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TSA Shuts Down Airport, Detains 11 After "Science Project" Found 537

Posted by samzenpus
from the put-down-the-graduated-cylinder dept.
OverTheGeicoE writes "A group of students and a professor were detained by TSA at Dallas' Love Field. Several of them were led away in handcuffs. What did they do wrong? One of them left a robotic science experiment behind on an aircraft, which panicked a boarding flight crew. The experiment 'looked like a cell phone attached to a remote control car with some exposed wires protruding.' Of course, the false alarm inconvenienced more than the traveling academics. The airport was temporarily shut down and multiple gates were evacuated, causing flight delays and diversions."
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TSA Shuts Down Airport, Detains 11 After "Science Project" Found

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  • Scare quotes (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday April 03, 2012 @05:04PM (#39565163)
    Why the "Scare Quotes" in the title? Is someone implying that it was actually a bomb, and not a robot? TFA does not.
    • Re:Scare quotes (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday April 03, 2012 @05:08PM (#39565257)

      Because that way, more people click on it. Don't you know how news sales works?

    • by Nidi62 (1525137) on Tuesday April 03, 2012 @05:16PM (#39565365)
      Obviously the OP did not find the experiment worthy of the term "science project". Maybe he thinks he could do a much better one?
    • Re:Scare quotes (Score:5, Interesting)

      by bfandreas (603438) on Tuesday April 03, 2012 @05:34PM (#39565609)
      Excellent technology frightened the merely mediocre. Who we let gain power. Handcuffs were applied by pigs. Who we let to gain power. That's all there is to be said.


      There was a time when JPL and MRI lured the brightest from all over the world into the country. Now they all get scared away. If anybody wants to meet me nowadays, I call them back to Europe. There's no way that I'd be traveing to the US anytime soon.

      I know quite a lot of stuff that'd be deemed harmful to the US. Like logic, evolution, security related stuff. Maybe not grammar. Screw that. 30 years ago that was a completely different thing. Jimmy Carter. A downhill race ever since.

      Who actually does vote those into office that are eternally scared of the stuff they don't understand themselves? Could you please strip them off their right to vote?
      • Re:Scare quotes (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Moryath (553296) on Tuesday April 03, 2012 @05:52PM (#39565865)

        Carter was a disaster as a president. However, the Republicans since 1980 have made a point of nominating the dimmest bulbs in the box.

        Reagan? Already senile. His was a Weekend At Bernie's presidency.
        Bush the Elder? A retread, complete with barfing on foreign dignitaries.
        Then they moved on. BobDole... yeah. Shrub the Younger, whose intelligence could be measured in scoops of raisin bran. McCain, who while a "war hero" from years prior basically campaigned like a zombie.

        And then we get the "brain trust" of this latest batch. Herman "couldn't even make an edible pizza" Cain. Mitt "robber baron" Romney. Rick Sanctimonous, champion of home schooling and anti-science rants. Michelle "hehe, I went into law because my hubby said we were done having babies and I should make myself useful in the daytimes before his nightly blowjob" Bachmann. And of course Sarah Palin and Newt Gingrich, who "historians" who have a running bet to top each other and misrepresent American history in a worse way.

        A friend of mine has a better word for these sorts of idiots - they're known as Brain Donors. Kind of like kidney donors, they obviously donated a long while ago and somehow are alive without a functioning brain.

    • by steelfood (895457) on Tuesday April 03, 2012 @05:54PM (#39565887)

      To illustrate to you how scared you should be of "science projects" and their ilk. They're not called "scare quotes" for no reason.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday April 03, 2012 @05:04PM (#39565169)
    The terrorists aren't trying to get on our airplanes. The terrorists are blowing up Planned Parenthood clinics.
  • by cpu6502 (1960974) on Tuesday April 03, 2012 @05:06PM (#39565201)

    Zero.

    Number of people nude Xrayed or sexually groped (on their breasts or crotch) or strip-searched or locked in glass jails for carrying breast milk or ..... (this list could go on several pages).

    Millions.

