Monday, May 19, 2008

The Science Behind 3-1-1

Over the weekend, Fox News published a story about the UK liquids plot. Here’s an excerpt:

“Far-fetched as it sounds, bombs made from hydrogen peroxide and the breakfast powder drink Tang could have taken down seven planes bound for the U.S. and Canada - using flash cameras to trigger the explosions.

…The alleged plot, and the excellent police work that went into busting it, resulted in the tough carry-on restrictions passengers face before boarding an airplane. Knowing the dangers of liquid explosives should make the hassle of tossing your bottles when traveling a lot easier to bear.”

A recent BBC article described the liquid explosive:

“The alleged bombs would involve 500ml plastic bottles of the Oasis and Lucozade soft drinks. A sugary drink powder, Tang, would be mixed with hydrogen peroxide, used as a hair bleach, and other organic materials.

Hydrogen peroxide and the other ingredients can become explosive if mixed to a specific strength. Mr Wright said hydrogen peroxide had been used in "previous terrorist incidents".

The mixture would be injected into a bottle with the help of a syringe. The bottle's cap would not have been removed and the hole would have been resealed, said Mr Wright.

A second substance, a type of high explosive, would be hidden within an AA battery to form the small charge required to detonate the main bomb.

The charge would be detonated, said Mr Wright, by linking the bottle of explosives to a lightbulb and a disposable camera. The charge from the camera's flash unit would be enough to trigger the explosion, he said. The BBC has not comprehensively detailed the alleged bombs' composition.”

Since the 3-1-1 rule is a hot topic on the blog, I met with the head of TSA's Explosives Operations Division, Ed Kittel, to chat with him about the science behind 3-1-1. Before coming to TSA, Ed worked at the FAA Explosives Unit and Navy Explosives Ordnace Division. Ed was part of the team that investigated the bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland in 1988 and numerous other actual and suspected airplane bombings worldwide. Ed and his staff, in conjunction with other federal and international explosives experts, analyzed the UK explosives mixture, tactics, techniques, and procedures and tested its capabilities.

Lynn: One of the most frequent questions we get is: Is the UK mix a binary explosive?

Ed: While there were two primary ingredients, this composition is not a binary explosive; it is a “solution,” as one ingredient was to be dissolved into the other – making it possible to inject into a container using a syringe. The explosive was going to be pre-mixed, in a predetermined ratio, and carried onto the airplanes with an intact security seal. The remaining components of the bomb would have been separated during screening and hooked together later. All of the pieces were artfully concealed to attempt to “beat the system.” That’s why Transportation Security Officers are trained to detect individual components of improvised explosive devices, not just a fully assembled device.

Lynn: So with this UK liquid explosive, would the men be mixing the components at the airport or on the plane?

Ed: The liquid explosives solution was to be prepared at their safe house and injected into the sports drink bottles prior to coming to the airport. Additionally, we have seen no indication that they intended to combine the contents of multiple smaller bottles after screening.

Lynn: How did explosives testing play a part in creating the 3-1-1 rule?

Ed: As part of our analysis, we looked at some of the more likely liquid explosives recipes and compared them to descriptions contained in the intelligence reporting. Following a series of explosives tests of these materials performed by the federal government, we recommended the 3-1-1 protocol to senior TSA leadership as a viable alternative to the total liquids, gels and aerosols ban. Understandably, I cannot comment on the specifics of intelligence, formulations or the testing, nor would you want me to. By understanding and managing the risks associated with this threat, TSA was able to permit some exceptions for small quantities of liquids, aerosols and gels to be carried by the flying public. We also consulted with a number of our international partners to harmonize 3-1-1 countermeasures across the European Union and North America. TSA didn’t go this alone. In fact, this is the first time that the flying public has had the exact same security measures consistently applied across most of the world’s airports. It’s a model that we want to follow in the future.

TSA also introduced a number of other measures both at and beyond the screening checkpoints to minimize the risk of explosives getting onboard. The 3-1-1 protocol is only one of the multiple layers of security; many of which are invisible to the public. Passengers who need to have some small quantities of liquids, gels and aerosols may now do so, and 3-1-1 accommodates those needs while adding a significant level of security designed to protect the flights. Without 3-1-1, we would have had to maintain the total liquids ban, which was virtually unenforceable in the long-term, as it had a serious impact on checked baggage screening and cargo operations. Remember, the liquids, gels, and aerosols ban is all about the container and its ability to hold an explosive; it’s not about the original contents. Sometimes, people may not understand that and they become frustrated by the protocol as a result. You can be sure that we put our very best people on this, as did our Federal and international partners. 3-1-1 was the result of some excellent research by some of the best people our country has to offer.

Lynn: Is there anything else coming out of the UK trial that you find interesting or important to note?

Ed: The conspirators were very determined to beat airport screening systems by disguising all of their bomb components in common carry-on articles. Their goal was to destroy seven aircraft on the same day in nearly simultaneous attacks. This is very similar to Ramzi Yousef’s “Bojinka Plot” back in January 1995 in Asia. This case shows us that terrorists still consider airplanes to be major targets. As a result, TSA is continually looking at homemade and new explosives as well as artful concealment techniques to train our Transportation Security Officers. Our new Bomb Appraisal Officer (BAO) Program is placing hundreds of seasoned bomb technicians at airports nationwide to coordinate those efforts and improve screening to thwart these kinds of plots.

Lynn: Many say that the liquid threat is not scientifically possible. What do you have to say about that?

Ed: The U.S., UK, and other European security partners have all tested the liquid explosive that was planned to be used in that plot and we have all found that it is a viable liquid explosive. In fact, we have posted a video clip of one of these tests that was conducted by one of the National Labs out west. Make no mistake about it, this is the “real deal.”

We have also seen liquid explosives attacks before. For example, on November 29, 1987, Korean Airlines Flight 858 exploded over the Andaman Sea killing all 115 on board. North Korean agents conducted that attack using a liquid explosive concealed in a duty free whisky bottle. That attack used a different homemade liquid explosive but there are quite a few of them out there that are very powerful explosives.

Lynn

EoS Blog Team

111 comments:

winstonsmith said...

Well I have to say that I'm pleased to see at least what appears to be an attempt to answer one of the very serious questions that we have been putting to you for quite a while. Thank you Lynn for getting this to us. It's not quite what I've been after, but it's definitely a first step in the right direction.

Of course more specifics are in order here. You include snippets of an interview with Ed Kittel, your Explosives Ops Division Head, who states in talking about the kinds of explosives testing the TSA did, "Understandably, I cannot comment on the specifics of intelligence, formulations or the testing, nor would you want me to." In point of fact, I would like more detail. No, I don't want to know how to make a bomb, but I would at very least like to know which explosives they tested (it's not like it is particularly difficult to learn to make explosives off of the internet -- there is no reason to keep the names secret, even if you don't give us specifics about quantities or concentrations). Did the TSA have to deliver these results to any kind of Congressional oversight committee for action, and if so, which one? Were the hearings public? If the hearings weren't public, who were the members of the committee that we might contact them if we desire to find out at least where they stand on the issue? To make statements such as the one Mr. Kittel made simply reinforces the perception of the TSA saying "Trust us," which, as you well know, so many of us don't.

Ed said a couple of other things though that I thought were were very worth mentioning here and that I'd very much like to see more information on. For example, he said, "We also consulted with a number of our international partners to harmonize 3-1-1 countermeasures across the European Union and North America. TSA didn’t go this alone. In fact, this is the first time that the flying public has had the exact same security measures consistently applied across most of the world’s airports. It’s a model that we want to follow in the future." In what forum did this consultation take place? We know from the Duty Free discussion of a couple of weeks ago that true standardization is a myth and anecdotally we know that enforcement of 3-1-1 or equivalent standards varies from country to country. I personally would support the US participating in an international effort to standardize certain aspects of airport security. We have a lot to learn from how other countries handle their security issues -- even if we don't or can't adopt every good idea here.

Ed piqued my interest with this statement, "Remember, the liquids, gels, and aerosols ban is all about the container and its ability to hold an explosive; it’s not about the original contents. Sometimes, people may not understand that and they become frustrated by the protocol as a result." When I first read the statement I said to myself that the TSA had finally said something that made sense -- and to a point it really does make sense. Just because a bottle says shampoo does not mean that it contains shampoo. However I also remember reading some time back that a TSO very adamantly stated that he could tell the difference on an xray between say shaving cream and plastic explosives packed in a shaving cream can. So if the person behind the X-ray machine is so well-trained as to be able to tell what's in the stuff in my little baggie, what does it really matter what the size of the containers is? And if there is some concern as to what's in the containers you can always ask. And in the case where the TSO misses the stuff in the bag altogether, the point is moot because it would have got through the checkpoint either way.

Anonymous said...

So, if this story is correct, the liquid explosives were going to be premixed. And these very dangerous materials would be hidden in drink bottles.

And yet you still dispose of these potentially very dangerous items in bins in the checkpoints.

It's either hazardous material or it isn't. Which is it?

Anonymous said...

I was saddened as I read this entry.

This is a good attempt to address, in more detail, an issue that has constantly been the subject of comments on this blog. But that didn't make me sad.

You actually gave direct quotes from your expert this time and gave us a little of his background, which adds to his credibility. But that didn't make me sad.

There is nothing in this entry that couldn't, and shouldn't, have been posted much earlier. There was legitimate reason to wait for testimony in the London trial before posting this information. But that didn't make me sad.

