The Watchmen: California Artist Arrested After TSA Spots Curious Watch

Geoffrey McGann, 49, is an artist and the creative director of a media production company called Generator Content. It appears that he was too creative for those folks at TSA. The California artist was arrested at Oakland International Airport because security officers did not like his unusual watch which they said looked too much like a timing device for a bomb. The watch had ornate switches, wires, and fuses so the bomb squad was called and the security checkpoint shutdown. Even after the bomb squad determined it was not a bomb within five minutes, however, McGann was arrested and charged by Alameda County Sheriff’s Department with possessing materials to make an explosive device.

McGann repeatedly explained the watch was a piece of art but it turns out that a bomb is in the eye of a TSA beholder. The police also noted that he appeared to have made alterations to his boots, which were unusually large and stuffed with layers of insoles. Sort of like an artist or someone with bad feet (or an artist with bad feet) would do. The police also noted that he had no extra clothes for the trip.

Sgt. J.D. Nelson, a spokesman for the Alameda County Sheriff’s Department, insisted “He does do art kind of stuff, but what reasonable person would bring a watch like that into an airport and think that’s OK? You may have a toy gun as art, but would you bring it to the airport?” Now that sounds like some solid police work. The answer to the question, Sgt. Nelson, is that a free person would wear such a watch since he is not a terrorist and it is not a bomb.

Source: LA Times

43 thoughts on “The Watchmen: California Artist Arrested After TSA Spots Curious Watch

  1. I bet here really wanted it for himself….

    Recently I got a one way ticket to Chicago and limited clothes …… The extra scrutiny I received was Because i suppose it was a last minute flight and one way….. Saw my girls for ones birthday…..

  2. You’re traveling through another dimension, a dimension not only of sight and sound but of mind; a journey into a wondrous land whose boundaries are that of imagination. That’s the signpost up ahead – your next stop, the TSA Zone!

    There is a fifth dimension beyond that which is known to man. It is a dimension as vast as space and timeless as infinity. It is the middle ground between light and shadow, between science and superstition, and it lies between the pit of man’s fears and the summit of his knowledge. This is the dimension of imagination. It is an area we call the TSA Zone.”

  3. Went looking for a picture of the watch. Never found one but it turns out the guy also had modified his boots according to reports. He had stuffed ‘several’ insoles into each one (this is also what the so-called shoe bomber did).

    It may be the whole thing was designed to get himself arrested. He now has had more publicity than he could have bought if he sold a thousand of his ‘art watches’

  4. http://www.geoffmcgann.com/ (This would seem to be his website.)

    His FB page links to the following:

    “One innocent Christian is brutally murdered every five minutes just for believing in JESUS. CHRIST is illegal in 51 countries. Help me LEGALIZE JESUS. Join the movement.
    Description
    LEGALIZE JESUS is a movement to get Christians to rise up and stand for Jesus Christ.

    Christians need to come out of the closet. Christian must combat Christophobia and the secular progressive minority mob trying to eradicate Christianity from our society.”

    Legalize Jesus is a Christian news magazine. (http://www.legalizejesus.com/)

    Maybe his name was on one of the gov’s watch lists, as well.

  5. “It may be the whole thing was designed to get himself arrested. He now has had more publicity than he could have bought if he sold a thousand of his ‘art watches’”

    That thought occurred to me as well, Frankly.

  6. Ok, so he’s a little overwrought about Jesus. But arresting a man because you don’t like his shoes or his watch is the height of or the depths of a police/security service gone nuts.

  7. Even bad publicity is good publicity in some genres.

    If that was his intention then it kind of ticks me off that I must foot his advertising campaign with my tax dollars.

    If that wasn’t his intention then it kind of ticks me off that some TSA clown is wasting my tax dollars.

    Either way, I’m kind of ticked off.

  8. maybe innocent but I’m glad they questioned the possibility….it is sad that we live in a world where we are all expected to look alike, act alike, conform and shut up…..but when it comes to flying we have had intentional attacks and this (on the surface) sounds like a ‘need to look further’ incident. Artists are pretty easy targets….open to a fault and so often easy targets for jealousies and cowards that like to bully and control….but the alternative is pretty blech…..the question is, can the TSA back down if they were wrong? and reimburse him ?

  9. From his web site:

    “Most recently, Geoff has finished production on “How I See It”, an HD content project for Samsung and the NFL which redefines the limits of HD sports …”

    Who knows… but “the watchers” need to be watched…

  10. The man may well be an ass and publicity seeker. However, his arrest and the charges against him translated are: “Embarassing the local employees of an out of control government agency”. It is a violation of the 11th commandment which is “Thou shall not make fools out of LEO’s”

  11. The explosives squad said it wasn’t a b0mb, but he was arrested anyway for possession of b0mb-making stuff? How is that possible? Kicked off a plane is a major inconvenience, but maybe sort-of justified if the guy was intentionally trying to make a scene. Being charged with bringing b0mb making stuff into an airport(when you don’t actually have a explosive device) is a major problem for that dude. I’m assuming the charges could become federal too and related to terrorism, even though the gov’t comment is from a sheriff’s office. It’s not about safety/security; it’s about sending a message, sadly.

