Monday, February 4, 2008

More on the Liquid Rules: Why We Do the Things We Do (Commenting Disabled)

Last week, there was a post on the ars technica blog by Jon Stokes, Senior Editor and Co-Founder, posing some questions on TSA’s liquids rules similar to other questions we’ve gotten on the blog so far. Kip Hawley wrote the following response, and we wanted to post it here for TSA blog readers to see as well.


Jon,

Thanks for the question on liquids. We have lots of material on our site (tsa.gov) going into the liquids issue so that is available for background, including the video of it blowing up. I'll try here to break the question down into the sub-questions I hear most. I enjoy ars technica, especially that it is thoughtful and issue-oriented and I appreciate having the opportunity to address your question.

Was this a real threat? Yes, there was a very serious plot to blow up planes using liquid explosives in bombs that would have worked to bring down aircraft.

Why don't you just ban all liquids? Because our National Labs and international allies demonstrated to my satisfaction that there is, in fact, a scientific basis for allowing small amounts of liquids on as carry-on. We try to prohibit the minimum possible from a security standpoint. Also, the consequence of banning all liquids is a large increase in the number of checked bags, which creates its own issues.

Why can't multiple people bring on explosives in three-ounce containers and mix them post security? The tough one! Tough because there are parts of the reason that are truly classified but here goes... (read them all before throwing up your hands!)

  1. We are involved in risk management. The question to me is: "What do you have to do to make a successful attack so complex that an intelligent enemy would recognize that the odds of success are too low?"
  2. Because there are limits to our ability to detect every thing every time at the checkpoint, we use layers of security. For example, I and senior leaders at TSA work every day with the intelligence and law enforcement communities world-wide to get insights in how to make our security better -- frequently adding specific training and sometimes, respecting our obligations to the intell and law enforcement communities (like our remote control toys advisory), communicating directly to the public. Also, we reduce risk by a) adding behavior detection capability, K-9 teams, surge teams and document checking out front; and b) by undercover presence throughout the area behind the checkpoint, as well as better screening of the supply chain of items in the sterile area after the checkpoint.
  3. We reduce risk by deciding what we believe is necessary for a completed bomb -- the core of the 100ml (3.4 ounce) limit. Extensive testing began the morning of August 10, 2006 -- the day the liquids plot was made public -- to determine if there is a level at which any liquid brought onboard a plane represents little risk. These were tests by multiple government agencies, National Laboratories and other nations and they assisted in the 3-1-1 formulation. We announced 3-1-1 on September 26, 2006 and that allowed travelers to go on overnight trips without having to check a bag. That is the trade-off: if 3-1-1 is too complicated, you can always just check your bag.
  4. The preparation of these bombs is very much more complex than tossing together several bottles-worth of formula and lighting it up. In fact, in recent tests, a National Lab was asked to formulate a test mixture and it took several tries using the best equipment and best scientists for it to even ignite. That was with a bomb prepared in advance in a lab setting. A less skilled person attempting to put it together inside a secure area or a plane is not a good bet. You have to have significant uninterrupted time with space and other requirements that are not easily available in a secured area of an airport. It adds complexity to their preferred model and reduces our risk, having the expert make the bomb and give it to someone else to carry aboard. They are well aware of the Richard Reid factor where he could not even ignite a completed bomb. Simple is truly better for them. Also, bomb-makers are easier for us to identify than so-called clean 'mules.'
  5. The container itself adds complexity. A 100ml container limits the effect of, and even the ability of, a detonation. It also forces a more precise mix, and a lot more boost -- which makes it easier to detect from that side. Even creative ways to smuggle liquids in are less effective because, eventually, they still have to mix it right and get it into the right container, etc. There are also issues with what kind of container you use, but let's leave them to puzzle that out further...
  6. The baggie gives us two benefits: A) It serves as a visually identifiable, easy way to limit quantity. Even if they wanted to bring multiple bottles to mix, we limit the quantity of their total liquids as well (bottles "hidden" in the carry-on bag stick out). B) The baggie serves to concentrate the vapor - substances used to create liquid explosives are very volatile and emit fumes even through sealed bottles. (We have tested.) We have liquid explosives detectors that take advantage of the vapor concentration factor in the baggie. This way, we do not have to examine what's inside every bottle, regardless of what the label says.
  7. The effect of pulling out liquids and aggregating them separately allows our security officers to have a clear look at the liquids -- and, perhaps just as important, it de-clutters the carry-on bag so that we have a clearer view of that as well.
  8. With our medical exceptions, they have to talk to one of our Security Officers who can use a variety of methods to tell whether it presents a problem including test strips, and hand-held detectors that are highly effective, even with closed and sealed bottles. With the larger bottles, the other features needed to make it viable would be very apparent.

A few other points, this policy has been adopted in more than 80 countries worldwide and means that there are common rules almost everywhere you fly. The choice is a total ban or this, and we are working very hard at a technology solution that should make this better all around. Think early 2009 for that.

The challenge is to reduce risk on the things we know about (shoe bombs, liquids) while having enough other measures in place to disrupt what we don't know is coming. Any time we fixate on one thing, you have to be concerned about opening up something elsewhere. Balance, flexibility, and unpredictability are key. So is going on offense by being connected to intelligence / law enforcement and being proactive with our surge patrols, undercover activities, etc. AND getting TSA and passengers back on the same side! That last one is what we're trying to do at our checkpoint with our TSOs and online with our blog.

Whatever you think about our policies -- please recognize our Security Officers who train and test every day and will do whatever it takes to make you and your families safe when you fly. They are the best in the world and are on your side; please give them a little recognition when you see them. Thanks for the opportunity to comment,

Kip

207 comments:

1 – 200 of 207   Newer›   Newest»
Anonymous said...

How much longer until this paranoia goes down to the point where I can travel with ease again?

Anonymous said...

Read point number 4. Now read it again. Any questions? Thank you.

Al said...

Coming from an agency that does not even deploy technology that would enable it to detect plastic explosives (or a stick of dynamite) carried in someone's pockets or pants, worrying about the liquid threat is idiotic.

TSA should focus on finding all the test bombs it is currently letting through before worrying about liquids.

Also, how does this add a layer of security if the limitations are so easily circumvented by one person taking multiple trips through security or multiple persons aggregating materials past security?

Anonymous said...

But that doesn't answer the question! Your answer seems to be, "Parceling it out into 3.4-oz containers forces the terrorists to have to measure carefully."

There are no liquid explosives that can be manufactured on the flight. If the bad guys are bringing pre-mixed, they can still collude and combine their bottles onboard (Kip dodges this one).

It doesn't answer why liquids have been singled out (when there's hundreds of times more powder and solid explosives).

It doesn't answer why liquids are confiscated under the presumption they're dangerous, then dumped in a big old bin next to the queues, with no testing or assaying.

I've never seen anyone weasel out of a question like that before. He takes eight bullet points to say things that are completely oblique to the question.

Ayn R. Key said...

Was this a real threat? Yes, there was a very serious plot to blow up planes using liquid explosives in bombs that would have worked to bring down aircraft.

Unfortunately for your story, many prominent chemists world wide have already debunked it. It is a hollywood version of events - a serious plot in an action movie. Your whole heightened security rests upon it being possible to construct such an explosive under carefully controlled conditions but not on an airplane.

That is the reason why some of your reasons are classified. You don't want the public to see that a ventilation hood is required, that bunsen burners are required, that liquid cooling agents such as N2 are required, et cetera.

Do you ever worry that your credibility is declining so much?

100KFlyer said...

Well, color me confused. Is the liquid ban about carrying on board ready-made explosives (in which case even 9-12 ounces of premade nitroglycerine would pose a serious threat) or the Hollywood-style "binary explosives" which you apparently admit yourself cannot be reasonably assembled in an airport or an airplane????

Anonymous said...

Hi - thanks for putting up this blog. It's great to get some dialogue going.

I have a question. You say there was a real threat to blow up planes using liquid explosive. I don't doubt there was a threat, but then I don't doubt that there might be a threat to blow up planes with plastic, solid or any other type of explosive. Nor do I doubt that there might be a threat to hypnotise cabin staff into killing the pilot, or any one of a thousand ways of bringing down a passenger plane. The question, which you do mention in passing, is whether this threat is believable? What, for example, do you say about the various testimonies from those that apparently know, that mixing binary explosives on board an aircraft is practically impossible? This link for example.

Anonymous said...

How many people do you think actually believe this?

Anonymous said...

How can the UK "plot" be considered a "very serious" one when the would-be conspirators had not procured tickets, passports (in some cases), and DID NOT HAVE A WORKABLE BINARY LIQUID EXPLOSIVE? The ban on liquids is precisely as sensible and necessary as is a ban on manticores or cyclopses; we know it, you know it, and it is a large part of why Americans do not take TSA at all seriously, and view airport screening as an unfunny joke.

Anonymous said...

This is in response to your last paragraph.

"Train and test every day to ensure my safety?" Well your security officers have a funny way of showing it. It seems like you officers want to get us through with minimal work to them. Every time I go through a TSA check point, there are always officers that I wouldn't trust to keep me safe. And some of them are screening bags.

The screeners are usually socializing with someone else while they're screening bags which means that their attention is not focused on their job. Maybe that's why they constantly fail tests put out by the government?

If your people constantly fail when they are tested, then how can we be sure they won't fail when the threat is real?

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the information Kip. Tell your screeners to keep up the Good work. I fly alot and have a lot of respect for the TSA.

Anonymous said...

On point number 4, you admit that it would be nearly impossible for someone to mix liquids to create a bomb in an airport or airplane setting. Someone would need to sneak lab equipment past security, obtain plenty of private space, and find hours of uninterrupted time. Even with lab conditions and the best scientists, the bomb might not ignite.

So, ALL passengers have been harassed and hassled due to an overreaction by TSA to a Hollywood science-fiction scenario that is so extremely unlikely to happen as to be impossible to any thinking person.

When is TSA going to get some common sense, remove this liquids ban, and actually do something realistic to protect the flying public?

Chuck said...

I'm really confused by Secretary Hawley's attempt to justify the current limitations on liquids.

#4 in his explanation seems to be a perfect argument for why the TSA does NOT need limitations on liquids.

Apparently, Secretary Hawley believes that terrorists are smart enough to build an entire chemistry laboratory past the security checkpoint but too dumb or too lazy to add together multiple 100 ml containers of already-prepared explosives. It makes absolutely no sense.

Anonymous said...

So we are now up to two "official" responses, one from "the man" himself and one in video form from an "expert", and yet there is still no answer to any of the issues raised in the comments. You're talking but not saying anything!

In fact, the only thing you've managed to do is provide more credence to the inanity of it all. You admit that the most likely threat is a pre-manufactured explosive (and use that as a reason for the bag rule and small container size) but neglect the issue of throwing the contraband into a plastic bin right next to your employees and customers! If you are being honest and you really believe that the most likely scenario is a pre-made bomb, why don't you treat any confiscated material like it is a dangerous device?!

To be honest, if I was Jon I would be insulted that you actually think he's stupid enough to buy any of your answers. I mean how is this reply not more of the same old "Just trust us; we know things that you don't about chemical bombs" that Mr. Stokes called you on in his first post?

brendan_i said...

Thanks for partially addressing the concerns raised in the earlier liquids thread.

That said, I'm concerned about the statement that testing began as soon as the plot became public. CNN reports that the plotters had been under observation since December of the previous year, yet this statement makes it appear that homeland security / TSA did not begin to address the mechanics of the plot until the participants were already detained. Is that correct?

Zolodoco said...

Oh hey look: http://www.boingboing.net/2006/12/13/war-on-moisture-char.html

Here's another one. "Sources: August terror plot is a 'fiction' underscoring police failures." The URL is long, so look for Raw Story with that headline.

The simple truth is that there is a liquid restriction because of the so-called liquid bomber plot. It's proven a fabrication designed to build public support behind fear-mongers during the '06 election cycle in the U.S.

Why then do we still have the restriction? If you want, a team of creative individuals can come up with a dozen more improbable scenarios that represent a grave threat and we'll all be boarding planes naked. Whoever tells the TSA what to do wants to keep reminding us that we're supposed to be afraid. You know, that terror alert orange I keep hearing in my local Omaha airport. Sure, whatever guys. Life is terror alert orange, is that it? Stay afraid.

Anonymous said...

What about the threat of dihydrogen monoxide? I read on respected citizen blog Little Green Footballs that dihydrogen monoxide is possibly the most dangerous asset in the terrorists toolbox. I think it should be banned. God bless America.

Norgg said...

I was going to ask some questions, but they've been asked already, as well as several I hadn't thought of.

Just going to add my voice to those asking for a real explanation with fewer contradictions.

Dave X said...

So is the limit 3 oz, 3.4 oz, 100ml, or 88ml?

And why should we believe some answer posted on the web? The screeners don't.

Anonymous said...

It is amazing to me that Pre-9/ll this manner of comments are still being made. This type of attitude is the very reason the government did nothing to thwart the threat because the public would be angry because of the "inconvenience" it would have caused them. Finally, the government does something preemptive to stop a serious threat and the public groans and complains. I guess America only wants more blood shed before they'll be willing to put up with minor inconveniences when they fly.

Lord knows even if putting together a binary explosive is unlikely on an aircraft I am willing to check my toothpaste and shampoo just to elimilate the possibility.

If the government had released the information that they knew about 9/11 before the event took place, there is no doubt the the public would scoff just as you all are doing. We live and learn.

Anonymous said...

If "a 100ml container limits the effect of, and even the ability of, a detonation," why hasn't the TSA concerned itself with empty containers? Your logic and approach to this supposed threat are full of inconsistencies.

Anonymous said...

So TSA yet again admits that the original "threats" of explosive assembled in the sterile area or on a flight are not real. Fine. That leaves us with pre-assembled liquid explosives.

But TSA has yet to address or even acknowledge the next logical issues:

Conventional liquid explosives such as nitroglycerin (used in the Philippene 434 bombing over a decade ago) are detected quite well by TSA’s existing ETD. Furthermore, nitroglycerin would need to be stabilized in a cotton-like solid to be stable enough to make it through an airport as was done on flight 434; yet soaked solids are not banned by TSA. So why does TSA need to ban liquids? Why not use your existing technology (ETD) to detect these compounds?

3) Liquid explosives are inherently unstable (see above). So by maintaining the ban on liquids, TSA is maintaining that a liquid explosive exists that is stable enough to carry through a checkpoint in a water bottle (so can’t be nitroglycerin) and can’t be detected by existing ETD or puffer. I’ve seen no evidence of such an explosive. Conventional liquid explosives are so unstable that the act of carrying them out of the parking lot into the airport would probably detonate them.

If such a miracle liquid explosive exists, then TSA should produce a video of a water-bottle sized container filled with liquid being moved as if through x-ray and a terminal and then detonated to produce a large explosion. Showing the video would not reveal the nature of the explosive or any secrets. Yet all TSA gives us is a vague video of a test explosion with no demonstration of the container or its transport.

As for respecting TSA's screeners, how about them respecting passengers. When TSOs quit giving retaliatory secondaries for asking questions or standing up for yourself, stop confiscating/stealing permitted items, stop the new policy of harassing some passengers with perfectly valid government-issued IDs (due to address-change stickers, how some states handle license renewal, and just plain paranoia and spite), and are held accountable for their screwups, then I'll consider giving them some more respect.

Chance said...

Hi, Chance from the Evolution blog team here.

If I understand many of your comments correctly, many of you are concerned that answer #4 contradicts the policy, but from my reading this isn't the case. We're saying that

A:Terrorist prefer simpler methods.
B:Liquid explosives generally aren't simple to begin with.
C:The 3-1-1 policy makes this tactic even more complex, therefore making this method even less attractive to the terrorists.

If I've mischaracterized our thinking, I'll post a correction, but this is how I read the policy.

Besides the German plot, (which many of you point out was pretty early in its conception phases) there have been other incidents of concern to us here at TSA:

* An individual was killed in July 2006 in a Texas City, Texas apartment complex when a small amount of TATP he manufactured exploded in his lap. (Houston Chronicle)
* An Oklahoma State
University engineering student
was killed in October 2005
when an improvised explosive
device he constructed detonated
outside a football stadium.
Examination of his residence
revealed extensive TATP
production. (Oklahoma Channel 5 News)
* Millennium bombing plotter, Ahmed Ressam had HMTD and RDX in a vial in the trunk of his car. (Time Magazine)

Anonymous said...