What saddens me is that I've come to the realization that I don't believe anything you say. TSA's credibility has been so badly tarnished by the actions of its own management and employees that I just trust you. I don't like being distrustful of my own government, but if TSA put out a press release saying the sun would rise in the east tomorrow, I'd want visual proof to believe it. What a sad state of affairs!

Anonymous said...

Once upon a time there was a King who was afraid someone would attack his castle. He gathered together the best minds in the land--the Transylvanian Society of Academics, or TSA, to help him secure his castle. The TSA had heard about a group of terrifying adversaries who once swam across a moat and attacked a castle. The TSA were horrified that such a thing might happen to the King, so they helped him develop a very expensive plan that widened to moat (to make it harder to swim across), filled it with acid, and just for good measure installed crocodiles in acid-proof wetsuits. The project was very expensive, and entailed a good deal of effort (since the crocodiles needed constant attention), but everyone felt it was worth it to protect the castle against the scourge of swimming invaders.

And all was well, until a little boy with the strange name of Blogger McCritic said, “But the invaders could just throw ropes over and shimmy across, or they waft in on gliders, or use long ladders to breach the moat. And if they want to attack the castle, they could still lob flaming embers in to burn it down, or use gunpowder rockets. All you’ve done is to attempt to prevent one particular attack vector--there’s still lots of ways to bring down the castle! And it wasn’t even a very probable attack, either! The castle is just as insecure as before, because you can’t make anything 100% safe. You’ve wasted resources and effort to prevent one very unlikely type of attack. Even worse, it’s really inconvenient to get to the castle, now! People get sick from the acid fumes as they cross the drawbridge, and there’s really long lines because it’s such a skinny bridge. You’ve made everyone’s lives more miserable at the expense of pretending to protect your castle!”

The TSA realized that everything the little boy said was true. But the TSA realized that the skills needed to acid-proof crocodiles weren’t of much use elsewhere in the kingdom, and they knew they had a good thing going and didn’t want to ruin it. So the tossed the boy into the deepest dungeon and then redecorated the drawbridge with pretty lights and calming music, and then raised the Kingdom’s Orange Threat Flag above the battlements, and in this way the populace’s attention was diverted and everyone forgot about the little boy. The end.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous said...
So, if this story is correct, the liquid explosives were going to be premixed. And these very dangerous materials would be hidden in drink bottles.
And yet you still dispose of these potentially very dangerous items in bins in the checkpoints.
It's either hazardous material or it isn't. Which is it?


In the article Ed Kittel said:
"Remember, the liquids, gels, and aerosols ban is all about the container and its ability to hold an explosive; it’s not about the original contents. Sometimes, people may not understand that and they become frustrated by the protocol as a result."

Do you understand now?

Anonymous said...

First off I would like to say Kudos to the TSA and especially Ed Kittel for his explanations. Now we know some of the reasons behind the 3-1-1 science. I am of the belief that some information still needs to be witheld for security reasons, not just because we really don't need it, and not just because the bad guys (islamofacist terrorist) want to kill us, and not because I'm not naive enough to believe that said bad guys are most likely reading this blog as much as some (winstonsmith, trollkiller, etc.), but I am of the belief that we shouldn't let them know what all of our strategies are in relation to disrupting thier plots.

Trust Us, We're the Government, really doesn't sit well with appeasers, anti-government, libertarian (small l) types but thats okay with me. I believe in the Constitution that gives them that right and I can respectfully disagree with them and still speak with them and have a open and honest dialog.

What saddens me - is people who distrust the government because someone else with similar beliefs send so, group mentallity types who go with the flow instead of opening their hearts and minds and believing in our own goverment that truly does want to protect us from evil. This saddens me.

And to all the naysayers that harp about all of the abandoned liquids that are sitting in unprotected trash bins waiting for the end of the world, NOT, Any person with some brain cells knows what the TSA knows, that they are all just liquids that passengers thought they could beat the system and take their 16 oz. shampoo with them, but even if they were in fact a liquid explosive that was discovered by the TSA, without the rest of the components needed to make them go boom, they are just another liquid that did not make it onto the airplane. Which is what we want isn't it?

Dave said...

Your organization continues to disappoint and show how very little (if any) credibility you have.

All of this 'data' shows that you need to lift your stupid inane liquid ban. This stuff is so unstable they would be lucky to get it into the airport, let alone a plane. Your ignorant 3-1-1 policy still allows multiple people working together to bypass the limits.

Items sold by airside vendors are also not limited, only x-rayed which would not detect the types of explosive liquids you are looking for. Yet another entry point.

TSA, give it up. Stop the fear mongering. We are really sick and tired of it. Do something - one thing - that proves you are not a bunch of bumbling fools. Show us you aren't. Salvage that one tiny bit of credibility you have left.

Anonymous said...

A link to a scientific study, even a censored one, would help me to swallow the whole "drink bottles = death in the skies" thing. Please no more videos!

Also, when are you going to answer the repeated questions about these deadly beverages being tossed in containers in public areas? Are these hazmat or aren't they?

Saying "it's about the bottle and not the contents" is an obvious lie. Empty bottles are allowed on board!

Try again, TSA.

Anonymous said...

Personally TSA has not demonstrated why I should just trust their word on the liquid threat and their response to it.

Until you engage an independent group top test the feasibility of the liquid plot I and others, won't believe you.

Eclectic Dilettante said...

Nothing is secure until the entire airport is secure.

ken morris said...

Hasn't the liquid bomb threat already been discounted completely by scientists, or am I mistaken in this belief.?

Anonymous said...

For Winston, they did say what kind of explosives they were. In The Snip of a BBC article.

"Hydrogen peroxide and the other ingredients can become explosive if mixed to a specific strength. Mr Wright said hydrogen peroxide had been used in "previous terrorist incidents".
The mixture would be injected into a bottle with the help of a syringe. The bottle's cap would not have been removed and the hole would have been resealed, said Mr Wright."

And he also said what would detonate them.

"A second substance, a type of high explosive, would be hidden within an AA battery to form the small charge required to detonate the main bomb."

Mr. Kittel also gives an example of liquid attacks.

"We have also seen liquid explosives attacks before. For example, on November 29, 1987, Korean Airlines Flight 858 exploded over the Andaman Sea killing all 115 on board. North Korean agents conducted that attack using a liquid explosive concealed in a duty free whisky bottle. That attack used a different homemade liquid explosive but there are quite a few of them out there that are very powerful explosives."

So there must be a way to make it stable enough to get on an airplane or it wouldn't have made it that far.

Another thing, google Gun Cotton for me and let me know what ya think?

NoClu said...

...and just for good measure installed crocodiles in acid-proof wetsuits....

The author of this story really shouldn't be anonymous.

GREAT story and best honest laugh I've gotten out of this blog in quite a while. (Funny Ha Ha, Not; Funny, you've got to be kidding me.)

Lynn said...

In response to:

ken morris said...
Hasn't the liquid bomb threat already been discounted completely by scientists, or am I mistaken in this belief.?

Thanks for your question, Ken.

The UK law enforcement authorities kept a tight lid on the details of the liquid explosive, and much of the information on the mixture is only becoming public because of the trial. Back when the plot was first busted, some speculated on what the explosive mixture was and how effective it might have been, but I doubt they had the specifics on the mixture. The U.S. and international labs that did test the UK mixture found it to be a viable explosive that could do significant damage to an airplane.

Lynn, EoS Blog Team

Anonymous said...

Dave Said
"All of this 'data' shows that you need to lift your stupid inane liquid ban. This stuff is so unstable they would be lucky to get it into the airport, let alone a plane. Your ignorant 3-1-1 policy still allows multiple people working together to bypass the limits."

How do you know if this stuff is unstable are not? I wold like to see links to your credentials, or maybe a scan of your "Certificate to Determine Stable and Unstable Explosives"

I hope by GOV/DHS/TSA finally addressing 2 big concerns, MMW images and the
3-1-1 rule, it shows that all they are slow to give out info they will give it out. Now if the GOV can get my Stimulating Check to me, now thats been slow to get.

winstonsmith said...

For Anonymous:

For Winston, they did say what kind of explosives they were. In The Snip of a BBC article.

Actually the TSA's Ed Kittel did not say what explosives that the TSA tested. He suggested that we would not want him to divulge that kind of information. I take issue with that.

I did, however, see the article to which you referred and I did look up the substances to which it made reference. Interesting stuff. Leaves me with a bunch more questions but I'll leave those for another post. Gun cotton is not relevant here as we're talking about liquids, but for curiosity's sake, I'll have a look later when I have a little extra time.

Anonymous said...

the container does matter -

1. most plastics cannot contain the liquids that are typically used in explosives (which is chemisty lab equipment is glass).

2. the SIZE of the container is extrememly important: kept to the current size limits one person would not be able to bring enough material aboard to cause an catastrophic event. A very unpleasant one to be sure, but unless very very lucky in placement, not a big enough one to bring down a modern airliner.

all you security experts and chemical engineers and otherwise highly experienced EOD people replying must continue to believe the sun revolves around the earth.....

Anonymous said...

"Remember, the liquids, gels, and aerosols ban is all about the container and its ability to hold an explosive; it’s not about the original contents. Sometimes, people may not understand that and they become frustrated by the protocol as a result."

This makes it all clear: my chunk of squishy brie should fly because it isn't in a container.

Once again, is is 3 ounces or 100ml? And why cant your screeners be consistent about it?

Abelard said...

