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Comic Artist Detained For Script Containing 9/11 Type Scenarios 441

Posted by samzenpus
from the free-from-free-speech dept.
Comics writer Mark Sable was detained by security at Los Angeles International Airport because he was carrying a script for a new issue of his comic miniseries, Unthinkable. Unthinkable follows members of a government think tank that was tasked with coming up with 9/11-type "unthinkable" terrorist scenarios that now are coming true. Sable wrote about his experience saying, "...I was flagged at the gate for 'extra screening.' I was subjected to not one, but two invasive searches of my person and belongings. TSA agents then 'discovered' the script for Unthinkable #3. They sat and read the script while I stood there, without any personal items, identification or ticket, which had all been confiscated. The minute I saw the faces of the agents, I knew I was in trouble. The first page of the Unthinkable script mentioned 9/11, terror plots, and the fact that the (fictional) world had become a police state. The TSA agents then proceeded to interrogate me, having a hard time understanding that a comic book could be about anything other than superheroes, let alone that anyone actually wrote scripts for comics. I cooperated politely and tried to explain to them the irony of the situation. While Unthinkable blurs the line between fiction and reality, the story is based on a real-life government think tank where a writer was tasked to design worst-case terror scenarios. The fictional story of Unthinkable unfolds when the writer's scenarios come true, and he becomes a suspect in the terrorist attacks." It's too bad that the TSA can't protect us from summer blockbuster movies and not just graphic novels.

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Comic Artist Detained For Script Containing 9/11 Type Scenarios

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  • Proof please. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by suso (153703) * on Monday June 29, 2009 @11:46AM (#28515637) Homepage Journal

    Any proof that he was detained and that this happened? Otherwise I'm tempted to believe that it is a stunt to advertise his comic.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Monday June 29, 2009 @11:50AM (#28515697)

      Any proof that he was detained and that this happened?

      Well, given TSA's paranoia level, his description of events certainly is thinkable ;)

    • by oneTheory (1194569) on Monday June 29, 2009 @11:51AM (#28515707)
      Step 1) Make graphic novel mentioning 9/11
      Step 2) Get detained by TSA, spread story over /.
      Step 3) Profit!
    • Re:Proof please. (Score:4, Insightful)

      by tiananmen tank man (979067) on Monday June 29, 2009 @11:51AM (#28515717)

      Even if false, what does that say about society today if this is even believable.

      • Re:Proof please. (Score:5, Insightful)

        by suso (153703) * on Monday June 29, 2009 @11:55AM (#28515807) Homepage Journal

        That we have mob mentality? That isn't just today, that has been the case since we learned to use tools.

      • It says that people will believe what they want to believe.

    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by oneTheory (1194569)

      Any proof that he was detained and that this happened?

      You, sir, are begging for a goatse reply.

    • Re:Proof please. (Score:4, Insightful)

      by IdleTime (561841) on Monday June 29, 2009 @12:15PM (#28516131) Journal
      This was not very insightful. I'm sure he can provide you with evidence if you really want it.

      My experience as a foreign national living and working legally in the US and traveling across the Atlantic somewhat frequently, is that the TSA agents are high school dropouts at best and totally idiots. The level of intelligence is so low that they have problems grasping the most rudimentary issues ecplained to them.

      This is exactly what you get when you have decided that the work they are doing is not worth more than minimum wage.
    • Re:Proof please. (Score:5, Interesting)

      by professionalfurryele (877225) on Monday June 29, 2009 @12:43PM (#28516583)

      Do searches and seizures at airport security require warrants? Because if they did then there would be paperwork and if groups like the TSA wanted the benefit of the doubt they could say warrant or GTFO. But oh no wait travellers don't have any rights. Once you set up a rights free zone don't be surprised when everyone assumes you are abusing it. Until our freedoms are restored in an airport I'm inclined to believe every horror story I hear and assume that the jack booted morons are doing what ever they please. Because they have the power to do so.