    I hope none of those machines were malfunctioning and ejected lethal doses. They are never checked. TIME TO END THE TSA. And the Fed (give the power back to the State central banks).

    • by bonch (38532) * on Tuesday April 03, 2012 @05:15PM (#39565347)

      The TSA sucks, but I can't say I disagree with their response in this case. The device is described as a robot-like device with exposed wires, resembling a handmade explosive device. According to the statement in the article, the TSA determined that the device was not harmful, the airport reopened, and everything went back to normal. That seems like what is supposed to happen.

      The Dallas City Hall statement in the article:

      A commercial flight which originated in Kansas City arrived at Love Field this afternoon and unloaded passengers. The next flight crew boarded to prep the aircraft for the next flight when a robotic device was discovered on the plane and the crew notified authorities. Air Marshals along with Dallas Love Field officers detained 11 passengers related to the device. It was determined that the device was not dangerous and was a student’s science project. The student was traveling with fellow students and a professor. That student told authorities the robot was accidentally left on the plane. The airport was temporarily shut down until the device could be determined it was not a threat. Gate #12 has reopened and airport operations are returning to normal.

      That doesn't change my opposition to the groping and scanning, of course. But this story seems just a little overblown. I think an airport would have reacted this way regardless of the existence of the TSA.

      • by Cosgrach (1737088) on Tuesday April 03, 2012 @05:38PM (#39565665)

        I hate to admit it, but I'd have to agree on this. They did exactly what I would want them to do. However, I'd have stopped short of arresting to poor bastard who let the thing on the plane. A harmless device and a honest mistake. It could happen to anyone, and it has happened to me.

        I left my hat on a plane. I realized it as soon as I got through the gate. I informed the gate lacky and they called up the flight crew. They could not find it (even though I told them exactly where it was), after a bit of haggling with the guy at the gate, I was allowed to re-board the plane (with out escort) and retrieve my hat. The unescorted bit confused me a little. Still does.

        This still does not make like TSA any less.

      • by khasim (1285) <brandioch.conner@gmail.com> on Tuesday April 03, 2012 @05:38PM (#39565687)

        The device is described as a robot-like device with exposed wires, resembling a handmade explosive device.

        So if I put coloured epoxy over the wires so they cannot be seen ...

        The point is that the people claiming that this looks like "a handmade explosive device" do not know what "a handmade explosive device" looks like.

        It just looks UNUSUAL so they panicked.

      • by betterunixthanunix (980855) on Tuesday April 03, 2012 @05:39PM (#39565691)
        The incident probably cost airlines and various travellers plenty of money (delayed flights etc.). Sounds like a new way to harm America: sneak things onto airplanes that look like bombs. It should not be too hard; if you disassemble a typical laptop and turn a few things around, you'll have something that looks like a bomb.
      • by cpu6502 (1960974) on Tuesday April 03, 2012 @05:39PM (#39565693)

        >>>The TSA sucks, but I can't say I disagree with their response in this case.

        A little late don't you think? The TSA's job is to keep bomb-looking devices OFF the plane, not discover them 5 hours later after the flight is already over. If this was a real bomb* then it would have already been used. TSA == fail. (again)

        *
        *I doubt terrorists will waste their time attacking airplanes with bombs. They'll go after soft targets like your home or factory. The best way to deal with them is to keep them OUT of the country in the first place (yes that means walls on both borders; enemies shouldn't be able to just walk in).

        • I like that. Who needs bombs when you can effectively DDoS the airport?

      • by thesandtiger (819476) on Tuesday April 03, 2012 @06:01PM (#39565973)

        Except this is proof that the TSA completely fucked up and didn't do their job. If the device was such that it would terrify (much more highly trained than the TSA goons) air crew, what the holy fuck was it doing on the plane in the first place, let alone in the cabin or outside of a container in cargo, with the power source disconnected?

        What also pisses me off is that the passengers were the ones who were taken away and interrogated. I wonder: Did the TSA agents who fucked up also get taken into custody and subjected to interrogation?