What I don't understand is that you want me to pay more for a ticket so that you can harass me and assume that I'm guilty without reason for my "safety". 1) I don't feel safe if everyone is getting the third degree. I feel like I'm visiting a prison. 2) I haven't done anything wrong nor did I get a say in the matter.

Not to mention because of all the extra waiting, lines, etc. flying isn't even worth it time and money wise unless your destination is almost 10 hours away and even then it's questionable.

I stopped flying about two years ago because it's ridiculous. FYI, it's never a good idea to treat your customers like criminals.

Al said...

Hi Chance--

Thanks for you posting, but the examples you gave seem to illustrate that the types of liquid explosives the TSA is worried about are so unstable that the bombmaker would be likely to blow himself up before harming anyone else.

According to results periodically released to the media, the TSA has a shameful record at catching test bombs that would be more likely to be containing traditional, more stable explosives. Why not focus on passing some of those tests before worrying about the so-called liquids explosives threat.

Speaking of the TSA's shameful record, what happened to the "Gripes and Grins" section of this blog?

Anonymous said...

chance: You said "C:The 3-1-1 policy makes this tactic even more complex, therefore making this method even less attractive to the terrorists."
But had you actually understood the comments so far, you'd realize that NO IT DOES NOT. There is nothing "complex" about pouring the prepared contents of one container into another larger container or possibly wearing the liquids on their bodies that don't go through any scanners or detection process.

There is no "safe side" to this. The liquids ban doesn't stop anyone really dedicated to blowing up a plane. It is instead, arbitrary security theater, designed to make some people think that they're safer, without actually doing a damn thing.
Banning liquids in airplanes is so hypocritically arbitrary when anyone at any time can walk into any office building with a bomb and blow the place up. Again, banning liquids doesn't make anyone safer. A person who wants to kill you still can and still will. Even on an airplane.

And please stop spouting this TATP garbage. TATP in its explosive form is a white crystalline powder, something that the TSA does NOT ban. And when wet it loses most of its sensitivity. Evaporating off the liquid from a TATP solution, especially enough solution to actually bring down a plane, is something that cannot be done without a lot of time and preparation and privacy. Something that is therefore impossible for the same reasons that TATP production past security is impossible.

Some PhD at DHS said...

Pssst...Chance:

TATP isn't a liquid. It's a powder. It's made from liquids (liquids that have gone through a bunch of temperature-critical reactions, then been very slowly filtered and even more slowly dried).

But, hey, if you want to keep trotting out TATP as some kind of magic bugbear binary boom-boom, go right ahead. It just drops TSA's credibility further down the toilet.

Cathy Ward said...

I traveled through MDW and ORD BOTH and never had a problem with a bottle of water with which to mix my 11 month old's formula.
(Uh, yes, she was with me.)
When I got to JAX, they made me THROW OUT THE ROOM TEMP unopened Dasani water and buy FREEZING COLD $5.98 crap water from beyond the security checkpoint.
Two bottles - I didn't have a 50 gallon drum. Daughter was not happy, I was not happy.
Oh, and the kicker? The TSA agent said, "You can only carry it through if it's Nursery Water."
Uh, guys, "Nursery Water" is a brand name of bottled water sold to paranoid parents at jacked up prices.
Does the agent have stock in Nursery Water? If not, why must I buy a specific brand name?

Then the woman on the 800 complaint line said "You can only have three ounces."
Okay, so now I can have it, but only if it's 3 ounces.
Gee, if I had a 20-week old fetus I guess three ounces would be sufficient for a meal. But an 11-month old toddler drinks 8 ounce bottles.
Then I said, "You have an exemption for juice and milk for babies. Does not water, which makes formula, count as a "medical necessity?"
Then she said, "If you are claiming medical necessity, you need a doctor's note."
Really? A doctor's note for water?
If Juicy Juice is okay, does that mean there are doctors out there writing prescriptions for it?
So juice and milk are completely safe but water is dangerous?

Get your stories straight. Have one set of rules.

Very frustrating, and it's quite easy to understand why the TSA just beat out the IRS for the most-hated government agency.

Anonymous said...

Please answer this question: Did the would-be plotters in the UK plot Kip claims was "very serious" have a working binary liquid explosive?

WeeklyFlyer said...

I see my previous comment was never posted - probably because I linked to an ABC news article which highlighted a study showing that we are statistically not any safer having anybody check our luggage.

Never mind that for now. Chance - you came back with a rebuttal to our statements on the liquid ban by pointing to a number of people that blew themselves up trying to concoct the famous liquid bombs. This unfortunately proves our point that these liquids are so unstable to work with that they are completely impractical.

I would like to reiterate me unpublished comment that we are more likely to be killed by lightning than by a terrorist. The hassle of the TSA screening is not in proportion to the risk presented by the terrorists.

Anonymous said...

Well, I don't feel very safe when a bin right next to people is being filled with potential explosives taken from passengers. When these potential explosives are taken why aren't explosive experts called? Why isn't the area evacuated? Why aren't the potential bomb carrying passengers arrested or at least detained until the safety of the items can be determined?

More silliness than safety.

Chance said...

I apologize to you PhD at DHS and everyone else if my post sounded ignorant since TATP isn't a liquid but a powder. Ironically enough, while I was writing my post I was looking right at a report that said exactly that. However, my point is that our concerns towards explosives don't just come from one report, but multiple incidents both in the U.S. and abroad.

Chance said...

From Al,

Speaking of the TSA's shameful record, what happened to the "Gripes and Grins" section of this blog?

Al, that page was accidentlly pulled off, and I've been informed that it will be returning. However, there is a good possibility we'll seperate the "gripes" from the grins, at least at some point.

According to results periodically released to the media, the TSA has a shameful record at catching test bombs that would be more likely to be containing traditional, more stable explosives. Why not focus on passing some of those tests before worrying about the so-called liquids explosives threat.

I believe there is a little bit of a false premise there, that we can't be alert to both liquid and traditional explosive threats, and continue to improve our detection rates for the tradition threats you mention. I'm not in the training or technology fields, so I can't really give much detail there, but I do know that in my office it's not as if liquids are all we talk about everyday.

Chance - Evolution Blog Team member

Chance said...

From anonymous: But had you actually understood the comments so far, you'd realize that NO IT DOES NOT. There is nothing "complex" about pouring the prepared contents of one container into another larger container or possibly wearing the liquids on their bodies that don't go through any scanners or detection process.

It seems to me that it adds at least two additional steps to the process: filling the various containers (versus one large container), which increases the likelyhood of a mistake on the bomber's part earlier in the process, and 2. recombining them into a large enough bomb to detonate, which inceases the likelyhood of detection at the end of the process.

Anonymous said...

"* An Oklahoma State
University engineering student
was killed in October 2005
when an improvised explosive
device he constructed detonated
outside a football stadium.
Examination of his residence
revealed extensive TATP
production. (Oklahoma Channel 5 News)

"

And, do you see a government body outside stadiums making people take off thier shoes? Nope.

And the only reason those places ban bringing in food and beverage, is commerce, not safety. Perhaps that's the real reason here, sense as others have stated, there's certainly price fixing going on behind "The Iron Curtain".

As has been said numerous times here, you could kill more people by detonating a much more complex explosive in the crowd standing in your line. How does that help to give anything more than an illusion of "safety"?

Every single thing, such as guns and knives, that you gloat about finding on your website, could have been found by pre-9/11 security measures. And in fact you have not once, that I can find, found anything that could not and would not have been found by those pre-9/11 measures. If you have such a case, I, as an United States citizen, Demand disclosure. As a citizen, I do not have to ask for anything. And using this "SSI" garbage to override a Freedom of Information Act request is anti-american if not illegal.

Anonymous said...

It seems to me that it adds at least two additional steps to the process: filling the various containers (versus one large container), which increases the likelyhood of a mistake on the bomber's part earlier in the process, and 2. recombining them into a large enough bomb to detonate, which inceases the likelyhood of detection at the end of the process.

It seems to me that an international network that plotted for several months to hijack three planes utilizing a small number of people and minimal tools is not going to be deterred by having to purchase and use a funnel.

Terrorist acts are crimes of premeditation, not opportunity.

Anonymous said...

This again just shows that your agency does little more than provide an illusion of security at the cost of seemingly endless harassment. Is it any wonder that we, the flying public, are not "on the same side"?

My observation is this: Determination is a very interesting thing and this 3-1-1 rule is nothing more than an inconvenience. 100ml x up to 10 bottles is a liter of potential explosives or other flammable material. Someone who is determined would be more than happy to take the extra time to set that up, and only determined terrorists actually get on planes.

Of course, this ignores all of the other holes in the "A-OK to take on a plane" list... Like the fact that duty free flammable liquids are allowed on the plane and that any number MRE heaters allowed on board (youtube "MRE Bomb"). Even if these things aren't deadly or going to cause another 9/11 (an implausibility even if a terrorist with a weapon managed to get on board, given the environment today), they certainly are enough to cause a major scene for the creative terrorist and achieve the goals of terrorism.

Jay Maynard said...

The TSOs will get recognition from me when they realize they're not my master, but my servant; they have jobs because I can't choose not to fly. A little humility and professionalism goes a long, long way.

Chance said...

Not to change the subject, but I've made many an MRE bomb in my day, (a little tabasco sauce added in works wonders in my experience) but other than a little hot water I never saw them do much damage.

chuck said...

The explanations put forth by the TSA about the limitations on liquids don't make any sense. Worrying about the liquid threat is a waste of valuable resources.

It's too bad that the TSA employees that have been assigned to represent the TSA in this blog are not experts.

I'm going to show this blog to the people at my congresswoman's office so they can begin to understand what everyone else seems to be realizing about the total incompetence of the TSA.

Gerry Davidson said...

Call me a patriotic sap if you want, but I just want to give kudos to the TSA for their new blog:

#1) For having the guts to get out there with a blog and converse with the flying public (angry mob);

#2) For going to the painstaking trouble of trying to explain to the angry mob why they are doing their dead-level best to save our puny lives;

#3) For listening to every incendiary amateur in the country (world?) on what it really takes to detonate a bomb at 30,000 feet;

#4) For giving all the whiners a platform on which to continue to rail that this security stuff is all bunk and TOO MUCH TROUBLE for them to deal with in their very busy and important lives. Case in point is this comment posted by, of course "Anonymous", "How much longer until this paranoia goes down to the point where I can travel with ease again?" (Would someone please put this person on a Greyhound bus?)

Anonymous said...

Why doesn't TSA EXPLICITLY match the Canadian and European Union standard for liquid explosives of 100 ML/3.4ounces? Toothpaste comes in 100ML convenient sizes, but not 3 oz sizes. Different screeners sometimes reject 3 oz but less than 3.5 oz (ie 100ML) toothpaste tubes. How about a uniform worldwide rule--100ML or less (>3.5 oz)?

Note, from a travel site post:

Yesterday’s post regarding the TSA’s possible introduction of a 3.5 fluid ounce standard for carry-on liquids yielded a small storm in my e-mail inbox, including a thoroughly disposable form letter response from the TSA itself, encouraging me to check the website. Gee, great. Thanks for that.

But thanks to Benet Wilson, it also yielded this far more helpful response from Amy Kudwa in the TSA’s Office of Public Affairs:

Since the liquid threat was discovered as part of the foiled terror plot in August, TSA has worked very closely with our European partners to harmonize our overall security efforts. As a result, the EU, Canada and several other countries adopted in November a 100 ml standard for liquids. This standard most easily converts to our 3 ounce limit and is readily understood by passengers both in the US and abroad. Our 43,000 TSOs have been trained on this negligible difference and we have not seen any issues with European visitors meeting either standard. (emphasis added)

So the TSA defies the metric system and equates 100 ml with 3 ounces. Close enough for them, good enough for me.

By the way, I was wrong about a minor detail in yesterday’s post: the conversion of 100ml. I had foolishly looked at the label of a European 100ml bottle of shampoo in my bathroom, which incorrectly translated 100ml to 3.2 oz. In fact, 100 ml = 3.38140226 US fluid ounces. Effectively 3.4 ounces.

Carry on!

Ayn R. Key said...

Call me a patriotic sap if you want, but I just want to give kudos to the TSA for their new blog:

#1) For having the guts to get out there with a blog and converse with the flying public (angry mob);


Because, after all, characters on a computer screen are so dangerous. This really is a risky thing for them to do.

#2) For going to the painstaking trouble of trying to explain to the angry mob why they are doing their dead-level best to save our puny lives;

And when several posters here demonstrated that their reasons really are empty, and Chance came back an repeated the same disproven reasons, that really is a painstaking explanation.

#3) For listening to every incendiary amateur in the country (world?) on what it really takes to detonate a bomb at 30,000 feet;

Even amateurs can QUOTE people with PHDs.

#4) For giving all the whiners a platform on which to continue to rail that this security stuff is all bunk and TOO MUCH TROUBLE for them to deal with in their very busy and important lives. Case in point is this comment posted by, of course "Anonymous", "How much longer until this paranoia goes down to the point where I can travel with ease again?" (Would someone please put this person on a Greyhound bus?)

Greyhound is getting more business, but the travel is slower. Instead of 3 hours it takes 3 days to taverse the country. It is good that we have a platform to deconstruct their fallacious policies, but what we really need is a platform where they are forced to admit that they are lying at us through their teeth.

Paul said...

This idiotic ban on liquids has inconvenienced flyers and has NOT made anyone safer. The TSA has admitted that its screeners have had a hard time dealing with the increase in checked luggage. Also, if the screeners have to look for things such as water bottles, they are more likely to miss something truly dangerous such as a gun. Less is more!

Anonymous said...

The anti-liquid ban argument being put forth seems to be, if terrorists REALLY want to use liquid explosives to blow up the plane, they can and they will. So let's just allow all liquids on airplanes. Okay, for the moment, let's entertain that rationale.

As a TSA employee I can tell you that no matter how good security is, it is ALWAYS possible that someone will find a way to beat it. So does that mean we should just stop screening passengers?

That's just ridiculous. What Kip Hawley is trying to say is, hey, our system is not perfect. Our system is not unbeatable. But we're going to do every damn thing possible to make it that much harder on someone who wants to blow up an airplane. We want to make the would-be terrorists feel that the chances of success are just too low even TRY blowing up a plane.

And if you think TSA security procedures are not a deterrant, answer me this: How many planes have blown up since 9/11? Also, how many do you think would be blown up if we no longer screened passengers or their baggage?

He said 3-1-1 is a trade off. Every security procedure we have is a trade off. If our bomb appraisal officers had their way, carry-on baggage wouldn't even be allowed on airplanes, period.

Sheet explosive is easy to see on X-Ray but you can just cut it into little pieces, pass it through security by going through multiple times, and then reassemble it on the other side. So let's just allow all sheet explosives through the checkpoint.

Ridiculous.

Berlin Neon said...

ayn r. key said:
Greyhound is getting more business, but the travel is slower. Instead of 3 hours it takes 3 days to taverse the country. It is good that we have a platform to deconstruct their fallacious policies, but what we really need is a platform where they are forced to admit that they are lying at us through their teeth.

Why would TSA want to "lie"? What purpose would it serve them to have people (and their TSO's) go thru all of the trouble of limiting the amount of liquids? When someone or some organization "lies" they are doing it for some advantage or gain. So, what's in it for TSA to lie? And how do you think they keep all of their "lies" a secret? Wouldn't you think one or two of their employees would spill the beans about the big conspiracy?

Sounds like you think everyone is out to get you dude.

Anonymous said...

If it's a viable threat, liquids should be banned altogether. If airlines want passengers they will provide the goods and services they demand for flight. The ban worked, was consistent and was evenly applied. It was only when the "exceptions" started a few weeks later because of "squeaky wheel" passengers that the pandora's box was opened. People will understand and comply with simply straightforward rules when they are consistently applied. The current rule variations are confusing, unfair and discriminatory.

Ma Beck said...

Anon TSO 9:05 PM,

Planes weren't "blown up" on 9/11. They were flown into 3 buildings and one ground.
(UAL flight 93, incidentally, carried a dear friend of mine, so believe me, I agree with fighting terrorists.)

Now.

How many times did this happen prior to 9/11?

That's my point.

