UK Man Arrested And Banned From Airport For Twitter Joke About Blowing Up An Airport

from the careful-who-you-joke-with dept

A few weeks ago, I was flying with my wife somewhere, and as we passed through security, a TSA agency took my wife’s shoes and asked if he could run a separate test on them. A little while later, he came back and asked if she had another pair of shoes, saying that hers had “failed the test.” It was around 5am, and neither of us were completely awake and we were both really confused, and trying to figure out how her shoes could have failed any sort of test (could she have stepped in some sort of mud that set off a test?!?) or if she had packed another pair of shoes, when the TSA guy started laughing, saying he was just joking and “you were supposed to protest!” Apparently, it was all a big joke. It wasn’t that funny. And, of course, we’ve been told over and over again that this kind of joking is only allowed to go in one direction.

Krubuntu points us to the news of a guy in the UK who found himself arrested and banned for life from an airport after posting a message on Twitter that read: “Robin Hood airport is closed. You’ve got a week and a bit to get your shit together, otherwise I’m blowing the airport sky high!!” This was in response to the airport closing due to snow, and the guy realizing he was supposed to fly from there a week later. Now, clearly, this was an ill-advised Twitter message. And, at the very least, I don’t begrudge police from at least doing a quick check to make sure that it wasn’t serious, but to then arrest him under the Terror Act, interrogate him for seven hours, threaten him with further charges and ban him for life from the airport? At some point you have to think that the response has gone too far as well. Yes, the post was in poor taste, but at some point law enforcement people should recognize when it was just a frustrated person making an ill-advised joke and move on.

Filed Under: , , ,

Rate this comment as insightful
Rate this comment as funny
You have rated this comment as insightful
You have rated this comment as funny
Flag this comment as abusive/trolling/spam
You have flagged this comment
The first word has already been claimed
The last word has already been claimed
Insightful Lightbulb icon Funny Laughing icon Abusive/trolling/spam Flag icon Insightful badge Lightbulb icon Funny badge Laughing icon Comments icon

Comments on “UK Man Arrested And Banned From Airport For Twitter Joke About Blowing Up An Airport”

Subscribe: RSS Leave a comment
Dark Helmet (profile) says:


“if she had packed another pair of shoes, when the TSA guy started laughing, saying he was just joking and “you were supposed to protest!””

Hell, you handled it a lot better than I would have. My response to the above would have been, “Well, sir, it’s hard to protest in an animated fashion when I’ve caked my boxer shorts in plastic explosives….”

But be honest, how hard would you have laughed when a brief shot of me in full Dark Helmet gear kneeling on a prayer rug in the yard in Gitmo got out?

Danny (profile) says:

Re: WHAT??!!

I had a similar event happen to me on Christmas day flying to Hawaii. I had put my boarding pass in my backpack which ran through the detector. Ad the human detector, the guard asked to see my boarding pass. I told him it was in my backpack inside the other detector.

He then told me I wouldn’t be able to fly that day. When I looked confused, he told me he was joking.

And my thought was: I am not allowed to make jokes here, then you shouldn’t be allowed to make jokes here either.

As I thought about it later, had I gone ballistic, they would have arrested me. But when it became clear I went ballistic over his joke – he would have been in a fair amount of trouble too.

Derek Kerton (profile) says:

Re: WHAT??!!

Hmmm, Dark,

I was on a flight out of Vegas CES this month, just after the underpants incident, and the guy behind me was an infrequent flyer who protested having to remove his shoes.

The airport was dead, so there were few around, but the TSA woman got a little snippy with him, he complied…no problem. I silently observed, for fear I attract unwanted attention.

But then the TSA woman started off on a big speech for all nearby to hear about how any inconvenience is worth it and “If I’m getting on a plane, the ONLY thing that matters is security. There is NO amount of inconvenience that matters more than my safety…”

Suffice to say I radically disagree. I, unlike she, like to perform cost/benefit analyses on all aspects of life. There IS an amount of inconvenience that goes to far, and there IS a point where the marginal safety benefit isn’t worth the price. It’s not just theoretical, either: I crossed the cost

Jake (user link) says:

Questioning him under caution was an entirely appropriate response, though why it took seven hours I can only imagine. Like one of the commenters on the Independent article pointed out, your Twitter feed can be read by someone who doesn’t know you from Adam, and textual communication makes it that much harder to judge tone.

I should probably clarify a couple of other points. First, the police don’t actually have the final say in whether he gets charged; they have to refer it upwards to a civil service organisation called the Crown Prosecution Service, whose job is (among other things) to assess the likelihood of a successful conviction if charges are brought. I wouldn’t bet much on them running with it.
Secondly, banning him from the airport isn’t something the police can do without an Anti-Social Behaviour Order, which is basically a kind of restraining order for habitual petty crooks. Since I assume the Independent would have seen fit to mention it if he got slapped with one of those, I suspect this came from Robin Hood Airport’s owners.

Jake (user link) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

It’s private property, so the airport’s owners are well within their rights to ban him from entering. I imagine they’ll have some kind of arrangement in place with the airlines so that if a barred individual’s name comes up at check-in, an alert goes to the airport police or private security so they can come and throw them out.

The ban will probably disappear once this all blows over, though; unless he’s actually found guilty, banning him is probably a violation of some part of the Human Rights Act.

