Teacher arrested for possessing potentially deadly bookmark.

The deadly bookmark in question.Here I was thinking the rules about what you can and can’t take onto an airplane couldn’t get any sillier after they banned fingernail clippers when I come across this story about a Florida teacher named Kathryn Harrington who was arrested because of a fancy bookmark:

“It was a bookmark,” Harrington said. “It’s not a weapon. I could not understand why I was being handcuffed and put into a police car. I cried for hours.”

A month after airport police arrested her on a charge of carrying a concealed weapon – the bookmark – it appears Harrington, a 52-year-old special education teacher from Laurel, Md., could be clear of a potential $10,000 fine.

A spokeswoman for the Transportation Security Administration said Thursday the agency, a branch of the Department of Homeland Security, is likely to drop Harrington’s case as early as next week.

“I think at this point we’ve decided not to pursue a civil penalty,” said TSA spokeswoman Lauren Stover. “But it’s not a decision that can be made on the spot. These are things that require an investigation.”

The fact that it took the TSA a month to figure out this wasn’t a dangerous weapon or that Harrington isn’t a dangerous terrorist tells me that they must only hire people with very tiny brains who have trouble not drooling on themselves as they fill out their government forms in crayon. It’s a fucking bookmark, folks. I suppose if you got really lucky you might be able to give someone one helluva bump on the head with it, but does anyone really think that you could successfully hijack an airplane with one? The rock hard stale muffins they hand you on those flights are more dangerous than that stupid bookmark.

Part of the problem, aside from the tiny brain issue, is the fact that even if you follow the guidelines about what is and isn’t permitted in the way of objects as listed on the TSA website *PDF file you could still end up in trouble because the TSA screeners pretty much have the final word on what is and isn’t OK even if it’s listed as acceptable according to the TSA’s own guidelines. The website only says that screeners will make judgments about items not on the list, but the list allows you to carry the aforementioned fingernail clippers in your carry-on luggage as well as friggin’ corkscrews(!) yet many states are making a decent chunk of change by selling these and other confiscated items on eBay.

California’s 337 online auctions, which include bulk sales of up to 100 pocket knives at a time, generated $62,000 for its self-funded surplus program.

Washington state, which has picked up 11,000 pounds of prohibited items from Washington’s airports in the past nine months, has donated much of it to other entities.

“The fingernail clippers and fingernail files go to the homeless shelters, and then we donate the Swiss Army knives to the Boy Scouts,” said Doug Coleman, manager of Washington State Surplus Programs. “We let the fire departments and the police officers go through the tools. We sell a pair of scissors or a pocket knife for 25 cents.”

So there’s no guarantee that following the list of approved items is enough to keep your ass from being charged with a crime (at worst) or having your item confiscated and then sold by the state (at best).

Does anyone else find it incredibly bizarre that it is once again legal for you to own an AK-47, but take a weighted bookmark into your local airport and you could be arrested and potentially charged with a crime??

46 thoughts on “Teacher arrested for possessing potentially deadly bookmark.

  1. Sometimes I use a slip of paper as a bookmark.  A slip of paper can cause a very painful cut.  If you tried hard enough, you could probably slice someone’s head clean off.

    If you tried really, really, really hard.

    Crap, I’m a booktoting terrorist.

  2. I have one of those bookmarks!  Those things are awesome.  If you slap a paperback up on a bookstand, so that you can cite a pertinent paragraph, it’s really useful to be able to throw one of these at the bottom of the book, to keep the pages from flipping over while you type.

    Hell, if That’s a weapon, so is my shoe!

    Eedjits!

  3. This time, screeners thought the bookmark resembled a weighted police weapon, known as a sap or slungshot, used to knock suspects unconscious. Stover said screeners did the right thing by showing the item to airport police.  “They probably felt that this item looked fairly dangerous,” she said. “It looked like a bludgeoning type of weapon that could potentially harm someone.”

    All well and good.  I don’t have as much of a problem as their deciding it looks like a blackjack (esp. since it was in her purse, as opposed to in a book) as their deciding to haul the person carrying it off to jail in handcuffs.  Interviewing the lady in question should have been sufficient to, if they really thought it was dangerous, simply let the confiscate the danged thing.

    I think these sorts of restrictions are absurd, for a variety of reasons, but if you’re going to prohibit nail clippers, prohibiting a sap (or something arguably close to it) makes sense.  (Prohibiting shoes would make as much sense, but let’s not go there.)