I appreciate the TSA who do a good job. I work at ORD and have many fine work acquaintances in the department.
But to pretend that the TSA is somehow responsible for a non-repeat performance is not truthful.

Things that really helped? Reinforced cockpit doors. Decreased complacency. Increase in the number of people who will kick the ever-loving dog out of someone who charges toward the front of the plane. Things like that.

NOT you making my grandma take her shoes off to go through a checkpoint. Not you taking my daughter's formula water away from her.
Not you making nursing mothers drink their breastmilk at a checkpoint.
Not you seizing nail clippers.

There is common sense, and then there is silliness.

Airport screening doesn't provide safety. It provides a sense of safety.

Jay Maynard said...

And if you think TSA security procedures are not a deterrant, answer me this: How many planes have blown up since 9/11?
Logical fallacy. How many angry circus elephants have charged the checkpoints at MSP since 9/11? Obviously, the TSA is deterring those, too.

Berlin Neon said...

Jay Maynard said:
"Logical fallacy. How many angry circus elephants have charged the checkpoints at MSP since 9/11? Obviously, the TSA is deterring those, too."


Yeah, but there is no evidence that angry circus elephants are wanting to charge TSA checkpoints. TSA and the other intel communities receive reports every day that there are terrorists planning to do us harm.

See the difference?

Anonymous said...

To berlin neon @ 2/6 0751:

"...intel communities receive reports every day that there are terrorists planning to do us harm."

Yes, but (a) most of those are not credible, and (b) none of them have anything to do with liquids on airplanes. Terrorists can't hijack planes anymore. Even with a bomb, it won't work. Passengers will always rise up against them. This was demonstrated DURING the 9/11 attacks: one of the four planes didn't complete its mission, as the passengers took it down. Essentially it took zero time for us to learn this lesson.

Secondly, as has been pointed out many times before, there really is no such thing as a liquid explosive, apart from nitroglycerine. All explosives, for the most part, are solids. There's certainly no such thing as a binary compound that can be mixed aboard to create a bomb. If the goal is to stop explosives, then solids and powders, not liquids, should be banned.

At 2/5 2154, berlin neon also objects to the description of TSA as liars, and asks what the motivation is. There are two clear motivations:

(1) Standard CYA. Security theater makes it appear that the government is doing something to protect us. If a terrorist incident were to occur, the response from TSA would be, "Well, we've been doing everything we can. Give us more money for better equipment." It's a lot easier to deflect blame if you've been pretending to do something.

(2) The liquid ban helps keep the phantom threat of binary liquid explosives in the public's mind. This creates a low level of fear that keeps the populace easily cowed. Look at the people here who have posted positive messages about the illegal searches and seizures being foisted upon them, saying, "Well, it's worth it if it makes us safer!" You won't notice your rights disappearing--you won't notice the increased government intrusions in your life--you won't noticed the increased surveillance--if you're constantly scared that "the terrorists" are going to come get you.

Dave X said...

Inconveniences and fear in air travel drive people to use alternate modes of transport. I know someone who will drive rather than fly if he can make the trip in under 10 hours.

Some researchers found that the reduced air travel and increased driving caused an increase in traffic fatalites after september 11th: http://www.news.cornell.edu/stories/March05/Sept11driving.pdf

Since the inconveniences in the name of "Safety" promulgated by the Transportation Security Administration make some people drive rather than fly, TSA is likely killing more people through traffic fatalities than they are saving from terrorists with their enhanced screening procedures.

Anonymous said...

Coming back to point 4, you're saying that mixing binary liquid explosives is so difficult that trained scientists in a full-equipped laboratory can't do it reliably. But you still think it's worth trying to make it even more difficult? Come on, this is stupid - spend your resources on something real, not 1-in-a-million chances (probably much less, given how many people fly in the US every day) and scaremongering.

Anonymous said...

What is the big deal with the liguid ban? I am able to travel for 4-5 days with what is permitted by 3-1-1. If you feel the need to take more, just check your bag in. What is the big deal here? You don't want to check bags because the air carriers are bad about handling them? Blame your air carrier, not the TSA. 3-1-1 is a simple rule we can easily live with. There is of course Greyhound and Amtrak as an option for your travel needs.

Thank You TSA!

Robert Johnson said...

Coming from someone who's worked in intel, you'd be surprised how many reports come across that are bunk or barely enough information to make reliable conclusions. You'd also be surprised at how many reports are looking to support preconceived notions. You'd also be suprised how much good intel is ignored.

Thus if you think that terrorists are all out there looking to bring planes down with shoes and liquids, you'll find information you need to make it fit into that premise. It may not be accurate. It may not even be true, but the claim can be "supported."

Look at George Tennet calling WMD's in Iraq a slam dunk based on the intel. Yet how many have been found? They made Colin Powell look like an idiot in front of the UN when it turned out the intel was bad.

That's not saying there isn't good intel out there. There is. That's not saying terrorism isn't a threat. It is. But is it really the fearsome threat the government makes it out to be? I don't think so. However, TSA and other agencies are out to justify their budgets and get more money. If you can't prove that you're worth the money, Congress cuts the funds. If you can't really justify yourself, you look for ways to do it. TSA is doing it in the form of liquids, shoes, and casting a dragnet to bust people with fake ID's (which is mission creep, by the way ... that's not in their MO).

I have a better chance of winning next week's Powerball than I have in being in a terrorist attack. Someone somewhere will "hit" the "lottery" somewhere It could even be me hitting one or both. That doesn't mean I'm going to live in fear of a terrorist attack or I have my winnings already spent. I live life as normal. That's all we really can do. Don't be afraid ... that's what the terrorists want. They can't take down America by force, but they sure can make it implode on itself from the inside.

Reasonable means should be taken to deter REAL threats to a plane. Guns and bombs are generally a bad thing. Knives aren't a big deal ... they're already on the plane in the form of cutlery in the galleys on planes. Shoes and water bottles aren't. If they are, use the technology that TSA ALREADY has: puffers and ETD swabs. Swab my water bottle. If it hits, it doesn't go. Puffers will pick up shoe bombs.

Just because TSA doesn't know how to use the technology or maintain it doesn't mean that the public should pay the price in the form of stupidity and harassment.

I'll give Kip some credit: I think he's doing what he can in an impossible job. However, ff he does it right and is successful, no one will notice. So he then tries to make things more outward to look like he's tough on security, such as shoe and liquid screening because people see that. The unfortunate effect of that is we have the farce that TSA is today.

Just some TSO said...

How many times did this happen prior to 9/11?

If you're talking about terrorists causing planes to fall out of the sky, the answer is: A LOT. Just not necessarily in the US.

Things that really helped? Reinforced cockpit doors. Decreased complacency. Increase in the number of people who will kick the ever-loving dog out of someone who charges toward the front of the plane. Things like that.

Amen to that.

NOT you making my grandma take her shoes off to go through a checkpoint. Not you taking my daughter's formula water away from her.
Not you making nursing mothers drink their breastmilk at a checkpoint.
Not you seizing nail clippers.


This is wrong on multiple levels.
1) Next time TSA tries to take forumla water from you, ask for a supervisor because that's against policy.
2) Regarding the breastmilk, the same applies. But even if we WANTED to prohibit breastmilk, the last thing we would do is ask you to DRINK IT. When confiscating bottles of liquid(water, soda, etc), many people have asked me, "Can I just drink it right here?" The answer is NO. Your options are: Go back to your airline and tell them to put it in your checked luggage, OR we can dump it out for you. You can drink it, if you choose, but ONLY after we escort you out of the sterile area. I don't know where you got that crazy line.
3) Nail clippers are allowed. So yea. I once had to search a drunk individual's property and after I finished, he threw his lighter at me and said, "You need to do a better job." I threw it back at him and said, "You can keep it"
I understand the rules are changing all the time but you must understand that it's all in the interest of LIMITING inconveniences so the worst thing you can do is whine about rules when you don't even know what the rules are.

There is common sense, and then there is silliness.

And then there's ignorance.

Airport screening doesn't provide safety. It provides a sense of safety.

It provides both. You obviously don't know how many guns and knives we stop from going on your airplanes.

Anonymous said...

Honestly, I have always wondered what makes it safe to put all the confiscated liquid aside into the same container. Putting aside for a moment the sensationalist possibility that one of the confiscated bottles may be a bomb, what about the risk of unintended mixtures of otherwise innocuous liquids? As I recall, inadvertently mixing water, bleach, and ammonia cleaning products yields chlorine gas.

I am no chemist but it has always seemed to me that the TSA should be more concerned with the creation of inhalant threats from component liquids.

Thank you for providing this forum to ask questions.

Anonymous said...

If you're talking about terrorists causing planes to fall out of the sky, the answer is: A LOT. Just not necessarily in the US.
1) Since when does the TSA have anything to do with airlines outside of the US? Is the fact that they're taking away your drink in Texas going to stop a plane from being blown up in Russia?
2) Name the last plane that was blown up by liquids. Name the last US plane that was blown up.

Anonymous said...

I don't know why the TSA bothered to create a blog. It is readily apparent that TSA is still not listening to the public.

The government is OF the people, BY the people, and FOR the people. The TSA works for the PEOPLE - act like it!

The TSA still wants to push new rules and regulations on a public that sees the changes for what they are: nonsense.

GET RID OF THE LIQUIDS BAN! IT DOES NOT PREVENT TERRORISM!

9/11 or anything like it will NEVER happen again. Why?

1. Reinforced cockpit doors.
2. A non-complacent public that will kill any would-be terrorist BEFORE they even THINK of taking over a plane.

ALL of the other changes the TSA have made since 9/11 are COMPLETELY USELESS AND UNNECESSARY because of point 1 and point 2.

Anonymous said...

Regarding the breastmilk, the same applies. But even if we WANTED to prohibit breastmilk, the last thing we would do is ask you to DRINK IT.
Maybe NOW. But the damage to your credibility has already been done. You might try googling for "mother forced to drink breast milk" or similar strings some time. You might be surprised by what you find.

http://www.usatoday.com/news/nation/2002-08-08-breast-milk_x.htm

It provides both. You obviously don't know how many guns and knives we stop from going on your airplanes.
I know how much you do allow to get on airplanes.

http://www.cnn.com/2008/US/01/28/tsa.bombtest/

From the article:
"He gets through, which in real life would mean a terrorist was headed toward a plane with a bomb."

"In tests conducted in 2006 and disclosed to USA Today last year, investigators successfully smuggled 75 percent of fake bombs through checkpoints at Los Angeles International Airport, 60 percent through Chicago's O'Hare International Airport and 20 percent at San Francisco International Airport."

You don't get to claim that you provide safety when you fail 75% of tests at one of the country's largest airports.

Jenni said...

No matter how many 'good' reasons you give that the liquids ban is keeping us safe, I refuse to believe that the cup of Jello I was going to eat on the plane consituted a national threat.

Anonymous said...

1) Next time TSA tries to take forumla water from you, ask for a supervisor because that's against policy.
Is there a brand requirement as water that is not Label Nursery Water still gets tossed.

Airport screening doesn't provide safety. It provides a sense of safety.

It provides both. You obviously don't know how many guns and knives we stop from going on your airplanes.


Must be why we are so comforted by the bottles you catch (in just your public test) where the weapon in the same bag gets through.

Anonymous said...

great, you caught a few guns and knives? while looking for bottles? wonderful.

2 words. BAT DAY.

any major baseball team does it. airlines should do it. Hand out free bats to every person boarding a plane. Seriously FREE bats. Louisville Sluggers.

Then let some terrorist try to mix liquids, grab box knives, or whatever plot they hatch. On a plane full of solid Americans, wanting to fly to wherever they are headed. All holding some good louieville wood.

End of terrorists. I promise.

no, none of those silly Sammy Sosa "corked' bats. I mean a solid block of wood.

:D

the current theater of security is farce. it must change

Anonymous said...

The preparation of these bombs is very much more complex than tossing together several bottles-worth of formula and lighting it up.

It really sounds like you just disproved the entire premise of your idiotic security theater. Unless someone sets up a professional chemistry lab in the airplane bathroom for a few hours, it is physically impossible for them make of bomb from the contents of a toothpaste tube.

Thank you for admitting this is a stupid pointless distraction.

Now that you've faced the truth, the next step would be letting people bring their shampoo in a carry on and focusing on the people sailing through security with actual bomb components.

Anonymous said...

In point 4, Kip writes about how incredibly difficult it is to prepare liquid explosives, and how it's essentially impossible to do in an airport bathroom or a plane. And yet, this is precisely what you're claiming we should be afraid of, and that you're attempting to prevent.

TSA, quite frankly, this is precisely the sort of remarks that make us fail to believe you, and make us think that you're performing security theater rather than providing security.

Kip also writes "The choice is a total ban or this". No. That's the choice you've chosen to impose on us. The actual choices are pretty much anything, including deciding that this particular risk isn't high enough to be concerned about. Just because some terrorists were planning to try to do it doesn't mean it's actually likely enough to succeed that we should take action about it. Terrorists can be stupid too.

Kip writes "AND getting TSA and passengers back on the same side! That last one is what we're trying to do at our checkpoint with our TSOs and online with our blog." I hope that everyone at TSA is learning from all the remarks on this blog that the citizens of the US do not feel that TSA is on our side - and remember, it's OUR side that matters, not TSA's, because it's OUR tails on the line when we get in the plane.

Kip writes, "Whatever you think about our policies -- please recognize our Security Officers who train and test every day and will do whatever it takes to make you and your families safe when you fly. They are the best in the world and are on your side;"

If Kip really thinks the hostile, inefficient, rude, inconsistent "security officers" we encounter in airports every day are "the best in the world", he obviously hasn't traveled anywhere. I've been through security in Frankfurt and it was quite thorough, and quite fast (overall - the inspection took longer but they made sure to have enough people on duty to keep the line short), and very polite. El Al airline is the #1 terrorist target in the world, and yet they've never had an incident, and while their security is intensive, it's also polite, and effective.

Anonymous said...

Chance: Not to change the subject, but I've made many an MRE bomb in my day, (a little tabasco sauce added in works wonders in my experience) but other than a little hot water I never saw them do much damage.

(Same poster as above)

Chance, I fully agree that MRE Bombs are not going to down a plane any time soon, but terrorism is not necessarily about major events like 9/11.

If you take an inescapable tight space filled with hundreds of people and add a little bit of fire (1L of flammable stuff?), loud noises from something that explodes (MRE Bombs?), and then the threat of an invisible and again, inescapable pathogen (Anthrax, Ricin, Whatever. It doesn't have to be real, just real enough for the imagination to take over, and in today's world that's easy.), put all of that together and you've got the makings of a major, if short lived, "terrorist attack".

You can play theme and variation on this quite a bit, but getting back to the original point, 3-1-1 allows up to 1L of brought liquids on board, or more if someone wished to play the game and circumvent the system, and while working extremely hard to avoid relatively implausible "Die Hard 2" scenarios, there are other things allowed on that appear to be inconsistent with preventing the type of scenario I described.

Got to go!

Anonymous said...

Wow. The argument put forth in the blog was quite convincing until I read a few of the replies. Pretty easy to poke holes through the BS, it appears.

Anonymous said...

You said it ...We reduce risk by deciding what we believe is necessary for a completed bomb -- the core of the 100ml (3.4 ounce) limit. So why the confusion? Is it 3 oz. or 3.4 oz.? I'm more than happy to comply since most cosmetics, shampoos, hairjels, etc can come in 3.4 oz (100 ml) bottles, but I don't want to go through that effort and expense only to watch it get confiscated by lack of TSA consistancy or because of a cute marketing plan of 3-1-1 that misrepresents. It's possible the most confusing part of the whole liquid debate - I've been to numberous airports that actually have different signage reflecting 3 oz/90 ml - nothing comes in 90ml...

Andrew said...

Let me tell you a story about my experience with the liquids policy.

A while back I was flying from NYC to Chicago. I had my little bottles in my little baggie, but the TSA officer at the LGA security checkpoint said I had too many bottles in the bag. The bag was the correct size, and sealed. So she opened up the bag, and pulled out two bottles and said that I had to choose one for her to throw away.

Let me repeat that: She asked me to choose one to keep, and one for her to throw away.

So, if she recognizes that either bottle could be safe, why throw one away? At what point is the TSA simply enforcing its rules for the sake of having rules to enforce?

