5 Catastrophes Caused By Idiots Trying To Prevent Them
At some point, we as a society decided that it was far better to overreact to security threats than risk being wrong even once. At one time we thought it was all about striking a balance between freedom and security, but we apparently decided that between terror attacks, school shootings, and street crime, we'd better just bury the needle on the security side. That's how you wind up with stories like these.
A SWAT Team Invades A Home Over Internet Comments, And It Wasn't Even The Right Home
In 2014, an Evansville, Indiana, SWAT team smashed in the window of a house, tossed in two flashbang grenades, and handcuffed a mother and a daughter they found inside. Here's footage of the operation:
"Mount up the laser sights. There could be a music pirate in there."
So, were these dangerous terrorists? Hardcore criminals, perhaps? Ha, no! They were Internet trolls. Or that's what the SWAT guys thought -- actually, they had just messed up tracking an IP address. The woman and girl who got an unhealthy dose of flashbangs and armed-to-the-teeth law enforcement officers were completely innocent.
"Uh ... eat your vegetables. All right boys, roll out. We're done here."
This rather extreme reaction was because of some pretty serious threats made against the Evansville police on Topix.com. The police had issued a subpoena for the IP addresses associated with the three users hurling online threats at them, and found out they all had the same IP address. They then demanded the information associated with that IP address from Time Warner.
Both Time Warner and Topix told the police that multiple people were likely using the IP address, and the information could easily lead them to the wrong house. But, seeing as the cops were dealing with random Internet people lobbing smiley-laced threats online, there was no time for further investigations. It was go time! So, upon arriving at what they assumed was the scene of the crime, they checked for an open WiFi connection and charged right at the one they found ... and ended up scaring the shit out of two innocent women whose only crime was leaving their Internet connection unprotected.
They both learned a valuable lesson that day, specifically about how their tax money is spent.
The person they actually wanted was three houses down, likely laughing his ass off right up until the FBI got fed up with the local cops' antics, strolled up, and arrested the guy. This time, no SWAT force was used, presumably because they were arresting some dipshit Internet troll and not storming the heavily armed cocaine headquarters from RoboCop.
A Pink Hello Kitty Toy Triggers Terrorism Accusations
When you think of a terrorist, you probably think of a fundamentalist group like ISIS, or maybe a lone, crazy-ass bomb-maker in some backwoods barn.
What's that? You're picturing a 5-year-old girl with a pink plastic toy? That ... that works too, we guess.
Wait, no, it totally doesn't.
"Now I am become Death, the destroyer of wor- hey, look, a kitty!"
So here's a thing that happened. A 5-year-old student of Mount Carmel Area Elementary School in Pennsylvania was waiting for the bus after school and doing what kids do, which is impressing peers with their best toys. This kid's cool toy was a Hello Kitty gun that shoots bubbles, a piece of playmaking you'll recognize as having precisely one function, which she proceeded to describe to her friends: "I'll shoot you, you shoot me, and we'll all play together."
The next day, she was taken into the principal's office, where the school accused her of making "terroristic" threats. Common sense would indicate that a 5-year-old can hardly be expected to stop pissing the bed long enough to remember what they said yesterday, let alone comprehend what being a terrorist means. This did not stop the school from suspending the kid for 10 days and sending her in for mandatory psychological evaluation. Wait, a terrorist threat gets you just 10 days of suspension there? What would they have done if she'd actually bombed something, lowered her grades?
"Four Cs for C-4."
Of course, the whole thing was just a shitstorm in the making. The family got involved, lawyers got involved, the media got involved, and by the time the girl's psychological evaluation came back saying the medical equivalent of, "Come on, guys, she's 5," the charges were dropped and the kid was reinstated with profuse apologies from the school.
Ha, no! Her statement was just redefined as "threat to harm others," and her sentence was reduced from 10 days' suspension to two days. Justice!
The TSA Hates Breast Milk
Remember right after 9/11, when security at airports understandably went just a tiny bit insane? They implemented new measures left and right, despite the fact that a significant portion of them couldn't catch a goddamn butterfly. A particularly SNL-skit-worthy aspect of airport security take-your-shoes-offery would be the multiple instances of mothers being forced to drink their own breast milk.
Back before breast milk was classified as a medical liquid, it all stemmed from the whole "no liquids on the plane" rule. Apparently, whoever came up with it never thought of babies, who tend to need pretty careful in-air nurture, lest the captain crash the plane in a desperate effort to stop the constant, fingernails-on-chalkboard crying. But what many babies eat during the flight comes from boobs and goes into bottles. As such, absurd "what the hell is this liquid?" situations have taken place all over the airports of the good old U.S. of A.
"Actually, ma'am, putting your entire baby through the machine is standard policy,
as he is 60 percent water."
