Now, I understand that boxes with wires sticking out of 'em, placed in unorthodox places might give someone pause. What I do not understand is that bomb squads, who got called out, did not recognize the devices for what they were -- LED signs. Besides, why would terrorists go through all the trouble to produce such damn fine PCB work for a one-off device?
Merriam-Webster defines "terror" as "violent or destructive acts (as bombing) committed by groups in order to intimidate a population or government into granting their demands". Maybe Al-Qaida's demands (come to think of it, what are their demands of the US?) haven't been granted, but the US surely is intimidated if this prank causes such a widespread panic.
These people aren't the first to be charged with "hoax terrorism" because of an art installation. Here's the story of Jason Sprinkle, who was charged because a bit of graffiti on his car contained the word "bomb" (in a way that anyone with half a brain would recognise as non-threatening).
Think about that for a moment.
This simply means that you are responsible for the interpretations of your actions by total strangers -- strangers who might not be interested in your message or your methods, but who simply see a box with some wires sticking out. And in a so-called "post 9-11 world", that means that you can be charged with terrorism if someone does not understand your actions or something you made. If you do something that is "suspicious" by anyones definition, you can be arrested and charged with terrorism.
And because the US has all but suspended habeas corpus, you can be sent to Guantanamo Bay to be held indefinately, or even shipped to Syria to be tortured, without anyone knowing where you are.
All because some people mistook some blinken LEDs for a bomb.
For a society that prides itself on its freedom, and for the endless possibilities it offers for individual choice, the US is certainly getting a lot of fascist tendencies.