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. Darren,

    In re the Nixie Tube watch.

    Oh, gotta have one. That’s geek chic for sure.

  2. Sweet Jesus…

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

    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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