been charged with a felony bomb threat. As Dodd notes,

Leaving aside the First Amendment implications of being arrested for the content of a piece of paper one has inside one’s luggage, “Have you found a… bomb yet? No, just clothes. Am I right?” seems to me to all but explicitly state, ‘There is not a bomb in this bag!’ Which, at least as I understand the English language, is the precise opposite of making a bomb threat.

I understand the difficulty of the job these guys are being asked to do and even their impatience with wiseacres. But this strikes me as a rather harmless and amusing little prank. And certainly far short of criminal.

FILED UNDER: Terrorism
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. Meezer says:

    While hardly worth a felony charge, how proud his parents must be! Speaking to total strangers like that. My response: Mouth, meet soap. Of course, 17 is a little late to decide to instill ordinary civility and respect for others.

  2. James Joyner says:

    Not to mention the fact that calling an umpire a “[expletive] sucker” will get you thrown out of the game.

  3. I empathize with the poor guy, Back in the ’60s I sufferred much the same fate. Over Spring break, my roommate and I hid little missives in my dorm room for the enjoyment of those we all expected to search the dorms for drugs. The one I hid in the air conditioner was especially nasty. I don’t remember exactly what it said, but it was enough to get us thrown out of the dorm.

    It taught this college boy an important lesson: never underestimate the nastiness of a small mind. In my case, I didn’t even have the benefit of a trial. At least this fellow gets to see what a judge thinks of his writing style.

  4. BigFire says:

    Rule one when dealing with people in security:

    1. Don’t be stupid.

    If you follow that rule religiously, you won’t run into many problem with the so-called ‘small minded’. They have a job to do. Don’t try to make it harder.

  5. James Joyner says:

    BF: Maybe not. OTOH, we can’t criminalize joking, either. Nothing in that note was the slightest threat to security.

  6. Kathy K says:

    I read the note the same way you did. “There’s no bomb in this luggage.”

    I hope the jusdge can read English too. I also hope the idiot kid has learned a lesson.

  7. Kathy K says:

    jusdge=judge

  8. Anonymous says:

    James: Too late. Joking in certain situations and contexts IS criminalized. Joking in a security line at an airport about terrorism or whatnot can and has gotten people arrested. So there is basis for this, good or bad as it may be.

  9. I think there is a difference between vocal joking and leaving pieces of paper in one’s luggage.

    Vocal joking takes the screeners’ attention off of the job they are doing, and is a distraction.

    But a piece of paper in someone’s luggage is not really what these guys are trying to look for: they shouldn’t even have read it. I can see the temptation to do so, but reading documents is outside the search parameters, isn’t it?

    It wasn’t a smart thing to do, but people feel violated when others are looking through their underwear, dammit.

  10. Leroy says:

    I suspect the curse words aside, the main problem was the forbidden word “bomb” for which there is a zero tolerance policy in place from what I have gathered. That is where the kid fouled up, by the standards that I have managed to hear about so far. His note in and of itself is harmless, but that one forbidden word will likely cause him trouble in the court system, depending of course on which judge hears the case.

    I agree that such searches leave people feeling violated, and that such a note–minus the cursing and the word bomb–might well be construed as a legitimate form of free speech. I certainly would hold it as such, but then again, I am not a federal employee working for the TSA. Also, I have a sense of humor…

  11. Paul says:

    Geeze~ The fact that you people are actually debating the relitive merits of this arrest shows how far we have fallen.

    I think many of you should be off to google to see what Thomas Jefferson said about trading security for liberty.

    Tell me what in the note constituted a “bomb threat?”

    geeze

    Paul