Some of you only know the concept of diplomatic immunity from movies like Lethal Weapon 2, which have featured evil diplomats who use their immunity as a "Get Out of Jail Free" card after a hard day of killing, drug and firearm trafficking and attempting to blow up the toilets of senior policemen who have had enough of this shit.
In reality, this immunity is granted to keep diplomats from being harassed while they do their work in unfriendly nations. It makes sense, but as you can suspect, people abuse the living hell out of it, often to a hilarious and/or terrifying degree ...
#6. The Case of the Pipe-Smoking Terrorist
In 2010, Mohammed al-Madadi, an envoy from Qatar, was flying from Washington, D.C., to Denver, when he suddenly found himself craving a smoke. From here on out, we want you to imagine what would have happened had, say, you done this.
Al-Madadi retired into the bathroom, turned off the smoke alarm, took out a pipe (because if you're about to break the rules, you might as well go all out) and puffed away until a flight attendant smelled smoke and got suspicious. The flight attendant confronted al-Madadi, who emerged from the smoke-scented bathroom still holding his lighter, and asked what exactly the passenger was doing in there.
"It's OK! This is additive-free tobacco!"
Al-Madadi, possibly offended that this puny non-diplomat insisted on talking to him, answered with a blank stare and responded that he had, in fact, been trying to light his shoes on fire. Unfazed, the flight attendant asked al-Madadi for his lighter, which he of course refused.
So, let's recap: A suspiciously behaving man exits a bathroom that omits a strange smoke, makes a direct reference to Richard Reid's post 9/11 shoe-bombing attempt and refuses to cooperate with the staff. On a plane.
While being an Arab.
From that point, things escalated like the world's strangest Benny Hill sketch. The plane's U.S. marshals were called over to calm al-Madadi down. They grabbed him, put him in his seat and, while keeping an eye on him, alerted the pilot of the situation. The pilot, in turn, kicked things up a notch by sending out a "potential terrorist" status report, which led to the usual motions for this kind of situation, including sending out fighter jets and actually alerting President Obama about a terrorist scenario. You know, usual diplomat stuff.
Al-Madadi's ass was detained the second the plane landed, which is when it was found that he was, no shit, on his way to meet with a terrorist who was implicated in 9/11.
"I'm going to break him out of jail. Joke! I'm actually going to murder him."
Now fresh with a bucketload of terrorist accusations and a pretty big-ass bill for getting those fighter jets up on his back, and likely facing some serious jail time, what did al-Madadi do?
If you said immediately invoked diplomatic immunity and waltzed away to Qatar scot-free, then congratulations! You have a good sense of what's coming in the rest of this article.
#5. Mexican Press Attache Steals White House Phones
The North American's Leadership Summit is an annual event between the U.S., Canada and Mexico that more or less serves as an excuse for the USA to pat its neighbors on the back and tell them that they totally matter, too. In other words, it is a peaceful event with the sole purpose of strengthening the bonds between the three nations ... which makes the stunt pulled by Mexican press attache Rafael Quintero Curiel at the 2008 summit an even bigger dick move.
At the meetings, it was the habit of the participants to leave their phones on a table in a high security room outside the conference rooms (because nothing turns a friendly meeting into full-scale fisticuffs like a constantly buzzing BlackBerry). So a number of White House staffers thought nothing of parting with their phones for the meeting -- that is, until said meeting ended and the phones were nowhere to be found.
"Harper, if our ass-to-mouth video makes it online I swear to God I'll burn Toronto down."
Since each and every now-phoneless person was a political pundit and therefore had a BlackBerry filled with numbers and messages from some really big names (and presumably also with the kind of dirt that would make J. Edgar Hoover raise an eyebrow), a full-on freakout ensued.
Then someone thought to check the security cameras, which showed crystal clear footage of Curiel entering the high security room, filling his bag with sweet, sweet American phones and waltzing away without a worry in the world. "Holy shit, they just give out piles of free phones at these meetings! I AM THE PHONE KING!"
"Hello? Yes, I would like a new ringtone every week. People are being so nice today!"
The Secret Service sent teams of agents rushing to the airport, where the Mexican delegation was by then waiting for their flight back home. In true Hollywood fashion, the agents got to the airport in the nick of time, stopped the plane and confronted Curiel ...
... who gave them a little smile and said he had no idea what they were talking about.
Let that sink in for a moment. The man had blatantly stolen half a dozen phones from high ranking American officials on camera and his goddamn plane was stopped by the Secret Service. And he proceeds to give them a "Problem, officer?"
"It's my taillight, isn't it?"
Of course, his tone somewhat changed when the agents actually showed him the security camera footage. Not for the better, mind you: He now maintained that the whole thing was accidental and he had just found the phones, thought they were lost and was going to give them to the driver of his car to bring back to management at the meeting place.
The agents considered pointing out that this really didn't explain why he denied taking them in the first place, or why he took them at all, or why he was taking them to freaking Mexico, but Curiel had already proceeded to the next stage of his plan: waving his diplomatic passport in front of them like the "Get Out of Jail Free" card that it is. In the end, the agents did get the phones back, but the diplomatically immune Curiel was free to fly home.
But not without his complimentary hotel toilet seat lid and 42" LCD TV.
And while the Mexican government did eventually fire his ass and subject him to a legal slap on the wrist of some kind, the fact remains that a man who got an inch away from stealing a whole lot of phones full of extremely confidential information from the freaking U.S. government went about his merry way, presumably flipping the Secret Service the bird as he went.
#4. Kidnapping a Man by Stuffing Him in a Diplomatic Bag
A diplomatic bag is, by law, any old item that is identified as such and capable of holding stuff, be it a bag, box, satchel or the crusty sock from under the diplomat's bed. The idea behind the concept is as simple as it is prone for misuse: Anything and everything inside a diplomatic bag is untouchable by law enforcement. Basically, we're talking diplomatic immunity for inanimate objects.
And while most countries use their bags for boring stuff like classified files, some countries have noticed their potential and gotten creative. You can basically commit any crime you want, as long as said crime can be crammed inside a container designated as a diplomatic bag.
Well, in 1984 Nigeria took issue with a former minister of theirs, Umaro Dikko, who had moved to England. Dikko was a bit of a troublemaker, speaking out against the current government and criticizing them at every turn. Not being content with pissing off just one country, he was also in the habit of lashing out at Israel.
So, Nigeria and Israel decided to team up to bring Dikko back to Nigeria and shut him up.
Some people have been giving far too much sass recently.
Operation "Let's kidnap the shit out of this guy" was a great success, with Dikko yanked off the streets of London, drugged and taken to the airport by the joint Nigerian-Israeli squad. But how to get him in the plane?
Ha, easy! They would place Dikko in a wooden crate, tag it as a diplomatic bag and haul him off to Nigeria. No one can do anything even if the guy wakes up and starts banging the lid, because diplomagic. Mission accomplished!
"No, no, I understand. Releasing me would just cause unnecessary paperwork. A few airhol -- no? That's fine."
Only someone had forgotten to fill out the proper paperwork for diplomatic baggage. So when Dikko did come to and the crate started moving around, the officials decided to take a peek.
Customs got Dikko out, and the kidnappers were arrested for almost managing to pull off a Batman villain scheme.