I'm curious as to why you - for all intents and purposes - jumped the gun and linked to an article posting the allegations against the London defendants. Why not wait until the case is fully adjudicated?

While you list the allegations, will you be posting the refutation by the defense and posting the words of any expert brought in to dispute that the items in question could be used as a bomb?

Additionally, if the jury finds the defendants not guilty, then what?

Anonymous said...

For those who think it's fine to throw away components of explosives because simply removing one part of the equation is acceptable, I wish to point out that if this is true, and terrorist plots are regularly foiled by the security-side trash can, there is absolutely no tracking regarding what type of liquids passengers are attempting to carry onto planes. So if 15 terrorists in a row are forced to toss their 16 ounce Aquafina bottles full of explosives, the explosives just go into the trash and no one is the wiser. All those alleged terrorist plots unable to be carried out, and the terrorists are allowed to just toss the bottle and get on the plane, to go back home and discuss how the all-powerful TSA stopped them in their tracks, and how better to do it next time?

So TSA has no clue how many people have tried to carry explosives on, or whether anyone has, or whether such people are just testing the limits of security for future plots, or if they really want to blow up an airplane, or if every single bottle and container that has been tossed over the last three years really was just full of harmless toiletries, or anything, really. So, basically, TSA has no idea what the level of threat is and/or whether the tossing away of liquids does any good at all. The TSA knows nothing and does nothing to make us safer or make traveling anything but an extraordinary inconvenience and a hassle, not to mention an invasion of privacy.

Anonymous said...

"We have also seen liquid explosives attacks before. For example, on November 29, 1987, Korean Airlines Flight 858 exploded over the Andaman Sea killing all 115 on board. North Korean agents conducted that attack using a liquid explosive concealed in a duty free whisky bottle. That attack used a different homemade liquid explosive but there are quite a few of them out there that are very powerful explosives."

I call total and absolute horse puckey here. An entire plane exploded and agents were able to conclude that a particular whisky bottle was the source of the explosive? Come ON. I don't believe that for a second. Perhaps the agents postulated that a bottle MAY have been used to carry explosive onto a plane, but there is no way they could have conclusively determined such a thing. This type of statement is why airport security has zero credibility.

Chris Boyce said...

As usual, the TSA, with the help of British prosecutors, are participating in a healthy dose of what we in the cloak & dagger business call "perception management." Well done. You have certainly convinced most of the occasionally or never-flying public on both sides of the Atlantic.

The test was hardly performed under realistic conditions. For starters, how about performing it under actual conditions? No, you don't have to actually fly a plane. Go out to the Boneyard at Davis Monthan AFB and pick out a mothballed aircraft that has an actual airliner lavatory.

Pressurize the cabin to cruising altitude (easily done, by the way) and then send one of your experimenters into the lav and try to mix chemicals in the appropriate mixture and quantity to blow a hole in the side of the mothballed fuselage. Too dangerous, you say? There's a reason: It was too dangerous for the amateur hijackers for Pete's sake!

You can do anything you want under ideal laboratory conditions. Under realistic conditions, this just won't work.

If you took this seriously, you would treat all confiscated liquids (oops -- "surrendered") at checkpoints to be hazmats. But, it plays to the fear of the public to see garbage cans full of "surrendered" liquids.

A lot of us who vote think this is pretty pathetic.

Anonymous said...

I don't have the technical training or expertise to know if the interview was truthful or not.

What I would like to see TSA do is to do an interview with an industry expert with an opposing view to balance the information.

How about it TSA? Give a platform to a desenting expert.

CBGB said...

abelard...

bingo. Just like most other things, I find it likely this article has little purpose other than helping convict these guys. This information was extremely secret and totally verboten from discussion...until they went on trial.

And to continue with the easiest (of many) Criticisms, what would stop a terrorist from trying to bring through a bottle big enough to do some serious damage, when it gets thrown out and is detonated. Or we could just bring up the fact that the checkpoints themselves are huge bottlenecks, just the type of place for a suicide bomber.

There are so many holes in your security, and threats that art ACTUALLY CREATED by your security that its not worth picking apart your attempt to convict every single person you ever arrest for the sake of some positive PR

Adrian said...

I still don't get it. What does 3-1-1 prevent?

Someone can still bring 500 mL of liquid in a freedom baggy (in five 100 mL bottles). They can still get a larger container once they're through the security checkpoint, by buying a beverage in the terminal. They can empty their five containers into one container in the restroom, and then board the plane.

3-1-1 clearly isn't enough. I call Security Theater!

I'm also curious why my last two comments were never published. I believe they have been 100% compliant with the published comment policy.

Anonymous said...

Funny that you had to goto Fox News, the GOP goto network for Iraq/Iran lying, in order to find someone that would ask the questions that were either pre-scripted or paraphrased to them ahead of time, that doesn't read at all like the questions any slightly intelligent reporter would ask to ferret out the truth.

Trollkiller said...

Here is something more explosive than Tang and hydrogen peroxide.

TSA to test ID-only check of pilots

The nation's 75,000 airline pilots could avoid being screened for weapons before they board airplanes if a test starting shortly succeeds.

But critics including flight attendants fear that an armed terrorist posing as a pilot could get on an airplane if pilots don't have to walk through metal detectors and have their bags scanned by X-ray machines.


Seriously, WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU PEOPLE?

I have been sitting here trying to come up with a coherent sentence, but I am so flabbergasted at this asinine move I almost don't know what to say.

The TSA wants to screen passengers with a device that allows them to see through clothing, but won't even do a simple x-ray of a pilot's bag? Won't have them walk through the metal detector? Is going to rely on a single layer of security after blowing their horn about the 20 layers?

This bullsh--- I mean program is in response to the tears of the pilot's union.

"Pilots' unions have been lobbying to skip airport screening, which they call unnecessary and "demoralizing."

The Air Line Pilots Association notes that pilots face extensive background tests, and that pilots wanting to do harm with an airplane would hardly need a weapon because they control airplanes.

Airport screening "has just worn on them," said Pete Janhunen, spokesman for the Air Line Pilots Association, the largest pilots' union.

"You trust them to fly a multimillion dollar airplane, and yet a TSA inspector with little training, little experience has the ability to strip-search them for gels."


Boo F-in Hoo. We trust the pilots to stay calm and logical in an emergency situation but the thought of being screened is demoralizing and upsetting?

"Oh, but Trollkiller we trust them to fly multi-million dollar airplanes"

Why yes, yes we do trust them to fly expensive planes and we expect them to do it sober, but as you know pilots break that trust on a frequent basis.

"Oh, but Trollkiller if they wanted to kill everyone on the plane all they have to do is fly into the ground."

That makes sense on the surface until you recall that commercial passenger jets have 2 or more people in the cockpit capable of piloting the plane.

If you have a rouge pilot bent on destruction the possibility of failure is high if the plane is his only weapon. The rouge pilot would have to disable the other pilot(s) first in order to succeed. Now he can have his choice of weapons to do that.

Flash an ID and breeze right on by with bomb in tow. Let's not even be that dramatic, how about a gun, knife or a little coke for those long hours of hitting on the stewardess. If this doesn’t sound like the makings of Penthouse letter, nothing does.

I think the worse part about this new program is the fact the idea did not spring from a drunken TSA office party but from the willingness to appease unions.

If we are going to have security, let’s have real security. No more steel doors on grass huts. Screen everything and everybody. No Exceptions, No Exemptions.

Anonymous said...

Regarding the 3.1.1 management process: What happens when the first security 'haz-mat dump' turns into bonfire or worse? Every OSHA course I have been through is rather pendantic about reiterating that anything that possibly could be hazmat must be treated like hazmat.

Regarding Ed Kittel: It takes a brave man to do what he does. It is not easy to explain things most people cannot comprehend to people who don't want to understand. His job must be as entertaining as n-glyc being dripped on hot steel.

Regarding those digital X-ray machines: When was the last time the material signature databases were updated? The TSA did buy the license for the electron-backscatter spectroscopy analysis option, didn't they?

Anonymous said...

From FlyerTalk:

"Kips Khemistry lesson of the day: I say whoosh, not boom. Boom is a high explosive detonation initiated by a detonator. A real high velocity explosion. Concentrated peroxide solutions are unstable. Mixing these things must be done in an ice bath, as they self heat up, which is why the idea of a Jr. Jihadist taking ten pounds of ice into air airplane lav to cool his TATP reaction without being noticed is highly unlikely. If a solution is touched by a catalyst, it instantly can start decomposing and heating up internally. This is a chemical reaction, not a detonation. In a couple of seconds the entire bottle contents heat up to beyond boiling and the bottle ruptures from the pressure. Think of opening the lid of a pressure cooker under pressure. (do not try at home) A layman calls it an "explosion", as it makes a big ball of expanding gas and liquid that sprays all over. (My opinion: The English "explosion" video looks like this. If you want to make a similar looking "explosion", take a gallon milk jug full of water and shoot it with a rifle.) This WHOOSH will probably knock the lav door open, and the Jihad chemist and anyone within ten feet will be soaked with boiling peroxide. Nasty. Think about pouring boiling clorox over yourself. But this is NOT a detonation explosion and is not going to blow a hole in the side of the plane. It is called a BLEVE, a boiling liquid expanding vapor explosion, which can be quite powerful but no where near the power of the same liquid set off by a blasting cap for a true detonation.

However, this is not what the public has been told since the War on Water was declared. The original PR was that the Evil Ones were going to sneak two or more components through security and then mix them.