Perhaps you'll say that she was a bad example, someone who didn't pay attention in her training. But when I asked another officer nearby why I couldn't keep both bottles if the TSA recognized that both could be safe, he agreed with the first woman. He said that was the way it was, and would I choose one now so the line could keep moving?

So I chose. And she threw away the other one--the one that she recognized could be just as safe (or as dangerous, for that matter) as the one I walked away with.

Why?

aikidoka said...

Again we are lead to believe that "scientists" & 'labs' have verified the liquid threats...

Yet, many people can clearly see that you can circumvent the TSA security.

Chapstick in your pocket; could easily be a little C4 in a plastic tube. We are allowed to take cables which could be disassembled, a simple trigger device (alarm clock), etc. I think you get my point.

Terrorism is a tactic, not a specific action/goal. You only need to scare people to succeed. If someone wants to get the items through they can.

Here's an idea: Send all TSA screeners to train with Israeli airport security forces.

Raw Food Diva said...

I had a bottle of unopened lotion in my purse. The TSA took it and put it behind thier desk. As I waited to get through the gate I saw them pass it around and use it on themsleves. I am sure if I had complained they would have denied me access to my plane.

MLV said...

With all due respect, the TSA has NO CUSTOMER SERVICE. I am a frequent flyer, flying nearly 100,000 miles annually, through many cities. I had my absolute worst experience in Houston last 5-15-2007. Because I am a frequent flyer, I know what to expect and try to keep it simple when I go through security. This was not the case for this trip through Houston. I immediately went to the Continental Presidents club and electronically filed a complaint with TSA and was given TCC Control Number: ------<<#90658-148269#>>. After a month I recieved NO RESPONSE. So I sent a follow-up request for a response. NO RESPONSE. So I logged a new response and even called the hotline. The TSA staff recieving my call suggested that I send another email. I did as instructed. To date, after three emails, I have still not recieved a response. I think we need to go back to the private companies doing security, as then the public has some influence over the company actions. It appears that TSA has no will or desire to improve its interactions with the public it is supposed to be protecting.

Bob said...

Love the Blog. Thanks for answering so many questions – honestly.

My comment/question concerns the training of TSO’s at the airports. I fly once or twice a week for business and feel there is a general consistency of application, but sometimes there are some folks that appear to take short cuts. With so many different threats, and the recent CNN article that showed someone sneaking a fake bomb through security, how can you keep everyone trained on the latest threats and how do you retrain someone that is doing it wrong or is lazy?

Anonymous said...

Let's read point 4 again: explosives experts with a pre-made liquid explosive bomb could not get it to ignite reliably.

Now, please explain exactly how forcing people to abandon clearly marked, factory sealed bottles of water/juice/soda/duty free alcohol improves security. For extra credit, please explain how liquid explosives can successfully disguise themselves as shampoo, toothpaste, or hand lotion.

Ayn R. Key said...

It seems that posts that demonstrate it is impossible to create a bomb in-flight from safe liquids have been removed. I posted such a comment myself. There is no "This comment has been removed" indication either.

Was this a real threat? Yes, there was a very serious plot to blow up planes using liquid explosives in bombs that would have worked to bring down aircraft.

Was this a real threat? Inside a Hollywood movie, perhaps, but not in the real world where the laws of chemisty and phyics still apply. The problem is you know that to be true and still repeat the standard old lie about the mixing of chemicals in-flight.

The preparation of these bombs is very much more complex than tossing together several bottles-worth of formula and lighting it up. In fact, in recent tests, a National Lab was asked to formulate a test mixture and it took several tries using the best equipment and best scientists for it to even ignite.

And there you even admit it is not a real threat. It is possible, under laboratory conditions, to do this - sometimes. It is therefore necessary to assume on an airplane, in flight, without ventilation hoods or bunson burners or liquid nitrogen cooling, this can be repeated. Does the TSA even believe their own rhetoric anymore?

Why can't multiple people bring on explosives in three-ounce containers and mix them post security? The tough one! Tough because there are parts of the reason that are truly classified but here goes... (read them all before throwing up your hands!)

We already know why it is classified - it is because you do not have good answers to give and if you classify them then you can say "we have a document with all the answers but you can't see it." You don't have a document with all the answers. You've admitted as much in your own contradictory posting that you don't have the answers. You've admitted as much in your own contradictory posting that this ban makes absolutely no sense. You know it, we know it, but as long as the paper that says "this makes no sense" is classified you don't have to admit it.

winston_of_minitruth said...

This still doesn't provide a logical explanation for banning clear, factory sealed plastic beverage container onto a plane. I'm not arguing that bringing something like bleach or detergent onto a plane is potentially dangerous, but not allowing a nonalcoholic beverage onto a plane for "security reasons" seems a little odd to me. The obvious reason is to funnel passengers into the shoppette to purchase overpriced items, but what real security threat is there? I just want to know why I can't take my pop onto a plane. Can you answer that without using the Hollywood science and fear-mongering?

Anonymous said...

I would add: Read point number 1. Now read it again.

Anonymous said...

"(Harvard) Study: Airport Screening Process Pointless"

Despite Long Lines and Numerous Security Restrictions a Study Says Flying Isn't Any Safer

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Airport security lines can annoy passengers, but there is no evidence that they make flying any safer, U.S. researchers reported Thursday.

A team at the Harvard School of Public Health could not find any studies showing whether the time-consuming process of X-raying carry-on luggage prevents hijackings or attacks.

They also found no evidence to suggest that making passengers take off their shoes and confiscating small items prevented any incidents.
http://abcnews.go.com/Business/Travel/story?id=4034950&page=1


so go get a real job and leave us the f alone. of course a real job will not have the gestapo like powers, you have now. I'm sick and tired of stupid, pointles and COSTLY regulations.

Anonymous said...

I've read the response to the question: "Why do we ban liquids", and while it was a lengthy and verbose answer, I still feel there is one crucial issue left unanswered.

Namely, why do you ban liquids?

Anonymous said...

What I truly do not understand is how making a bomb on a plane is a risk at all. A bomb in the airport sure, on the plane no. Even so the same dangerous materials can be acquired inside the airport so the argument for an in Airport bomb is mute when applied to screenings.

If anyone successfully constructed a bomb on a plane from any materials the precedent is they are going to use the plane as a weapon not for a political hijacking. Such an action inside the United States would be absurd as we have the best tactical ground response in the world. As soon as the plane safely lands the hijacker loses.

I somehow doubt that the bomb itself can cause more damage than flying a plane into anything so the bombs only purpose is to be used to hijack the plane and use it as a weapon.

So you have 200-400 people in the situation where they can either not let someone take over the plane because they have a bomb and possibly set it off, or let them take over the plane and use the plane as a weapon.

Either way everyone knows they are going to die and the situation is a no win if no action is taken on the passengers part.

Adding the TSA stated complexity of constructing a bomb mid flight and an informed passenger base the likely hood of a successful hijacking drops to nearly zero. If you have one person willing to call bull and stop said individual your percentage drops even lower.

Imagine if you would adding personal responsibility and duty to a passenger base would solve nearly all these issues.

Liquids, bombs, guns, knives are no threat to air travel people not willing and trained not to act are. This sillyness could all be solved by properly informing your passengers how to respond to a hijacking.

Make it part of the absurd video about wearing my seat belts. "In the event of a hijacking swarm the attacker and restrain their hands and feet until the flight attendants can apply handcuffs. The pilot will then land at the nearest airport."

Anonymous said...

Explosives? Everyone seems to concentrate on explosives. Binary liquid explosives are bunk, at least for deployment on aircraft, without easily accessible controllable heat as well as plenty of ice and salt.

So that leaves the question: what other things are there that involve *binary* liquids that are mixed together, as a starting point, that could kill lots of people in a confined space, whom have no easy method of escape? Are there any lessons from recent history? Perhaps from a foreign country?

Anonymous said...

There is an easy way to FORCE them to change the policy.
Every person should bring 2 2liter bottles of water (tap water would be fine), and throw them at the check point containers.
This will create a massive cost to the airport, and they will review the policy.
Just blow where it hurts, the pocket.

Anonymous said...

What I don't get is that someone could pack kilos of sodium cyanide on him/her and vomit on it to release hydrogen cyanide that kills everybody instantly and bring down a plane. How are they gonna check for that one, huh? It's just false security.

Anonymous said...

I travel frequently for work. I got to this blog entry from a link on Slashdot. I just wanted to send a quick note to say Thank You! I really enjoyed reading this information, and it made perfect sense to me. I realize there is no 'perfect answer' for security, but it's always a good reminder to know that there is always a good reason behind why some things are done. In the interest of safety, I personally feel that the security checkpoints are NO hassle at all, and would even be open to more thorough screening if TSA felt it was necessary. Thanks again and keep up the good work!

tb said...

If we're going to behave paranoid, why are there no comparable security on the Greyhound Buses (or any bus) or the trains? That could make as much (sometimes more) damage as bringing down a plane.
You probably just need some electricity skills to be able to fool a couple of trains to a frontal collision.

In the airport close to here, we can't carry small metal things like nail clippers, but when after we passed the security, we can buy a meal with metal fork and knife.

Jeez... I'd rather risk to die in one of a million planes, than spending the rest of my life living in (induced) paranoid fear.

Anonymous said...

When will the madness just end?

... It's ridiculous. The points made in the above post are actually all quite salient except for the fact that the point is missed entirely.

... If you make one area of a countries security or even one area of air travel safer people are simply going to attack somewhere else. What's stopping a pilot being under duress to crash a plane whilst the other pilot's in the loo under threat of his family getting tortured to death?

.. What stops a ground to air missile? What stops any other of a million possible threats.

These are 'white elephant' threats that ridiculous quantities of money and peoples time are being wasted over. The terrorists have already won thanks to the terrible expense and cost the TSA is forcing on people. Terrorists are an extremely unlikely remote threat. The TSA is a threat that you can't even avoid; regardless of how you try to comply EVERY PERSON, on EVERY FLIGHT will be impacted by the TSA.

9/11 threats were never likely to be exploited again even were nothing done. The TSA is pointless. How would a plane be taken now, with 9/11 having happened given the revolt that other passengers would stage if it seemed a plane were being hijacked?

.. It's just ridiculous to think terrorists would attack again in the same place, when it is so blatantly clear unreasonable money is being wasted on that threat, but little money is being spent in places it might actually make a difference.

EPIC FAIL. The TSA is still a terrible expense making everyone afraid of air travel. I've read many posts on here verifying that other people are driving vast distances to avoid air travel because they don't want to face the TSA penalties.

Adam said...

Were all these reasons thought up before or after the restrictions were put in place?

Anonymous said...

So, can Coca-Cola that I purchased in the secure area of the airport be used to make a bomb?

If not, why can't I carry that bottle on to the plane?

Anonymous said...

What's more amusing is that the policy doesn't even work.

I got bored of declaring my liquids, so simply stopped it. I've never been bothered about it.

Anonymous said...

Even if the TSA didn't have the policy, you couldn't make the explosive on the plane or outside the gate. Because: you need an ice bath, some very stinky chemicals, over 3 hours, and plenty of room. Try doing that on an aircraft without being noticed! Richard Reid couldn't even light his shoe bomb without getting his butt kicked. And these days with how irate fliers are, the police will be lucky to get a bomber alive and in one piece.

Anonymous said...

The majority of the TSA practices implemented today give the blind/ignorant public the perception of security. The reality is far different.

Example: I was helping a colleague tear down after a tradeshow in August of 2007. We had to ship a dozen computers, monitors, keyboards, and all associated cables, power strips etc. This was all packed in a very large (4' x 2' x 8') wood crate on wheels that must have weighed over 500 pounds. Everything was packed in its proper place, and then my colleague surprised me as she padlocked the crate which was previously labelled for shipment on a passenger airline. I asked her who would be screening it for explosives. She smiled - she said that she "guaranteed" that there was nothing bad in the crate by contract with the shipping company, who in turn guaranteed that the content was safe with the airline. The airline then receives the crate and puts it on a flight. No screening is done by anyone.

So for all you flying folks, while you are taking off your shoes, removing your belt, unpacking your laptop, buying tiny toiletries, waiting in long security lines, and limited to horrible food beyond security, remember that under your seats in the cargo bins are unchecked cargo crates that could easily destroy the largest airliners with simple technology.

Anonymous said...

What's even more amusing... it's easy to -not- take liquids out of your carryone bags. They only catch it 1:10 times.

Big shampoo bottles, etc.

Worthless policy.

CouldaShouldaWoulda said...

Well let's try again - my other post was not added.
Look - I travel all the time from Canada to the US and back.
I never have problems with screening. I can have anything on my person that doesn't hit the metal detection threshold. I simply wear bulky cargo pants. I never get patted down, I don't see how a wand will discover anything non-metallic. Finally I always forget to remove the stupid liquid baggy from my carry-on luggage, and the machine never picks it up. Correct me if I am wrong but the machines for carry-on don't work that well. As has been mentioned before the employees are too busy socializing to really notice much. Perhaps they know this is just a game.
Of course like everything else, this is about money - who benefits the most from all this silliness:
-cargo companies don't have their shipments checked $$
-not checking cargo speeds up plane turn-around $$
-poor air traffic infrastructure could not handle this
-ID/boarding pass checks are to prevent travelers from using non-transferable tickets $$

Further thoughts:
-Nav Can tracked planes in the US airspace during 9/11 because they have better equipment
-Checked luggage is scanned and the operators make sure they hit their quota of rejected luggage
-Why I carry a laptop security cable on a plane?
-Who benefits from Homeland and TSA from being re-active and not pro-active? It’s much easier to use fear to justify an action.
-Who benefits from security constraints at airports vis-a-vis funding, staffing, etc $$
-Why was everybody at fms.treas.gov running around with smiles on their faces when Homeland was announced? Who benefits?

Anonymous said...


Jay Maynard said:
"Logical fallacy. How many angry circus elephants have charged the checkpoints at MSP since 9/11? Obviously, the TSA is deterring those, too."

Yeah, but there is no evidence that angry circus elephants are wanting to charge TSA checkpoints. TSA and the other intel communities receive reports every day that there are terrorists planning to do us harm.

See the difference?


The elephants would leave threats but because their limbs are so big they have trouble using a keyboard or telephone.

Long live security theatre.
I am so glad i do not live in the "land of the free/home of the brave". It appears to be neither.

Usage May Vary said...

Sorry, but I find your response nothing other than unacceptable. You state yourself it's unlikely yet are treating this in an extreme circumstance? Every comment here debunks every point of yours and already shows how this policy not only

a: does nothing
and b: isn't even necessary.

So get rid of it, as we already boycott the TSA except that we are locked into following it unless we make enough to afford private jets. So we are market locked (AKA MONOPOLY) into a waste of government cash, and time. Nobody likes what you guys have done ever, and you're not restoring my faith here.

madcrow said...

QUOTE:
So, can Coca-Cola that I purchased in the secure area of the airport be used to make a bomb?

If not, why can't I carry that bottle on to the plane?
END QUOTE.

Well of course you can't have people bringing unauhtorized drinks onto an airplane: that would disrupt the whole "pay uber-inflated prices for everything" model that the airlines are moving to...

Think it's a coincidence that free drinks/snacks/meals were eliminated from flights right after the ability of passengers to bring their own was taken away? I strongly doubt it. The liquid ban is nothing more than a gift to the airlines to force passengers to have to buy drinks on the plane and thus prop up a dying industry.

Anonymous said...

Dear TSA we really care about this issue. Do you understand? We do not care about your concerns for our safety. Do you hear? We have listened to your concerns and found them to be less believable than you think. Are you listening to us? Get rid of the ban, we are not interested in your political reasoning or you secrets. Just STOP IT. JUST STOP IT.

Anonymous said...

So you try to spin out your answers, not actually tell us anything credible, and further undermine the liquid policy.

Well done. Convinces me that this whole exercise isn't a complete waste of everyone's time.

Who oversees the TSA? How about we look at getting someone with a brain elected to that position, and forcing some sensible changes eh?

Terrorism is not a big threat. More people per year are killed crossing the street or driving to work, in the US that are killed globally by terrorism. Vastly more people.

So why all the nonsense at airports?

Anonymous said...