  4. Come to think of it, a high-velocity slug from an assault rifle on the ground could probably shatter a turbine blade in a jet engine at takeoff.  If there’s any gun experts reading, what do you think?

    If I really want to hurt someone my size 11 Rockports with my foot inside should suffice.

    Scenario: you have a sap.  You hit someone over the head with it.  Ten other passengers wrestle you to the floor before the air marshall even knows there’s a problem.  It all gets sorted out later while your jaw and several of your ribs heal.

    Ditto for nail clippers, swiss army knife, etc. Those are still in the “confiscate ‘em & let ‘em board” category. No airliner will ever again be hijacked with a token weapon.  Even if someone did get them onboard the most you could do is kill one or two other people and be beaten senseless by the rest.  To do a hijacking you need something stronger.

    I read somewhere that hijackers could use pen guns.  Sure, but I don’t see how that would get them control of a plane, since 9/11.  How big a magazine does a pen gun have?

    But I have no sympathy at all for the genius arrested at O’Hare on Saturday for trying to carry a .357 magnum onto flight UA686 bound for New York.  He said he forgot the gun was in his bag…  Right – you “forgot” you were carrying a high-powered handgun.  For him the handcuffs and arrest make perfect sense.

  5. I have decided not to fly any longer as i no longer feel safe without be alowed to have my sword,baseball bat, bow and arrow, cricket bat, golf clubs, Hockey stick, lacrosse stick, pool cue, ski pole, spear gun along as security agianst a high-jacking!  It’s all so stunningly riduculous I have trouble believeing it.  the stupid people have taken over the world and somewhere along the way I was sleeping.

      As a side note: Does anyone believe that a group of highjackers armed with small sharp object will EVER succeed in taking over another north american airliner without the passenger beating them to death?

  6. On another related note, 4 M-80s were found INSIDE flight 710 (Spirit Airlines) from Ft Lauderdale to NYC (LaGuardia) jammed in a tissue box in the bathroom…

    So books/bookmarks bad … explosives good!

    Glad to know I finally understand the TSA 🙁

    So there’s no guarantee that following the list of approved items is enough to keep your ass from being charged with a crime (at worst) or having your item confiscated and then sold by the state (at best).

    Don’t even get me started on that point 🙁

    It is getting beyond the point where the obsurdity is humorous, it is just sad.

    I really think the TSA has proven time and again what a failure of an experiment it is.

    Note to TSA: Hijacking an airliner with tweezers will never happen… using m-80’s to blow a hole in an emergency exit, throw into the cabin to create chaos, etc that my friends may work…

    Lets be a bit realistic in our security now can’t we?

  7. Doesn’t Kathryn Harrington just look like the sort of person that would be carrying around a monogrammed black-jack?  What a thug.  Remember kids, books don’t kill you, knowledge does.

    Come to think of it, a high-velocity slug from an assault rifle on the ground could probably shatter a turbine blade in a jet engine at takeoff.

    DOF is just itchin’ to get a knock on his door from the KGB HSA.

  8. Remember kids, books don’t kill you, knowledge does.

    You’ve never been whacked in the back of the head with some old school hardcover UNIX manuals, or CICS ones for that matter have you smile

    I have, and can attest to the fact that it most certainly can kill you, or atleast knock the living daylights outta ya 🙁

    But then again, A Mind is a Terrible Thing to Taste, and our Dear Leader is anti-intellectual, so knowledge can be dangerous wink

  9. A Mind is a Terrible Thing to Taste

    Damn you, I laughed hard enough to wake the baby.

    As to the rest, the TSA achieves something the 9/11 terrorists failed to do – make me afraid of flying.

  10. Damn you, I laughed hard enough to wake the baby

    Almost hit the mark… now if I can make DeadScot snort AK-47 Vodka out his nose, then I know I hit the humor mark smile

    And I refuse to fly anymore unless absolutely necessary, and then I FEDEX or UPS my bags to my destination, carrying only my medications, a change of underwear, and toiletries with me.

    Maybe I will carry a pair of stained underwear as well, just to give the TSA folks something to make their day more interesting smile

    Or would that be a biological WMD?

  11. Sitting on my desk is a laptop battery that weighs just over 1 lb.  Drop that (or a few D cells) in a sock and you could put a lump on a skull.  Didn’t notice marbles on the list. 

    Walking canes can be used as martial arts weapons.  Does a black belt need to declare the ol’ hands and feet as weapons when boarding? wink

    Back in school, my roomate was messing with me while I was reading a PC Magazine (back when they were over 1/2 inch thick).  That glossy paper packed a wallop when you rolled it up.  And the Computer Shopper mags could stop a bullet!

