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March 14, 2003

Stupid security
Posted by Teresa at 05:06 PM *

Tomorrow’s your last day to send in entries to Privacy International’s Stupid Security Competition :

We’ve all been there. Standing for ages in a security line at an inconsequential office building only to be given a security pass that a high school student could have faked. Or being forced to take off our shoes at an airport that can’t even screen its luggage.

If you thought the accounting profession was bad news, just wait till you hear how stupid the security industry has become. Even before 9/11 a whole army of bumbling amateurs has taken it upon themselves to figure out pointless, annoying, intrusive, illusory and just plain stupid measures to “protect” our security.

It’s become a global menace. From the nightclub in Berlin that demands the home address of its patrons, to the phone company in Britain that won’t let anyone pay more than fifty pounds a month from a bank account, the world has become infested with bumptious administrators competing to hinder or harass you. And often for no good reason whatever.

The sensitive and sensible folk at Privacy International have endured enough of this treatment. So until March 15th 2003 we are running an international competition to discover the world’s most pointless, intrusive, stupid and self-serving security measures. … Nomination should be sent to stupidsecurity@privacy.orgby March 15.
Nominations must be submitted to by March 15th, 2003. My entry was so obvious that someone else must have already submitted it before me; but as I said in my letter to Privacy International, “…when it comes to security measures that combine officiousness, overreaction to a non-threat, gross insensitivity to First Amendment rights, and complete irrelevance to any actual security issues, I really can’t top the story Reuters ran on 04 March of this year.”:
Lawyer Arrested for Wearing a ‘Peace’ T-Shirt Tue March 4, 2003 07:55 PM ET

NEW YORK (Reuters) - A lawyer was arrested late Monday and charged with trespassing at a public mall in the state of New York after refusing to take off a T-shirt advocating peace that he had just purchased at the mall.

According to the criminal complaint filed on Monday, Stephen Downs was wearing a T-shirt bearing the words “Give Peace A Chance” that he had just purchased from a vendor inside the Crossgates Mall in Guilderland, New York, near Albany.

“I was in the food court with my son when I was confronted by two security guards and ordered to either take off the T-shirt or leave the mall,” said Downs.

When Downs refused the security officers’ orders, police from the town of Guilderland were called and he was arrested and taken away in handcuffs, charged with trespassing “in that he knowingly enter(ed) or remain(ed) unlawfully upon premises,” the complaint read.

Downs said police tried to convince him he was wrong in his actions by refusing to remove the T-shirt because the mall “was like a private house and that I was acting poorly.

“I told them the analogy was not good and I was then hauled off to night court where I was arraigned after pleading not guilty and released on my own recognizance,” Downs told Reuters in a telephone interview.

Downs is the director of the Albany Office of the state Commission on Judicial Conduct, which investigates complaints of misconduct against judges and can admonish, censure or remove judges found to have engaged in misconduct.

Calls to the Guilderland police and district attorney, Anthony Cardona and to officials at the mall were not returned for comment.

Downs is due back in court for a hearing on March 17. He could face up to a year in prison if convicted.
It’s one of those stories that leaves you poised between speechlessness and a 5,000-word rant. Folly is fractal. (via The Register and Pigs and Fishes)
Comments on Stupid security:
#1 ::: Nancy Hanger ::: (view all by) ::: March 14, 2003, 05:43 PM:

Incredible story, indeed. Followed it in the Times and other places while it was going on. BTW, apparently charges were dropped by the mall on March 6, after a huge protest was held there. No comment from the mall management. Gee, what a surprise.

#2 ::: Lydia Nickerson ::: (view all by) ::: March 14, 2003, 06:33 PM:

I am more impressed with the security guards that confiscated the 1" (yes, that's an inch, not a foot) guns that came with GI Joe dolls. At least, I think it's really happened, and maybe twice. There was a Guardian article a while ago about a grandmother bringing home such a toy for her grandson, and having the gun confiscated. I just found another story, almost identical, on the ABC news site.

I have looked on Snopes, and haven't found anything one way or the other. It sure smells like an urban legend...but these are the Crazy Years.

#3 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: March 15, 2003, 03:20 PM:

Nothing beats the Congressional Medal of Honor carried by a WWII veteran which was confiscated because it resembled a ninja throwing star.

#4 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: March 15, 2003, 03:21 PM:

Try this one on for size:

A Congressional Medal of Honor, carried by a WWII combat hero. Looked too much like a ninja throwing star....

#5 ::: Kip ::: (view all by) ::: March 16, 2003, 09:13 AM:

It was just reported in RASFF, per evening news, that a passenger on a plane who had packed a couple of peace march signs in his luggage found a note from the baggage inspectors critical of his un-American attitude. Another poster has already suggested he -could- have planted the note himself.

I doubt that the folks at the 'support the troops rally' in Atlanta would have had such a problem with their big "GIVE WAR A CHANCE" sign.

Oh well, we still have the purple mountains and the amber waves of grain.

#6 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: March 16, 2003, 01:26 PM:

Report on the note-in-the-luggage story.

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