Are airlines required to do all this screening? I mean if some passengers value their convienience more than safety, are they allowed to sign a waiver and just board a plane with NO checks whatsoever? Of course, the airlines would have to provide these NO-check flights but I thought this was a free country so they should be able to do it.

Anonymous said...

A 5 ounce limit would be a lot more convenient for travelers as most cosmetic items fit below that level. 100 ml requires that special sample size items be purchased.

Also, going by the size of the container when it is nearly empty is totally silly. Lets face it, if someone has a nearly squeezed out 5 ounce tube of toothpaste it not a 5 ounce container anymore. Ever try to put the toothpaste back in the tube? But my nearly empty toothpaste tube was taken away. It must have looked threatening.

Michael R said...

You doubters are so totally wrong about the liquids ban.

You may be ignorant about how it works, but that doesn't mean is hasn't kept everyone much safer.

Look, Kip said it himself: "We announced 3-1-1 on September 26, 2006."

If you go to the DHS history of terrorist threat levels here, you will see something amazing: http://www.dhs.gov/xabout/history/editorial_0844.shtm

Before the 3-1-1 policy, the terrorist threat was going up all the time!!!. Since the 3-1-1 policy, the terrorist threat level hasn't been elevated even once for any reason, anywhere!!

Obviously, there is something classified about the 3-1-1 formulation that is keeping us all safe in ways we can't even being to imagine. Three cheers for Kip and his team!!!

Russell said...

Thank you for having the courage to talk about your policies. Frankly I'm amazed that Homeland Security is being so honest.

Please remember that the PURPOSE of terrorism is to cause an overreaction (see your point #4). Restricting liquids is a distraction from the goal of keeping REAL bombs off airplanes.

And while I'm at it, restricting the carriage of weapons (e.g. the 1.5" knife of a Leatherman Micra) is a similar distraction since 9/11. No one threatening a hijacking will live more than, oh, say, 30 seconds, as everyone, from 6-year-olds to 90-year old grannies fights for their life.

REAL bombs are the REAL threat. Not liquids. Not Zippo(tm) lighters. Not knives. Not even guns.

Worry more about C4 and less about H2O.

Pete said...

Somehow they can find every single 3.5oz and bigger bottle of liquid I have on my person and in my carry-on, but handguns and knives still make it through checkpoints during TSA audits. Examples include bombs being let on planes and even accidental carry-on of handguns. This says to me that my government only wants to make me think they're securing flights, so i'll keep shelling out the greenbacks and keep them employed.

Anonymous said...

The TSA exists for two reasons - the first, and the obvious one, security theater.

The second, and the reason it's not going to go away, is because it's a federal low-wage job subsidy program propping up the US's job numbers. A couple hundred thousand needless jobs created, offsetting all the well paying skilled labor jobs we've shipped off overseas.

Anonymous said...

Justify your idiotic policies all you want. The sick truth of the matter is that YOU KNOW your idiotic liquids policy would never stop a dedicated terrorist if they truly wanted to mix liquid explosives on a plane, despite how stupid the idea is. There is absolutely nothing to keep someone from carrying a number of liquid filled viles in their pockets or under their shirt. 9/11 happened almost 7 years ago. 3000 people died almost 7 years ago, while 40,000 die every year from traffic accidents. Get over it, move on, do your job, and stop trying to keep everyone afraid!

Although I really would not be surprised if you didn't even know who he was, here is a quote from Ben Franklin: "Those who would give up Essential Liberty to purchase a little Temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety."

I hate what you have made of my country and my fellow countrymen.

Anonymous said...

I don't believe there was a plot. I believe this is a fabricated story to provoke terror and further justify a war on terror.

Pyrotechnician said...

This blog is a great thing! This degree of openness and discourse has become quite rare in government (at all levels), but transparency is supposed to be one of the fundamental tenets of our political system. Please do not be discouraged by the large number of negative responses, though you should take the well-formed criticisms to heart. From the outset, I was a strong critic of the liquids policy, considering it a form of "security theater" and hardly a useful measure. However, this detailed blog post has turned me part way around. I have considerable experience with explosives, including some binary mixtures, and the points you raise (especially #4) gave me a few moments of realization regarding the technical limitations of small rapidly-assembled bombs. I get it. I'm still not convinced that this level of security is actually required, but I understand the value of the measures from a technical perspective.

TSA's biggest areas for improvement are customer service mentality and actual task efficiency - make people feel safe rather than threatened, and get them through security as effortlessly as possible. You must accomplish both of these to win the public's respect (which, you must admit, you really don't have right now). There is significant room for improvement in both of those areas. I believe improvement will come only through the hiring of more competent low-level personnel with selection based on personality and attitude, as well as establishment of a "corporate culture" of politeness, courtesy, and respect. Such an impetus must come from the top, and starts with the attitudes and approaches of executive management. TSA owes this change to the American public.

Anonymous said...

Calm down, people! The TSA is doing a fantastic job of protecting American lives. Sometimes you have to sacrifice a little freedom for your security.

If the TSA says liquids are a serious threat, I wholeheartedly believe them. When was the last time a government agency ever knowingly deceived the public in a power-grab?

I just have one suggestion for the TSA, mentioned in passing by other posters. I feel the threat by terrorists trained in hypnosis or deep magic to be very severe! Just imagine what even a single terrorist armed with, say, a Veela core magic wand could do! He could bring down the entire plane by muttering an incantation in the bathroom. Or imagine what a terrorist trained in hypnosis could do.. he could hypnotize the stewardess, convince her to open the cabin door, and then hypnotize the pilot and copilot as well. The thought of all this sends shivers down my spines. Of course, none of these threats have been carried out... yet, thank God. Doubtlessly, we have the vigilance and tireless work of the highly trained TSA staff and undercover agents to thank for our safety from this threat. However, I would like to recommend that we ban magic wands and any wooden device (rulers, etc, that could be made into wands) longer than 3.5 inches in the name of our safety. In addition, we should probably be doing background checks on every passenger to make sure they haven't been trained in hypnosis or the dark arts. Perhaps with the wonderful Real IDs and new passports coming soon, this information could be easily encoded, and such potential threats barred from flying.

Thank you all, and God bless America. I am proud to live such a great country.

Anonymous said...

Sorry boys and girls at the TSA, not buying this story. The reality is there is a quota system out at the airports and a certain number of people must be "randomly" cleared a day and what better way to do that than with people with bad credit, flight changes, etc.

I find it a riot when NBC or some other news agency gets a "bomb" or walks around on an airplane by just walking out there.

All of this bunk about liquids and training people to look at behavior is a load. You will find it difficult to find a person who is NOT angry or unhappy at an airport these days. All you are doing is making life more difficult for the average person who will find ways to get around air travel as I have.

Since you knuckleheads have shown up with your bogus war on terror, driving over a couple of days to get somewhere suddenly is not so bad.

Thanks for putting up the blogs though, I'll be around as will others to debunk whatever action movie science you come up with.

Steve-O said...

What really gets me is the contempt TSA shows for the passenger and the policies they "enforce". I mean, I could get stupid for a minute and believe the plot. I could get even more stupid and accept to get my liquids taken from me. But for God's sake then, at least treat the liquids as if they were really a threat! Every TSO I met does not believe at all in his work: they just dump the bottle/liquid in a generic container. Aren't you afraid all those very dangerous liquids will blow up in a mighty explosion that will destroy the whole airport!?

Anonymous said...

The TSA security screening is pointless and just to make people "FEEL" they are safe. I have multiple time forgotten to declare my liquids and have gotten through security without any problems.

Anonymous said...

I think we have already debunked much of what is being said about the liquids (virtually impossible to do anything other than annoy people and limit business flyer's (and you people who keep clamoring about taking greyhound keep forgetting that its not just the social flier that gets a kick, its the business flier who HAS to deal with these moronic rules.. the ones who shell out the 2 - 3K for the ticket that most of the social flyers get for 200 - 300, the ones that keep in many respects the airlines afloat). Are you really going to tell the person that keeps your business where you work to take the bus?.. Bet you won't be working there long, and I'm pretty sure the business is not going to be alive much longer in that case.

For many of us, we would rather see better trained personnel handling the reigns to actually do a proper job rather than be made to do the security dance of stripping naked and having our lives probed everytime we do anything. Not to mention that I simply dont trust the TSA to do anything or handle my luggage since I've personally had several items stolen from me during TSA inspections (both checked luggage and carry on).

And as for the one TSA poster mentioning "you don't know how many knives and guns we keep out". I suspect about the same as before 9/11 or even before all this. Most likely a few more given all the stupid hypocracy really annoys people.

But hey... the world laughs at the US.. (heck, I laugh at the US). And its no wonder the economy is in the tank, people are scared out of their minds (and its more to do with the government than the "boogey man").

Keep up the good work folks.. meanwhile, as soon as my PRC from Singapore kicks in, I'm out of this nest of vipers.

man_who_saw_tomorrow said...

This all screening and everything sounds good. But the best idea would be to give incentive to passengers not to bring carry on luggage at all.

I fly frequently and if the flight is short, less than two hours, I can easily do with just a novel and my wallet/cellphone/keys. But still I sometimes take a carry on. Why? Because I am already being charged for carry on facility.

Now, if there are two classes of airline fares, one that is allowed carry on and a bit higher in cost, and second without carry on and low in cost, I would happily forgo carry on.

Even the same applies for check in luggage. If my habit of traveling light is rewarded financially, I would travel lighter.

Travel light = better security, shorter screening lines, lesser greenhouse emissions. A true win-win for all.

Anonymous said...

You have a false dichotomy in your statement. You say it's either "100 ml limits or a total ban", obviously, that's not true because there weren't limits for years and not a single was destroyed this way.

Therefore, you could also not ban liquids at all, or you could impose a more reasonable limit which doesn't inconvenience millions of travellers for a threat that even your experts have a hard time carrying off in their labs (see your own point #4).

The threat just isn't credible. The experts I hear talking about the liquid explosive plan in Britain say that there was literally a 0% chance of success before your liquid restrictions.

Anonymous said...

TSA seems to forget that 9/11 took years of planning and they studied what security would and would not do. This was not something thrown together last minute.

As to their whole waste of time restrictions.

A) I have had no issues getting my 16oz of liquid into a plane when I place it inside a container that doesn't look like a little toiletry container

B) If I was going to sneak liquids on a plane now that I know that the morons at TSA that can't pass HS or convert 100ml to American standards (Not because of this post but because we have studied them). I would put the although impossible to create bomb into a container that doesn't look like it has liquids. Because if they have the equipment to make this bomb that takes millions of dollars of tax payer money to create in our national labs without much success. They probably bought the new 3D printer for $1000 and can make their own custom container also.

Cathy W. said...

Just some TSO from a couple of days ago:

My daughter's unopened Dasani bottle was confiscated, at JAX but NOT at MDW. Two bottles. I had to buy expensive water past the checkpoint for nearly $6. It was freezing cold. I couldn't mix her a bottle for an hour.

Yeah, it may have been before your time, but it was the TSA that made the woman drink her breastmilk. Matter of fact, when I was railing to a TSA friend, I said, "I thought after y'all made the woman drink her breastmilk, you'd figured out the feeding babies thing" and he chuckled and muttered, "That was the worst thing we ever did. Ever. We'll never live it down."

Common sense: CHECKING water meant to be mixed with BABY FORMULA to feed a baby is NOT AN OPTION. She needs it when she's hungry.

Oh, I many things about the TSA. I know they find a few knives, because I dispatch the police to the checkpoints when they do.

I know about all the brides whose wedding cake knives are seized and all the scuba divers whose scuba knives are seized, and I never fail to say, "Who the heck still thinks it's okay to bring a knife through?"

The nail clippers comment was tongue in cheek and referenced a rule that was perhaps before your time, as was the grandma reference. I apologize.

Once more - I know exactly what the rules are. They are whatever you feel like they should be.
Do you know what the official answer from the 866 lady was regarding my daughter's water?

"Well, ultimately it's up to the screener as to what can go through."

When I said, "Having rules which are broken and enforced willy-nilly is a bit silly, wouldn't you agree?", she had no reply.

It's water for formula. Across the board, make it legal when traveling with a baby and STOP the harassment of infants.

Stop forbidding AIRCRAFT MECHANICS like my husband to bring a hammer and wrench through the checkpoint. Good luck flying somewhere if that hammer doesn't make it to the plane, y'all.
You see his airline badge. It says, "United" and then "Aircraft Mechanic." He's had a ten year FBI background check, just like me.
He's not a terrorist.
One of the mechanics got his water seized, which is hysterical, because then he went directly to work on the electrical system of the aircraft.

Like my husband says, "If an aircraft mechanic wants to bring a plane down, he can. Period."

For the longest time, PILOTS couldn't bring more than 3 ounces liquid through. Errrrrrrr...

I not only dispatch police to the checkpoints, I also dispatch Fire-Rescue. If I had a nickel for every time the TSA stopped the stretcher-carrying paramedics and made them go through the checkpoint...
After much hell-raising, we seem to have straightened that issue out for the time being, but I've no doubt it will come up again in the future.

I don't give a crap about hair gel (I happily tossed some at a checkpoint recently - it was accidentally put in my carry-on, my fault - no biggie), or expensive face creams, $100 perfumes, or whatever else. But when you mess with me being able to feed my child, the claws are going to come out.

I'm not trying to be hard on y'all. I know you are doing the best you can, most of you, and as a former US Government employee, I know it's not easy to deal with dumb rules.
But admitting that some rules don't make sense doesn't make you bad TSOs. You SHOULD be allowed to say, "Wait. No, that's dumb. Let's talk about this, get our input before you start making up new stuff."
You guys are the ones that can get things straightened out - not the people in DC.

Anonymous said...

So, TSA, what measures do you have in place to prevent all of the following:

1) A person from soaking liquids into a solid that can be made to bleed them out later (say, silica gel)?

2) A person from dehydrating a fluid-bearing material and then rehydrating it with the desired liquid, which can later be squeezed out (say, watermellon)? I've actually considered that one myself to take a drink onboard.

3) A person from doing the standard "drug mule" approach and keeping components inside bags stored in their body (are you going to start instituting cavity searches)?

4) An attacker from travelling with a young child so they can bring "juice boxes" and the like to get around the limit?

In short, do you think attackers are complete and utter idiots, that they'll only try and attack in the way you'd like them to? This "security theater" is annoying; it's transparently worthless.

For way of comparison: I was in Japan last summer. We all remember the Aum Shinrikyo attacks on the Tokyo subway system -- a dozen bags of Sarin scattered on trains and in stations, killing and wounding many people. And Japan continues to have a problem with cults. So, all sorts of ridiculous restrictions to ride trains and subways, right?

Not at all. In Japan, you buy a ticket from a machine or get a ticket or pass in advance, walk in, show your pass or insert your ticket, head out to the platform, and hop on board with whatever you want to take with you, just like always. Even in their airports, they're like this. I was backpacking with friends over there, and we realized that we hadn't gotten rid of our stove fuel. We had big bottles of the stuff. Panicking, we poured it into a plastic drink bottle to throw away, but I felt bad about that idea because it'd be environmentally destructive and a fire risk. So, we approached the security desk carrying a (what must have looked quite suspicious) bottle of flammable liquid, and explained the situation to them. They were incredibly nice about it, and even offered to ship the fuel, in a proper manner of course, home for us (we declined).

Is this crazy? No -- it's keeping the threat in perspective and not succumbing to the paranoia that every passenger is really a sleeper cell just waiting to attack. And it's a realization that one has to face up to the fact that there are threats in this world that you simply cannot realistically prevent or even deter. Since 9/11, we have done a few things that have contributed positively to airport safety: greater training and vigilance, reinforced cockpit doors, better scanning equipment, and reinforcing the idea among passengers that you need to fight back. But forcing everyone to take off their shoes and banning liquids or little tiny pairs of scissors is just idiocy, a reactionary response to a threat that doesn't prevent the next kind of attack or -- often -- even the previous kind. Want a blade on a plane, for example? Take something glass or ceramic with you and shatter it in a towel. Or sharpen the edge of an internal structural element of a laptop case and take the laptop apart in the plane. Or about a hundred other things. How are you going to stop that sort of thing? By banning little nail scissors? You have to face the fact that there are things that you can't rely on security procedures to pick out, and that making the lines longer and passengers more annoyed every time some idiot conceives a hare-brained plot to attack an airplane is not the answer.