At the Austin Airport, shortly after the Twin Towers fell, an airport security employee told a woman that she would need to drink from her bottles of breast milk to prove they weren't ... uh, breast milk bombs? Anyway, she'd have to chug some mammary juice if she wanted to board the plane with them. The woman refused, and after some adjusting of mental gears, common sense won and she was allowed to board. No such luck in New York, though, where a woman was pulled out of line with her daughter to have her bags searched. The officers pulled out three bottles of milk and told her she would have to drink from each of them. She complied, which might seem like a cowardly move, but remember that she was facing security guards who were on edge thanks to the largest terrorist attack in the nation's history. We'd probably have drunk all three bottles while making wacky baby noises, if they insisted.
But that was just standard post-9/11 paranoia and overreaction immediately following the attacks, right? Well, maybe, but the TSA has routinely done horrible things to nursing mothers ever since. A woman in Hawaii was boarding a plane with her breast-pump kit, which included an ice pack and empty bottles. She was told the bottles would have to have milk in them, or she'd have to throw away the equipment (which, incidentally, is not at all official TSA policy). This forced her to go into the public restroom and use the pump, a situation she didn't exactly find amusing.
So, first they ban liquids, then they require them? Which is it, TSA?
Another woman was detained because she refused to send her full bottles through an X-ray, and not at all because she had already filed a complaint against TSA for similar antics in the past. Breast milk is supposed to get an alternate screening in an attempt to not expose it to radiation, because we're actively trying to prevent a future where X-Men is a reality, but she was told that the policy is not going to apply today. When she understandably refused to have her breast milk X-rayed, she was locked in a glass enclosure for all passersby to gawk at.
An Umbrella Triggers A Massive Manhunt
In March 2013, the city of Olympia, Washington, went into a frantic manhunt looking for a man walking around town with a rifle. The police got a call from a teenage girl, who gave them the tip about a gunman wearing a black ski mask, which prompted them to send three schools in the area into partial lockdown.
The authorities spent hours searching the area and sent helicopters out to find the man. A chopper found him first, but from such a distance they couldn't tell that what they were actually looking at was a man in a black turtleneck and hat, carrying an umbrella.
"It's the fucking Penguin! Take the shot!"
This poor guy went about his day wondering why a goddamn helicopter was circling him as he got on the bus and did his errands. At one point, he even got annoyed enough to motion at the chopper with the umbrella, which likely didn't help the misunderstanding.
The helicopter followed him all the way to his house, where police soon knocked on his door. What followed was presumably a world-class exercise in awkward talks, as Umbrella Guy and the cops all slowly realized what was going on. The Olympia police department skulked away to tell everyone that everything was cool, and their spokesperson began an adventure of her own as she attempted to write it all off as a misunderstanding that turned into a useful training exercise. Hey, what could be better practice than just tagging random pedestrians as potential mass murderers and treating them as such?
"Good evening. I'm just gonna come right out and say it: Batman villains are real."
A Transit System Closes Its Bathrooms Over Terrorism Concerns, So Shit Just Piles Up
Clearly, every aspect of American life changed just a little after 9/11. Everything from a flight home to see grandma to a routine bank loan required a few extra hassles, which we lived with in the name of safety. We probably would have been less likely to go along with them, however, if they had resulted in everything around us becoming clogged with human shit.
This is precisely what happened with the Bay Area Rapid Transit system, or BART, when they took a stance against terrorism by shutting down a bunch of their bathrooms for good.
They can't hate our freedoms if we take them away from ourselves.
In the aftermath of 9/11, BART decided to close down all toilets in their underground stations in downtown San Francisco, Oakland, and Berkeley. They insisted this was because it would be easy for terrorists to hide bombs in there and not because maintaining the toilets is precisely as much of a goddamn nightmare as you can probably guess it is (and saved them a bunch in maintenance costs). Well, you can imagine the result.
The kind of people who habitually poop in public toilets (and occasionally sinks) aren't going to stop pooping just because the toilets in nine stations went away. So, for example, in 2012 BART had to close down its escalators for repairs. When they opened them up in the toilet-less stations, they found so much poop jamming up the gears that they had to call a HAZMAT team to clean it up.
"Can I just transfer to Fukushima?"
See, the stations are a popular place for the homeless to stay during the night, and with no restrooms available, the escalators are an equally popular place for the homeless to relieve themselves and leave behind as little evidence as possible. As it turns out, escalators eat poop pretty much the same way they eat shoelaces.
We can't show you the other thing.
But, really, what better way to prevent terrorists from attacking a crucial facility than by just shutting it down completely? We're surprised no one else thought of this.
You can of course see the irony of this resulting in a HAZMAT shit cleanup -- in order to prevent the release of a hypothetical terrorist weapon of mass destruction, they created an actual biohazard. So, enjoy your commute, Bay Area! That smell under your feet is called "not letting the terrorists win."
Matt will write for literally any website for a half gallon of cheap whiskey, or you can just pay him. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
For more regrettable mistakes, check out 15 Simple Misunderstandings That Had Huge Consequences and 4 Medical Misunderstandings With Horrific Consequences.
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