It is not a crime to look at bomb-making websites...
July 30, 2002 4:15 AM   Subscribe

It is not a crime to look at bomb-making websites... or so says Lieutenant Jason Ciaschini, police spokesman in Punta Gorda, where a Briton who was using a computer to look at bomb-making websites is now being held at Charlotte County Jail on immigration violations.
Florida police had evacuated the library and arrested him after he looked at bomb-making websites, and found suspicious liquids in his backpack.
"Looking up stuff on the Internet - everybody has freedom to do that," he also said.
posted by Blake (6 comments total)
I've got conflicting feelings on this, and there's not enough information in the story to resolve them. Why were the police originally contacted? Was it because he was using the internet to look at bomb-making websites? Were the web-sites really bomb-making websites, or were they more general pyrotechnic sites? I guess my first problem is this: why were the police called in the first place? As an amateur pyrotechnician I've used the library for research often, in fact my home-town library stocked books on manufacturing pyrotechnics.

The obstruction of justice charge doesn't bother me, he used a false name, so thats definitely obstructing justice. The immigration charges don't concern me either, it looks like he's guilty. What bothers me is not understanding what led the librarian (I presume, I'm assuming that there were no police hiding behind the fichus) to call the police? I'm hoping that it was more than looking at pyrotechnics, or even bombs on the internet. Was he acting suspicious, hostile or even rude?
posted by substrate at 5:35 AM on July 30, 2002

Local story. He was observed in his surfing by an off-duty sheriff's "employee", apparently not a deputized officer. This person could be a library employee as well, or just a patron.

If we backtrack a bit to the more notorious porn-surfing problem, there are ongoing issues with public terminals; it's almost unsurprising that there are bluenoses who poke around making sure nobody's pulling up Danni Ashe. In some libraries this means, yes, the cops show up. Is it an overreaction to call in the cops for somebody looking at bomb information? I dunno. If there was nothing wrong with his visa and he'd been honest, there would have been nothing to charge him with; it was probably prudent to question him. Is it an overreaction when cops pull over that truck with the license plate hanging by one screw and a broken blinker? If somebody were then jailed for a more serious crime, would we say they were "arrested for a broken blinker"?
posted by dhartung at 5:45 AM on July 30, 2002

The difference is, of course, that a "license plate hanging by one screw and a broken blinker" are actual legal infractions, while surfing the web is not (yet).
posted by rushmc at 6:41 AM on July 30, 2002

This sounds like something that will turn up on the last half of a Law and Order episode. If the web activity was the suspicious behavior, the sheriff's department employee was observing the person's web use prior to that. I have no idea if that's constitutional.
posted by rcade at 7:01 AM on July 30, 2002

Wow. This literally happened about 300 yards from my front door. Smoking a cigarette in the backyard and I see a couple police cruisers haul ass down the road behind my house. So being the inquisitive "who's getting busted?" kind of kid I am, I walked to the end of our property (which is the street the library is on, a hundred yards down) and saw bomb removal trucks, camera crews and approx. 15-20 police from various offices and what appeared to be a few federal agents. i looked really hard, but i couldn't find will smith or that talking dog anywhere.

maybe next time.
posted by shadow45 at 12:48 PM on July 30, 2002

Oh, and to clear things up the local buzz concerning this is that he was 'busted' by an off-duty sheriff's office employee. The place is really small and on the PCs anyone walking by can see what you're up to. I chalk it up to overzealous people (probably with good intentions) that let this whole post-9/11 mentality get to them.

He's being held for having an expired Visa. That much is legal, right?
posted by shadow45 at 12:56 PM on July 30, 2002

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