        If not, why not? Either through intent or incompetence they allowed this to happen. If it was intent, then they're clearly abetting terrorists, and if they're incompetent they shouldn't have jobs anymore.

      • by HapSlappy_2222 (1089149) on Tuesday April 03, 2012 @06:52PM (#39566509)
        I think the fact that it was *left* on the plane means that someone in the TSA already decided it was ok to be on the plane in the first place. In fact, it was judged safe enough that it could be a carry-on, which would be a requirement to be "accidentally left on the plane" (checked luggage would have made it to the carousel with nobody ending up detained, or outright lost forever).

        You'd think that there would be a pink sticker or some shit for nutty stuff that's already passed a first screening. I can tell you, as a guy that carries various odd electronic equipment all over the country, it'd be nice to earn some sort of reward for convincing the apathetic screener that what I'm carrying onto the plane is, indeed, a very expensive spectrophotometer and not an evil pilot killing death ray machine, complete with a USB strangling cable for those desperation fallback plans (please, please stop fucking with ... err vigorously inspecting... that device, sir...).

        Incidentally, I flew a couple years back, and had to give up my $0.99 nail clippers that I'd forgotten I'd put in my pocket. Apparently I could have clipped the pilots' fingernails too short until he bled to death...? They didn't even have the file/stabby bits on em. Still, only $0.99 and I knew better, so d'oh. What pissed me the fuck off, though: I went to a shop on the "glad that's over" side of security to get a book and some chips prior to boarding my flight, and guess what I saw? The same exact fucking brand of stabby-less nail clippers for $4.99. I half wondered if they were MY clippers, and that security took so long because they needed time to repackage them for re-sale to me.
      • by EdIII (1114411) on Tuesday April 03, 2012 @09:45PM (#39567839)

        This was found on a plane right??

        I think the biggest problem here is that the TSA at one airport cleared the device for carry-on (not checked) and that another airport goes apeshit when the same device, already approved, is left on the plane.

        Where is the communication and common sense here? The TSA should have never let it on the plane as carry-on and checked it, with special instructions if you needed to go that far.

        The TSA is responsible for creating the situation here.

    • by HapSlappy_2222 (1089149) on Tuesday April 03, 2012 @06:34PM (#39566311)

      And the Fed (give the power back to the State central banks).

      I hate rider bills.... :)

  • Science!!! (Score:5, Funny)

    by Ukab the Great (87152) on Tuesday April 03, 2012 @05:07PM (#39565221)

    They grounded us with science...

  • Obligatory (Score:5, Insightful)

    by INeededALogin (771371) on Tuesday April 03, 2012 @05:08PM (#39565237) Journal
    I must not fear.
    Fear is the mind-killer.
    Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration.
    I will face my fear.
    I will permit it to pass over me and through me.
    And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path.
    Where the fear has gone there will be nothing.
    Only I will remain.
  • by Etcetera (14711) on Tuesday April 03, 2012 @05:09PM (#39565265) Homepage

    What kind of moron takes something that "look[s] like a cell phone attached to a remote control car with some exposed wires protruding" onto an airplane?

    • by ColdWetDog (752185) on Tuesday April 03, 2012 @05:13PM (#39565317) Homepage

      What kind of moron takes something that "look[s] like a cell phone attached to a remote control car with some exposed wires protruding" onto an airplane?

      What kind of moron LETS SOMEONE take something that look[s] like a cell phone attached to a remote control car with some exposed wires protruding" onto an airplane? I mean, if snow globes [salon.com] are verboten, how in the world could that contraption possibly get on board in the first place?

      • by omnichad (1198475) on Tuesday April 03, 2012 @05:26PM (#39565501) Homepage

        Better question - if they let it on the plane, then why didn't TSA ask the flight crew what the thing was instead of treating it like a bomb? Seems somebody should have already known it was on the plane during the flight.

        • by j00r0m4nc3r (959816) on Tuesday April 03, 2012 @05:34PM (#39565611)
          That would clearly violate the TSAs guidelines on logic and sanity.
        • by Obfuscant (592200)

          Better question - if they let it on the plane, then why didn't TSA ask the flight crew what the thing was instead of treating it like a bomb?