Quote: "A question raised many times on this blog is how can TSA justify throwing all of these liquids away in a trash can near the checkpoint if they are such a danger. While a fair question, the answer has been available in many different threads though not directly answered, so here it goes.

We have said since the institution of the liquid ban that the fear or threat is the combination of items, including liquid explosives while in flight to create an improvised explosive device. That combination means explosives, detonator and other components to have a fully assembled bomb. Take one component away and you have a collection of harmless items. Of course we don't want liquid explosives anywhere near us but without the other components, they're not causing catastrophic damage.

That’s why it is safe for us to store the items together in a trash can near the checkpoint and that's what we do with prohibited items."

Who said that? Nico Blogger of the TSA .


Bee Ess. I would not want to work a shift standing next to a trash can holding a liter bottle of 80% hydrogen peroxide. With or without Tang, concentrated peroxide is not a harmless item. Shock can cause it to BLEVE. Like the shock of dropping a bottle of water on it while it "harmlessly" rests in the trash can. Mixing with alcohol can cause it to go off. Hope that confiscated booze and perfume and the peroxide bottle don't leak while in the trash can as they get pounded by confiscated toothpaste. And EPA for sure calls it HAZMAT and it is a federal crime to throw it in the nearest dumpster.

And while on the Kips Khemistry debunking, the TSA blog talks about the “Bojinka Plot”. This was using premade nitroglycerine, which the ETD should detect.

He talks about Korean Air Flight 858 and claims it was causd by "a liquid explosive concealed in a duty free whisky bottle." Another misleading partial truth. Wiki says it was "a liquor bottle containing approximately 700 ml of PLX explosive in an overhead rack in the passenger cabin of the aircraft." PLX is 95% nitromethane, which the ETD will detect. TSA Ed Kittle left off one LITTLE fact: What set off the PLX? A timer and detonator in a radio next to the whisky bottle. Minor little detail: the radio just happened to contain "350 grams of C-4." Kips Khemist Kittle tells the Kettles Korean 858 was kroaked by a "liquid explosive" and does not understand why some of us do not believe any of the other lies that come out of his mouth."

Dunstan said...

"So, basically, TSA has no idea what the level of threat is and/or whether the tossing away of liquids does any good at all. The TSA knows nothing and does nothing to make us safer or make traveling anything but an extraordinary inconvenience and a hassle, not to mention an invasion of privacy."

For some reason 210,000 private planes and 550,000 pilots are not a threat. 90,000 miles of border, mostly unprotected. Can't tell the difference between water and high explosive, so lets throw them both into the same trash bin. Should I feel safe?

Chris said...

The liquids ban is ridiculous. Does anyone really think they're safer because of it? In reality, everyone is just more inconvenienced.

Jim Huggins said...

Off-topic (sorry ...) I can't read Page 2 of Gripes-And-Grins ... clicking on the "newer" link at the bottom of the page just sends me back to the original page. Blog team ... help?

Anonymous said...

OK,

I am a Chemistry professor, and see a lot of stuff written here that is very simply wrong. I can tell you that any explosion produced from peroxides would have to start with a very concentrated peroxide solution. Very concentrated peroxide solutions can be stored in plastics (not only in glass). In fact, certain caustic chemicals such as strong bases eat through glass but not plastic. Very concentrated peroxides are explosive in any quantity, and even 100 mLs can do quite a bit of damage. On the other hand, very concentrated peroxides can be easily detected by "puffers" and surface contaminant detection techniques, because they will leave substantial amounts of peroxide in the materials around the flasks that contain them.

So the solution is simple: use trace chemical technology, and end the mad bag inspection.

Anonymous said...

How about just forbidding hydrogen peroxide on a plane? That idea doesn't take a genius to discern. "Hey, if hydrogen peroxide and Tang can cause the problem, let's just not let people bring those things on a plane?" I'm pretty sure a test could be developed for such simple substances. One of TSA's super cute puppies could be trained to sniff Tang and peroxide. That takes care of the whole problem and people won't have to throw out water and shampoo anymore. Come on, TSA, stop feeding us these stupid "see how credible we are with our 'scientific' explanations" and use some common sense.

Anonymous said...

Trollkiller said...

Here is something more explosive than Tang and hydrogen peroxide.


Come on now trollkiller, stay on topic this post is about the fact that the liquid explosives were indeed real.

That's right when proven wrong, quick when no one is looking change the subject.....

Typical, where is winstonsmith to right on your coat tails.

CBGB said...

Oh but Trollkiller, EgyptAir flight 990 crashed because of...

"the airplane's departure from normal cruise flight and subsequent impact with the Atlantic Ocean as a result of the relief first officer's flight control inputs. The reason for the relief first officer's actions was not determined."

so much for background screening :)

Anonymous said...

Hello, I would like to post a comment about my wife's experience today with the TSA in the San Jose, CA airport (SJC). While she was going through the security checkpoint, all of a sudden everyone in the area including my wife couldn't breath and their eyes started watering, and their noses and throats started burning. People were covering their noses and mouths with their hands and looking around wildy trying to figure out what was going on.

My wife said it was a very frightening experience. Unfortunately, TSA agents did not react appropriately to the situation and were completely discombobulated by what was going on. TSA agents provided absolutely zero guidance as to what people were supposed to be doing. Finally, after about 4 minutes of people standing around in a daze wondering what the heck was going on, a TSA agent instructed passengers to evacuate the area. He did not tell people where to go or what to do, or offer any sort of explanation as to what just happened. My wife happened to hear one female TSA agent scolding another male TSA, asking him "What made you think pushing the button would be a good idea?" while she holding a cannister of some sort. I am almost positive the TSA agent accidentally set off a canister of pepper spray or mace. Its understandable that people make mistakes and I hope that the individual TSA agent who screwed up does not get fired, because that is not what upste my wife.

However, I would hope that the rest of the TSA agents would be better able to deal with a semi-emergency situation like the one my wife experienced today.

The lack of guidance is the most troubling aspect of what happened today. Hopefully the TSA agents had some sort of meeting afterwards to go over what could have been done differently next time this happens.

Anyways, I think its nice that you guys have this blog set up for feedback. Hopefully word of this incident gets back to someone in the TSA and they do more training to deal with situations like this.

Dan S. said...

Of course, the TSA EOD chief conveniently omits the inconvenient fact that KAL 858 was brought down by a combination of nearly a half-kilo of C4, in addition to the 700ml of PLX in a whiskey bottle, a liquid explosive which is liable to go off if you so much as blink rapidly.

(The composition of the explosive device is, of couse, dependent upon the veracity of the North Korean agent's claims, after her cyanide pill failed to kill her.)

Essentially, with proper investment in technology and a modicum of training, the 'threat' posed by liquid explosives and 'shoe bombs' would be easily and much more effectively stopped, with the added benefit of preventing firearms from passing through security. If the security staff at the Tower of London can swab every bag that enters the grounds, why can't similar trace detection gear be employed to end this ridiculous song and dance?

winstonsmith said...

To the Anonymous individual who asks of Trollkiller:

Typical, where is winstonsmith to right on your coat tails.

What in the world are you talking about (how exactly does one "right" on coat tails anyway)?

I saw TK's post and read it with great interest (BTW TK, the link you posted does not work, but I would like to check out the article).

If what he says is true then there is the potential for a real problem to be brewing, one that poses a far more serious risk to the flying public than liquid bombs that may or may not work (contrary to your assertion, nothing has really been proven here; we have been shown a demonstration that under the proper conditions these explosives could have worked from a source that is not entirely unassailable).

Trollkiller said...

Anonymous said...
Trollkiller said...

Here is something more explosive than Tang and hydrogen peroxide.


Come on now trollkiller, stay on topic this post is about the fact that the liquid explosives were indeed real.

That's right when proven wrong, quick when no one is looking change the subject.....

Typical, where is winstonsmith to right on your coat tails.


Typical? You may want to go back and read all my posts. I brought up the nitroglycerin attack. I know liquid explosives are dangerous, that is why you won't be able to find a post with me arguing against liquid explosives.

I think the closest I got to a post that might suggest I did not believe that liquids were dangerous is one that I challenged the TSA to release some info on the BINARY explosives. As we found out this was NOT a binary liquid explosive.

Feel free to hunt my posts down that show I don't feel liquid explosives are real, Oh, and put the link here. I am betting you won't and you will give the lame excuse that you don't have the time or no excuse at all and continue to hide behind an anonymous handle.

If you are going to call me out at least know what you are talking about.

How about this for being on topic. A pilot decides to end his life in a manner that will guarantee his family gets the life insurance policy. He knows that he won't be screened so he goes on the internet and finds out how to make a bomb. He assembles the bomb at home and carries it past the no screen ID check, climbs gets on the plane, takes off and when he reaches altitude blows the front end off the plane.

On topic enough for you? Do you know it does not take a lot of skills or smarts to make an explosive device? I had friends growing up that would blow stuff up for fun. Trust me these guys were NOT rocket scientists, hell they were not even capable of passing chemistry. To build a bomb all you have to do is follow the instructions, if you can make a cake you can make an explosive.

Now the argument against the 3-1-1 rule by most people on this blog has been this; if the liquids are SO dangerous, why are they being treated as trash instead of hazardous material?

They answer is simple and one that Kip himself said, "if it goes in the trash the TSO did not deem you a threat" <-paraphrase

My question is this, if I am not deemed a threat, why take the liquid? If the liquid is a threat why does it go in the trash instead of a bomb proof container?

