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The 1-31-07 Bill

January 31, 2008 - by Donny Shaw

The people who commemorated “”http://blog.makezine.com/archive/2008/01/remembering_13107.html">1-31-07" by making a series of politically themed LED sculptures and placing them all around Boston should be glad that S.735, the Terrorist Hoax Improvements Act of 2007, never made it to becoming a law. If it had, they probably would have been putting up their DIY Lite-brites with less peace of mind, knowing that they could be held liable for paying back the city for any expenses caused by an investigation or emergency police response that may have ensued. As last year’s Aqua Teen Hunger Force incident taught us, there’s no knowing how drastically Boston city officials may react to a series of electronic devices with a blinking image. It’s not like, in this post 11-31-07 world, all blinking LED sculptures are now definitively not IEDs.

The bill was introduced by the Boston area’s own Ted Kennedy (D) about a month after the Aqua Teen Hunger Force ads led to a bomb scare that all but shut down the city for a day. “It’s unconscionable in this post-9/11 world, for anyone to be perpetrating hoaxes that cause panic and drain already limited public safety resources,” Kennedy said in a statement upon introducing the bill. He made no allusion to the ATHF incident in Boston, but the bill’s provision to expand current hoax laws to include “hoaxes related to attacks on railways and mass-transportation facilities” is a pretty clear reference to the fact that several of the ATHF ads were placed under bridges and near subway stations.

Like most of the other pending bills that either got popularized or came about as direct responses to big news stories, this one seems to have fallen back for the time being onto Congress’s legislative B-list. The fact that the ATHF bomb scare played out in the media largely as a tale of bureaucratic incompetence didn’t help Kennedy’s cause with this bill either.

Pictured above is one of the ATHF “hoax devices” from last year; below is a commemorative devices depicting Peter Berdovsky, one of the two people arrested last year in connection with the incident.

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