    • Re:Proof please. (Score:5, Informative)

      by sampas (256178) on Monday June 29, 2009 @12:55PM (#28516765)
      Well there is proof that the TSA did something just as inane in a different case, because the person being questioned recorded his interrogation. The ACLU is using the tape for the lawsuit against the TSA. Listen to it here: http://www.aclu.org/safefree/general/39922res20090618.html [aclu.org] Unless you have a tape of your encounters, the judge will assume the cops/TSA/whatever never lie.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by elrous0 (869638) *
      Bah, I think the guy is telling the truth. Why, just the other day, I was stopped at the airport for trying to bring a delicious Coca-Cola on the plane. No matter how much the TSA officers agreed on the unbeatable crisp taste of Coca-Cola, they still detained me. Luckily, I discovered that I could buy a delicious, ice-cold Coca Cola right in the airport gift shop! Thank God I wasn't deprived of the cool, refreshing taste of Coca-Cola on the plane.
  • Bad move (Score:5, Informative)

    by oneirophrenos (1500619) on Monday June 29, 2009 @11:48AM (#28515661)
    Never try to explain an authority the "irony of the situation". Chances are they will lack the intellect to understand.
    • Re:Bad move (Score:4, Funny)

      by demonbug (309515) on Monday June 29, 2009 @11:52AM (#28515741) Journal

      We at the FBI do not have any sense of humor that we are aware of.

    • Reminds me of the people that try to ban "1984" and "Fahrenheit 451"

      • by AndersOSU (873247)

        Who tried to ban those novels? Was it notable, or some overzealous high school librarian?

        • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

          by ImNotAtWork (1375933)

          Who tried to ban those novels? Was it notable, or some overzealous high school librarian?

          It's usually not the librarians.. it's the school board and administration.

    • On the other hand, if this harsh treatment is the standard then really it makes sense from the point of view of assuming you may be dealing with a terrorist, not to buy into the irony of the situation. Not that I think it's right, or that its right to view the situation from that point of view; just that it's more reasonable that they actively disregard the possible irony than they don't understand it.
    • Re:Bad move (Score:4, Interesting)

      by Chris Burke (6130) on Monday June 29, 2009 @12:12PM (#28516095) Homepage

      Whether they are smart enough or not, TSA and airport security are essentially required by law to not understand irony, humor, jest, satire, sarcasm, or the like. Now surely the TSA officers in question, reading a script about terrorist attacks (as if such could be the topic of fiction in today's world!) and getting suspicious indicates they fall squarely in the "lack the intellect" bucket... But in either case, trying to explain the irony would just mean they'd say "I'm sorry sir, but according to DHS regulation 372(d) paragraph 2, I'm not allowed to understand what that word means."

  • Unthinkable!
  • Watch Closet Land (Score:4, Insightful)

    by flatulus (260854) on Monday June 29, 2009 @11:51AM (#28515699)

    The 1991 movie "Closet Land", starring Madeleine Stowe and Alan Rickman paints a horrifying picture of just how far a government might go in tracking literary "subversives". Sounds like mr. comic book writer is a lot more "at risk" than the childrens' book author in this movie.

    • Thanks for the movie tip! Will give it a look. Alan Rickman is a brilliant actor...he even died brilliantly in Die Hard. lol
    • by Reziac (43301) *

      Tho I agree TFA sounds too much like Slashvertizement, the concept is all too real. If it could be applied to a bunch of storyboards, why not to a novel??

      So... next time you fly with an espionage novel in your luggage -- could you be the courier for The Bad Guys' Secret Plans??

  • I Can See It... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by S810 (168676) on Monday June 29, 2009 @11:51AM (#28515711) Homepage

    I can see the grossly under-paid TSA Employees thinking: "Yay! We got one! We got a terrorist!" Too bad they don't go to school to learn the difference between Art and Terror Plans!