          Because the flight crew had no idea what it was. They're the ones who reported it. This was the incoming flight crew that had just walked onto the plane. And the outgoing flight crew certainly doesn't know what every passenger is carrying, so even if you could find them, they couldn't help.

      • by cowboy76Spain (815442) on Tuesday April 03, 2012 @05:32PM (#39565577)

        Just to be the devil's advocate, imagine the following scenario.

        Professor reaches TSA, shows the package, passes it through X-ray / opens it to show there is no chemical / explosive, and answers questions to the fully satisfaction of TSA (yes I am teacher these are the children I teach...).

        Sometime later, someone else (who of course has not been told that there was such teacher with such object in the previous flight) finds the surprise. Even if the artifact was competently investigated by the TSA, the people who found it probably had no way to verify that ---> panic button.

        To me, this article is bussiness as usual, and per se (the devil lies in details) it does not show up any incompetence / abuse

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward
      While not the best decision, I think the point is that he shouldn't have to worry. If it was on the plane, it made it past the TSA, and assuming they did a good job at their theatre, was safe. This whole fiasco is an exercise in how useless and overbearing the security is in airports these days.
      • by Leebert (1694) *

        So you'd never investigate anomalous network activity on your network because clearly your perimeter defenses would keep the hackers out?

        C'mon now; I loathe the TSA as much as anybody else, but if you don't get the concept of defense in depth you're probably not qualified to throw stones...

    • That is what the flight attendant said it looked like. That does not mean that it looked like that in the slightest. /. once had an article where the police were called on the halo devs for carrying a AF-47 around in public, the AF-47 was in fact a 10 foot long halo sniper rifle replica that does not even look real (http://cache.gawkerassets.com/assets/images/9/2011/11/medium_3ce16ecb6851fdac6329346672baea73.jpg).

    • by betterunixthanunix (980855) on Tuesday April 03, 2012 @05:33PM (#39565585)
      So the lesson is, if you want to bomb an airplane, enclose your bomb in a smooth, brushed aluminum and/or plastic case?
    • by Teckla (630646) on Tuesday April 03, 2012 @05:35PM (#39565619)

      What kind of moron takes something that "look[s] like a cell phone attached to a remote control car with some exposed wires protruding" onto an airplane?

      Uh, someone that does not want the device utterly destroyed?

      Checked luggage gets the shit beat out of it. Also, very often, security personnel will go through your luggage, and break even more stuff, through plain negligence, or just plain re-packing it poorly.

  • by Culture20 (968837) on Tuesday April 03, 2012 @05:10PM (#39565283)
    If it got on the plane, someone checked it somewhere and gave it a thumbs-up. That makes it more likely to be a toy, just like it looked.
    • by pluther (647209)
      Or they just didn't notice it as it went through the X-ray machines. TSA misses replica guns and bombs that the FAA tests them with all the time.
    • by Nidi62 (1525137) on Tuesday April 03, 2012 @05:33PM (#39565591)

      If it got on the plane, someone checked it somewhere and gave it a thumbs-up. That makes it more likely to be a toy, just like it looked.

      Or it could have been placed aboard the aircraft by a crew member, ground support personnel, or any other person with access to the sterile area that intended to do something illegal. To get a job that gives you access to the sterile area takes little more than a 10-year background check, with no ongoing checks. There is always the possibility that someone could turn or be a sleeper long enough to get a job. That is why aircrews and airline employees are supposed to look for and report anything suspicious, because there are always ways to get something past security. Things like this actually do happen on a fairly regular basis, but it usually involves theft or drugs. The aircrew was right to report it.

    • by Kjella (173770) on Tuesday April 03, 2012 @05:38PM (#39565667) Homepage

      If it got on the plane, someone checked it somewhere and gave it a thumbs-up. That makes it more likely to be a toy, just like it looked.