Anonymous said...

you don't know how many knives and guns we keep out

Well, I can wager a guess, since I was one of them. In a rush to pack my backpacking gear for my Japan trip, I threw piles of gear into whatever bag I could and raced for the airport. Then, going through screening, it was discovered that I had thrown my tiny pocketknife in my carryon. It had a one inch blade at best, and wasn't even all that sharp. When they found it, they treated me like I was planning to terrorize a small plane in our tiny midwest airport, when I was *clearly going on a backpacking trip*. After being publicly treated as though I was a terrorist for five minutes, with guards swarmed around me, they eventually decided I wasn't a threat, threw away my knife (wouldn't let me check it), and let me catch my plane.

Oh, and I had thrown a blunt-edged spade in there as well. Apparently I must have been planning to hijack a plane with a dull spade, too, because they made me throw that away as well.

I can take a wild guess that the overwhelming majority of knives and guns you find are from similar circumstances.

Anonymous said...

Wow. I've never read anybody dodging the point so much in my entire life.

Such complete nonsensical tripe like this post is showing is the reason I don't fly anymore. At all. Ever. Period.

I'm not the only one. The amazing amount of *obvious* stupidity in policies like these is keeping more and more people off aircraft entirely.

Anonymous said...

Ever check out the employee entrance in Sea-Tac by the oversized baggage area? Doesn't look like their bags are checked for liquids.

Anonymous said...

I am a flight attendant. I want to thank you for taking my Yogurt trip after trip after trip. At least I still have my scissors and cockpit access key oh and dont forget the crash axe. Ask yourself. Is taking a uniformed, currently badged flight attendants yogurt really gonna stop anything?

Anonymous said...

The entire premise that the mixture can only be done on a plane is pure lunacy. And that only 1 quart, divided between 3oz bottles is all a terrorist is going to have available is also ignoring the big picture.

Were I interested in bringing down a plane (and I'm not; I like my life, thank you -- the first person is just more clear than 3rd person statements), me and my buddies could each get a ticket, bring our limit of liquids through security, and then I could collect their bags and go to a family bathroom, where in the privacy of THAT space, I could mix together the explosive in whatever time it took.

Hell, I could leave my first quart sized bag with someone inside security, repeatedly leave security, get another bag from an accomplice, and re-enter security. Use the excuse I left my cell phone in the car, or something, if asked. I probably could do it 2 or three times before anyone raised an eyebrow.

This is a very poor risk mitigation stand. It only punishes those who are interested in following the rules. Someone determined to violate them and commit violence can easily get around them.

Anonymous said...

I will acknowledge that there is a *threat*, but has anyone actually calculated the risk?

Risk is (loosely) defined as the standard deviation of possible outcomes. Has anyone in the TSA sat down and actually analyzed this based on your own point (4) above?

Is the Risk (not the threat) greater than someone bringing aboard the solid explosive, and does adding this additional set of steps actually decrease that risk (not the threat) in any appreciable way?

Do you believe that degree of decrease worth the additional expense and inconvenience for travelers? Why?

Anonymous said...

I was flying in Japan and they had a machine that you stuck your liquid water bottle in for a couple seconds that I assume scanned it for explosives and then they allowed you to take it through security and onto the plane if it passed. Why can't we have this in the US?

harking said...

Very well written response. Thanks for the information. Security++

One question, do the tests with the liquids take into account the possible use of combination with jet fuel? I see that as a large issue since it is readily available in any airport.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous said:
Lord knows even if putting together a binary explosive is unlikely on an aircraft I am willing to check my toothpaste and shampoo just to elimilate the possibility.

I'm not. There isn't a demonstrably clear benefit to be gained by this loss of convenience. The TSA says that the binary liquid explosives idea isn't feasible on an aircraft, an assertion backed up by independent chemists. Reacting to this plot does nothing.

Furthermore, there is absolutely no screening of the other freely available liquids in the "secure" area past the screening points, i.e., the bottled water delivered to the in-airport stores isn't checked. I've talked with numerous TSA and law enforcement agents about this, and they all admit it's done on some sort of "honor system," where the vendor is trusted with the safety and security of those.

In the absence of clear, indisputable evidence that a security measure is worth it (and I won't buy the "trust us, it's classified" argument), I will never willingly give into having my right to privacy eroded or violated.

Anonymous said...

I think we can all agree that the real reason the TSA bans "liquids" is not because some unidentified idiot was rumored to have done something impossible. Its simply to keep people with a high school education employed on a massive pay roll with bosses with fat salaries at the top.

So the question becomes, are we for or against french style government welfare employment of annoying unprofessional idiots? And yes, a polite stupid many who acts carefully is unprofessional when he takes away your water simply because he took it.

No one CARES if planes get blown up - they only care if they get hijacked and used as bombs. And even then its not really an issue as long as the foreigners blow up their own cities. A simple 10 dollar lock on a door would solve that though.

Anonymous said...

There are other explosive options besides TATP and its relatives that do require some careful preparation on the ground, but that then are ready as soon as they are mixed aboard the airplane. They involve no easily-detected acetone, generate no fumes, and look just like water (though you won't survive drinking much of the major component). The raw materials, including those of a catalytic instead of shock-based initiator can be purchased at a grocery store.

So it may be that there is something real in the "classified" information that the TSA feels it can't tell us. If so, being more candid would be good for their credibility, but I am not sure I would make a different decision if it were up to me. I have been less clear than I might have been and deciced not to include my own recipes in this post, either.

Anonymous said...

I don't believe the issue is wholely regarding liquid explosives. I think the whole thing may be a money making issue. Selling water after the check point for $2.00+ per bottle is a good way to subsidize paying for the security personnel. I am not a chemist, but given the parameters to actually make a liquid based high explosive by combining carry on chemicals seems so difficult that I cannot believe it. Even formulating nitro-glycerin in a brute force manner direct chemical combination would be ineffective to produce enough explosive power to take down a plane.

Anonymous said...

The United States government IS LYING TO YOU. They state, "there was a very serious plot to blow up planes using liquid explosives in bombs that would have worked to bring down aircraft." This is a complete FABRICATION. There was no plot, but it serves the purposes of the government to manufacture a news story of a threat in order to keep us scared and subservient.

Anonymous said...

Good explanation. I didn't completely read through the responses and if you down to mine...wow!

I have one big question. Isn't there a much higher risk of danger from the trashcans that people dispose of their excess liquids in? What prevents a terrorist from exploiting that by bringing in bombs and placing them in a very public place? Seems like we're putting too much focus on the unlikely possibility of a bomb on board rather than the more likely possibility of an old-fashioned suicide or other bomb.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for allowing us to voice our opinion.

The TSA would better serve us if they focused less on possibilities and more on probabilities. Please stop hassling us about liquids.

Anonymous said...

Pure security theatre. Thanks anyway.

Basic Math said...

The TSA is already costing lives. We've exchanged the possibility of lost lives for the certainty of lost lives. How? Two ways:

1. Time spent in screening. Assume that screening takes 20 minutes - probably optimistic, but why not? - and that there are 738 million passengers, which is a number from 2005 but the best I could find. You have now spent 28,000 years of people lives just in security screening lines every year. That's 360 lifetimes spent in security screening, 2600 lives or so lost since 9/11.

2. People doing the screening could be spending their time instead accomplishing something that would better humanity. Those thousands of staff could be doing something useful with their lives.

I would argue that the loss of meaningful life since 9/11 has already easily eclipsed the actual loss of life on that day.

Ayn R. Key said...

Berlin Neon wrote:
Why would TSA want to "lie"? What purpose would it serve them to have people (and their TSO's) go thru all of the trouble of limiting the amount of liquids?

That's a very good question. We know they are doing it. Why are they doing it? Do you have any guesses as to the motives of what they obviously are doing?

When someone or some organization "lies" they are doing it for some advantage or gain. So, what's in it for TSA to lie?

Good question. Since what they are doing is obvious, why do you think they are doing it?

And how do you think they keep all of their "lies" a secret?

Obviously it's not a secret.

Wouldn't you think one or two of their employees would spill the beans about the big conspiracy?

They already did in this blog entry when they admitted it took a fully equipped chemical lab to create the explosives.

Anonymous said...

Another challenge for terrorists who might combine many bottles is that each bottle increases the chances of detection of the contents or the person carrying it. If fifty passengers are involved in bringing a bottle on board, the bomb maker then has to collect the bottles and make the bomb without being noticed. The last part might not be difficult if there are 49 passengers causing distractions, but 50 terrorists on a plane don't really need a bomb to cause terror.

Anonymous said...

This is not security, it's social control. If there were a determined terrorist that wanted to hurt people (which there are probably extremely few of), they would just follow all the security rules the TSA presents, and then do something that still hurts people but gets past those rules. The average citizen, and not the terrorist, is the target of these TSA security checks - with the purpose of making the average citizen afraid, and therefore more willing to accept the removal of their basic civil and human rights.

Gerard said...

I'd like to take a slightly different note on the liquid and security issue, while I don't believe all the searches and weird rules make us any safer, think about the huge lines you are causing right in the airport terminal, a whole bunch of people grouped in a small space, why blow up a plane when you can just go stand in line and blow yourself up?
So, it is my opinion that you're causing more problems then you're solving.
Not to mention, changing your policies AFTER a supposed threat has been found seems kind of 'too little too late' to me, its nothing but security theater, so people feel safer.
I think this blog is a good start tho, thanks for that.

Anonymous said...

Let's take a look at the difficulty involved:

Liquids: Hard to get and hard to transport for the dangerous ones, damn near impossible to put togeather covertly on a plane. Hard to hide.

Solids: Semtex, that wonderful eastern style C-4, doled out by the tons by former soviet states and almost anybody. Can be molded into any shape, is oderless, and can easily be mixed with more of it's self to make a nice bomb. can be triggered by an idiot with a battery.

Winner: Solids, easy to make, store, move, and sneak, you have oh so many options to choose from.

Anonymous said...

Stupid comment: "No one CARES if planes get blown up"

Ask the family of the victims of Pan Am Flight 103, blow up by a bomb on Wednesday December 21, 1988, if "no one cares".

If one thing this blog is good for is to show the stupidity of some anonymous posters.

Cynthia said...

On a recent flight out of Philadelphia I had egg salad I was going to eat for lunch confiscated for being a liquid, and I was told that even if I had it in a container in a plastic bag I couldn't take it in, because "consumable" liquids were not allowed at all. Is this an actual policy? How would a liquid being a consumable make it more of a threat?

Anonymous said...

Q:Good question. Since what they are doing is obvious, why do you think they are doing it?
A: Big budget a huge power trip.

Happy Traveller said...

First, thanks for creating this blog, you are either a glutton for punishment or have a very enlightened approach. (maybe both)

On the liquid rules and their justification there is obviously room to disagree. That said, TSA has a difficult job and is likely to be criticized for whatever decision it makes in such cases.

I am suprised that so many have made such a fuss about such simple rules. Although I always carry toothpaste and would prefer leaving my shoes on while travelling, there are two reasons why I am totally ok with the 3-1-1 rules. The first reason I am ok with the 3-1-1 rules is that the stated cases made for the rules by TSA above are (IMNSHO) plausible and I am happy to do my part, after all, the inconvenience is tiny. It is not like they are tapping my phone or performing a cavity search.

The second reason why I am totally ok with these rules is that I understand that TSA has a job to do and that job involves putting in place some unpopular rules that I believe are more valuable than they appear. Regardless of the 'physics of liquid explosive dimensions' or 'the shoe bomb threat', the 3-1-1 rules promote a small but significant amount of interaction between the people passing through the check-point and the security personel. It is unfortunate that we all get delayed by the irate know-it-alls. But IMNHO, TSA personel are far more likely to notice the real signs of stress which suicidal terrorists are likely to exhibit if there is some moderate amount of interaction with the people passing through the check-point. And so, as naive as it may sound, it occurs to me that these silly little rules are not only designed to, but probably indeed do have, a positive effect on the safeness of my travels.

Hang in there TSA, there are travellers (at least this one) that appreciate what you are trying to do and how difficult a task it is.

Dave X the first said...

Jim: Kip's explanation says 100 ml. And the 3-1-1 rule says 3 oz.

3oz is 88ml

100ml is 3.4oz

Which limit does TSA management think it is and which limit do the screeners think it is?

Anonymous said...

Two points I'd like to make:

1) No terrorist is going to successfully take over a plane with a gun, knife, bomb, flame thrower, or tonka truck anymore. After 9/11 no one will allow it.

2) Chlorine will pass through security. I won't explain further, but if you're a NBC specialist you understand the danger. Far simpler than any binary agent.

Anonymous said...

I got stopped for 45 minutes because the TSA personnel didn't know what a "drum key" is, and sequestered me and my daughter immediately. My little drum key escalated all the way to the head of TSA at the airport, at that point, the paranoia level went from 100 to Zero because he was an musician. My daughter and I missed the flight and had to take another one.

The whole TSA business is ridiculous. I hear there is a real risk of the US becoming a police state. Can the TSA help with that? No- because they are part of the problem.

Nethemas said...

Here's an interesting thought that nobody really seems to pay attention to. Let's pretend that a terrorist sees that it's a real pain in the rear to take a plane down in the sky but wants to disrupt air travel nonetheless. What's a fellow to do?

Easy. Where is there a mass congregation of people that are readily accessible--as in no security checks? How about the bloody security check lines that run for miles because the TSA thinks my shoes happen to look like they have suspiciously tall soles, or because that pregnant lady looks like a fun person to harass for the sake of the bulge in her front.

Give me a break people. Air travel is statistically the absolute safest (even more so than walking) way to travel. Why aren't we screening cars ala checkpoint on the highway? Why don't we sic bomb sniffing dogs on Walmart customers? When was the last time there was a security check line at your local shopping mall? Get over it people, this is completely asinine!

Anonymous said...

In the light that you can buy things at duty-free shops (whose personnel and deliveries are checked lazily/lousily), that they are sealed with flimsy paper strips, which should be easy to make up yourself, and the enourmous profits by people selling overprized drinks in the "cleared" area, I think that your explanations come nowhere near to be satisfying.

Sorry.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the well thought-out post. I am especially glad on the part of the response that it is all about mitigating risk.

Like many others I have always been annoyed with the ban on liquids, pretty much above everything else, but I do see there was some real thought put behind it so I feel a BIT better about it now.

I just hope everyone (not just as the TSA, but other government agencies and civilians) understands that at some point it is up to each individual person to defend themselves. There is always going to be a threat. The only way we can all truly be safe is to lock everyone up in individual padded cells. It all goes back again to mitigating risk. Government needs to trust that some individuals will rise to the occasion in certain dangerous situations. It's not guaranteed to work, of course, but in the end it's the best defense we have.

Jonah said...

The terrorists have won.

They wanted to disrupt our lives, and they've succeeded. They did so by helping creating an organization so mind-numbingly stupefying it's brought the greatest nation on earth to its knees.

I refer, of course, to the TSA.

First we couldn't take our fingernail clippers onto planes with us, in case we tried to clip the pilots' nails. Then all of a sudden it was okay again.

Then some would-be terrorists in Britain heard, probably on a movie, that if you mix some chemicals together, you can create an explosive. They performed a trial run using inert liquid in false bottomed containers, just to make sure they could get away with smuggling them onto a plane, before actually checking to make sure it was actually possible to blow up anything that way. They were caught, and the TSA realized they suddenly had a way to make the lives of ordinary citizens much worse.

They discovered that, while they could no longer take away our fingernail clippers, they could do something even more stupefying. They could confiscate our toothpaste. And our shampoo. And our expensive moisturizers.

Then, instead of relenting like they did when it came to clipping the pilots' toenails, they decided to do something even more maddening. We were allowed to take our toothpaste on board with us but only if it were in a tiny tube enclosed in a one-quart Ziploc bag.

They claim this is for our safety. Why does this insane rule make us safer? It's classified information!

The truth is that making explosives from liquid is very, very complicated. And nearly impossible to do on a plane.