    • Worse, said TSA employee might not think that there is a difference. Authoritarians of all stripes generally don't hold artists in high regard. The description is usually "decadent" "subversive" or "effete".
  • Slashvertisement (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Kuj0317 (856656) on Monday June 29, 2009 @11:53AM (#28515763)
    This is just insulting how thinly veiled it is.
  • Whether they let him go.

    One presumes they did - otherwise it would have been mentioned. In which case it's just a sorry tale of someone, one of many every day, who gets stopped. Nothing much to see here. Let's have another story please.

    • by pluther (647209) <pluther@u[ ]net ['sa.' in gap]> on Monday June 29, 2009 @12:13PM (#28516113) Homepage

      But he wasn't just stopped.
      I get stopped all the time, it's annoying, but not a big deal.
      They not only stopped him, but then read his personal papers, and held him while they questioned him about them.

      Papers are not bombs, or weapons. You cannot hijack an airplane with a script, whether it's for a comic book or a movie, or just a pure fantasy scenario you wrote for yourself to pass the time.
      As such, TSA has absolutely no business, no right, and no authority to read them.

      The fact that their employees are so badly trained that they actually believe they have this authority, and the fact that the average citizen is so badly informed that they believe it also, is just scary.

      The irony that the papers they were reading were a fictional account of a government agency grabbing more authority than they should have is just the funny part of it all.

      • by ScentCone (795499) on Monday June 29, 2009 @12:30PM (#28516351)
        The irony that the papers they were reading were a fictional account of a government agency grabbing more authority than they should have is just the funny part of it all.

        No, the irony is that the steps the author took to make sure he got one of the more close inspections of his gear so that he could have this anecdote to publish while getting dupes like you to believe that this is something other than a publicity stunt... the irony is that despite the sophomoric transparency of the whole thing, you fell for it.
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          No, the irony is that the steps the author took to make sure he got one of the more close inspections of his gear so that he could have this anecdote to publish while getting dupes like you to believe that this is something other than a publicity stunt... the irony is that despite the sophomoric transparency of the whole thing, you fell for it.

          To an extent, I agree with you. However, the problem remains that we live in a society where this kind of thing could happen. The bottom line is that TSA should not have had to read through his papers to ascertain that he was not a threat (nor should they have a right to). They very fact that there was a stunt to pull off is indicative of a problem with our society's acceptance of what rights authority has in our personal lives.

  • by eldavojohn (898314) * <eldavojohnNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Monday June 29, 2009 @11:54AM (#28515785) Journal

    It's too bad that the TSA can't protect us from summer blockbuster movies and not just graphic novels.

    Personally I think they should stop Michael Bay from boarding any plane after seeing how disturbingly obsessed the man is with explosions [youtube.com].

  • by El_Muerte_TDS (592157) <elmuerte AT drunksnipers DOT com> on Monday June 29, 2009 @11:58AM (#28515847) Homepage

    From wikipedia:

    Foreshadowing a number of conspiracy theories which would arise in the wake of the September 11, 2001 attacks, the plot of the March 4, 2001 pilot episode of the series depicts a secret faction within the US government plotting to hijack a Boeing 727 and fly it into the World Trade Center by remote control. The stated motive was to increase the military defense budget by blaming the attack on foreign "tin-pot dictators" who are "begging to be smart-bombed."[3][4] In the episode, the plot is eventually foiled by the protagonists who board the doomed plane and deactivate the malicious autopilot system just seconds before the plane would have reached the World Trade Center.

  • Welcome to (Score:5, Interesting)

    by kenp2002 (545495) on Monday June 29, 2009 @11:59AM (#28515871) Homepage Journal

    Welcome to the era of Thought Crime.

    Thinking about it is a crime.
    Writing about it is a crime.
    Drawing about it is a crime.

    Last I check wasn't DOING a crime... well.. a crime?

    Next thing you know Jessica Lansbury and company will be held and charged for all those terroristic threats and murder plans called "Murder She Wrote". They were so detailed! Lets not forget the Matlock, Columbo, Perry Mason, CSI, etc... All those murder plans!!! GET EM!!

