Twitter Bomb Joker Arrested And Suspended

Peter Judge has been involved with tech B2B publishing in the UK for many years, working at Ziff-Davis, ZDNet, IDG and Reed. His main interests are networking security, mobility and cloud

A Doncaster man’s joke about blowing up a snow-bound airport led to arrest under the Terrorism Act and suspension from work

A man who joked he would blow up the Robin Hood Airport near Doncaster, has found himself arrested, questioned for seven hours, and suspended from work.

When Paul Chambers found that heavy snow had closed the airport, preventing him from flying to Ireland, he vented his frustration with a Twitter joke: “Robin Hood airport is closed. You’ve got a week and a bit to get your shit together, otherwise I’m blowing the airport sky high!!”

A week later, he was arrested under the Terrorism Act at his office, and then questioned at a police station for seven hours. After being released on bail, his iPhone, laptop and home computer were confiscated, and he was suspended from work. He has also been banned from Robin Hood Airport for life.

“I would never have thought, in a thousand years, that any of this would have happened because of a Twitter post,” Mr Chambers told the Independent

eWEEK Europe confirmed with Mr Chambers’ employer, a logistics company, that he would be “absent for serveral weeks,” but the company has so far declined to make any statement about the terms of his suspension, or whether he will be reinstated. 

Mr Chambers is the first person to be arrested for a terrer-related tweet, although others have been arrested for joke or hoax bomb threats by phone and in person. The arrest apparently happened after a friend tipped off the police, who arrived at his office on 13 January, with a print-out of the offending mesage.

He is now on bail until 11 February, when he will be told whether he will be charged or not.

Governments are wary of use of the Internet by terrorists, but are often accused of over-reacting and misinterpreting threats. Hacker Gary McKinnon is currently appealing over extradition to the United States over acusations that he illegally accessed NASA and military computers – an assessment that is an over-reaction, according to terror advisers.”Making jokes about terrorism is considered a thought crime, mistakenly seen as a real act of harm or intention to commit harm,” civil libertarian Tessa Mayes told the Independent. “The police’s actions seem laughable and suggest desperation in their efforts to combat terrorism, yet they have serious repercussions for all of us. In a democracy, our right to say what we please to each other should be non-negotiable, even on Twitter.”

Twitter users are predictably enjoying the publicity:  “You got one week to release Paul Chambers or I’ll blow up the police station!” tweeted andrewfenn, who may now be expecting a visit from the police. More remarks like that may appear today on #freethedumbass.