    Sh1t, I’m scared just typing the word ‘b0mb’ in comment sections these days, regardless of context. The feds seem to be able to extract and spin any and all communications into charges of ‘acts of terrorism’ when so desired.

  12. Right on, Mike S. Sounds like we’re with Blouise in being ticked off.

    Had a college roommate who went on spring break. Her “luggage” was Dad’s credit card. She bought what she needed when she got there.

  13. Would also like to see a picture of the watch. I may be reading too much into this but it sounds to me that the watch must have looked like a bomb, maybe even comically so. TSA then wants to send a message not to f*ck with them, so they arrest him, knowing that, as veteran cops say, you can beat the charge, but you can’t beat the ride. The guy may be an ass, but TSA and whoever made the decision to arrest the guy should be hammered. I read these and similar stories and feel were slipping farther and farther into a police state.

  14. …and feel were slipping farther and farther into a police state. -Waldo

    Given my own personal view of “the state”, not a doubt in my mind. Seeing is believing.

  15. http://www.geoffmcgann.com/

    Here’s his website. He seems legit. If you read the story from the LA Times, his shoes were supposed to make him “look taller.” They also didn’t like his shirt and he didn’t have any extra clothes in his backpack for a “day trip.”

    “McGann also was wearing a military-style shirt with a tourniquet band built into each sleeve. The shirts are available for purchase, but are not especially common…”

    When you add it all up, it didn’t add up,” Sgt. J.D. Nelson, a spokesman for the Alameda County Sheriff’s Department, said Friday.”

    WHY would anyone who actually WAS a terrorist do these things? It’s the people who don’t appear to BE terrorists who are dangerous, TSA clowns…

  16. AY,

    Just think how many lonesome fathers get arrested. Guess you were lucky. Did you make that or a later flight?
    I’m sure the birthday present of you was appreciated.

  17. If this guy now fakes a suicide death because of this trauma we would know this was a marketing ploy. Nothing sells like an artist’s death.

  18. Uh, what? I’m not quite to the dystopian world of 1984 yet. There are plenty of cases where an individual has written something on the internet in jest or that is taken the wrong way, reported to authorities by someone, and been visited/jailed by those authorities.

    The guy that posted lines from ‘Fight Club’ is a prime example.
    http://www.pcmag.com/article2/0,2817,2387730,00.asp

    Being wary of the way the world and internet are trending is not the same as paranoid delusion, I don’t believe. If saying ‘bomb’ in the airport gets someone questioned today, who’s to say that writing bomb on twitter in the airport won’t get you questioned tomorrow?

    Did you have a real question?

  19. Clearly a watch is a danger in this day and age. Why isn’t he just using a smart phone to tell time like the rest of us?!

  20. Blind Faithiness and the rest of youse guys and girls,

    As usual here, we talk past each other. I was not saying that you, BF, were paranoid. I was simply saying that you had detected that we were in the equivalent to 1984, and gave you the chance to spin further on the idea. I was playing straight man, or at least trying to do so.

    THINK HOW MUCH SIMPLER LIFE HERE AT JT’S WOULD BE IF WE JUST SAID “HUH?”, AND NOT PLAY CAN YOU TOP THIS. “Whaddja mean fella”?

    You know our endless game of asking ourselves: WTF did he mean, was in against me, for me, beside me, over my head, what do I say in reply to keep up my rep.

    I think that the game here gets tiresome. Or do we come here just for the reason to get it up through a few comments and back to IRL?

    I prefer to listening to personal reflections to repartée.
    There are no Dorothy Parkers here or H.L. Menckens either.

    I see teenagers playing the same game: He who is quickest in wit, gets the greatest number of admiring glances,etc.

    We are no longer teenagers, or are we?

  21. Blouise, Exactly! Maybe hes a Performance Artist, or aspires to be. That watch isn’t art that’s for sure. If it was Performance Art he succeeded brilliantly “I title this work ‘Security Theater Theater’, let me show you it”. Though after seeing the watch I’d call it Performance Art-less.

    These watches on the other hand would have elevated his performance greatly:

    http://www.google.com/search?aq=&rlz=1T4ADFA_enUS480US480&q=steampunk+watches&um=1&ie=UTF-8&hl=en&tbm=isch&source=og&sa=N&tab=wi&ei=UDCrUNyQL42A9QTbrYGQCg&biw=950&bih=768&sei=VTCrUKLwApHm9gSA1oHQAQ

    Maybe I haven’t put snark behind me after all.

