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Star (stasterisk) arrested at Logan airport for bomb scare Answered

A 19 year old female M.I.T. student was arrested at gunpoint after entering Boston's Logan International Airport with what authorities claim was "a fake bomb" strapped to her chest, according to wire reports. The device is said to have been some kind of computer circuit board with Play-Doh and wires attached, strapped over her black hoodie. Link to AP report on her arrest.

The young woman is identified as Star Simpson, shown in the image above left, and she is a sophomore from Hawaii. She has a user account on Instructables.

Boingboing story

Star's Instructables page

UPDATE: CNN video

UPDATE 2: Pic added

UPDATE 3: Canida's response added to BoingBoing, and a call for geek-protection sticker designs!

UPDATE 4: Simpson pleaded not guilty to a charge of possessing a hoax device at her arraignment in East Boston District Court Friday afternoon. She was released on $750 bail and ordered to stay away from Logan Airport.

Simpson could face up to five years in prison and a $5,000 fine.

WBZTV story

UPDATE 5: We had a quick chat with Star! She's doing fine, and after dodging packs of media she's finally getting back to work on her problem sets. There's still school, you know. Of course, they've impounded her sweatshirt, so she's got to do something else for the career fair.

Discussions

Star defense fund information here.

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westfw

10 years ago

So how is MIT reacting, anyway? Once upon a time schools were pretty defensive about their students being arrested at gunpoint without a really good cause...

> without a really good cause . One of us has obviously misunderstood what happened.

A protoboard with parts stuck in it is the ultimate in "naked elecronics"; you can see all the parts; how is that suspicious? A purse or a backpack ought to be more concern... (except for the play-dough.) (and the fact that the state of technical literacy is such that seeing the parts doesn't help anyone know what the device does or doesn't do. Sigh.)
Star would clearly be in the wrong carrying a device obviously designed to look like a bomb, and I wouldn't expect MIT to defend her if she showed up wearing a set of road flares wired to a push-switch in her hand. In this case, the "device" is apparently something that has been worn around the MIT campus without incident (and therefore with tacit permission.) I'd expect the airport personnel to feel justified in their reaction, and for MIT to complain about over-reaction, eventually resulting in dropped charges, apologies from both sides, and some warnings to MIT students and maybe some additional training for airport employees.
But presumably everyone is being quiet on the advice of lawyers. Bah!

(BTW, SOMEBODY clearly was thinking straight. Normally suspicious looking maybe-bombs get carted away and "detonated" just to be safe. In this case, Star's sweatshirt survived to be shown on TV. I picture a member of the bomb squad with some electronics background trying really hard not to burst out laughing...)

(I have enough of these for the whole family. I guess we shouldn't wear them to the airport?)

19led_200dpi.jpg

> how is that suspicious? . You answer you own question in your parenthetical remarks. ;) I think it would be equally valid if you replaced "technical literacy" with "electronic components." . > eventually resulting in dropped charges, apologies ... warnings to MIT students ... additional training for airport employees. . That makes sense to me. I still have my doubts that she didn't know what would happen, but am willing to accept that until I see contradictory evidence.

i need your help can i ask some help its all about transfer switch, please help ny problem

My wife has a blinking nosed Rudolf (reindeer)....guess that is out too

. That was pretty much an open invitation to explain it to me. . How is taking a device, such as she had, into an international airport NOT cause for arrest at gunpoint? That kind of stunt wouldn't have gone over well in the '80s, much less post-9/11. . I'll take the word of those that seem to know her - that she had no clue what she was doing would cause panic. I have a hard time believing a sophomore in college is that clueless, but maybe it's similar to Absent-Minded Professor Syndrome. No matter how I look at it, it was still a bone-headed thing to do.

It is of the opinion of some that "stupid acts" are not illegal. Personally, as I have written before, I would expect (had it been me for instance) a thorough investigation into what was being carried, but once it was determined that it was "nothing"; it should be dropped. I don't know, it just seems we have gotten into the syndrome that we make "examples" of those that are innocent, expecting that to scare the guilty. It won't. In fact, it may give them confidence that those looking for such things are not competent to find the truly hidden "bombs". Just my humble opinion.

