Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Blowing Up Scientific Equipment in the Name of Security

I like blowing things up as much as the next guy, maybe even more than most. But are the Bloomington (MN) police a little too quick on the ignition plunger?

Here's a story today's (Nov 28) from the Minneapolis Star Tribune:

Anne Jefferson, a Winona native, recently minted Ph.D. and researcher in the geosciences department at Oregon State University, concluded a combined business and holiday trip to Minnesota on Sunday, dropping off a rental car at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport before boarding a plane to Portland, Ore., with her husband.

By the time they arrived there, armed officers were waiting for them, and in the Twin Cities, portions of the Lindbergh terminal parking ramp had been closed for about two hours after authorities found a suspicious looking device in the spare tire compartment of the couple's rental car.

It was actually equipment that Jefferson had been using in her research on water temperatures in stream channels. She intended to mail it back to Oregon, but she just forgot about it.

She had picked up the device, called the Stowaway Tidbit Temp Loggers, from the St. Anthony Falls Lab along the Mississippi River on Wednesday. The equipment includes several lengths of 1-inch plastic pipe filled with gravel, all linked to 15 flashing electronic monitors. She stowed it in the tire compartment to keep the gravel from showering all over the trunk.

An airline agent met them at the gate. "So did five uniformed airport police with flak jackets and guns," Jefferson said. "They asked us if we knew what this was about. We said we had left some scientific equipment in a rental car." The interrogation took about 20 minutes, and after a call to Minneapolis, the couple was released. "Everyone was really decent," Jefferson said.

Her equipment didn't fare as well. Officers with the Bloomington Police Department bomb squad destroyed it.

End of quote.

Along with all the data, and the hard work it took to collect it, I guess.

Why in the world would the police destroy the equipment so quickly? Here's a picture I found of the "suspicious looking equipment."
Remember, this thing was in the trunk of an Avis rental car, about a half mile from the nearest runway, not on the tarmac or in the terminal.

Yes airline security is important, but all this paranoia, and rote following of draconian procedures means no flexibility, no common sense, and second chances. Looks like another win for the real terriorists.


Allen said...

Osama has exceeded his wildest expectations.

Anonymous said...

So, if this thing was in the trunk, how did the Federales know about it?

JT said...

I vaguely makes sense to blow up, in a controlled way, a possible bomb. But if anything that devive looks vaguely like some biological weapon. Or really, it doesn't look like a weapon at all, but if I had to stretch I'd say maybe it has something biological in it. Is blowing up something that might be a bioweapon wise?

It seems to me that this is security theater.

Anonymous said...

I have to admit that it does look more bomb-like than other things that could have been left behind in a trunk.

Sysadmn said...

Well, the cops might have been blast happy, but my first thought was, "Geez, looks just like a blasting cap."

See for yourself:


Anonymous said...

So, if this thing was in the trunk, how did the Federales know about it?

It was a returned rental car. The rental company staff probably found it, and determined who last rented the vehicle.

Anonymous said...

It wouldn't make sense to asplode anything, bio or otherwise--a dirty bomb might resemble its component conventional explosives, needing only a weak-assed TSA policy to set it off! A new twist on asymmetrical warfare--voila! Boom.

backinthecave said...

bwahahahaha! while i agree that at first glance it seems kind of silly, the op should have focused on the fact that it wasn't just the peice that he/she posted the pic of, it included much more:

"The equipment includes several lengths of 1-inch plastic pipe filled with gravel, all linked to 15 flashing electronic monitors. She stowed it in the tire compartment to keep the gravel from showering all over the trunk."

and, c'mon!! it wasn't in the trunk . . . it was "stowed away" in the tire compartment. all hidden away with little flashing lights. hell, we're all lucky it didn't sit there for a couple of weeks, because if an inorganic object was ever going to buck its gills and freakin' evolve into a bomb, that gadget's the one :)

that doohickey hidden like that and returned to an airport terminal in a time of "war" gets vaporized, dude.


she's going to be charged for the damages too, for near record-breaking negligence. hell, i'd charge punitive fines on top of it for making everyone involved that much stoopider for having witnessed it.

by her career path alone, i figure she's a choice person, but she's going to be livin' this one down well into her retirement!

Anonymous said...

I looks nothing like blasting caps. Any resemblance is minor. It looks much more like a digital thermometer probe connected to a film canister (which has the printing on that says what it is).

Even if the thought it was a "bomb", how much damage could a thing the size of a film canister do? Like an M-80? Big woops.

Trigger-happy and poorly-trained officers.

Anonymous said...

So the next time the terrorists want to attack, they can just leave a container filled with radioactive material in their rental car, the great security services will help convert it to a dirty bomb. I read the news about this and how for example liquids are supposed to be toxic, dangerous, explosive, etc, so they have to be thrown into an open container of cocktail right in the middle of the airport, and it makes me wonder, what sort of backward nation has the USA become?

Anonymous said...

think about it: a "bomb squad" in Bloomington, Minnesota... these are regular guys, trained to deal with scary bomb adventures yet they rarely see such action - they're bored, they want to blow something up. end of story.

Anonymous said...

Bloomington Bomb Squad responds to more requests for assistance in the State of Minnesota, than any other department. The officers on that squad are very well trained, and nationaly recognized as one of the best explosive disposal teams.

If you have not had explosive training, you should not be saying things like they are trigger happy, or that they do not know what they are doing, blowing up a things up to quickly?.. they have reasons for doing what they do.

People have no idea, about the amount of explosive that it takes to cause a massive disaster. The M-80 comment, what about the gas tank on the car itself? There are many factors that you are not thinking about before making uneducated comments.

There are many factors in this "call" that the media did not report, either for dramatics, or because L.E. asked them not to.

Think logically, where is the rental car drop off? How was it located so quickly, What other information was not provided?

No bomb squad will destroy something believed to be a dirty bomb, biological, radiological, or nuclear.

You berate them and do not give them credit for being trained professionals.