    "When is a man damned? When he is oblivious to it."

  • The TSA folks were probably just bored, and jumped at the chance to play terrorist make-believe. Now they feel foolish, but while it was happening it was probably quite a thrill.
  • by aber (141743) on Monday June 29, 2009 @12:12PM (#28516105)

    "I cooperated politely and tried to explain to them the irony of the situation." Mr. Sable's ignorance or willful abdication of his 5th amendment rights caused him to perhaps waste a great opportunity to challenge TSA policies on search of personal belongings. Next time, maybe a better approach would be (disclaimer, IANAL): "Am I being detained?" followed by "I'd like you to tell me what laws you are accusing me of breaking," or "I won't make any statements until I have spoken to a lawyer," as the case may be. If Mr. Sable had actually been prosecuted simply for having exercised his 1st amendment rights, his case would have had a much more significant impact in our fear-prone society, causing perhaps some much needed "clarification" of what the federal government can/cannot do "for our own good" to "protect us from the evil terrorists." Perhaps even a re-evaluation of TSA policies, or at least application of punishment to over-zealous agents.

    "The minute I saw the faces of the agents, I knew I was in trouble." You're not in trouble just because a government employee says so (or looks at you funny). We do have a bill of rights, you know.

    From TFA: "In the end, I feel my privacy is a small price to pay for educating the government about the medium." No one of any importance was "educated." No policy is likely to be changed as a result of this incident; law-abiding citizens are still going to be stopped in airports for carrying 'strange' books, scripts, magazines, etc. All this shows is that TSA agents can act in an arbitrary manner with repercussions.

    • by ThrowAwaySociety (1351793) on Monday June 29, 2009 @01:08PM (#28516957)

      Let me flesh out that scenario for you.

      Next time, maybe a better approach would be (disclaimer, IANAL): "Am I being detained?"

      TSA: Yes. Duh.

      followed by "I'd like you to tell me what laws you are accusing me of breaking"

      Conspiracy to commit murder, conspiracy to destroy buildings and property, conspiracy to commit jaywalking, conspiracy to....

      "I won't make any statements until I have spoken to a lawyer"

      TSA: Cool with us.

      (long wait)
      (optional: arrest on above charges, booking, transfer to jail)

      (Lawyer arrives)

      TSA: Okay, having conferred with your lawyer, we're dropping the charges. Have a nice day.

      Lawyer (to dude): Okay, where do I send my bill?
      ----

      Seriously, what would that have accomplished? Not that he accomplished anything anyway. The point is, justice and due process of law are slow and inconvenient.

      No policy is likely to be changed as a result of this incident; law-abiding citizens are still going to be stopped in airports for carrying 'strange' books, scripts, magazines, etc. All this shows is that TSA agents can act in an arbitrary manner with repercussions.

      Yup. We knew that already.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      >>Mr. Sable's ignorance or willful abdication of his 5th amendment rights

      Are TSA agents technically law enforcement officers? Are they trained in due process, reasonable force, constitutional rights? What power do they actually wield? As a free citizen, I expect to be able to walk out of any room without physical altercation unless I'm under the custody of a police officer or other law enforcement agent.

      What would stop a person from standing up and walking out of one of these little TSA Q&A sessio

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by jd (1658)

        The TSA are, I believe, considered law enforcement. Mercenary law enforcers, the same way that King John hired mercenary law enforcers, the same way Blackwater/Xe were mercenary law enforcers, and - for that matter - how the Taliban is also largely made up of mercenary law enforcers.

        Hands up all those who think mercenaries make bad enforcers? No, stubs don't count. The rest of you, form a line. The guy with the axe will be round shortly.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by aber (141743)

        Those are good questions, and I really don't have the answers. From TSA's website (http://www.tsa.gov/who_we_are/what_is_tsa.shtm):

        "We are the Transportation Security Administration, formed immediately following the tragedies of Sept. 11. Our agency is a component of the Department of Homeland Security and is responsible for security of the nation's transportation systems.

