Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Migratory Coconut + Homeland Security = Bomb Scare

Tropical fruit, or bomb component? Only Homeland Security can say for sure.

I have all the sympathy in the world for the security personnel at our public buildings. However, I suspect the Frederick County Sheriff's Deputy who provoked a courthouse evacuation after he detected a suspicious coconut during his "morning perimeter check" has attended entirely too many Homeland Security training seminars.

Is DHS circulating an advisory to law enforcement that warns about terrorist plots to disguise bombs inside coconuts? I should google "Husk-Borne Improvised Explosive Device" and find out. Maybe there really is something of the sort going around, and it's also quite possible that the Frederick County deputies are amped up about security due to the upcoming G-8 summit at Camp David. 

From today's Frederick News Post, Courthouse partially evacuated for coconut:

A coconut lying next to a column near the Frederick County courthouse caused police and fire personnel to evacuate the outside area and one inside office for about 20 minutes today.

A courthouse deputy on his morning perimeter check spotted the coconut about 7:55 a.m. It looked like it had been sliced down the center and put back together, according to a Frederick County Sheriff’s Office press release.

The Maryland State Fire Marshal’s bomb squad was called in to assist members of the sheriff’s office, the Frederick Police Department and the Frederick County Fire and Rescue Services in determining whether the tropical fruit was a danger to the public, the release stated.

Members of the bomb squad determined the coconut was not dangerous.

Deputy State Fire Marshal Matt Wrenn is handling the investigation.

First, let me get the Monty Python reference out of my system:

DEPUTY: Where'd you get the coconut?
SUSPECT: We found them.
DEPUTY: Found them? In [Maryland]? The coconut's tropical!
SUSPECT: What do you mean?
DEPUTY: Well, this is a temperate zone.
SUSPECT: The swallow may fly south with the sun or the house martin or the plumber may seek warmer climes in winter yet these are not strangers to our land.
DEPUTY: Are you suggesting coconuts migrate?

I still love that movie. Especially the scene where King Arthur gets harassed by peasants in an anarco-syndicalist commune.

Now, let's consider the reasoning process that must have taken place in Frederick this morning. Imagine that you're a Frederick County deputy assigned to the courthouse.You have been taught that improvised explosive devices can be disguised as innocent items, you're walking around scanning the courthouse square before the court opens for business, and you're on high alert for signs of al Qaeda activity.

Then, you spot A COCONUT lying on the ground. What's more, that 'coconut' is lying next to a building column which you, with your Homeland Security training, realize could be a structural element that is holding the courthouse up. And, therefore, that 'coconut' could be a fiendishly clever ruse by some terrorist or other, assuming there are any who would want to target a Maryland county courthouse.

The coconut could also be just a piece of trash that somebody dropped there overnight, but that possibility was evidently too mundane to waste time considering before calling the bomb squad.

Didn't the deputy wonder why any terrorist would disguise a bomb as something that doesn't fit into the surroundings? Since, that kind of defeats the purpose of disguising it in the first place. It's not like there are any palm trees in Maryland.

I give him enough credit to think he did wonder about that, but his common sense was trumped by his fear that he would be criticized for not overreacting to any conceivable threat, no matter how far-fetched, in this post-9/11 era. I'll bet he even considered that the coconut might have been part of a drill by his patrol supervisor, or by some other agency or the news media, to see whether he would respond to such an unlikely item.

Given the political realities, I think the deputy is not as dumb as he might appear. He just lives in the excessively risk-averse society that we have become, in which overreacting is always the safest thing to do.     


Anonymous said...

TSB: Coconut terrorism has been a growing threat since the White House invented it in 2010.

November 4, 2010 1:20 PM
Obama's Trip to India: Are Coconuts a Threat?

Fire Marshal Matt Wrenn said he immediately suspected this coconut came from the smoothie stand at the courthouse. These guys could both end up with HS jobs! Great Post! gwb

Anonymous said...

TSB: This guy was for Rick Perry ! See if you can read this w/o laughing or hurting yourself. gwb

Man Accidentally Shoots Himself Twice
POSTED: 1:49 pm CST February 25, 2012