  12. I actually have no disinclination to fly.  I actually feel safer on planes now than ever.  With how tight security has been in the last several years, I think there’s less chance of a hijacking than there was ever before.  Though, I will admit security nowadays is a bit of a pain in the ass, but as long as the security people are just being thorough and not simply abusing their positions I don’t particularly object to it.  However, handcuffing someone over a book mark is a bit excessive.

  13. I’m with you, Stink – I feel quite safe flying now.  But it isn’t because of the “tougher security,” it’s because I know that no hijacking would be permitted to succeed as in the past. 

    With the example of flight 93 in mind, and changes in policy, it would be impossible for a hijacker to get control of a plane today.  Flashing a boxcutter or saying “I have a bomb” wouldn’t work. cool grin

  14. I actually have no disinclination to fly.  I actually feel safer on planes now than ever.

    Did you feel less safe before?  I used to fly at least twice a week, every week and I don’t think ‘hijacking’ ever crossed my mind.  After making an emergency landing in Austin due to mechanical difficulties, I was more afraid of maintenance problems than anything else.

    I look at the TSA like a big security blanket that we’re paying a whole lot of money for but not really getting much for our investment.  Money spent out of fear has never been real high on my list.

    captcha = ‘love’ just ‘cause I haven’t posted one in a while.

  15. “Did you feel less safe before?  I used to fly at least twice a week, every week and I don’t think ‘hijacking’ ever crossed my mind.  After making an emergency landing in Austin due to mechanical difficulties, I was more afraid of maintenance problems than anything else.”

    deadscot,

    You do have a point, I never was particularly afraid to fly in the first place.  The thought of a hijacking didn’t ever cross my mind.  However, I do think that there’s even a lower likelihood of hijacking now than before.  Though I will grant that I don’t think that there was much of a risk previously.

  16. Hmmm, I have a flight to catch in another 16 days…

    Thank goodness I am not even bringing a carry-on bag. Then again, I could probably look at them funny and then they might take my t-shirt from me because I could strangle someone with it. -.-

  17. As to the rest, the TSA achieves something the 9/11 terrorists failed to do – make me afraid of flying.

    I’m with Elwed on this one. I’m more afraid of flying now than in the past, but not because of the possibility of terrorism as that was never anything I was all that worried about previously. Just take a good look at my picture. With the TSA’s ability to detain people at will for any perceived threat it’s them I’m worried about more so than any terrorist.

  18. Sorry, this is a gonna be long smile

    TSA Agents [chanting]
      Pie Iesu domine, dona eis requiem.
      [bonk]
      Pie Iesu domine,…
      [bonk]
      …dona eis requiem.
      [bonk]
      Pie Iesu domine,…
      [bonk]
      …dona eis requiem.

    Agent #1: Look that guy with the beard, he’s a terrorist!

    Agent #2: Huh? Which guy? Dont bug me, I’m stealing stuff … huh?  What makes you think he is a Terrorist?

    Agent #3: He does have a long beard. This official like TSA newsletter says long beards are terroristic signs

    Agent #4: [He turned me into a Newt Gingrich]

    Agent Supervisor: [Shaadddap Agent #4… wrong skit]

    Agents: Arrest the infidels!  Burn them! Burn THEM!

    Agent Supervisor: One never expects the TSA Inquisition!!!

    Agents: WRONG SKIT!

    Agent Supervisor: uhmm… sorry! Where were we… Oh Yes! You Mr. Les are a terrorist and we need to publicly flog you now.

    LES: What the fuck is wrong with you people!?!

    Agent #3: See he is a blasphemer, I bet he is a godless muslim person with that beard and vulgar language!

    LES: I wont even begin to point out the stupidity of that statement, you fucking morons.

    Agent #2: See! He thinks we are stupid, he must be a terrorist for disagreeing with the pronouncements of Lord on High G.W. Bush

    Agent #1 Guys, shut the hell up, I found a nice lighter!  I always wanted one like this!!! Oh! and looky here… a couple of watches!

    Agent Supervisor: What do we do with Terrorist?

    Agents: We Burn Him! … er… No… We Torture Him in Gitmo!

    Agent Supervisor: Not those caught on US soil…

    Agents: What are we to do then?

    Agent Supervisor: We lock him in a room, get out the rubber gloves and make him listen to Commrade.. er… Scty Ashcroft SING!