The answer is simple, the TSA does not see liquids as a threat anymore. They figure if they limit the size to what the "experts" say would not be enough to down a plane then the terrorists won't try the liquid plot because they may be caught when their bomb is confiscated for being over three ounces.

Of course it would only take a few people working together to combine the contents of their bags to bring the volume to a workable amount, but the TSA is hoping that BDO will spot the terrorist group before they board.

You know you really did tweak my nerve with that comment. Nothing I hate worse than someone taking a potshot at me by changing what I have said or tries to portray me as taking a side of an issue I am not on.

Oh and one more thing before I go, THIS is what happens when the TSA does not take the disposal of potentially hazardous material, seriously.

Bob Eucher said...

Maybe OSHA would be interested in how all the collected contraband is stored in collection bins. Are MSDS required? How can you be 100% positive what the contents of each disposed item is? You really don't know. Just maybe you are putting the public at more risk than protecting us. The whole security theater is just that, smoke and mirrors.

Anonymous said...

Maybe we can avoid 3-1-1, MMW and the new badges by just driving in the back door. ...or as another poster put it; its all secutiry theater until the whole airport is secure.
Big van drives right into airport.

,>)

T. Saint

Anonymous said...

responding to - Anonymous said...
OK,

I am a Chemistry professor, and see a lot of stuff written here that is very simply wrong. I can tell you that any explosion produced from peroxides would have to start with a very concentrated peroxide solution. Very concentrated peroxide solutions can be stored in plastics (not only in glass). In fact, certain caustic chemicals such as strong bases eat through glass but not plastic. Very concentrated peroxides are explosive in any quantity, and even 100 mLs can do quite a bit of damage. On the other hand, very concentrated peroxides can be easily detected by "puffers" and surface contaminant detection techniques, because they will leave substantial amounts of peroxide in the materials around the flasks that contain them.

So the solution is simple: use trace chemical technology, and end the mad bag inspection.

_________________________________

Well professor I believe you are correct. I think the peroxide is + 70% and that TSA has added test strips for high concentrate peroxide as well as their FIDO unit to "sniff". However, it takes a hell of a lot of time to sample every liquid and I don't think the traveling world will stand for that kind of line waits. As for the sampling using surface contamination - the current explosive trace detectors used by TSA and most others do not detect peroxide based explosives.

eric said...

Liquid explosives are indeed an all too real threat, but maybe it takes a plane bombing to show some sceptics that giving up your water bottle before boarding as plane is a small price for saving human lives.

Dunstan said...

Hi, Trollkiller,

"Oh and one more thing before I go, THIS is what happens when the TSA does not take the disposal of potentially hazardous material, seriously."

Nice point, I wonder how much time was spent training for this moment.

Anonymous said...

trollkiller........

I tweaked you, good.

All I was saying is that you try to change the subject. The subject at hand was liquid explosives and you tried to change it to the pilot ID. Suggest a new thred to the bloggers is all I was saying.

And now you want to switch topics again with the pepper spray incident. Shame shame shame.

I suppose that you have never had an accident of any kind in your life, as I'm sure that the pepper spray incident was indeed an accident. Are you perfect? Tweak!!!!!

And yes, I will hide behind the anonymous moniker because it is my right, guarantee by the constitution. Tweak!!!!!

Anonymous said...

"I will hide behind the anonymous moniker because it is my right, guarantee by the constitution."

Which article or amendment covers that?

Dunstan said...

"Anonymous said...

trollkiller........

I tweaked you, good. "

Huh? Perhaps you should find a new hobby...

Anonymous said...

"Well professor I believe you are correct. I think the peroxide is + 70% and that TSA has added test strips for high concentrate peroxide as well as their FIDO unit to "sniff". However, it takes a hell of a lot of time to sample every liquid and I don't think the traveling world will stand for that kind of line waits. As for the sampling using surface contamination - the current explosive trace detectors used by TSA and most others do not detect peroxide based explosives."

Sniffers take just about as much time as X-rays, and much less than having all passengers remove liquids and shoes. But that is not even the point. The point is why limit liquids if even very small, allowed, quantities can do damage? A major inconvenience to all, with no effective result!

Trollkiller said...

Anonymous said...

trollkiller........

I tweaked you, good.

All I was saying is that you try to change the subject. The subject at hand was liquid explosives and you tried to change it to the pilot ID. Suggest a new thred to the bloggers is all I was saying.


All you were saying, and I quote "That's right when proven wrong, quick when no one is looking change the subject.....". In other words what you were saying was a lie. I was not proven wrong because I did not disagree with liquid explosive viability.

And now you want to switch topics again with the pepper spray incident. Shame shame shame.


Yes, shame on me for not waiting until the TSA has its talking points up to speed. Shame on me for not waiting until the TSA decided to bring it up.

I suppose that you have never had an accident of any kind in your life, as I'm sure that the pepper spray incident was indeed an accident. Are you perfect? Tweak!!!!!


Not perfect, but damn close. I have never had an accident when dealing with dangerous chemicals because I am CAREFUL. I know better than to toss an aerosol type device with a push button trigger into a bin where the button can be engaged. You trust someone that can't handle a simple spray can to dispose of potentially explosive articles?

And yes, I will hide behind the anonymous moniker because it is my right, guarantee by the constitution. Tweak!!!!!


Yes you can hide behind an anonymous moniker, that is your right. In fact a court in California confirmed it. Of course in that case they held up the use of a pseudonym as a means of insuring anonymity. I guess they figured intelligent people could make up a name, so that others can identify them among the sea of posters, without revealing their real name. I suppose they were a bit off in your case.

Now, I am going to back up a bit to what you wrote a little higher up. You said I should suggest a new thread to the blog team instead of changing the subject. As I don't see a mechanism for suggesting a new thread, and the fact that the history of this blog shows if you want something answered you need to make post pertaining to the question, I asked the question.

From the Delete-o-meter page on what will get your post deleted. (in other words, the rules)

"Off-topic comments (and since we can't tell which topic a comment goes under when we moderate, we mean REALLY off topic, think plagues of locust off topic…)"

My post dealt with security and hazardous materials, clearly it was on topic by the stated rules.

kthxbye

Trollkiller said...

Dunstan said...

Hi, Trollkiller,

"Oh and one more thing before I go, THIS is what happens when the TSA does not take the disposal of potentially hazardous material, seriously."

Nice point, I wonder how much time was spent training for this moment.


Donno how much time they trained for the moment, but I am very certain that TSO will treat potentially dangerous items with a lot more respect in the future.

My wife made the comment that the incident was probably a case of instant Karma.

Thank God it was only pepper spray and nobody was seriously hurt.

trooper09 said...

Can someone tell me what is the stastical probability of someone successfully bringing on board a liquid explosive, successfully detonating it and bringing down a plane with and without the 3-1-1 rule?

I am sure TSA have these numbers somewhere and I fail to see how it is a national security risk to release the probabilities. Instead of showing us scary films, I find cold boring number crunching more convincing of an argument than anything else.

Anonymous said...

IN RESPONSE TO: Can someone tell me what is the stastical probability of someone successfully bringing on board a liquid explosive, successfully detonating it and bringing down a plane with and without the 3-1-1 rule?

I am sure TSA have these numbers somewhere and I fail to see how it is a national security risk to release the probabilities. Instead of showing us scary films, I find cold boring number crunching more convincing of an argument than anything else.


The "numbers" are irrelevant. One time is too many times.

My 0.02.

Anonymous said...

Adrian said...
I still don't get it. What does 3-1-1 prevent?

Someone can still bring 500 mL of liquid in a freedom baggy (in five 100 mL bottles). They can still get a larger container once they're through the security checkpoint, by buying a beverage in the terminal. They can empty their five containers into one container in the restroom, and then board the plane.

3-1-1 clearly isn't enough. I call Security Theater!
------------------

And two people can go through two differant checkpoints, meet up and fill a liter bottle with nasty juice.

It's also interesting that the statements made by the authorities prior to the trial involve the explosive being mixed on the plane . . . and TSA made the same claims. Now during the trial, the explosive was to be premixed and brought aboard as a sports drink. Contradictions like that aren't good for credibility.

But of course those on trial were not apprehended at an airport checkpoint. Where the substances involved are, according to the authorities, "difficult to detect."

Trollkiller said...

Winston Smith said...

I saw TK's post and read it with great interest (BTW TK, the link you posted does not work, but I would like to check out the article).

If what he says is true then there is the potential for a real problem to be brewing, one that poses a far more serious risk to the flying public than liquid bombs that may or may not work (contrary to your assertion, nothing has really been proven here; we have been shown a demonstration that under the proper conditions these explosives could have worked from a source that is not entirely unassailable).


Sorry about the link I would call it a blond moment if I had the hair. TSA to test ID-only check of pilots

Trollkiller said...

Kip was on C-Span Thursday the 22nd taking callers.

It is pretty good stuff. Some of the callers are, shall we say unique. Poor Kip on a couple of callers you just knew he was thinking "don't they screen these people?" I think he would have rather been sitting in front of Congress.

The clip is about 35 minutes long but well worth the view. The file is in Real Media format.

And before anybody asks, I liked the tie.

Trollkiller said...

trooper09 said...

Can someone tell me what is the stastical probability of someone successfully bringing on board a liquid explosive, successfully detonating it and bringing down a plane with and without the 3-1-1 rule?

I am sure TSA have these numbers somewhere and I fail to see how it is a national security risk to release the probabilities. Instead of showing us scary films, I find cold boring number crunching more convincing of an argument than anything else.


