"The best thing that could happen to the U.P. would be for someone to bomb the bridge". -John Voelker, former Michigan Supreme Court Justice and the author of Anatomy of a Murder and Yooper resident
I have been a bit disturbed about news reports I have come across this morning that report that some men have been arrested on suspicion of bombing the Mackinac Bridge. But I am less concerned that someone might try to blow up the bridge than I am that law enforcement might be arresting people too quickly.
I am sure that blowing up the Mackinac Bridge would be spectacular and all but it wouldn’t really cause any significant economic disruption or at least not enough to make it a worth while target for terrorists. It wouldn’t be anything close to the disruption that would happen if the Ambassador Bridge were blown up for instance. So, this story just seems wrong from the get-go. I mean ok, there are some Yoopers around who probably would like to see the bridge gone (see above quote) and if it were one of them, I could see arresting them but these guys were no Yoopers.
Then, the evidence that these folks might be plotting something nefarious appears to be three-fold but rather flimsy.
- They are Arabs. – Ok, I know a lot of people excuse this because the people behind the 9/11 bombings were Arabs but saying that being Arab or of Arab decent is a reason to be suspicious of someone for terrorism is the same as saying that the Oklahoma City bombing is a reason to be suspicious of white people.
- They have photographs of the Mackinac Bridge – Yeah because NO ONE *ever* takes photographs of the Mackinac Bridge (**rolls eyes**). The Mackinac Bridge is probably one of the most photogenic bridges in the world. It is beautiful. It is breathtaking. It makes you wonder what the big deal is about little itty bitty bridges that are more famous. I mean come on!
- They bought a lot of cell phones. – Now it is true that cell phones are used sometimes to detonate bombs. But cell phones BY THEMSELVES will not blow up any bridges. It seems to me that these guys’ story about buying the phones at a cheap price with the intention of selling them later at a higher price seems kind of plausible to me.
Ok, I think that buying eighty phones is unusual and probably is reason to watch these guys for a while. If I were a judge I might authorize a wire tap or something similar. But arresting these guys is a little bit much. Unless they can find some other evidence, then these guys have committed no crime. It isn’t a crime to have pictures of the Mackinac Bridge. It isn’t a crime to buy 80 cell phones. It isn’t a crime to be an Arab-American. Just like it isn’t a crime to be a white person in a Ryder truck.