What's worse is the TSA already knows this! This is from the TSA's brand spankin' new blog:

"The preparation of these bombs is very much more complex than tossing together several bottles-worth of formula and lighting it up. In fact, in recent tests, a National Lab was asked to formulate a test mixture and it took several tries using the best equipment and best scientists for it to even ignite. That was with a bomb prepared in advance in a lab setting. A less skilled person attempting to put it together inside a secure area or a plane is not a good bet. You have to have significant uninterrupted time with space and other requirements that are not easily available in a secured area of an airport. It adds complexity to their preferred model and reduces our risk, having the expert make the bomb and give it to someone else to carry aboard. They are well aware of the Richard Reid factor where he could not even ignite a completed bomb. Simple is truly better for them. Also, bomb-makers are easier for us to identify than so-called clean 'mules.'"

So they know it's insane but they make us jump through these hoops anyway. The "Shoe Bomber" couldn't manage to ignite his sneakers, but by golly, we've all got to walk through the magnetometer barefoot. The best minds in the best laboratories have a hard time creating explosives from liquids, and yet we can't take a half empty normal size tube of toothpaste on board? I solve that problem by taking six little tubes with him in his one-quart plastic bag.

The fact of the matter is that there will never be another September 11th, at least not when there's at least one American on board. As soon as someone tries to hijack a plane, every single American on board will jump up and stomp a would-be hijacker to his death. Then they'll return to their seats, fasten their safety belts, and enjoy the rest of their in-flight movie (provided they shelled out $5 for a pair of crappy headphones). It didn't take long for us to learn. It only took about half an hour for the passengers on board United Airlines Flight 93 to figure it out and take matters into their own hands.

But instead we are cowed in fear, not that we'll die in a flaming ball of fire, but that we'll miss our flight because we forgot a plastic baggie.

Anonymous said...

please recognize our Security Officers who train and test every day and will do whatever it takes to make you and your families safe when you fly

Really? So why does it feel like they're more concerned with exercising their limited power of intimidation and harassment than making us feel safe and welcome when we fly? Why do I always feel like I'm the criminal?

Anonymous said...

Why don't these rules make sense? My guess is the airline lobby aggressively supports these sorts of restrictions in the name of passenger safety, but they primarily don't want us bringing our own drinks and snacks on the plane. The largest profit margins are made on airport food and $4 water. (In some airports, you can't even find a water fountain.) Just read point 4 about how hard it is to implement such an attack and read the posts about not being allowed to bring in "consumable" liquids in particular. I personally had a small water bottle confiscated and when I asked if I could drink it first, I was told I could not - I thought that was rather absurd.

Ayn R. Key said...

Hi Happy Traveler. How long have you worked for the TSA?

Fear_is_the_weapon said...

Terrorism is really not about blowing things up or killing people. It's about making people afraid so that they will affect whatever behavior or group the terrorists are against.

To that end, it seems to me that a terrorist could fill up a ziploc bag with water and food coloring in the bathroom and could easily claim to have a bomb, even if it was non-functional, and attempt to take over a plane. The fact that the bomb isn't real has no effect on the outcome of his attempt (which hopefully will end in being pummeled to death by passengers).

Having the TSA present fallacious arguments ("how many planes have gone down since 9/11") just makes me wonder just how much critical thinking is being applied correctly behind the scenes, and definitely doesn't improve their credibility in my book.

Anonymous said...

Is it true I can't even bring a large EMPTY water bottle on a plane...so I don't have to ask the attendants every half hour or more to fill me little cup?

Anonymous said...

The basic problem with the liquids policy is the way that, in practice, it focuses the attention of security personnel on what amounts to a nearly irrelevant and/or low-risk threat.

I travel often out of Boston-Logan and am entirely convinced that many of the TSA personnel are closet accountants. They appear to delight in measuring and counting liquids, checking to see whether or not the containers say "3.5-ounce" versus "4.0-ounce," looking for the proper plastic baggies, etc. They furthermore (and maybe this is because they're Bostonians) appear to *really* get excited about throwing a fit with you and inconveniencing you over some minor violation of the "liquid rules." They appear to have absolutely no discretion whatsoever. I recently had a (very expensive) 4.0-ounce container of shaving cream get tossed out by an arrogant TSA screener who lectured me like a small child about the importance of respecting the "liquid rules."

There can be no doubt that TSA screeners should spend most of their time and energy studying passengers and looking for subtle clues about the intentions and dispositions of passengers. Instead, we appear to have a team of people who are preoccupied with shoe removal and the inspection of liquids. The liquids policy erodes public confidence in the screening process, makes light of the very serious matter of airport security, and is undoubtedly easily circumvented by individuals who are truly determined to get liquids onto planes.

Anonymous said...

#5: "The container itself adds complexity. A 100ml container limits the effect of, and even the ability of, a detonation."

Now, I realize that this is just one of the reasons listed. However, my question is what's to prevent someone from packing an empty container in their bag and thus defeating the purpose of the "100ml container rule." Additionally, you could buy larger containers once you are past the security checkpoint.

I find it rather difficult to believe that this the reason that liquids are restricted to this size.

One additional comment - During a recent travel to Puerto Rico, the TSA agent refused to let me bring abroad a 3 ounce container in a clear plastic bag that was not marked with a manufactuer's label. Instead the container had a commercial label that said "3 ounces - perfect for air travel." I had picked up the container at a local CVS store to transfer my aftershave into a small container, one authorized by TSA for airplane travel. Must all 3 ounce container be accomapnied by a "manufactuer's label?"

Anonymous said...

So they know it's insane but they make us jump through these hoops anyway. The "Shoe Bomber" couldn't manage to ignite his sneakers, but by golly, we've all got to walk through the magnetometer barefoot.

Your statement has me laughing... So you think its okay to let the terrosits take explosives on the planes as long as (we hope anyway) that they are too stupid to figure out to make it blow up?

David said...

I just got back from Israel where I was allowed to bring whatever liquids I wanted on the plane. This is because I was interrogated ("interviewed") several times before every flight I took to or from Israel during this vacation and after each time they determined that I was, in fact, not a threat. I had an Egyptian visa in my passport and also was a young male traveling alone, so I obviously fit a profile.

This was much more inconveniencing for me, but it made more sense. When I arrived in NYC, our own security seemed so light compared to the Israelis. I felt that I could look as suspicious as I wanted in American airports and nobody would be allowed to question my motives or where I was going or with whom, etc.

It seems that the Israeli security philosophy is that people are terrorists, not liquids or other things. I know that it is impractical to interview every person on american flights, but I wonder if someone can write more about the "behavior" monitoring that TSA is purporting to install in airports?

Anonymous said...

So I taking along a salad to eat on-board, but my two ounces of salad dressing was illegal and I was sent to the back of the line.

Once I poured my salad dressing on the salad, I was legal.

Hello?

Anonymous said...

I thought by now a little clarification would have been posted regarding the comments made by Kip on the liquids issue.

Item #4 of his post seem to contradict any requirement to confiscate the publics property.

Simply stated making an explosive from liquids is near impossible except in a lab. That is from the mouth of the TSA!

Continue to explain and convince the public that our bottle of pop or water is dangerous.

Simple fact is you can't, yet TSA continues to abuse the public for no reason.

Anonymous said...

To Kip's point #3.

Why would "extensive" testing start the day the information was made public? Certainly British law enforcement knew of the plot prior to that day and I imagine shared information with allied/USA security and law enforcement officials.

This seems to be reactive instead of proactive. Another indication that we are behind terrorists instead of ahead.

Fred said...

First, let me commend the TSA for doing its best to do its duty and protect the public (meaning me, of course). I fly very often, and the TSA employees I've dealt with are almost always thorough, respectful, and helpful, and they somehow keep their spirits high in a difficult job, often under difficult circumstances. (I don't imagine LGA is any more fun for them than it is for us. And it's not fun.)

But this liquids policy weakens your credibility. The poster who wrote "Read point number 4. Now read it again." has a (somewhat cheeky) point. It appears assembling a liquid device is very hard to do -- requiring an ice bath?? -- and it undermines TSA's credibility to maintain that it's a realistic threat. Am I uninformed or naive?

And please also consider a point someone made about distractions. The liquids rules force screeners to keep an eye out for yet another possibility. As I have often seen first hand, I think the liquids rules create quite a few distractions in the security line. As just one example, I recall an incident at LGA when a poor man had to throw away a pint of Johnny Walker Red, and everyone expressed good humored sympathies, including the screeners -- a perfect distraction. More typical is everyone scrambling to get their baggies out of their carry-ons, arguments over what constitutes "three ounces" (such as a half-full six ounce bottle), baggies spilling their contents on the conveyor belts, etc. etc.

Finally, let me commend the TSA for having both the guts and democratic spirit to host this blog.

Tired and frustrated Mom said...

Coming home from our first family vacation with our two children, one of them a toddler, we were hassled over drinks in our bags, and for whatever reason the small-size Gatorades were deemed ok, but the grape soda, a special treat for our child as we do not often allow them to drink soda, was somehow a threat. They also entirely missed the 12 oz. bottle of hairspray that I mistakenly left in my purse. I quoted the TSA's own website that when you are travelling with children you can have juices and water for them, however the younger TSA agent seemed overjoyed that he had found something to harass me about and then the older agent with him made the decision that the Gatorades were okay, but the commercially sealed and packaged grape soda had to go.


The main problem with the liquids ban as it stands right now is that it's applied according to the whim of whomever you are speaking to. So please I would like you to answer the following question.

Your own website states: "When traveling with a child, in the absence of suspicious activity or items, greater than 3 ounces of baby formula, breast milk, or juice are permitted through the security checkpoint in reasonable quantities for the duration of your itinerary".

So please define for me the word "juice". Is it only 100% real fruit juice allowed? What about 10% juice? What about juice with sparkling water? What about artificially flavored juice ala "SunnyD" which is less than 2% "real" juice? What about Tang? Or Gatorade? Or Kool-Aid? Does it have to be in a juice box? What if I have a can of juice? Or a glass bottle of OJ? What if my child has juice in a sippy cup and not a commercially-sealed container?

Now, please define what you mean about reasonable quantities? If I have 3 or more children and I have a multiple-leg journey with a layover and more than 10 hours worth of travel, that might mean quite a lot of quantity as far as liquids go. Who gets to decide how much??

You can see how this gets very muddled very quickly and is completely open to the individual interpretation of the "rules".

What you are really doing with this liquids ban is giving the TSA agents the power to harass people at a very basic level over things which are just common sense things. When any traveler dares to enter into the screening area, they should always keep in mind that the space they are entering is not a part of the great American democracy, it's a dictatorship where each TSA person gets his or her own little kingdom to rule over. Whether or not your liquids will pass muster rides entirely on who you are standing in front of.
And that is entirely why you are getting so much flack over this "rule". My kid's water or juice or whatever is ok one place, but not another, confiscated at one, ignored elsewhere. My $100 4 oz. bottle of moisturizer that sails through in Boston, gets pitched in Dallas on the way home.

The complete and total arbitrariness of the ban is infuriating and frustrating, and your by your own admission, a liquid bomb is nearly impossible to achieve even under perfect laboratory conditions with expert scientists at hand. So please inform your agents to quit picking on small children and babies by taking away their drinks!

Anonymous said...

Why is peanut butter a liquid?

Anonymous said...

i've circumvented the liquids ban many times with a glass liquor flash and a pair of baggy shorts

Anonymous said...

My wife says that at LGA and LAX she has gone through security with no posting or requirement concerning liquids sequestered in plastic bags. What gives?

Frustrated Flyer said...

I have a legitimate question that I'd be afraid to pose to a TSA agent for fear of being perceived as a smart aleck and facing retribution: If I want water for my flight, but don't wish to pay $3 a bottle once I get past security, can I freeze a bottle at home, run it through security and simply allow it to melt and become drinkable en route? I would not be traveling with a solid, not a liquid, gel or aerosol.

Also, two quick comments on inconsistency: 1) Why do some of the screeners require you to physically remove your driver's license and hand it to them, while others are perfectly content to let you flash them ID through the clear plastic portion of your wallet?

2) While I travel frequently, on a recent morning flight I neglected to grab a plastic bag. The sum total of my 3-1-1 items consisted of a single sample size tube of toothpaste, which was ultimately confiscated. No amount of logic could convince the TSA agent, her supervisor, or the station manager that a sample size toothpaste would -- by any reasonable logic known to man -- fit in a quart size ziploc bag.

I was in the same airport the following week and a fairly young, attractive blond went through the screening line ahead of me. She poured an array of cosmetic items into her tray sans bag. The female TSA agent on the line notices and starts giving her a hard time. Then, a second TSA agent (a male) slides up, inquires as to the problem, and slips a plastic bag out of his pocket for her use. (Evidently white males bearing a tube of toothpaste present a risk to national security, but attractive blondes do not!) This woman was not asked to load all of her cosmetics into the bag. They would NOT have fit. Nothing was re-screened or tested for "vapors".

Thoughts?

Jim said...

I wish the TSA would get their signage and web site correct. What is the 3 oz limit -- 90ml or 3.4 oz which is 100ml? Could there be some standard here? Many TSA people don't have a clue here when you ask them.

TSA TSO NY said...

Anonymous said...
Why is peanut butter a liquid?

February 11, 2008 11:41 AM


Uh, liquid, gel, paste or cream.


Anonymous said...
i've circumvented the liquids ban many times with a glass liquor flash and a pair of baggy shorts

February 11, 2008 1:41 PM

Please let me be the one who screens you and find the items you deliberately "hid".


Anonymous said...
My wife says that at LGA and LAX she has gone through security with no posting or requirement concerning liquids sequestered in plastic bags. What gives?

February 11, 2008 3:09 PM

Truth be told....
They just can't bother.
We hear this all the time, XXX airport let me through with this.... XXX airport didn't make me take my liquids out....

Well, guess what, XXX airport saw the liquids on xray and decided they couldn't be bother with the rules and have you remove them.
I'd be more concerned with the airports that DON'T make you follow the rules than those that do. Those airports are putting YOU at risk and I would definitely complain.

As for the signs, I'm sure they are there, just look around.

Dave X the first said...

@February 11, 2008 10:58 PM TSA TSO NY said...

Anonymous said...
Why is peanut butter a liquid?

February 11, 2008 11:41 AM

Uh, liquid, gel, paste or cream.


**********

No tsa tso ny, unless you are working off of some set of secret rules. TSA's website says "liquids, gels and aerosols" not "paste or cream". They do list peanut butter as an example of canned or jarred goods under foods, right there by the fantasy of a 3oz pressurized cheese container.

The prohibition on pastes is one of those inconsistencies something tsa tso ny is making up.

Anonymous said...

Regarding Kip's comments;

Would you please explain why item 4 of your comments does not contradict your policy?

Thanks.

Anonymous said...

The biggest thing that TSA could do to increase security is to increase morale and lower the attrition rate by treating the screeners like valued employees.

Anonymous said...

It seems that alot of my fellow passengers FORGET that all screeners that you come across are people, and should be treated as such. they have a job to do that is alot harder than your desk job. they obviously deal with your complaining about things they cant personally change, and risk injuring their bodies for your safety.

All of the screeners i have come across are professional and very polite. why cant we all look at the bigger picture here instead of looking at the small dot that is liquids ban.

If you are SOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO upset about it. put all of your ridiculous items and belongings in your checked luggage.

there i solved your problem.

TSA TSO NY said...

The prohibition on pastes is one of those inconsistencies something tsa tso ny is making up.

Go check your dictionary and you will find that gel and paste/cream are considered essentially the same thing - not solid.

TSA is prohibiting anything that fits this definition. I believe there are even some TSA signs in use that say "If it squeezes, spills or pours, it's not allowed" or something on that order.

From the TSA site:
Canned or jarred goods such as soup, sauces, peanut butter, fruits, vegetables and jellies
Cheese in pressurized containers
Gel based sports supplements
Pudding
Whipped cream
Yogurt

You will see that the items bolded above are in fact more creams then gels. You will also note the term "Such As". This means "of the type" so, anything such as the listed items will not be allowed.
that goes back to my creams & pastes definitions.

Oh, and if you are unsure, just bring a bunch of those items through a checkpoint and I'm sure the TSOs will be happy to educate you on our definition vs. yours.

Anonymous said...

(Evidently white males bearing a tube of toothpaste present a risk to national security, but attractive blondes do not!)

Yup!

Ashamed_of_the_us said...

Quite a number of comments, I've read every single one.

Summary:
A very few "oh gee you say it's for my safety, thanks so much then, you guys are great".

A lot of "This is utterly stupid" with examples.