  22. That’s the ticket!

    If he had worn that one there wouldn’t even have been an assessment by the bomb squad. He would have had a bag thrown over his head and been on a flight to some Eastern European country we still rendition to within about a half an hour.

    Great choice.

    I focused on this one immediately but the Nixie is way more panic inducing and subversive:

    http://fashionablygeek.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/08/18-e1346042131370.jpg?cb5e28bout:Tabs

  23. https://www.rutherford.org/publications_resources/john_whiteheads_commentary/its_time_to_overhaul_the_transportation_security_administration )

    It’s Time to Overhaul the Transportation Security Administration

    By John W. Whitehead
    November 19, 2012

    “Here’s the bottom line: in the so-called name of security, Americans have been subjected to all manner of treatment by the government—especially the TSA, including being treated like suspects, and then to top it off, we’ve been asked to pay for the humiliations and degradations heaped on us, so that corporations can make a profit. Something has to give. To start with, it’s time to say no to these flagrant abuses of our taxpayer dollars and our rights.”

    My guess? TSA abuse is here to stay. But I’d love to be pleasantly surprised.

  24. Sweet Jesus…

    “The DHS And FBI Present: You Might Be A Terrorist If… (Hotel Guest Edition)”

    http://www.techdirt.com/articles/20121110/17435521005/dhs-fbi-present-you-might-be-terrorist-if-hotel-guest-edition.shtml

    As we seem to be told repeatedly, seeing something and saying something is perhaps the greatest duty an American citizen can perform in service to this country. It’s simply not enough anymore to install an American flag in the front yard and purchase domestic vehicles. Now, every citizen should be keeping his eye out for (and on) his fellow citizens. The price of freedom may be eternal vigilance, but the price of security is endless paranoia.

    To that end, the DHS and the FBI have joined forces to compile a list of oddities that might well indicate you are sleeping one paper-thin wall away from death personified (via Bruce Schneier’s fine blog).

    “So, to be a standup, non-terrorist citizen, here’s what you need to do:

    Pack for two weeks if you’re staying for two days. Park your vehicle a safe distance away from the hotel, perhaps across the street or at another hotel. Leaving your vehicle dangerously unattended, walk directly through the main entrance with hands open and displayed in a non-threatening manner.

    When registering, present as many forms of ID as possible. Be sure to mention where you work EVEN if no one asks. Brag if you have to. Hand out business cards to the staff. Let the desk clerk know that your stay here is no secret and that your room number should be given to anyone who asks, including those who don’t ask. When asked if you have a room preference, answer with a bright, but unfrightening, “I’ve never had a ‘preference’ in my life! I’m easy to please and an American citizen!”

    Head directly to your room, carefully avoiding eye contact with doors marked “Employees Only.” Immediately unpack all of your luggage. Make several phones calls using ONLY the in-room phone. Call the front desk several times so as to avoid appearing suspicious. Return to your unattended vehicle and clone yourself using existing, but non-potentially-dangerous technology. Make no sudden movements and keep your ID and passport displayed prominently. Return one of yourselves to your hotel room, again using the front entrance in a non-threatening, flag-waving manner.

    Stay in your room. Use the provided wi-fi. Avoid sites that use any form of encryption. Be careful not to stay in your room too long. When venturing out for something to eat or a non-suspicious conversation with the suspicious staff, avoid stairwells, hallways, exits/entrances, and connecting roads. On second thought, just stay in your room. This will make it easier to avoid being caught up in the middle of a personnel shift change.

    If you must leave your room, smile and wave at each and every security camera. Lift your shirt to display lack of weapons, explosives or identifiable scars and tattoos. If purchasing anything from the hotel, use only credit cards, checks or DNA. Return to your room using the most surveilled route. Use the in-room phone to order room service. Turn down the delivery when it comes, stating that you’re trying to keep visitors and deliveries to a minimum. Apologize for not having any cash to tip with, but explain that this lack of cash directly contributes (not monetarily, of course) to the safety of everyone in the hotel. Repeat this apology to housekeeping when they arrive, being sure to answer the door before they get to the second knock. Try to ignore their just-out-of-earshot griping about having to clean around the scattered contents of four large suitcases. Smile in a non-threatening fashion and shrug as if to say, “LOOK AT HOW MUCH I DON’T HAVE TO HIDE.”

    If you find that, despite your careful planning, your stay is going to be extended indefinitey, switch hotels. Pack all of your belongings carefully. Police the room for any stray socks, unused condoms or stealable toiletries. Turn the coffee maker OFF (if applicable). Leave in an unhurried fashion, but don’t dawdle. Return to your attended vehicle and (most likely) dead clone. Drive to another hotel, preferably one a non-suspicious distance away and repeat the process. Once you return to your hometown, turn yourself into the nearest authorities for a thorough post-travel debriefing.”

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