Sean says:

Am I the only person who sees this as kind of justified? In the wake of the failed attempt to blow up and airplane on Xmas in America, this guy is now posting ‘jokes’ about blowing up a whole airport? The guy is so incredibly stupid to post it that he deserves what he gets.

What’s really frustrating is the people who post on the Internet, angry that the Xmas guy got through and almost blew up a plane and they demand more security. Then you get a guy posting on Twitter that he’s going to blow up an entire airport. This man is then arrested – the requested/demanded security increase is supplied. Then the Internet posters say this was clearly a joke and that it’s stupid to have people being arrested for nothing.

I am thrilled this guy got arrested, there’s no reason to be joking about blowing up a god damn airport in 2010.

btr1701 (profile) says:

Re: Wakes

> In the wake of the failed attempt to blow up and airplane on Xmas
> in America, this guy is now posting ‘jokes’ about blowing up a
> whole airport?

What if he joked about blowing up the whole *world*? That’s an even bigger bomb, so maybe he should be banned from everywhere. At some point common sense has to enter into it.

And I’m tired of every new restriction on freedom and gross governmental overreach being justified with introductory phrase, “In the wake of…”

Seems like as long as we’re in the “wake” of something, no amount of imposition on liberty is inappropriate.

John Doe says:

The guy failed the IQ test...

With today’s paranoia on terrorism, making a joke like that is like yelling fire in a crowded theater. Right or wrong, stuff like this isn’t tolerated today. He should have known better and refrained from making the statement.

I would be interested in knowing how his twitter message came to the authorities attention though. Who reported it?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: The guy failed the IQ test...

Our security efforts have failed the IQ test. The last 2 attempts (shoe and underwear) have been people buying one-way tickets within days of departure with cash. The underwear guy was on a list, put there by his father who had reported him as “radicalized”.

We don’t need body scanners…but we’d rather just throw money at the problem, as usual.

Tyanna says:

See, now when I read about this yesterday I took his msg mean he was going to yell at someone. Get angry…protest.

I honestly didn’t think he was a terrorist b/c I didn’t think there was a terrorist stupid enough to tweet their plans a week in advance.

I do find it amusing though. He posted the msg a week before his flight, so that would be Jan 8th. They arrested him on Jan 13th. Nice to let everyone know they have about a 5 day window….

Paul (profile) says:

But are we safer?

IF the police in this case are trying to make us safer by monitoring Tweeter, why are they broadcasting that people should not make bomb statements on tweeter?

I can understand him talking to the fellow, but it shouldn’t be against the law to make statements on tweeter. In fact, they should have kept the fact that they watch tweeter secret!

Of course, there isn’t any evidence that any terrorist would tweet about an action prior to the attempt. If the set of terrorists tipping off police via tweeter is already known to be null, what is being accomplished here?

It is like yelling “WE ARE STAKING OUT TWEETER! Terrorists! Don’t Tweet or we will catch you!!!”

How does that make us safer?

Chargone (profile) says:

Re: But are we safer?

pretty sure it’s ‘Twitter’

but yeah. it’s dumb. we know this.

sometimes i wonder if getting elected, appointed, or otherwise acquire any position of authority by any non-disreputable means, requires some sort of damaging brain surgery as part of the process…

(the above statement is fairly broad, but the exceptions seem to be extensive And irregular, so I’m just gonna leave it 🙂 )

tim says:

Re: Maybe he should have paid the $1.99...

Good point & funny

When they first came out, I thought emoticons were the dumbest things I ever saw…then I had a boss who read into emails and IM’s whatever her personal mood of the day was. I was even sent to human resources for a corrective interview regarding the tone of my emails when all they were was statements of fact regarding department production and due dates.

How can you tell the intent or the frame-of-mind of the person in a text post?

CHROnOSS says:

im right here terrorist blow me up already

huh …damn it didn’t happen oh well onto other things of the day.

AND that my friends is how you defeat terrorism. IF you go around worrying its not healthy. YOU will get creepy yourself withdrawn and ya know what….make dumb idiot laws that never catch a single terrorist.

bush called hackers terrorists one day and the next i hacked the talibans news website.

then he recanted and said “ok hackers aren’t terrorists …but please dont do that we need to see what they have there”

thats how stupid bush is
ok osama lets put detailed plans of the next attack on a website?

thats what ran the american govt for 8 years
thats the truth of it
your Americans are daft utterly devoid of intellect and over-react to everything
its sad sick and needs to stop.
SO what do you do?
you elect obama who brings mister hollywood with him to terrorize us all some more
like 8 years a war then 8 more of hollywood terror

Gene Cavanaugh (profile) says:

Banning someone for a threat

Mike, I see your point, but you don’t know where this all started.
In the 1920’s (thereabouts) a man, as a joke(?), went into a crowded theater and yelled “FIRE!”. Since there had been a very devastating fire in another theater shortly before, the patrons panicked, and several were killed.
Now, this “blowing up an airport” may not be as serious; probably isn’t, but it is similar – bad jokes can kill, and should be discouraged (and “bad boy” doesn’t work).

Add Your Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here

Comment Options:

Make this the or (get credits or sign in to see balance) what's this?

What's this?

Techdirt community members with Techdirt Credits can spotlight a comment as either the "First Word" or "Last Word" on a particular comment thread. Credits can be purchased at the Techdirt Insider Shop »

Follow Techdirt

Techdirt Daily Newsletter

Techdirt Deals
Techdirt Insider Discord
The latest chatter on the Techdirt Insider Discord channel...