    Agents: ewwww…. good good good

    [LES walks away while agents fight over the lighter found, and argue about how to best torture him… right!! they are not that fucking bright]

    Narrator: While all this silliness about a beard is taking place, two large suitcases of m-80s are smuggled on board by a clean shaven white man about 6 foot tall with cropped blonde hair. Ironic?

    This insanity is brought to you by the letter W. (and not enough coffee in the morning)

  19. I have only one question, John: Where do I send the doctor’s bill for the cracked ribs I now have from laughing too hard?

  20. Les,

    I aim to please… and sometimes I even hit the target wink

    Now I think I may have to write Dubya and the Quest for the Iraqi WMDs

    Hmmm…

    Help! I am being repressed!

    Imagine the fun we could have with this

    LOL!

  21. Hi everyone!

    Decrepitoldfool, I’m not a gun expert (have never fired one either) but I’m very sure that there are guns available which can do that easily.

    Heck, airplane engines can be fatally damaged by a single bird, so a big slug should do worse (simply hit and snap off one turbine blade, and the rest of the thing thing has a tendency to rip itself apart). But thats not really that dangerous, for it SHOULD not be fatal for the plane (multiple engines, fire is unlikely).

    Much more dangerous would be a case of terrorists attacking a plane with shoulder fired-SAMs (surface-air-missiles) which you can get pretty easily in parts of the world. Attacks have happened often enough before, mostly in Africa and places like Iraq and Afghanistan.

    I worry about that more than about hijacking. Most of us don’t fly with El Al, so there would be no defense (it is believed that those Israeli airplanes all got military style defense-systems against missiles).

    I think nowadays two other main scenarios are likely: A bomb smuggled aboard by airport staff (or people who get onto the tarmac) or one slipped into a plane at thoses place that terrorists have scooped out for not having good explosives detection systems.

    As for the pencil pen – most of them have only one bullet as far as I know. For a hijacking situation, I’d say they would be almost useless.

    Ingolfson

  22. John… that was friggin’ eelarious!  (sending link to this thread to my sister who flies a lot and likes MP)

    Ingolfson…  I hope shoulder-fired missiles are hard to get (but worry that they are not.) 

    My favorite restaurant’s parking lot is only a few hundred feet from the end of a runway.  There’s no way in an urban area to get a good security perimeter around an airport.  Any smart terrorist should be able to do something nasty with that scenario.

  23. I drive by Detroit Metro Airport every day with jets taking off and landing over a stretch of open highway that runs right alongside of it. There are so many places that one could launch a missile at a plane taking off or landing while remaining obscured from public view and allowing plenty of time to escape that it’s just not funny. Plenty of wooded areas and easy access to a major freeway, what more could you ask for?

  24. John,

    I think I soiled myself….  You have to be more responsible with your humour, you could hurt someone.  However, moving onto something a little more serious, I actually find customs agents to be bigger wieners than TSA agents.  For some reason I must look like a criminal because every time I cross the US/Canadian border I have some customs agent asking me if I have ever been convicted of a felony and when I reply, “No”.  They keep asking me if I’m sure and otherwise pressing me until I almost get convinced that they know something that I don’t and that I’ve somehow been convicted of something in absentia.

    ingolfson,

    Sure make me paranoid now.  Next time I’m on an airliner during take off and landing I won’t be able to fight the urge of looking for smoke trails.  Actually, I probably will.  I’m pretty sure it’s fairly hard to carry around a shoulder launched SAM around an airport without someone noticing, except for maybe around Detroit Metro as Les pointed out.

  25. Stinkass… Sorry about the shorts, send the cleaning bill to /dev/null though as I am broke wink

    hmmm…

    Sure make me paranoid now.  Next time I’m on an airliner during take off and landing I won’t be able to fight the urge of looking for smoke trails.  Actually, I probably will.  I’m pretty sure it’s fairly hard to carry around a shoulder launched SAM around an airport without someone noticing, except for maybe around Detroit Metro as Les pointed out.

    Actually here in NYC JFK Airport is right near a national park, LGA near the water, and both have flight paths that pass over my home, quite low in the summer.

    A shoulder fired missle could easily reach one at any of these points… hell, remember they thought TWA flight 800 was taken down by one, remember?

    That said, I would worry more about the food killing you than a missle … or maybe old age waiting in line to be relievevd of your property by the TSA …

    I wonder how much damage a .50cal Desert Eagle could do … shit… this is getting ugly… back to comedy smile

  26. Nope… then they will do a thourogh search,…

    and then of course there is this new TSA plan (also in the trackbacks above)

    These numbnuts cant handle simple baggage checks, and they are now going to start collecting our personal data?