        "With our state, local and regional partners, we oversee security for the highways, railroads, buses, mass transit systems, ports and th

    • by Dryth (544014) on Monday June 29, 2009 @02:38PM (#28518327)

      He was detained by the TSA, not the police.

      The worst the TSA will ever do to you is call the actual police. The second worst is attempt to confiscate your belongings. The third - and the one most innocent travelers are most wary of - is they'll prevent you from boarding your flight.

      For people falling into that third scenario you aren't arguing just against being detained. You don't want to wait for a lawyer, and you don't want to escalate the issue to them calling the police over. You're trying to get through TSA screening as quickly as possible so you can make your flight.

      I've flown on average once a month for the past six years, and have been detained in a back room half a dozen times myself. The first time it happened I treated it like a police encounter ("No sir, I'm not aware," "am I being detained, or am I free to go?" "I don't have anything to say without my lawyer present."). I ended up missing my flight, missing a job interview, wasting a few hours in a security checkpoint waiting room, and getting nothing back in return - even with my lawyer's involvement.

      Since then I've just played nice. I'm more interested in getting to my destination than being a martyr. It's one of those "You'd be right, but you'd still lose" scenarios.

  • There was a recent news item (can't recall if it was /. or FreeRepublic) noting that one of Ron Paul's people was detained by TSA for carrying $4700 cash (sales of T-shirts, stickers, etc. from a convention) and managed to record the whole incident. Sounds like Comic Book Guy needs to contact him and work on filing a joint suit.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by FiloEleven (602040)

      That guy's name is Steve Bierfeldt, and he is suing TSA with the help of the ACLU. A synopsis from CNN (posted by Steve himself) can be found here [campaignforliberty.com].

      Steve is in a much better position because he has the recording of the incident. This guy probably won't be able to get very far, if indeed this is more than a publicity stunt.

  • by painehope (580569) on Monday June 29, 2009 @12:22PM (#28516217)

    So far, the larger part of the comments here have dealt with the fact that this might be a scam.

    IMHO, it's probably not. If you've heard some of the stupid shit from cops and other government bureaus that I have, this is right up their alley. Remember - these guys by and large aren't really trying to do the job they say they're out to do. And they're nowhere near as competent and knowledgeable as they imagine they are. I've been told before that the fact that the devil chicks I have tattooed on my forearms have some meaning in these exact words : "Don't think we don't know what those horns mean! We're not stupid!". Uh, yes, you are. They're devil chicks. What, you expect them to be wearing garland wreaths on their heads? Get real. There is no hidden meaning behind that, and I know what most gang and prison-related tattoos in Texas mean.

    If you're a chickenhawk bureaucrat on a power trip, who are you likely to pick out as a target? A comic book artist? Or someone who does have actual ties to known and dangerous terrorist organizations? Let me repeat that, just in case you missed it : known and dangerous. Despite all the spoon-fed drivel that gets funnelled straight into your living room, courtesy of your brand-new digital TV, these guys are bureaucrats. They don't want to break a sweat, let alone get their asses shot off or some other form of retaliation. They're not heroes, except the extremely rare exception (think about it - you hear ten times as many stories about cops shooting unarmed civilians as you do an armed civilian shooting a cop...yet the cop is always painted as the "hero who died in the line of duty"; generally through their own stupidity, like not searching someone they just antagonized and arrested...now if the supposedly unbiased news puts those figures forth, what do you think the real numbers are?). They don't go out of their way or risk their lives to protect citizens. They don't do anything other than collect their check, do as little as possible, and then go home to fuck their middle-class fat-arsed wives and scream at their subnormal children. If they can skip out on doing their "duty" for a few hours by harassing some artist whom they had to have known has no affiliation or even a tenuous connection within an hour, you bet your bottom dollar they will be doing just that for as long as they can.