If you figure the TSA screens 2 million passengers a day the odds of you winning 10 lotteries is probably better.

I too am bothered by the scary videos. They look like they were made in an attempt to exaggerate the power of that explosive, as evidenced by placing the one bomb in an area of loose dirt in order to create an impressive dust cloud and by putting the other bomb in a room that had unsecured wall panels to insure they would collapse in a dramatic fashion.

It did not help that they placed a web cam close to the second bomb to insure it would be knocked out but failed to show the crater left by the first bomb or the aluminum plate, that supposedly had hole punched through it from the second bomb.

If they want to impress me take a bomb to a bone yard and place it on a real plane in an area accessible to passengers.

With that said, the fact that liquid explosives have been used in the past and there is no reason to believe they won't be tried again, I have to support the TSA on the 3-1-1 rule.

For those that can't read good, please understand that supporting the 3-1-1 rule does not mean I think that tossing potentially dangerous items in the trash is a good idea.

I think the TSA is hoping that having the 3-1-1 is a preventative measure. The TSA is betting that as long as they are confiscating liquids, terrorists won't try that route. The TSA is further betting that because terrorist won't try the liquid bomb route then all the liquids they are confiscating are in fact benign.

Dunstan said...

trollkiller said:
"
Donno how much time they trained for the moment, but I am very certain that TSO will treat potentially dangerous items with a lot more respect in the future.

Thank God it was only pepper spray and nobody was seriously hurt."

There does seem to be a dichotomy,
treating everything as hazardous, and then getting hurt by one cavalierly handled truly hazardous item. A passenger who was at the incident described the event over at Flyer Talk Travel and Security section. Dozens of people were strongly exposed to the pepper spray, including a couple of pilots. Many more, further back in line were irritated and affected by the chemical.
It makes me think about several things- the vulnerability of groups of people in a confined area to this type of exposure, the reasoning behind placement of the checkpoint within a confined space, and the design of the hazardous material containers. An explosive device would had a much more severe effect. An evaluation and redesign of the checkpoint system should be considered.
In this instance, there were no fatalities. This was just another difficult to defend PR nightmare for TSA, something that we may agree happens too frequently.

Anonymous said...

Just a quick note to say:

I hope everyone keeps our service members in their minds and hearts this holiday weekend.

Also please take a moment to remember all the other citizens who support America and American ideals in what ever way they can.

I hope everyone travels safe and gets home safe.

,>)

T. Saint

Anonymous said...

@ Anonymous: "The "numbers" are irrelevant. One time is too many times. My 0.02."

There is a non-zero chance that my wife is being murdered right now. Should I run to her side? How about in twenty minutes? Still a non-zero chance then? In 40 minutes? Etc.

Obviously your 2 cents have experienced inflation.

Anonymous said...

re:The "numbers" are irrelevant. One time is too many times.

My 0.02.

May 23, 2008 12:46 AM

.........................
Then we should halt all forms of air travel because there will be accidents, and as you say, "One time is too many times."

Trollkiller said...

A passenger at OIA smuggles a monkey past the TSA. Just begs the question; Is that a monkey in your pocket or are you just glad to see me?

Anonymous said...

When i leave my house i lock the doors an turn on the alarm. does that mean my house is impossible to break into? no. but what it does is make it harder. it increases the possibility of someone seeing their suspicious activity, or them screwing something up(tripping the alarm,making noise)

i want someone to 'steak out' my house and look at my security measures and say, 'i wont bother trying'.

Miller said...

Ever tried to drill a hole in a glass bottle without breaking the bottle?

The "numbers" are irrelevant. One time is too many times.

My 0.02.


What of alien abductions? One time is too many times. What are you going to do about that threat? Every time you get out of bed you're taking a risk (even if you stay in bed you're taking a risk) and you still manage to make it through the day. Do you drive? You take risks when you breath the air, eat food, drink water, put on clothing, go to the doctor, etc. These risks are either acceptable to you or you live a very sheltered lifestyle (with it's own risks). What you said is absurd to the nth degree and goes along well with the supporters of security theater.

Anonymous said...

"Can someone tell me what is the stastical probability of someone successfully bringing on board a liquid explosive, successfully detonating it and bringing down a plane with and without the 3-1-1 rule?"

The odds in either case are very, very close to zero, as TSA well knows. If you want to know why they continue to lie about "liquid explosives" that are too unstable to carry into a cab to the airport, let alone onto a plane, you'd have to ask them. But they don't take kindly to simple questions from the people who pay their salaries, because they are morons and cowards.

Anonymous said...

The statistical probability that 9/11 would have worked wasn't very good either, and yet it did. It isn't just the lives taken which is a tragedy but the airline industry and the heart of America took a big hit when we were attacked. The inconvenience of the 311 rules are certainly worth it when you consider what could happened had that UK bombing plot not have been stopped.

Yes living life involves a degree of risk. But most of us limit our risks to the degree that we possibly can. That is what the TSA is doing by having the rules like 311. Is there still a possible way that determined terrorists can attack aviation? Of course there is but the TSA and individual TSO's are doing their level best to stop them by the procedures and layers of security in place. More can be done to secure aviation and ideas that are actually constructive are definitely welcome. Stepping back security from where we are now is unlikely due to the present threats no matter how many folks feel the threat is exaggerated.

Trollkiller said...

Anonymous said...

The odds in either case are very, very close to zero, as TSA well knows. If you want to know why they continue to lie about "liquid explosives" that are too unstable to carry into a cab to the airport, let alone onto a plane, you'd have to ask them. But they don't take kindly to simple questions from the people who pay their salaries, because they are morons and cowards.


I hope you are talking just about the explosives that were to be used by defendants in the UK case. If not you are showing a bit of a moronic streak yourself.

Liquid explosives have been previously used by nefarious people attacking aircraft. In those cases the explosives were stable enough to be carried on board with out exploding prematurely.

Anonymous said...

Miller said...


What of alien abductions? One time is too many times. What are you going to do about that threat? Every time you get out of bed you're taking a risk (even if you stay in bed you're taking a risk) and you still manage to make it through the day. Do you drive? You take risks when you breath the air, eat food, drink water, put on clothing, go to the doctor, etc. These risks are either acceptable to you or you live a very sheltered lifestyle (with it's own risks). What you said is absurd to the nth degree and goes along well with the supporters of security theater.


ok lets say tomorrow 500 people get killed in car accidents.

also 500 people get blown up in a plane.

which one will cost billions of dollars? which one will effect the economy for years?

ever hear of risk managment? ya you eat food, but would you eat food a stranger gave you? yes you drive. do you go 100mph over the speed limit with no seatbealt or airbags? look at all the laws to driving. Would you like me to list all of the laws and regulations to driving? look at all the adjustments you have to make when you drive in order to not get a ticket. what does the TSA do, throw away your water bottle.

the TSA asks almost nothing. Take bulky clothing off, remove your laptop. No liquids over 3.4oz in your carry on.

If anything you should complain to your local police department because that you should be able to drive however you like, because you breath air which is just as risky,

Anonymous said...

Anonymous said...

The odds in either case are very, very close to zero, as TSA well knows. If you want to know why they continue to lie about "liquid explosives" that are too unstable to carry into a cab to the airport, let alone onto a plane, you'd have to ask them. But they don't take kindly to simple questions from the people who pay their salaries, because they are morons and cowards.


so how did Ramzi Yousef manage to do it?

Trollkiller said...

Miller said...

Ever tried to drill a hole in a glass bottle without breaking the bottle?


Yes I have and it is not that hard, everything2 has pretty easy to follow instructions. BTW if you are going to make a dribble glass, you will need to make at least 4 holes (north, south, east and west) to make sure it works the first time.

BlognDog said...

What a bunch of disingenous hogwash. You include quotes from Kittel matter-of-factly stating things such as the details of the construction of the bombs (down to details such as the brand of drinks to be used for the bottle), the detonator, how it was to be smuggled on board, etc., etc., but no acknowledgment of the fact that the "conspirators" hadn't even purchased a ticket or even gotten passports. So we are supposed to believe that this was sophisticated plot, on the verge of execution by a group of evil but very clever and capable terrorists, who despite their detailed scientific knowledge and understanding of how to game the existing security protocols were nonetheless too bone-headed to remember to actually buy a ticket, and so careless that they were actually caught by British intelligence before their plot left the planning stages.

It is beyond insulting that you actually expect the flying public to accept such a contrived and obviously ridiculous cover story for your unjustifiable and illogical "3-1-1" policy. Chertoff needs to understand that the overwhelming majority of the public are not as simple and gullible as the people who work for him.

Dunstan said...

" Trollkiller said...

Miller said...

Ever tried to drill a hole in a glass bottle without breaking the bottle?

Yes I have and it is not that hard, everything2 has pretty easy to follow instructions. BTW if you are going to make a dribble glass, you will need to make at least 4 holes (north, south, east and west) to make sure it works the first time.

May 24, 2008 11:24 PM"

And, sadly, the drink bottles that are part of the current London Trial are not glass.

Anonymous said...

some interesting reading from wikipedia:

Due to the increased threat of terrorism in the early 21st century, funding for greater HAZMAT-handling capabilities was increased throughout the United States, in recognition of the fact that flammable, poisonous, explosive, or radioactive substances in particular could make attractive weapons for terrorist attacks.

The United States Department of Transportation (DOT) regulates hazmat transportation within the territory of the US. The regulations are found in 49 CFR (Title 49 of the Code of Federal Regulations).