      What's to say that when it passed through security it wasn't a cell phone, an RC car and wires with plugs on them - in different bags and/or from different people? I hate to be defending the TSA, but in this case I think it was perfectly reasonable to suspect this could be an airport/airplane assembled bomb. "Forgetting" it on board might be a way to make it blow up on the next flight rather than become a suicide bomber, honestly I have a hard time finding fault with suspected terrorist bombers being cuffed. Yeah of course it sucks for everyone affected when it turns out to be an innocent mistake but if they didn't react to this, what do you expect them to react to?

  • by SuperKendall (25149) on Tuesday April 03, 2012 @05:11PM (#39565293)

    I'm as against the TSA as anyone.

    But come on. Considering what was found, why should any authority there NOT freak out? The flight crew did.

    It's really annoying it had such a large impact but in this case it was I think fully warranted. Even though I think they should have been allowed to enter the plane with the whole kit unscanned, once they left it behind all bets are off.

    • by tibit (1762298) on Tuesday April 03, 2012 @05:24PM (#39565469)

      People leave stuff on planes. That's a fact. People carry weird looking electronics on board. That's a fact too. You can't scream bloody murder unless there's one. Just because someone has wires n'shit doesn't mean it's dangerous.

      • by tlhIngan (30335) <slashdotNO@SPAMworf.net> on Tuesday April 03, 2012 @05:41PM (#39565729)

        People leave stuff on planes. That's a fact. People carry weird looking electronics on board. That's a fact too. You can't scream bloody murder unless there's one. Just because someone has wires n'shit doesn't mean it's dangerous.

        And people have left bombs behind on aircraft as well [wikipedia.org]. Designed to blow up AFTER the plane took off again. And the bomber left at the stopover, too.

        Of course, I suppose people have hidden bombs in checked luggage [wikipedia.org] as well. (This was one of the incidents that led to the rules where if a passenger fails to board the plane, their baggage is offloaded as well).

        All this happened prior to 9/11. People are a wee bit more paranoid now.

    • by Volante3192 (953645) on Tuesday April 03, 2012 @05:25PM (#39565479)

      Well, if the flight crew is freaking out, then either the TSA let it through or gave it the OK because it's ON THE PLANE.

      Either the TSA's useless (for letting a bomb go through)
      or the flight crew's panicking (for assuming the TSA let a bomb go through).

      • Or maybe the TSA checked it, but when someone found it later he had no way to be sure that it was a TSA-approved device and them prefered to be safe than sorry.

      • Well, if the flight crew is freaking out, then either the TSA let it through or gave it the OK because it's ON THE PLANE.

        I'm sorry, but that's an incredibly stupid and naive thought.

        The flight crew did not scan the passengers. Also by that time there have been a number of ground crew interacting with the plane. It could have even been assembled in mid-air. The crew has no idea where this thing might have come from.

        There's not way you can expect a flight crew and even law enforcement to not reasonable co

  • Another TSA Fail (Score:4, Insightful)

    by gubers33 (1302099) on Tuesday April 03, 2012 @05:13PM (#39565323)
    The device obviously got through security in Dallas thus it must not have been a threat. It isn't like that was something that was easily concealed or concealed in a bag if the crew found it. The TSA have stopped exactly zero terrorists while harassing and groping millions innocent people and have multiple lawsuits filed against them costing taxpayers more money then their already ridiculous budget. TSA is a waste of taxpayers money, plain and simple.
  • Meanwhile, somewhere deep in the Arabian sea .... Osama Bin Laden is laughing his ass off. His face is shot so that is the only thing he got left to laugh with.
  • Well (Score:3, Funny)