> "stupid acts" are not illegal. . Thank God for that or I'd be doing life w/o parole. ;) I'm not trying to say she is a bad person or that she is not intelligent (she got into MIT), but, yes, she did something stupid in a way that affected a lot of ppl. I've been pretty lucky in that most of my stupid stunts only affected me. . > once it was determined that it was "nothing"; it should be dropped. . Nothing?!?! What about the resources that the police had to use? The people who were delayed? &c;, &c;, ad nauseum . I'm not proposing that she spend time behind bars, but I think some form of reinforcement (eg, community service - and lots of it) is appropriate. . > we make "examples" of those that are innocent . As far as I can tell, she's guilty of shouting fire in a theatre, inciting public panic, whatever you want to call it. Terminally (pun intended) naive, maybe, but not innocent.

or that she is not intelligent

I know, neither was I, we ALL do stupid things from time to time, some of us more often then others, and so that does not define us.

Nothing?!?! What about the resources that the police had to use? The people who were delayed? &c, &c, ad nauseum

That was not my fault (nor hers, in my opinion) that they used all those resources to determine that an open bread board was not a bomb. We may err on the side of caution, but that gave them no right to err or the side of ignorance. Believe me, I know where you are coming from...I just think there was an equal amount of Ronald McDonald syndrome spread about in everyone involved.

As far as I can tell, she's guilty of shouting fire in a theatre, inciting public panic, whatever you want to call it. Terminally (pun intended) naive, maybe, but not innocent.

What scares me is next, walking into an airport with one's fists clenched, then later one's teeth clenched, or shifting one's eyes about (because I AM a bit paranoid at times), will all fall under the same form of "shouting fire".

Did she shout fire? Or did the guards shout fire.
I defend no one in this scenario because it appears to me like everyone was shouting fire and no one had much of a clear head at all. One did so without thinking, the rest (the guards) did so with full intent. So, who is most guilty? I am no judge, and refuse to be one.

But I have an opinion: that's my story and I'm sticking to it. ;-)

> That was not my fault (nor hers, in my opinion) that they used all those resources to determine that an open bread board was not a bomb. . This looks like the only point where we really disagree. . Should she have known that it would cause a serious commotion? I think so. I can understand her wanting to show off her artwork, but to think it wouldn't cause a panic in an international airport is, well, delusional or incredibly naive. . Did the guards act appropriately? In context, I think so. Her art looks suspicious in an airport! If I had walked into her dorm room (pre-incident) and seen it, I would have made a snide remark about building bombs or blowing stuff up. Blame it on Hollywood, but it looks like a bomb. The Play-Doh didn't help, either. If something is out of place, the guards have a _duty_ to check it out. When a bomb is suspected (reasonable, if not accurate, in this case), I think drawn guns are appropriate. . . I'm not trying to bash Star - I have no reason to believe she is not a good and honorable person. I just don't see any reason to try and justify what she did. We all make mistakes - let her take her lumps and move on. Just like the rest of us do when we screw up.

Should she have known that it would cause a serious commotion? I think so. I can understand her wanting to show off her artwork, but to think it wouldn't cause a panic in an international airport is, well, delusional or incredibly naive.

Possibly, or just as possibly, it was an ornament. Which ornament will it be next? Earrings? Belt buckles? Shoe laces ? Shoes (where a bomb WAS once hid)? What is the definition of reasonable? All this is, in my opinion, all circumstancial, and dependent on what "reality is" and not what is simply perceived. Have you ever watched Mind Control ? One can not trust "just" what one perceives.

the guards have a _duty_ to check it out.

I have not disagreed with this. But then again, once checked out, does one continue? Do we find the defendant innocent of carrying a bomb but then again, let's continue to harass the person anyway?

I just don't see any reason to try and justify what she did

I wasn't. I am more focussed on what happened after it was "discovered" that it was not a bomb, that it could not be made into a bomb, that is really was very benign in construction.

I am most irritated at the final countdown, when all the dust was supposed to be settled.

> once checked out, does one continue? . The way I see it, the authorities were being reasonable in assuming that, since it wasn't a bomb, her intent was to cause panic. Maybe it wasn't her intent, but I think that, under the circumstances, it was a reasonable assumption for the cops to make. . I guess the judge will have the final say. And that's the way it should be - she'll get her day in court to explain what happened.