The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) regulates the handling of hazardous materials in the workplace as well as response to hazardous materials-related incidents, most notably through HAZWOPER (HAZ-ardous W-aste OP-erations and E-mergency R-esponse) regulations found at 29 CFR 1910.120.

The Environmental Protection Agency regulates hazardous materials as they may impact the community and environment, including specific regulations for environmental cleanup and for handling and disposal of waste hazardous materials.

The Consumer Product Safety Commission regulates hazardous materials that may be used in products sold for household and other consumer uses.

---

Sounds like the kinds of situations TSA are trying to deal with are approached differently by different government agencies. I've never seen a hazmat suit in an airport before. With the casual way TSA treats confiscated liquids though, it might be sooner than we think.

I for one believe this policy solves one problem while creating another and submit that it should be approached extremely differently because there seems to be little to no evidence that the 3-1-1 rules would deter a determined terrorist.

You cannot deter all vectors of attack. No one is expecting you to. Flying, like driving, boating, or jaywalking is a calculated risk we all take from time to time. Bring back common sense, and our water bottles. God we miss them!

Anonymous said...

Look at it this way. Everyday in America, our prison population has access to drugs, lighters, weapons, and cash. They get them anyway they can.

Keeping these facts in mind, how is the TSA supposed to keep you safe?

They can't and you aren't safe and your incessant complaining does nothing but highlight our sense of entitlement as Americans.

I swear, nerds with keyboards. Instead of expending countless man hours venting your frustrations, how about coming up with solutions?

The reason they allow us to carry any liquids at all? Because we complain.
But as soon as something happens, those who complain, will revert to what they know, complaining.

Why does the TSA allow any carry-on luggage at all, they will ask.

So let's recap:

A. Access to hash in prison (Now that's some good S%$T!)
B. You are not safe
C. You are a nerd with a keyboard
D. Keep crying and moaning because you have to much time on your hands
E. Blame the TSA for being to relaxed if something ever happens

Dunstan said...

"Anonymous said...

Look at it this way. Everyday in America, our prison population has access to drugs, lighters, weapons, and cash. They get them anyway they can."

Because of corruption and mismanagement within various the prison systems? What does this have to do with the nearly 2,000,000 ordinary, innocent daily air passengers- they are not convicted of any crime. Should they be treated as criminals? Why?

"Keeping these facts in mind, how is the TSA supposed to keep you safe?"

Treat them like potential criminals? Is that the answer, in your mind?

Safe- they probably never will. If you can't tell H2O from concentrated H2O2, you haven't got the ability to stop anything from happening. I love trollkiller's "steel door on a grass hut" description of the TSA concept of safety. Currently TSA wouldn't stop a terrorist from traveling, just potentially ask them to discard or check some minor bomb part.

"They can't and you aren't safe and your incessant complaining does nothing but highlight our sense of entitlement as Americans."

Why are you complaining? What entitlement, our Constitutional rights as Americans? Explain why private pilots and corporate jets fly through GA without all this ID and 3 oz container harassment? I know, they donate money to both parties through their associations.

"I swear, nerds with keyboards. Instead of expending countless man hours venting your frustrations, how about coming up with solutions?"

Sure- secure check-in luggage seals. Figure out that bottled water isn't an explosive. Work with manufacturers to develop a seal for containers that you can use those loupes and UV lights on. Do your job in a way that deserves our admiration and respect.

"The reason they allow us to carry any liquids at all? Because we complain."

Well, you do want the airports and and airlines to survive the current recession, don't you?

"But as soon as something happens, those who complain, will revert to what they know, complaining."

And, so will you.... Your post is just that.

"Why does the TSA allow any carry-on luggage at all, they will ask."

It is one minor but annoying reason people will continue to put up with the current lack of a cohesive
security system. Since there is a lack of total security for check-in luggage, and the business travelers will either use conference calling or private air transport, if carry on luggage is banned.

"So let's recap:

A. Access to hash in prison (Now that's some good S%$T!)"

Do you know from experience? Why don't you share your experiences with the blog?

"B. You are not safe"

No one is ever safe. At any moment your life could end. That is a matter of life and death.

"C. You are a nerd with a keyboard

You are talking about yourself? Are you considered a nerd? Personally, I don't really fit the profile.

"D. Keep crying and moaning because you have to much time on your hands"

Insecure about your own life? Maybe you will come up with a real answer for your problems....

"E. Blame the TSA for being to relaxed if something ever happens"

Oh, the TSA can find its own fall guys. The keep showing up every week, it seems. We don't blame you for the earthquake in China or anything else you don't control. Several hundreds of thousands of deaths this past week world wide that are beyond your control. Loosen up....

Trollkiller said...

Anonymous said...

blah blah blah

I swear, nerds with keyboards. Instead of expending countless man hours venting your frustrations, how about coming up with solutions?

blah blah blah

So let's recap:

A. blah
B. blah
C. blah
D. blah
E. blah


We prefer to be called geeks.

We have come up with solutions but sadly the TSA has not given a place for us lowly nerds to pass the solutions to the IduhFactory.

We can post our nerdy solutions here, but then we have no clue if they have been seen or if they have been discussed. A simple affirmation that the idea has been passed to those involved with planning and implementation would be most helpful and encouraging to us lowly nerds.

Something simple like a web page with a form. On this page the form will have two or three fields, first field is a drop down menu to allow easy categorization of the idea. Menu entries such as "Checked Luggage", "MMW or Backscatter", "Document Check" and so forth.

The second field will be a text box so that nerds and even normal people can place their ideas.

Maybe have a third text box to place your email address in case the IduhFactory needs further information on your idea.

Post the ideas so they be debated.

How is that for an idea? Pretty good right? That idea was proposed way back at the beginning of this blog. Did anyone in the IduhFactory see it? Did the web master see it? Who knows? No official comments was ever made on the idea, no web page was made from the idea.

Here is another idea proposed on this very blog that has yet to have official comment.

To stop theft or other security breaches with checked luggage the TSA needs to place a couple plastic straps on the bags once they are finished screening them.

If the straps are printed with the TSA logo the system will have the following benefit:

Secure chain of command from the screening area to the plane and from the plane to baggage pick up. Any bag that does not have the TSA logo strap is suspect. No more sneaking a bag full of cocaine by airport personnel. No more pilfering our property by airline personnel.

Strapping machines run between $5k and $10k each. That is a fairly cheap price to insure that luggage is not tampered with.

The ONLY downside I can see for the TSA is the fact that once the system is in place and something is stolen from the bags, the TSA can no longer point a finger at the airlines and say "they did it".

See Anonymous we nerds have a ton of good ideas to make the experience better, and make the system more secure. You also get an added bonus with us nerds, we are cheap. That is our money the TSA is spending and we expect them to spend it wisely.

p.s. The strapping idea is Patent Pending. (This nerd thought of it first)

Anonymous said...

Trollkiller said...
Here is another idea proposed on this very blog that has yet to have official comment.

To stop theft or other security breaches with checked luggage the TSA needs to place a couple plastic straps on the bags once they are finished screening them.

If the straps are printed with the TSA logo the system will have the following benefit:

Secure chain of command from the screening area to the plane and from the plane to baggage pick up. Any bag that does not have the TSA logo strap is suspect. No more sneaking a bag full of cocaine by airport personnel. No more pilfering our property by airline personnel.

Strapping machines run between $5k and $10k each. That is a fairly cheap price to insure that luggage is not tampered with.

The ONLY downside I can see for the TSA is the fact that once the system is in place and something is stolen from the bags, the TSA can no longer point a finger at the airlines and say "they did it".

See Anonymous we nerds have a ton of good ideas to make the experience better, and make the system more secure. You also get an added bonus with us nerds, we are cheap. That is our money the TSA is spending and we expect them to spend it wisely.

p.s. The strapping idea is Patent Pending. (This nerd thought of it first)

May 28, 2008 2:21 PM

Trollkiller,

What this idea does not take into consideration is that the TSA does not physically inspect or handle every bag, while every bag does go through the EDS machines the TSA Officers only physically inspect those that alarm the EDS machines. So for this idea to work you are suggesting that the TSA physically handle approximately 80-90% more checked baggage (my guess)than they currently do, that is unless they can somehow magically wish the banding straps on, which in turn would require more time (earlier check-in time), more Officers to do the work, more equipment, etc. All of these things would add an enormous amount of $ money $. Especially the Officers salary/benifits. This does not seem like a "fairly cheap price to insure that luggage is not tampered with."
to me.

HSVTSO Dean said...

An Anonymous person wrote:

What this idea does not take into consideration is that the TSA does not physically inspect or handle every bag, while every bag does go through the EDS machines the TSA Officers only physically inspect those that alarm the EDS machines.

Some airports do require that all baggage is handled. Take Huntsville, for example; our big bad CAT-II selves have no EDS machines, which means 100% of all checked baggage is physically handled and personally inspected by the dedicated (and, by the end of the day, physically exhausted) screener population.

Just wanted to throw a caveat into your statement. Continue discussion.

Trollkiller said...

To Anonymous

I am assuming EDS means Electronic Detection System, but I will call it by the common name X-ray.

The X-ray stations I am familiar with require the passenger to hand their bag to the TSO. The TSO then puts the bag on a conveyor belt or roller bed. The bag travels the roller bed or conveyor belt to the X-ray, it travels through the X-ray machine to be deposited on a roller bed or conveyor belt. The bag travels the conveyor belt or roller bed to the baggage handler for loading.