    Feh!

  27. A microscopic fracture in the wrong place of an engine turbine is capable of bringing a plane down, as happened at Sioux City.

    Melbourne airport is surrounded by open spaces, a forest and a highway…another “good” target…

    Back to the comedy indeed. That was a wicked post, John. Thanks for a great laugh!

  28. Back to the comedy indeed. That was a wicked post, John. Thanks for a great laugh!

    Thanks!

    I vill be heere vor all zee veek…

    Don’t forget to tip your bartender and host smile

  29. Fly Naked. It’s safer.

    You’ve obviously never seen me naked.

    Hell, showing up in just my underwear could be enough to get me arrested for terrorism.

  30. Add to that “dangerous terrorist” list, the artist formerly known as Cat Stevens.

    According to the BBC story, Yusef Islam is on a US “watch list”. His flight from London to Washington was diverted and he’s due to be kicked out of the US.

  31. Elwed, I somehow missed your last comment when it was posted yesterday. Damn near made me snort my coffee.

    Tish, I saw that on the news this morning. They didn’t say why his name is on the watchlist or why they think he needs to be kept from entering the country. Have you heard anything on the reasoning behind this?

  32. Latest news is that someone by the name of Youssef Islam is the person on the watch-list. Someone must have thought, “Yusef Islam? Close enough!”

  33. > I’m pretty sure it’s fairly hard to carry
    > around a shoulder launched SAM around an
    > airport without someone noticing, except for
    > maybe around Detroit Metro as Les pointed out.

    Around an airport? Well maybe. But those suckers are *small* and light nowadays (at least the more modern ones), and they can be fired a mile or more away from the airport, while the plane is still gaining height.

    > Sure make me paranoid now.  Next time I’m on an
    > airliner during take off and landing I won’t be
    > able to fight the urge of looking for smoke
    > trails.  Actually, I probably will.

    You won’t see them. They are too fast (gotta catch an airplane after all) and are best fired from behind the plane so to home in on the engine heat. I hope I could calm you down with that wink

    > Melbourne airport is surrounded by open spaces,
    > a forest and a highway…another “good

  34. Stinger-types would be a lot worse, but I guess that the Afghanis used up most of the ones the CIA gave them against the Russians. Some of them must be banging their heads in frustration now (If we could just have saved SOME for the OTHER infidels…)

    When we give sophisticated arms to other countries, why don’t they have an expiration date?  Good for six months, at which time we transmit codes or give them smart cards to make them good for another six months.  No code means the thing erases its eeproms or whatever.

    Or: when the device is armed, it queries a satellite: “I am device number such-and-such – can I go?”  All encrypted, of course.

    Of course you’d want to involve some clever hackers in the development project to make sure that attempting to tamper with the weapon would make it useless right away and permenantly.

  35. If you’re smart you can hack anything that you have your physical hands on, decrepit. So they would have simply asked around a little in their circles until they found a few computer/electronics people.

    As for tampering makes it useless – how? The only reasonable way I could think of would be a bomb or an acid pellet in the electronic parts. But THAT can be dismantled too. Once you find out that they do tend to self-destruct…

    Heck, people who can build bombs can disarm them too, especially if they have lots of time.

    Now if the stinger used WinXP, THAT might solve the problem wink

  36. If you’re smart you can hack anything that you have your physical hands on

    Surely you’re right but why make it easy for them? I’ve never heard of any efforts to make our weapons “cancellable.”

    Pretty damn hard to hack a circut that is 1) cast in epoxy, 2) only receives, does not send, 3) has kill-wires cast into the epoxy around it, and 4)is set to launch unarmed and unguided (or just explode) if any rivets are drilled. 

    At least we could make them use up a lot of electronics experts trying to figure it out.

  37. Well, decrepit, I agree with the gist of your posts, but still think it would be wasted money.

    How about not selling arms in the first place?

    Oh well, forget that. Pure fantasy, I know. The Saddams and Bin Ladens of the future world will always get arms from greedy or short-sighted nations…

  38. How about not selling arms in the first place?

    Ding!  We have a winner!  Yeah!

    The Saddams and Bin Ladens of the future world will always get arms from greedy or short-sighted nations…

    It’s a test.  If we’re dumb enough to sell weapons to the likes of Saddam or bin Laden…

  39. Somehow, this reminds me of the ‘Sum of all fears’-movie. After a nuclear bomb destroys an American city, they find out that the stuff came from their own army stocks…

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