Ah, just what I needed to see at this time of identifying carriers of LEDs as terrorists, while opening holes big enough for the entire fleet of all combined terrorist groups to drive, walk, saunter, or run through. Vol. 24, #2: Summer of 2007 "2600" zine. Article name was: Fun at the Airport, by Evil Wrangler On pages 22-24 is a story about a fellow in a major city airport....just looking around. What he found was that, as he wrote: "a major airport...infested with Transportation Safety Adiministration workers and idiotic, restrictive security policies designed to give the American public a false sense of safety...." I will not quote from the rest of the article (please read it to get the details) save to give you his conclusions, & maybe it will inspire someone out there to get some "real" security out there. From the last paragraph: "In summary, there are 2 points to take away. The first is that security is an illusion and that the Emperor is, indeed, quite naked, if you simply begin looking. The second, more disturbing point, it that the government both is lying to us and is spending (expletive removed) loads of tax money on nonsensical contrivances like the TSA...and should be replaced with something that actually could identify the small number of potential terrorists rather than forcing the entire population of the country to endure the misanthropic groping of an uneducated illiterate workforce. End of soapbox."

Duh. Too bad that half of American Citizens are below average intelligence, and I'm not sure I believe that the technology to "actually identify potential terrorists" exists ... (nor do I believe that we have 'enough data' to select criteria that identify potential terrorist. Maybe after there have been a hundred or so major attacks that have been carefully analyzed... But I'd rather not reach that point.)

No, I don't think so either, but we could, at very least, hire people that have an inkling as to what to look for. It would be a start.....and the story I make mention of....it is scary what this guy found for security holes.

I understand, I am just looking into the future, where we must walk into the airport with our hands behind our heads, palms open, and no hats ! Clothes may become a problem eventually too. I am not one to buck the tide too much, but there is no ring in my nose. I won't be led away to become another steer either ;-) The purveyors of fear over thought (in government) can not be allowed to prevail.

I have seen similar things happening already: it was once a crime it "litter" but now it is not only a crime to litter, but if your arm goes out the automobile window like you are throwing something (it may be a leaf from the the seat beside you), you are charged with littering.....even if it is shown you did not litter anything.

"Me thinks the world has gone crazy, 'cept me and thee.......and sometimes I wonder about thee." LOL

. Nothing?!?! What about the resources that the police had to use? The people who were delayed? &c, &c, ad nauseum

I'd like to note, that not a single person who wasn't involved (Star, and the officials) was delayed. No flights grounded, no wings shut down, not even the traffic of a single corridor was held up.

I'd like to add one last thing to my last post: it is one thing to "test the waters" on purpose, in which case we are completely responsible for the consequences, and another thing totally when we do something without thinking.

I have read plenty of stories from the 2600 that show me that there are those that can get "information" in a responsible way (and then warn others not to repeat their actions as they may get into trouble for it), and then there are those that fall into a position that was not orchestrated by intent. And this seems to be one of the later. But again, I am not able to get inside anyone's head, so I don't know.

I just know I will probably not be entering any airports, ever again. Once I retire....I'll drive or take a bus or train...oh wait, by then we will have the same problems even driving across the border. . . never mind then. ;-)

Um, unless it is just me or my browser, her "MIT page" links appear to have been closed....

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VIRON

10 years ago

Bird Brained Chickens! Pwned by terrorism! Canada laughs at US. Hide! The Elves are coming from the North Pole! See the pretty lights?

People have got to stop watching the major news channels. Their only purpose is to entertain you and they are doing it with fear. To Quote the great wise Yoda " Fear leads to anger, anger leads to hate, hate leads to suffering. "

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Bran

10 years ago

I agree with a few of the comments posted, so to keep it short: I'm on Star's side. I'm not saying people should make hoax devices, but it doesn't look anything like a bomb, unless you are extremely naive, or not educated in that particular field. This Terrorist Prevention stuff is going too far, in my opinion.

I'm on Star's side. I'm not saying people should make hoax devices, but it doesn't look anything like a bomb, unless you are extremely naive, or not educated in that particular field.

What do you prefer the most ?
A) - a "naive or not educated in that particular field" Police who immediatly stops any person wearing weird electronics devices.
B) - an overindulgent Police who simply ignores every people wearing weird electronics devices.

Imagine yourself at the airport. Just near you, there is a person wearing this same sweatshirt. How will you react and analyse the situation ? What parameters will you take in concideration ? (gender ? nervousness ? clothes ? beard ? mustache ? looks like a terrorist ? ... )

What do you prefer the most ?
A) - a "naive or not educated in that particular field" Police who immediatly stops any person wearing weird electronics devices.

I'm not saying they shouldn't stop people wearing things like that, I'm just saying that if the device have any ability of creating an explo.sion, and was not intended to cause panic and chaos, then that shouldn't be the charge and jail time shouldn't even be considered.

