Healthy paranoia or police state?

This article is circulating around the message boards and mailing lists today.

Here’s a more detailed report:


January 6, 2004 04:19 PM EST

HEBRON, Ky. – A woman was taken off a Paris-to-Cincinnati flight just before
it left France on Tuesday because of suspicious wires poking out of her
leather motorcycle jacket. Security officials later determined she was not a

It turned out that the jacket was designed to heat up like an electric
blanket to keep the wearer warm, officials said.

However, as a precaution, Delta Flight 43 was kept a half-mile away from the
terminal at Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport after it
landed. U.S. officials said they planned to re-screen passengers and

The nation is under orange alert, the second-highest of five color-coded
terrorism threat levels. The government has started photographing and
fingerprinting foreigners arriving at U.S. airports, and some international
flights have been canceled or delayed because of terrorism fears.

Transportation Security Administration spokeswoman Jenifer Marty said the
plane would be kept away from the terminal.

The plane landed at a cargo area where Air Force One lands when President
Bush visits. Police cars and Delta passenger buses were gathered at the
site, which is surrounded by a 10-foot chain-link fence with barbed wire.

A Homeland Security official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the
passenger was taken off the plane before it left France because of concerns
about the wires. Police bomb disposal experts were called in to check the
woman’s jacket, said French police officials speaking on customary condition
of anonymity.

It later was learned the wires were part of her leather motorcycle jacket,
officials said.

The Boeing 767-300 is a regularly scheduled flight from Charles de Gaulle
airport outside Paris.


I’m torn about this one. On one hand, I’m a motorcyclist, and I’m pretty damn familiar with heated clothes and what they look like. It seems ridiculous to me for someone not to understand what the gear was for. It’s not like she had bare wires sticking out; it’d be like having a walkman headset plug dangling from a pocket.

On the other hand, most of the population doesn’t ride, and we’re being trained to be so damn suspicious of one another. If someone — especially someone on an airplane — does something we don’t understand, or wears something we don’t recognize, it must be dangerous. Subversive. A threat. We’re at security level orange, remember; we can’t be too careful.

OK, so I’m being a bit facetious there. Honestly, I can see why they’d want to inspect the jacket, but I think they took it too far. Confiscate the clothes and return them to her later; OK. But to quarantine the aircraft and seriously inconvenience everyone involved seems a bit excessive.

I wonder if I’d feel the same empathy if it’d been gear for a hobby I don’t participate in. Had I been a non-riding passenger sitting across the aisle from her, would I have feared for my life? Would I feel threatened by wires sticking out of clothes? It’s hard to tell. I’d like to think not, that I’d have more common sense and more faith in my fellow man. But I don’t know. I hope we return to a sense of normalcy soon. I don’t like being told by my government to fear and distrust.

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7 Responses to Healthy paranoia or police state?

  1. Japi says:

    It’s a shame the amount of fear you have to suffer there in the US, I wonder if that’s the ‘freedom’ the country promises.. Sorry to hear the level of alert you have to live with.
    Japi ZZR

  2. carolyn says:

    It’s most frustrating to me, actually, because we don’t normally live with it. I don’t believe that anything has happened to the US to warrant re-screening passengers and baggage after a flight has already safely landed. Not to mention parking the plane a half-mile from the terminal. And don’t get me started about fingerprinting foreigners at airports.
    I’ve traveled to many different countries, some of which have it far worse than the US — I’ve seen tanks rolling down the streets in Lima, been stopped and searched by the Egyptian Army in Cairo, stepped over junkies and prositutes lying in the streets in eastern Europe. These people have fear in their lives. I don’t. I live in a nice house in a nice suburb and make enough money to ride a motorcycle recreationally. But it seems like with every passing day, BushCo wants me to feel like I’m in Algeria and that someone is going to break into my house and slit my throat in the night.
    Argh. I sound like a spoiled brat, which, in a way, is exactly my point. Who am I to speak of fear, of governmental oppression? Why is our government emulating the very ones it proposes to oppose? Why am I still awake typing this instead of going to bed? 😀

  3. Japi says:

    Well, Bush is there because there was people who vote him, if i’m not mistaken? I guess you’ll know the one you dont have to vote next election. 😀
    Well, let’s get this political stuff aside and go to business.. how’s that SV clutch ?
    Japi ZZR

  4. Kim says:

    Something that your article doesn’t mention but others have is that the woman is of middle eastern descent, so there was an element of racial profiling as well as being frightened by exotic heated clothing.

  5. carolyn says:

    Oh, that’s interesting, Kim. I hadn’t heard that anywhere. The thick plottens.
    Anyhoo…the clutch is hanging in there for the time being….I should blog about that later today. Summay: the new one still isn’t in (grrr), but I’ve gotten the old one adjusted to a point where it’s holding steady, at least. I’m going to be really annoyed if the new cable isn’t in soon, as I was hoping to go riding this weekend. Rarrr. *angry pre-coffee face*

  6. Alex says:

    We are spoiled, we have it made. Why I dont always agree with what our government does (like this), I do stand behind it.
    Why? Because I dont have tanks rolling down my street. Because I dont have prostitutes to step over to go into my apartment, and because I can jump on my motorcycle and ride it anywhere I want.
    Our country nowhere near perfect, and not everyone is going to be pleased with whatever happens. But the bottom line is, we all need to realize that we are living better, and with more freedom than most of the rest of the world. So this sucks, and is way to hyped up. But its better than waking up to a tank in your living room.

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