Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Are these people just stupid, or what?

Let me see if I have this weird story straight:

A 19-year old college student went to Boston's Logan International Airport to meet her boyfriend who was arriving there. This student, Star Simpson, is a sophomore at the prestigious Massachusetts Institute of Technology
. I don't know that much about MIT, but I do believe you have to be at least a little bit smart to go there. According to the attorney who was appointed to represent her, Ms. Simpson is a graduate of the Hawaii Preparatory Academy, a private boarding school, and she is now the secretary of MIT's Electrical Research Society. She has also won school prizes for chemistry and leadership and has even received a Congressional citation for her work in robotics. So, MIT is definitely not a school for the intellectually challenged.

Anyway this girl Star (I hope she doesn't mind me calling her Star), she apparently approached an information counter at the airport's arrivals terminal around 8:00 a.m. At least one of the counter people noted her unusual attire, which consisted of an object strapped to her body (chest), that looked like a possible bomb. It was a white circuit board measuring roughly 2 inches by 6 inches, with protruding wires, lights and a nine-volt battery. The device, whatever it was, apparently was functioning because the nine lights were flashing. Oh, she also reportedly was carrying a lump of something that was either modeling clay or Play-Doh. For those who might not be that familiar with explosives, plastic explosives (like C-4) is
a relatively stable, solid explosive that has a consistency similar to Play-Doh and/or modeling clay.

Because I'm talking about plastic explosives, I guess I should also mention the nut Richard Reid, a member of al-Qaeda, who tried to blow up American Airlines Flight #63 on December 22, 2001, just a few short months after 9/11. Reid is the so-called "shoe bomber" and that's because the plastic explosive he used (PETN) was hidden in the lining of his shoes. Flight #63 was headed from Paris to Miami, but when Reid's actions were interrupted the plane was quickly diverted to Boston's Logan International Airport.

After Star inquired about the arriving flight, she walked back outside the terminal. The person manning the information booth inside the terminal notified a nearby trooper. That trooper, along with other law enforcement officers with machine guns, confronted Star in front of the terminal. According to Major Scott Pare, Logan Airport's commanding officer of law enforcement, "She was immediately told to stop, to raise her hands and not to make any movement, so we could observe all her movements to see if she was trying to trip any type of device." Major Pare then noted that had she not followed instructions, and had she done something unusual, deadly force could have resulted. "She's lucky to be in a cell as opposed to the morgue," Major Pare reportedly said. Amen to that! I can just visualize what would have happened if the poor girl had decided to put the Play-Doh in her pocket.

Because Star was arrested outside of the terminal airport operations were not affected. The terminal was not evacuated and no flights were affected either. Authorities quickly determined that the device she wore was not a real bomb. And, even though Star said it was just a piece of "art" she had created, they did charge her with possession of a hoax device and she was eventually released on a $750.00 bond. The prosecutor reportedly wanted a much higher bond ($5,000.00), but didn't get it. Even though the "hoax" bomb charge carries a penalty of up to five years in prison, I seriously doubt she will be sentenced to any jail time. That is, of course, if she's even found guilty. I say "if" because nothing is certain in this sometimes crazy Post-9/11 world we live in.

Speaking of 9/11, some of the news sources I read said the authorities were amazed that someone would wear such an odd looking device after the tragic events of September 11 (2001). Two of the jets hijacked that dreadful day took off from Logan Airport. American Airlines Flight #11, bound for Los Angeles, struck the World Trade Center's North Tower; United Airlines Flight #175, also bound for L.A., hit the Trade Center's South Tower. Both of these planes departed Logan Airport. "I'm shocked and appalled that someone would wear this type of device to an airport," Major Pare stated. I would have to agree with him.

Although I do feel that Star used some very poor judgment, I also believe she did not really intend to cause a problem at Logan Airport. In my opinion, she's probably naive and immature, just like so many other young people her age and she really didn't have a clue that what she was doing could turn out so wrong. Young people often don't think about the possible negative ramifications of their actions. I know when I was 19, many years ago, I didn't. Now, I often wonder how I managed to survive. As a teenager I did some incredibly stupid things. I'm sure we ALL did. Then, even after I became a police officer, when I turned 21, I was still immature and didn't have a clue about the real world. Unfortunately, I think that's what Star's problem was too. So, I think a mere $750.00 bond was definitely appropriate. I don't see her as being a risk to either repeat this experience, or to flee.

Even though I can sympathize (a little) with Star, I still feel it is disgusting that her court appointed attorney (Ross Schreiber) is so quick to blame the police for what happened. In the news articles I read it indicated the attorney used words like "overreaction" and "off base" to describe the charges Star now faced. He also reportedly said,
"I would characterize it as almost being paranoid at this point." According to the attorney, Star was at the airport for "legitimate purposes." In his argument before the court, I imagine to get the bond lowered (as it was), the attorney said that Star did not act in a suspicious manner and she even told the person at the information counter that the device was just her "art" project she created.

Once piece I read said that when Star was originally asked about the device she was wearing, she didn't even answer and turned and walked back outside the terminal. I don't know if that's true. But, let's go ahead and suppose she DID answer and told the person what she had on was her "art" work. So, Star says the device she's wearing is just art, and the person who first saw her is supposed to take her at her word? Give me a break! It's to bad that someone at Logan wasn't a little "paranoid" back on 9/11! I read that 3 of the 5 hijackers of American Airlines Flight #11 were selected for further screening by CAPPS (Computer Assisted Passenger Prescreening System). So, apparently the computer was at least a little "paranoid" about these three. It's to bad someone human wasn't "paranoid" too.

Law enforcement officers are just like everyone else on this planet; they're human, and they have to rely on their senses, training and experience to influence their decision-making. Sorry Mr. attorney, but police officers are NOT mind readers! I wish we were. It would be nice to be able to read a person's mind and instantaneously know what they're thinking, and what their intentions are. But, unfortunately, we don't have that ability, so we have to reply on our own good common sense. So, it would have been nice for Star's attorney to have talked about her lack of serious intent, rather than blame the cops for what transpired. He did a huge disservice to the men and women who were out there on the front lines trying to do their jobs and protect the public.

One of these days, I'm sad to say, I do expect that there will be a suicide bombing somewhere here in America. There are so many of these lunatics and fanatics out there, that to me, it almost seems inevitable. Remember homegrown American terrorist Timothy McVeigh? Back on April 19, 1995, this nut coldly and deliberately killed 168 innocent men, women and children in Oklahoma City. I'm not sure if this is true, but I seem to remember McVeigh once saying (after he'd been caught) that if he had been approached by anyone, including a police officer, when he left that Ryder Truck in front of the Federal Building, he was prepared to blow himself up with the truck, just to make sure his plans succeeded.

Unfortunately, if that day does come, and a suicide bombing does eventually occur here in America, there is also a very good possibility that some of the people killed will probably be law enforcement officers trying to stop it.
Paranoid? You bet! Only a fool doesn't worry about these nuts and what they might do someday.

I guess the best thing I ever heard was something
Henry Kissinger supposedly once said:

"Even a paranoid can have enemies."

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