Twitter terror? Man arrested for venting about canceled flight.
Briton Paul Chambers says he was only venting when he wrote on Twitter that he might blow an airport "sky-high." He's the first person arrested in Britain for a tweet, and he's banned for life from his local airport.
Since Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab's alleged attempted bombing of a flight from Amsterdam to Detroit, full-body scanners have been introduced at many airports worldwide, but the increasingly paranoid world of terror prevention appears to be spreading its tentacles right into homes and workplaces, via the Internet.Skip to next paragraph
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Paul Chambers of Doncaster, England, now knows this all too well. He was arrested for making an off-color joke on the popular social networking website Twitter amid frustration with flight cancellations at his local airport caused by icy conditions.
Mr. Chambers says he posted the message, which reads in part: "Robin Hood airport is closed. You've got a week and a bit to [fix the problem], otherwise I'm blowing the airport sky-high!!" He had planned to fly to Ireland to visit a friend.
Now, he's facing terrorism charges and the possible loss of his job. Chambers has also been banned for life from Robin Hood airport. A spokesperson said the airport supported the police's actions.
In this first instance of an arrest in Britain for making comments on Twitter, Chambers's remarks appear to have been brought to police attention by a third party: he was arrested on Jan. 13, a full seven days after posting the comment.
The arrest came as a shock to Chambers, who has since been suspended from his job as a finance supervisor.
"All together, five officers were there. One said [we're] arresting you under the Terrorism Act because of a tweet you sent, and he showed me a copy of my tweet. I didn't realize the gravity of the situation. I was stuck in a cell, processed, fingerprint[ed]," he said in an interview, after he was released on bail.
Chambers was arrested at his workplace and held in a police vehicle while officers searched his car for explosives. He was then taken to a police station in the town of Doncaster and questioned by detectives from the criminal investigation department. He was released on bail late on Jan. 13 pending further investigation.
The arrest was under aegis of the Terrorism Act (2006), Britain's controversial version of the Patriot Act. The Terrorism Act gives police sweeping powers of arrest and the right to detain suspects up to 28 days without charge. The Act politically damaged former British Prime Minister Tony Blair when members of his Labor Party rebelled against initial plans to allow authorities to hold suspects for up to 90 days.