A number of good points:
- Liquids are easily concealed under loose closing (or simply in the carryon) in quantities MUCH larger than 10 ounces. (so removing liquids from bags is useless, thank you)

- The actual risk of something lethal happening in a plane (bombing, hijack, butterfly wing causing a lightning bolt that blows the plane etc) is MUCH MUCH lower than other transportation. That was true before AND after 9/11, without water policies.
Guns were not ok then, and tightening -that- policy is a good idea.
Because of -this- policy however, people use more other vehicles (and therefore die more, thank you).

- You can't hope to hijack a plane anymore, best you can do is kill the passengers and there are MANY (easier) ways of doing more damage than that in the US or abroad, without a liquids rule. Nevermind easier ways of killing passengers than with liquids.

- The COST of this is mind boggling even without factoring the uselessness of it. Insane amounts of money and people's time (lives?) have been stolen from us by the biggest terrorist of all, the government, while keeping us very afraid. Thank you for doing the terrorist's job, you DO know that is what they're trying to do right? You do know -you- are acting as a terrorist organization, costing the world countless lives and money?

- There are MANY other ways the time and money could be better invested for the -real- rather than -percieved- security of people (healthcare anyone??). Ironic considering the best thing that could be said about this is that it makes people feel secure, when it generally does the opposite, as people are more afraid all the time.

Dave X the first said...

tsa tso ny:

"From the TSA site:
Canned or jarred goods such as soup, sauces, peanut butter, fruits, vegetables and jellies "

I think the operative portion may be the "canned or jarred" part.

I can squeeze a cucumber, unpressurized cheese, a hard boiled egg, a loaf of bread, and a banana, and the more you try to convince people that these are 'liquids, gels, or aerosol' bomb making components, the more you convince people that y'all are idiots.

As for getting educated by TSOs, I've learned that safety and reality doesn't matter. All that really matters is the whack-all definitions that you TSO's use: You've got say-anything Kip and the folks with the guns on your side.

If you want travellers to treat the TSA with respect, you have to stop trying to rationalize the unreasonable.

Anonymous said...

When will Kip address point 4 of his comments.

Any number of posters have asked for some clarification on this item.

Oh, I see, if he read his on remarks he would see how poorly he understands the liquids issue.

Another "do it this way because I know better than you."

Yeah, right!

Anonymous said...

I travel an awful lot, and while I too dislike taking off my shoes and baggie-ing my liquids, I'm not sure why it's such a huge inconvenience that one poster even STOPPED FLYING two years ago. Seriously?? I agree that some of the justifications offered are ridiculous, and I understand that many people come down on the side of freer travel rather than more security. I am also aware that experts are not confident that these additional security measures really "help," and we can argue all day about whether or not they should be eliminated. But really, you people don't seem to understand how good we really have it. We have a decently trained security staff with nationally consistent procedures, that can usually get us through security in a reasonable amount of time, ensuring you still get to sit around for an hour or so before boarding your plane. Try traveling internationally! I just got strip-searched in Tel Aviv, and had my entire suitcase spread out in the middle of the terminal, because I had a passport stamp from an Arab country and was therefore "suspicious." Compared to that and similar stories from travels abroad, I'm not sure why the addition of 10-15 minutes in your travels is worth the angst and complaining.

Also, just as an aside, one of the posters was complaining about how "you" (presumably TSA) expects him to pay for a ticket just to be harassed and inconvenienced. The alleged harassment aside, it's the AIRLINES that are forcing you to buy an overpriced ticket - I'm quite sure TSA has no interest in ticket sale trends. Whatever this issue may or may not be, keep in mind that technically, we're customers of the AIRLINES, not TSA. If you really want something changed, convince United to deploy its highly-paid lobbyists.

Anonymous said...

Still waiting for Kip to address item #4 of his comments.

Why are you taking so long?

My guess is that you can't justify yourself and are in denial.

Along the same lines, the containers at the checkpoints are just full of liquid items TSA has confiscated. These items must be dangerous since they could not pass through the checkpoint yet I see no efforts to protect the public from these apparently explosive items.

Come on Kip, step up to the plate and explain how these stupid procedures are providing a benefit.

Anonymous said...

For those of you that have forgot try looking up what Ramsey Yusef,one of the 9/11, did in Dec 1994 on a Philippine Airlines Flight. Then you will understand that liquids can be made into a bomb during a flight and detonated. Just a thought?

Ayn R. Key said...

Ramsey Yusef is identified as a participant in the 1993 attack on the WTC. What I didn't find was any indication that any such attack using liquids on airlines had ever been successful. CNN had one mention of Ramsey Yusef, and a plot to do so, but that the place where the bombs were manufactured caught fire.

Point 4 again. It's barely possible on the ground. It's not possible in mid-air. Come on, TSA, you should answer.

We know you're lying. Admit it.

Anonymous said...

Well, my first comment never made it up. Big surprise. I'll dispense with the story of the incredibly rude TSA personnel I encountered at Logan in Boston (I suppose an honest account of mistreatment by your staff is considered a "personal attack") and restate my main question.

If the liquids you confiscate are potentially dangerous, why are they routinely treated so casually (thrown away in big garbage cans all mixed together) ?

From the attitudes I have seen displayed by TSA staff when I fly, they know that bottles of coke are harmless. I already put up with the indignity of walking through security in my socks, why on earth do I have to be forced to give up my beverage too? And why in the world can't I simply take a swig to prove that it's a drink and not a bomb?

Ayn R. Key said...

The bloggers are not responding to this old entry. The comments stack up without response.

It's easier to pretend everything is going well than actually face ugly truths.

Facing ugly truths means admitting the TSA is wrong about liquids and scrapping the rule.

Isn't that right, Christopher? Isn't that right, Chance?

Anonymous said...

The bloggers are not responding to this old entry. The comments stack up without response.

It's easier to pretend everything is going well than actually face ugly truths.

Facing ugly truths means admitting the TSA is wrong about liquids and scrapping the rule.

Isn't that right, Christopher? Isn't that right, Chance?

**********************************

Two years ago I was briefed that no liquids, gels, creams and aerosols are allowed period. After that they made a limit just to make passengers happy because a lot of them complained about this rule. I understand all the rules from TSA are very "ridiculous, stupid" as you all describe them. But the question is why do TSA do that? Is that for everybody's safety. I know you think that you don't feel safe and secured because TSA has to take away you $2 worth of toothpaste and $54 worth of hairsprays and creams. But why do TSA do that? Because of what happened in London? There is always a "reason for everything" and why these so called stupid and ridiculous rules are being made. What government is perfect? I know this is a free country but we all know our limits. Yes, there are some screeners that are irritating because their customer service is unacceptable but try to deal with more than 10,000 passengers (in our airport) a day. With that number probably 1 screener deal with 10-20 irate passengers per shift. It's because they did not read the signs at the ticket counter, the signs before you go through the security checkpoint and the video that "tells them what can be brought inside the checkpoint and what could speed up the screening process". Does anyone bother to read, it only takes a few seconds of your time to read the signs around you to help you speed up the process and for you to not bring "prohibited items in your carry on bag". And then, life is good.

Anonymous said...

They're not going to answer any of the hard questions. They're not interested in a dialog with the public, they're interested in providing the illusion that there's a dialog with the public. They're probably building watch lists from our IPs. It's a shame really. Think about how much time and dedication it must take to get into a high-ranking position in any kind of government security department, then think about how when they're asked tough questions they stick their heads in the sand and pull answers and statistics out of their asses. You know what's really scary? Not that terrorists might blow up a plane but that people who can't answer basic common sense questions posed by people who aren't security professionals are the ones supposedly charged with "protecting" us. I sure feel safe without my drink and toothpaste! Thanks a lot guys! Really excellent work!

Courtney said...

Why can't terrorists just combine their minimum liquids? I'll tell you why... they're muslim. And muslims are from the middle east where they have terrorists. You see, terrorism is everywhere. And we're fighting terrorism. America has to fight this new battle with new tactics. Terrorism, america, fight them, 9/11.

Thank You.

Mister Mxyzptlk said...

I usually check the bag that has my dopp kit with its various liquids and gels. But on a recent trip I forgot I was carrying it on and did not remove those items and put them in a ziploc bag. My carry-on passed screening; no problem. On the return trip, I remembered about the liquids and did the right thing.

My question is: What good is this rule about liquids if it is dependent on voluntary compliance?

Anonymous said...

I understand that TSA is trying to prevent tragedies like 9/11 from ever happening again, but as a breastfeeding mother who had to travel for business without my infant I found it disheartening to find that I was not allowed to fly with my own pumped milk in the cooler bag that is part of my pump kit. Having to dump my milk down an airport drain was disappointing.

Ayn R. Key said...

Anonymous, March 4th

There is always a "reason for everything" and why these so called stupid and ridiculous rules are being made.

Yes, the problem is the reason is ridiculous, which is why the rule is ridiculous. That’s what I’m trying to get the TSA to admit in this ignored blog entry. The reason is that some unaccountable bureaucrat made a decision based on inaccurate information, and the rules were changed only because it inconvenienced so many people that congressmen were unable to ignore it.

I know this is a free country but we all know our limits.

What limits, pray tell, are you referring to? Surrendering our constitutional rights because we wish to conduct the private transaction of purchasing an airline ticket?

Does anyone bother to read, it only takes a few seconds of your time to read the signs around you to help you speed up the process and for you to not bring "prohibited items in your carry on bag". And then, life is good.

And when the TSO gets a wild hair up his ass and bans something on the approved list, and there is no redress, no checks, other than to risk a more extensive screening because you dared to complain and possibly miss your flight because you dared to complain, when the TSOs themselves often don’t know the rules and make up rules, and the rules themselves don’t make sense in the first place?

Your solution: blind obedience. Sorry, I prefer to live in the free country you referenced earlier.

Anonymous said...

I was happy to collaborate the new security measure in the beginning but I am much more skeptical about the process now.

I just came back from Switzerland and my chocolate spreads was confiscated during the "security" control. It didn't occurred to me that chocolate spread will be liquid but it does belong to cream category.

How much longer do we need to sacrifice our daily lives for this inefficient security measure? Isn't it obvious that it's chocolate spread?

Liquid rule is an obvious failure, it's as dumb as saying all the red colored items are potential bombs.

Either they need to come up with smarter detection method or stop this security measures which became more bureaucratic process which is waste of time and resources than any help on national security.

Anonymous said...

My story is regarding to airport security system in general rather than just about liquid screening.

I checked in my bag with two new Iphone packed within other things and they were stolen.

After talking to the airline people, I learned that TSA have full authority to go into our items without supervision or cameras after screening our bags.

Though it's impossible to know who stole it, I can't imagine other method to detect iphone hidden in my bag without XRAY.

I feel truly ripped off of my basic rights for my belonging. And back-stabbed by the system which suppose to protect us from dangers.

Anonymous said...

OK, just to put this all into perspective. I used to be in the navy and work for Naval Special Warfare .(Navy SEALS, not one myself) but anyway, we deploy most times on commercial carriers to get us atleast to Kuwait.
that being said, and considering that a war is going on. Numerous times, myself and fellow service men who use the same backpacks in the field that we do while traveling. we often, inadvertantly leave some "battlefield" items in our bags in our rush to pack up and 'Get Home'. Needless to say, these things get overlooked in the madness of searching for nuclear toothpaste bombs.
these items usually make a much bigger boom then my hair gel. spend more time getting qualified, english speaking screeners with common sense then banning harmless liquids.

Concerned Citizen said...

You say that people wouldn't be able to mix their things. What if 20 people made a plastic explosive that felt like shampoo and hid it in shampoo bottles per person. Then someone could mix 60 ounces of liquid in a bag and with a remote detonator or a clockwork detonator, set a timed fuse that would go off at any point.
Also, just because someone uses a steak knife in a murder doesn't mean the police come around confiscating EVERYONE'S steak knifes. So why, if some people are going to blow up a plane, should the MILLIONS of people who travel throughout U.S. airports with no plan to blow up anything be punished. Don't think that I agree that your "bend over and cough" ID procedure is good either. You should have the right to not show ID. You never broke the law, you aren't trying to buy age restricted purchases. THIS IS AMERICA! The "show your papers" is not what I think of when I think America. Punishing everyone does not STOP the few who are bent on this. Well, I guess tortur- I mean "tickle fuzzy hug" that goes on in Gitmo isn't what I think of when I think America. Or unilaterally starting actual wars to stop something that has been around forever and probably won't ever go away. Yeah, welcome to AMERIKA! Please bend over so Anti-Terrorist Bot can search you, even though you are almost guaranteed to not be up to anything. And if you refuse, we'll "tickle fuzzy hug" you in Cuba!

Anonymous said...

The worst part is that the major inconvenience created to the vast majority creates enough of a distraction that the serious terrorist can still do what they want slipping by the net:

ceramic or plastic knives
glass bottles of high alcohol beverages
liquids in ziplock bags
matches
etc

If they happened to get caught it would be obvious how they did it, but more likely they would succeed until the TSB stopped planes carrying passengers.

Anonymous said...

In Aust and NZ, implementation of the liquids policy permits us to buy alcoholic beverages within the restricted zone and carry them on board (max 2.25L/person). But we can't take them through the screening point. I read the original Molotov cocktail was made from Finnish vodka. Does the TSA permit alcohol in bottles to be carried on board? (Presumably it does on flights ex-Aus/NZ?)

So you can have 3 bottles of vodka confiscated, walk a few metres and buy more and security has done a great job.

Anonymous said...

Just curious to know - how much dangerous liquid can a terrorist bring in a small "camelback" undetected by the metal detector??

The battle between law enforcement and terrorists is no different to the battle between humans and germs - "peaceful coexistence and occasional unpreventable disasters".

Anonymous said...

What I can't figure out is why all my expensive Aveda products were confiscated by a screener at Pearson airport from my *CHECKED* baggage to DCA....and all my other liquids and gels (toothpastes, hairspray, etc.) were allowed to remain.

When one flies from YYZ to DCA, one must carry his checked bag to a screener who both x-rays and hand checks the contents of the checked bag. Remember, I am not talking about carry ons, but checked bags. Once the screener has done her job, the bag is put on a belt for the baggage handling part of the trip. Then passengers go through the normal carry on/passenger check point.

On my last trip to DCA, though, the screener claimed that my Aveda fulls sized products (shampoos and other goops) were not allowed in checked baggage because they didn't have TSA-compliant labels, whatever those are. My toothpastes, hairspray, boring cosmetics, etc. were left in the bag.

When I spoke to a supervisor, carefully for certain, I was told that this sort of decision was totally up to the screener.

I went on my way because one cannot argue or debate national security issues anymore, but I was livid. I know when I've been mugged, and I got the pleasure of doing so in broad daylight, with hundreds of people around and no one could help.

Anonymous said...

I disagree with the liquids policy.

However, since I must deal with it in my capacity in traveling for a different government agency (I am a DoD civilian), are there any rules I can site to a TSO if I try to bring on a 100ml bottle of cologne in my carry on baggage to ensure it does not get confiscated? If I am at the whim of whatever officer is screening, and to avoid an abuse of authority by the screener, I decide to check said bottle in my bags, what recourse do I have if it is stolen during the unseen screening process that checked baggage goes through?

On one hand, we (the public) have to for one reason or another, travel to another destination, and we have to leave our checked baggage unlocked, so that it may be screened. There is a certain amount of concern that items that we value may not make it either through the screening process of checked baggage, or through the increasingly unreliable nature of baggage making it to our destination. So we pack our valuable items often in a carry on bag. On the other hand, there is the risk that the screener may, either through abuse or ignorance, confiscate an allowed item. In reality, my experience is that the supervisors will always back their workers, no matter how wrong they are.

My concern is that in my experiences in flying since the TSA took over airport security, one does not always get consistent TSOs. I have had TSOs that are professional, courteous, and thorough. I have also had TSOs that are forgetful, rude, and distracted. The DoD purchases one way airline tickets. That means I get the extra special search nearly every time I travel in my official capacity, since one way airline tickets are a security flag (I am a DoD civilian, so I do not get to skip the special searches like AD military does). So, I would say I have a "thorough" experience with the TSA, and mainly, just wish it would be consistent, follow its own rules, and treat me and my other fellow citizens with the professionalism and courtesy that I am sure you at least try to train them to have.

Thank you for posting this blog to voice our concerns, and thank you for any reply you make to my post.

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