Imagine yourself at the airport. Just near you, there is a person wearing this same sweatshirt. How will you react and analyse the situation ? What parameters will you take in concideration ? (gender ? nervousness ? clothes ? beard ? mustache ? looks like a ist ? ... )

Well, you do have a point. If they seem suspicious, then heck yeah, I would definitely alert security. But then, a breadboard with a battery powering LEDs doesn't sound to me like a bo.mb. But, I'm hoping I will never come into a situation like that.

I'm not saying they shouldn't stop people wearing things like that, I'm just saying that if the device have any ability of creating an explo.sion, and was not intended to cause panic and chaos, then that shouldn't be the charge and jail time shouldn't even be considered.

Actually, the police can't know if a person with a such device is actually a geek or an artist who innocently wore this sweatshirt, or if this person deliberately wore this weird device AND entered the airport, for provocative purposes ...

In both case, the person who wore this device will claim he/she is an artist, or he/she did not thought it looked like a bomb, etc ... The actual geek/artist will say the truth, and the actual "agitator" will lie to avoid prison and fine.
But, how do the police makes the difference ?

Well, you do have a point. If they seem suspicious, then heck yeah, I would definitely alert security. But then, a breadboard with a battery powering LEDs doesn't sound to me like a bo.mb. But, I'm hoping I will never come into a situation like that

The problem is that there are terrorists who don't look like terrorists ... (and there are psychopaths too).
There are terrorists who don't look like the typical "terrorist" archetype (ie : male, tanned skin, mustache and/or beard, brown hair, brown eyes, etc ...).
Some may even look like your father, your teacher, your doctor, etc ...
In my country, we found some "typical" french Christians converted to Islam, who have been "brainwashed" by fundamentalists, and who joined terrorists training camps.

So, when you see a person wearing or carrying a device that he/she is not supposed to wear/carry in a so particular place and in a so particular context, you should alert security, whatever he/she looks like, whatever the "unexpected" device looks like.

Actually, the police can't know if a person with a such device is actually a geek or an artist who innocently wore this sweatshirt, or if this person deliberately wore this weird device AND entered the airport, for provocative purposes ...

'In both case, the person who wore this device will claim he/she is an artist, or he/she did not thought it looked like a bomb, etc ... The actual geek/artist will say the truth, and the actual "agitator" will lie to avoid prison and fine. But, how do the police makes the difference ?

If it had been in a box, I would agree. But it was not from the pictures I have seen, it was an open bread board.

Now, again I am not saying she should not have "come under suspicion" but, I could have determined in less then a minute, when I was about 12 that it was not, and could not be a bomb. A quick search for "accompanying materials" would have turned up negative also. Once a person is shown not to have a bomb nor any of the components of one, it should end there. Society continues to harass and detain the innocent while providing free passage for many "guilty" parties.

Some may even look like your father, your teacher, your doctor, etc ...

They may not just look like them.... they may actually be them...

So you're father says he's starting a secret project for your mothers birthday - and works on it in his garage - do we report him to the police? I mean, he could be building a pipe bomb to be installed at the nearest mall.

A chemist teacher says you can't see what's in the locked chemical cabinet... Do we report him/her under suspicion of contraband? Seriously, a simple compound can wreak havoc in the subway.

Your doctor has a bunch of new equipment that you don't understand or know it's purpose. Surely, not knowing what a device is makes grounds to start a terrorism investigation. I mean really, it's the perfect guise - store your bomb with your surgical equipment - no one will question "cutting edge technology."

We're fools to think that we're going to find "the bomb" by scaring people by making examples out of people like Star. What's more is that we set precedent to make the three cases above a viable reality.

The risk of a terrorist victory is greater when in fighting terror, democracy betrays its own essence.

Well, I agree ... But what I don't like, is that if Star was a man whose origins were from middle east, our reactions about all this story would have been totally different. I'm sure about that.

Wired device attached to a sweat-shirt ?
Carrying Play-Doh ?
Into an airport ?
Male whose origins are from middle-east ?
Probably Muslin ?
This man obviously seems not to like USA ...
He claims to be an artist and a geek ? ... Bullshit ! He is a terrorist ! an agitator !

I'm sure. Honnestly ?

In that particular context, one should think twice before wearing a such sweatshirt ...

I don't say that Star is guilty of anything provocative.
But she did something "stupid" (maybe it was just an accident, ok), and the security reacted as they should have in that particular context.

