Yesterday I pointed out that there was lots of stupidity all around in connection with the fake bomb threat in Philadelphia, but as several readers have just pointed out to me, it turns out I probably underestimated the stupidity level.
Neither of the two theories being reported yesterday—that the call was a "birthday prank" on the passenger involved, or that the passenger reported himself—turned out to be true. Instead, the Philadelphia Enquirer is reporting, the call was allegedly placed by a 26-year-old Philadelphia man who was upset about a "compromising" photo the passenger had posted on Facebook depicting himself and the caller's girlfriend. (She was the passenger's ex-girlfriend, which is presumably where he got the compromising photo.)
According to the report, the caller, who I'll refer to as "Kenny Smith" because that's his name, called authorities from a pay phone at about 7:20 a.m. the morning of the flight to make the threat. Smith was at least clever enough to avoid using his real name, although I can't say that his alias choice, "George Michaels," is especially convincing. Smith-posing-as-George-Michaels told police that the passenger, who he specifically named, was carrying "liquid explosives," and this led as discussed yesterday to the return of the flight to Philadelphia for really no good reason at all.
Not surprisingly, at least to anyone other than Smith, the passenger seems to have instantly suspected "his ex-girlfriend and her boyfriend, Kenny" of being behind the hoax, and showed police what were described as "hostile" text messages between himself and the woman. (Amusingly, the report says that Kenny made the call "after discussing the plan with an unnamed person," and I'm going to take a flyer here and speculate that the "unnamed person" was George Michael the girlfriend.)
Kenny was later visited by ATF agents (at least the fourth federal agency to be involved in this nonsense) at his place of work, from which he was removed. He reportedly confessed to making the call. So far as I can tell, however, the "unnamed person" has not been charged to date.
Extreme anger over the posting of a photo like this ("It's the kind of photo that could incense a boyfriend," according to the defendant's lawyer) is understandable, but there are ways to deal with it that don't involve ATF agents and federal criminal charges. I mean, I can't think of any offhand, but I'm sure there are some.
The story does have a happy ending, of sorts. Although the call was not a "birthday prank," it was the passenger's birthday; and "[a]fter being released Thursday, his 29th birthday, [the passenger] flew on to Texas, where he was arrested on outstanding warrants."
As one reader said in an email, "It's almost like they knew he was coming."