    by Voogru (2503382) on Tuesday April 03, 2012 @05:17PM (#39565377)
    Look at the bright side. They probably got their robot back. If it wasn't for the TSA, they'd never have seen it again!
  • by BitterOak (537666) on Tuesday April 03, 2012 @05:20PM (#39565423)
    Okay. These people happened to be flying with something that looks very suspicious. A cellphone wired up to some other electronic device. Okay. Occasionally people do fly with suspicious looking items that are completely innocent. Then these same people "forget" it and leave it on an airplane? When's the last time you forgot a piece of carry-on luggage on a plane? I'm sure it happens occasionally, but when people are flying they are usually careful about such things. Now put the two together. What are the chances that a group of people bring a very suspicious looking electronic device onto a plane and then they all simultaneously forget it there? Isn't it possibly a bit more likely that they were playing some sort of a prank, or trying to test security at the airport and it backfired? Just a thought.
  • by Githaron (2462596) on Tuesday April 03, 2012 @05:26PM (#39565497)
    They were released with no charges after the situation was cleared up, right? Also, were the handcuffs really necessary?
  • by codepigeon (1202896) on Tuesday April 03, 2012 @05:27PM (#39565513)
    Handcuffs, really? Couldn't this have been solved in a matter of minutes if the TSA just asked a few questions of the students and teacher?

    The same with the shooting in Florida. If both guys had just talked/asked questions that teenager would still be alive.
  • by CohibaVancouver (864662) on Tuesday April 03, 2012 @05:29PM (#39565541)
    Editors, PLEASE learn your TLAs. The TSA didn't / doesn't detain anyone. The TSA run x-ray machines, search baggage and grope grannies. They have no power of arrest or detention. For that they call law enforcement, such as the police or air marshals. The TSA cannot and do not lead people away in handcuffs.
  • Is the TSA worth it? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by XxtraLarGe (551297) on Tuesday April 03, 2012 @05:35PM (#39565621) Journal
    Here's an interesting info-graphic [tomwoods.com] I saw for the first time today. Pretty much falls in line with the rest of the sentiment here.
  • by mark-t (151149) <markt@@@lynx...bc...ca> on Tuesday April 03, 2012 @05:42PM (#39565747) Journal

    It was 2002, and I was taking a course in digital electronics. One of the well-known projects for this course was to build a digital clock from regular 74xx and 74xxx IC's. We were to complete the projects on our own breadboards, and we could, if we wanted to keep the result, buy our own electronic components as well. I bought my own electronics, and as a result, could work on it when I was not necessarily in the lab. I was in a fairly reclusive hallway in the school around lunctime, testing out a circuit I had designed which would get incorporated into my final project, and I was using some LED's for feedback, which flickered quickly as my circuit ran. I was concentrating on what I was doing, and was surprised when someone from campus security came up to me and grabbed me by the shoulder. I spent the next 15 minutes in the office of campus security explaining what I was doing, and as it happened, one of the people from campus security knew the professor and could vouch for the story I was giving. They had called my professor for the course anyways, who came to security, chuckled at the whole incident, because he recognized me immediately, and said that he knew me and that I was okay.

    Later that afternoon, during the class lecture, the prof relayed the anecdote to everybody with much amusement, not mentioning exactly who it was who, evidently, got him called down to the security office because they thought one of his students was building a bomb. He advised us all that we should be building our projects in the lab only, and not in the hallways of the school.

  • by Cassini2 (956052) on Tuesday April 03, 2012 @05:46PM (#39565783)

    It used to be that police would investigate intelligently, and lay charges appropriately. Now, it appears that everything must reach a judge before common sense is applied. We are living in the days where losing a cell phone will cause a plane to be grounded. We need to get people to use their brains again, and not make major incidents out of false alarms.

  • by Shompol (1690084) on Tuesday April 03, 2012 @05:47PM (#39565805)
    Their reaction seems out of proportion, but then think of the TSA situation too! Like a worshiper who prays day and night for the second coming of Messiah, TSA gropes people and suitcases day and night with no hope in sight. Finally, after years of grouping, someone (not them) finds a thing with wires! This is a Miracle, ladies and gentlemen, a dream come true! The one and only proper response can be summarized with a quote from Spaceballs:

    ...Fasten all seat-belts, seal all entrances and exits, close all shops in the mall, cancel the three ring circus, secure all animals in the zoo!

"Right now I feel that I've got my feet on the ground as far as my head is concerned." -- Baseball pitcher Bo Belinsky

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