Now, does she deserve a fine ? I don't know. I can't say. That's the law who says.

I think that the fact that she was in an airport is completely irrelivent. She was not flying. There's no reason to get more upset there than anyone else. She wasn't near any planes. They could have said "Mam, we want to make sure that this is not a bomb", swab it, and run it through a calorimeter. Or just have her calmly explain it. I think the way that they handled the mintyboost case was close to perfect -- although they still overreacted.

She could have been a suicid bomber looking for the largest group of persons. The target of terrorists and psychopaths is not simply planes. Some just want to kill as much persons as possible ...

Still, she wasn't. She had no intentions of causing any harm or panic. They handled it fine, but she shouldn't get jail time, or a hefty fine.

I'm on the side that it was poor judgment, but they over reacted.. The police had no way of knowing that she had no intention of causing panic. Also, the goal of terrorists isn't even to kill people. It's to cause terror. They've succeeded when you see everyday people getting frightened over a Muslim who is praying, or someone speaking Arabic. When someone freaks out because you have a homemade electronic device, they've won. In my opinion, they should have confiscated the sweat shirt and let her go after a bit of questioning. The arrest was totally unnecessary. The fact that she was just picking someone up in an airport doesn't have to do with anything, the same rules as to what you can have apply, and there are still plenty of people to hurt.

but she shouldnt get charged, is the point. It was a nerd f&%k up, nothing else. Nobody hurt here, now move long people...

I'm on the side that it was poor judgment, but they over reacted..

To me, the over reaction is from media.
They found something "exciting" and unusual to talk about, they made a big fuss about it, and searching for the scoop ...

The applicable laws provide that everyone is innocent until there is proof to the contrary.

The woman next to you waiting in the terminal could be a suicide bomber - with everything neatly tucked into place in her carry on.

The target of terrorists and psychopaths is not simply planes. Some just want to kill as much persons as possible ...
Don't forget the security factor -- the target is to instill as much insecurity and fear as possible. Bombs do not need to go off in order to accomplish that goal. Over reactions like this only provide proof of their successful mission.

Sure, and that's why they punished Star. In an other context, they would have probably immediatly released her, but in that particular context, they suspected her of deliberately "instilled insecurity and fear". They consider that no-one would wear a such sweatshirt (because everybody is aware of the context) and that if someone wear a such sweatshirt in a so particular context, then this person must be an "agitator" (don't know what is the correct translation for the french maening of "provocateur"). Personnaly, I think that Star was used to make an example : "Don't wear/carry devices that looks like bomb, or you'll be punished like Star."

This is exactly the point... At what point does this context extend? Context is irrelevant as far as a terrorist is concerned. Should someone decide to cause damage, it's going to be on their terms.

They consider that no-one would wear a such sweatshirt

I firmly support that given the right to choose what you wear - there should be no consideration of what to wear in any public context if you wear it in any other public context without issue. I would totally be agreeing with you if she cobbled this together to go to the airport - but she didn't and had no problems with it. Really, if it was cause for concern, why wasn't she stopped in the other public places she traveled through? By your logic, as I understand it, she should have been arrested as soon as she left Campus (or at the very least on the subway).

Sure, you can't yell fire in a theater... But that's not the case here... This is more like a drag queen saying "I'm on Fire Tonight" at the theater.

Personnaly, I think that Star was used to make an example : "Don't wear/carry devices that looks like bomb, or you'll be punished like Star."

It's obvious that this doesn't work -- I mean, this isn't the first time this happened. ATHF guerrilla advertising caused all sorts of problems because an uneducated official freaked out prematurely. I use that as an example only because it's exactly the same situation - LEDs....

Really, if it was cause for concern, why wasn't she stopped in the other public places she traveled through? By your logic, as I understand it, she should have been arrested as soon as she left Campus (or at the very least on the subway).

Absolutly.
If someone thought it was a bomb and alerted security, then yes.
But seems that no one did.

It's like when we got terrorist bombing in Paris in 1995 and later.
Despite our freedoms, we all know that we should avoid some behaviors that may be concidered as suspicious in public places. We kind of "cooperate" that way with the autority because we know (hope ?) terrorism is not for ever. It's just a little effort during this particular context (of terrorism) that we consider just like a temporary "crisis".

That's exactly what I thought about when I read Z's comment. Pat. Pending

Yet people are still allowed to drive to that airport :p