    And a cavity search? Oh, I'd love to see those fuckers try that one of me. You ain't getting my clothes off unless you've already arrested me and have me full restraints (which makes it pretty hard to get someone's clothes off without cutting them off). Because I can and will fight, and there's only so many people that can gang up on one man, and that is not enough to get my clothes off me without beating me unconscious, which is pretty hard to do. Oh, sure, I'll get some kind of charge slapped on me. But you know what - it's not resisting arrest or assault if there's nothing to arrest you for!

    You, as a society, have become sheep. And you have chosen wolves to protect you. Is it any wonder that the herd gets culled by their so-called guardians quite often? Here's Tom with the weather...

    • by greyhueofdoubt (1159527) on Monday June 29, 2009 @02:12PM (#28517921) Homepage Journal

      >>it's not resisting arrest or assault if there's nothing to arrest you for!

      Oh ho ho, Get back to us when you try that trick! Every level of our judicial system has upheld nearly every "unreasonable" search. To most of our judges, there is no such thing as 'unreasonable search'. If someone wants to search you, that's their reason right there.

      I don't like it, I don't agree with it, but I'd prefer a lawyer fight my legal battles for me rather than getting into a physical fight with taser-and-mace-armed thugs.

      If you've ever been tazed or maced, raise your hand. OK, now keep them up if you want to try it again.

      -b

    • by kneemoe (1042818) on Monday June 29, 2009 @02:44PM (#28518415)
      "But you know what - it's not resisting arrest or assault if there's nothing to arrest you for!"

      Actually (IANAL) - http://www.lawinfo.com/fuseaction/Client.lawarea/categoryid/144 [lawinfo.com]

      What do I do if I am arrested?

      If you are arrested, submit to the law enforcement officer. Do not resist, even if you are innocent. Your innocence does not make the arrest illegal as long as the officer has conformed to the requirements of a legal arrest. If you resist, even if you are innocent of the charges for which you are arrested, you could be charged with resisting arrest. If the officer does not conform to the requirements of a legal arrest, you should still allow yourself to be taken into custody without resistance. If this happens, you may be entitled to bring an action against the law enforcement officer for false arrest.

  • by BurningTyger (626316) on Monday June 29, 2009 @12:31PM (#28516363)
    Economist Steven Levitt also had an interesting story of how he almost got arrested because he bought a last min one-way flight, and that he carried research paper on terrorist activities:

    I almost got sent to Guantanamo
    By Steven D. Levitt
    http://freakonomics.blogs.nytimes.com/2005/07/14/i-almost-got-sent-to-guantanamo/
  • by i.r.id10t (595143) on Monday June 29, 2009 @12:50PM (#28516673)

    Keep in mind that these are the same folks that tried to take away a Congressional Medal of Honor 'cause its sharp and pointy...

  • by Skapare (16644) on Monday June 29, 2009 @12:52PM (#28516703) Homepage

    ... he had not started to write (and therefore would have been carrying around) his new comic story about a trio of bumbling TSA agents that are always screwing up everything.

  • ... when employees of the TSA are allowed to be so completely full of themselves and their imagined importance that abuses like this routinely happen. There's nothing more malicious and mean-spirited than the BOTTOM RUNG of an authoritarian regime (like the TSA): the people on that lowest rung act out that authoritarian schtick in the worst possible way with people who are, if not completely innocent, certainly not deserving of the abuse of power.

    What exactly will be the consequences of this abuse of power for the TSA employees involved? You already know the answer, don't you? NOTHING. No consequences at all... unless it becomes a huge public scandal and scapegoats must be habeas-corpused. That's a key tenet of a police state: the authorities and enforcers are not held to the same standards of behavior as those they are tasked to judge. We see the same thing in the corporate world as well in many cases.

    So yeah, this really is the early stages of a police state. What are we gonna DO about it? Hint: electing a smooth talker like Obama isn't doing something about it.

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