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Traveler with unusual wristwatch gets TSA's attention

November 25, 2012|By Hugo Martin
  • TSA officials thought this watch, worn by a man at Oakland International Airport, might have been an explosive device.
TSA officials thought this watch, worn by a man at Oakland International… (Transportation Security…)

This month, federal security officers stopped a traveler at the Oakland International Airport because of an unusual wristwatch he was wearing.

When word got out, critics of the Transportation Security Administration blasted the agency, calling the incident an example of the TSA overreacting.

In hopes of stifling the uproar, the TSA released a photo of the watch last week. This is no ordinary timepiece. It includes a toggle switch, wires and what look like tiny fuses attached to the wristband.

A TSA explosives detection team determined that the watch was not an explosive device. Still, the Alameda County Sheriff's Office, called by the TSA to investigate, arrested the watch's owner, Geoffrey McGann, a teacher and artist from Rancho Palos Verdes. He was jailed on suspicion of possessing components to make a destructive device, according to news reports.

The Alameda County district attorney’s office declined last week to file charges against McGann.

McGann’s attorney accused the TSA of being “hyper vigilant.”

The TSA responded on its blog last week, saying: “Terrorists take everyday items and attempt to manipulate them to make improvised explosive devices. Our officers are trained to look for anomalies such as this one.”

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Follow Hugo Martin on Twitter at @hugomartin

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