What I am proposing requires no magic or telekinetic powers.

The X-ray stations I am familiar with has three TSOs. One to take the bag from the passenger, one to watch the X-ray, and one to hand screen when needed and to send the other bags down to the luggage handler.

My system would place a strapping machine inline after the X-ray. The bags would pause just long enough to be strapped. The strapping machines can place 50+ straps per MINUTE. The speed is sufficient to keep up, if not exceed the X-ray bags per minute capacity.

They make automatic strapping machines or ones that are operated by a foot pedal. Personally I would not get the fully automatic ones due to the different dimensions of various luggage brands and models.

The system could be reconfigured for two man stations by putting the strapping machine in front of the X-ray.

As you can see the use of my system would not require any extra handling of the luggage except to pause it long enough to be strapped. Because the strapper is inline there is no extra lifting or handling, just an extra stop for the bag. There would be no need to add extra people at the station. This renders your manpower cost argument moot.

Because the strapping machine's speed is greater than the X-ray, there would be no added screening delay. This renders your earlier check in time argument moot.

Compared to the cost of securing all the areas that a bag must traverse on its way to the plane, you can see my way is cheaper, more secure, easier to implement and maintain.

Do you see any other "flaws" in my thought process? Seriously, tear the idea apart, I do not work as a TSO so I may be missing something.

To HSVTSO Dean,

Hand screening all the bags has the extra benefit of giving exercise to a normally out of shape TSA work force. Bathing suit season is coming up so this is a good thing. ;-)

Trollkiller said...

To all the TSOs,

What do you think of the strapping machine idea to secure luggage? Do you see any downside?

Anonymous said...

I've only read it through once.

But as far as I'm aware, that sounds like a real ingenius idea.

See, we need more thinkers, and less haters around here :D

HSVTSO Dean said...

Da' Big Bad Trollkilla' wrote:

To all the TSOs,

What do you think of the strapping machine idea to secure luggage? Do you see any downside?


Not in particular.

Many years ago we actually had something similiar, wherein we put TSA zip-ties on all of the bags that we screened. It was blue and had "TSA" written on it, with a bunch of numbers that I can only assume to be a batch group or something of the nature.

They were designed to be torn off by hand, very similiar to what you yourself describe, with a little knob that you gripped and, when you pulled the blue TSA 'flag' on it, the thing came apart. Otherwise, it was actually quite sturdy.

We used them to secure the bags after screening, and if the passenger got to where they were going and the tag wasn't on there, then it would've been safe to assume that someone had entered the bag after the TSA came out of it. I only know of... ehh... maybe two instances where they were accidentally ripped off in the course of normal handling.

It does sound very similiar to what you had proposed with the strapping machine. I personally really liked that system that we had.

They were discontinued though, whatever awesome properties they gave - they were determined to be prohibitively expensive. The budget is something the TSA brass likes to keep an eye on.

After all, they have to keep having their $461,745 parties :D

(Yeah, it's ancient history, but there's a few of us 'old guys' that still joke about it)

Trollkiller said...

HSVTSO Dean Thank you for your comments, I was hoping a few of your brethren would jump in so we could have a good discussion.

You said that all the bags are hand screened at Huntsville, so I am assuming that the zip tags you spoke of were placed on all the bags. Do you you know if the theft rate dropped while the zip tags were being used?

Using the zip tags at larger airports I can see where the cost would quickly out run the benefits.

At the larger airports I am guessing 1 in 20 bags are hand checked so placing zip tags on just 5% of the bags, leaving the other 95% vulnerable to molestation, would not enhance the overall security.

I think using the strapping machines would enhance overall security and be cheaper than placing cameras in all the blind spots between screening and the plane. This idea could be expanded for use by the off site cargo screeners.

The off site cargo screeners (company) could be given an unique number imprinted on the straps. Spot checks of the pre-screened cargo coming in would insure that they were screened properly.

HSVTSO Dean, and others, keep trying to poke holes in this idea. See if there are any fatal flaws in this idea. I can't see any, but then again I don't screen bags.

Anonymous said...

Trollkiller my thought is that the biggest problem with your baggage strapping system would be the different sized bags causing issues with a system and increasing cost. Plus the EDS machines save lots of time and take less employees to run making them well worth the cost. But I don't see the justification for the strapping system. As long as it's not TSA doing the stealing which for the most part it isn't how is it our responsibility to protect passengers property from theft? Most bags nowadays are not hard sided and anyone with a knife could get inside anyhow. The locks TSA or otherwise only slow down the would be thieves. If someone is a determined thief they'll find a way.

Btw TSA combined with law enforcement have caught thieves and they've been arrested. But other passengers stealing your property in the checkpoint is actually more common. Often these items are of much higher value which is why they were carried on.

This ABC news report talks about this problem and gives advice on how to limit the opportunities for thieves to get your things:
https://www.blogger.com/comment.g?blogID=2336044328955501444&postID=4398908551272529460

Anonymous said...

I had a typo in my last blog comment due to url posting issues. The correct url for the abc news story is:
http://abcnews.go.com/GMA/BusinessTravel/story?id=4892267&page=1

Trollkiller said...

Anonymous said...

Trollkiller my thought is that the biggest problem with your baggage strapping system would be the different sized bags causing issues with a system and increasing cost.

Plus the EDS machines save lots of time and take less employees to run making them well worth the cost.

But I don't see the justification for the strapping system. As long as it's not TSA doing the stealing which for the most part it isn't how is it our responsibility to protect passengers property from theft? Most bags nowadays are not hard sided and anyone with a knife could get inside anyhow. The locks TSA or otherwise only slow down the would be thieves. If someone is a determined thief they'll find a way.


Soft sided and different sized bags would pose no problem. The strapping machines automatically adjust to accommodate different sized packages, they even have an automatic tensioner to handle soft sided packages without crushing them.

The automatic strapper I have had the pleasure of using would strap a package as small as a two liter soda bottle.

The strapping machines in no way would replace EDS, x-ray, puffers or any other detection equipment. The strapping machine's sole job is to secure the bags against molestation.

But I don't see the justification for the strapping system. As long as it's not TSA doing the stealing which for the most part it isn't how is it our responsibility to protect passengers property from theft?

You are being myopic, you need to look at the larger picture.

Requiring that the luggage be accessible to the TSA makes the TSA responsible for any thefts that result from that requirement.

Before getting side tracked by the theft issue you need to understand that diminishing theft is simply a happy by-product of the strapping system not its main function.

The strapping machine's main function is to prevent the insertion of contraband after the TSA screens the luggage.

Without going Hollywood, the current setup makes it easy to place benign items like drugs or guns into luggage or more nefarious items like bombs.

If the TSA can not secure the luggage until it gets to the plane, the screening is useless. The straps overcome the lack of custody flaw in an inexpensive way.

The TSA likes making rules and regulations to "enhance" security. Simply make a regulation that states no luggage can be loaded on the plane if it is missing the TSA logo straps.

By the same logic that you give about thieves, a determined terrorist will find a way. Our job is to diminish the our vulnerabilities. Unsecured luggage after the screening is like locking the front door but leaving the windows wide open.

One more added bonus of the strapping machines, they are a visible enhancement to security.

To the traveling public the strapping machines say "The TSA cares about your property", to the thief it says "NO STEALING" and to the drug mule, gun runner and terrorist it says "here is one more barrier to traverse before you can carry out your deed".

Trollkiller said...

To Anonymous, I almost forgot to reply about the thefts at the carry-on screening station. The strapping machine are just for the checked baggage.

The best way I can see to lower the risk of theft at the screening station is to make the penalty so prohibitive no professional thief would risk it AND make sure my property moves at the same pace as I do. No skipping or dawdling at the x-ray exhaust.

Anonymous said...

Trollkiller said...

To Anonymous, I almost forgot to reply about the thefts at the carry-on screening station. The strapping machine are just for the checked baggage.

The best way I can see to lower the risk of theft at the screening station is to make the penalty so prohibitive no professional thief would risk it AND make sure my property moves at the same pace as I do. No skipping or dawdling at the x-ray exhaust.

Maybe my airport is unique in this regard, but I have not in 2 years heard of a single theft by TSOs except for one guy who stole a container of rice pudding...

He was caught, reprimanded and although he wasn't fired he had a nasty red note in his employee file which basically jeopardized any chances he had of transferring to another agency. He eventually resigned in a couple of weeks...

The cameras in the checkpoint are insane and we are under constant vigilance in that regard... they can even zoom in on the x-ray screens.

You can't even sneak loose change, lighters and match-books that passengers abandon into your pocket.

If you are robbed at a checkpoint it is almost surely other passengers...

Also by "ratting someone out" you can gain additional points in your file to receive a bigger bonus at the end of the year. So the officers don't exactly stay quiet about the issue...

I'm sure I wouldn't :D

Anonymous said...

Well putting your phone, watch, and other metals as well as your wallet inside the carry on bag before sending it through the x ray machine. That and if you are selected for extra screening random or otherwise ask that your possessions be brought over. Don't touch them, but having them close and in your sight will prevent the would be thief from getting into your property. If the screener says no ask for a supervisor because the SOP says we are supposed to let you keep your items in your view.

Ayn R. Key said...

I must give kudos to the TSA for finally starting to come forward on this issue. Mind, this could have been done a very long time ago with a lot less embarassment to the TSA. The true kudos go to bloggers like Winston and Trollkiller who continued to hammer the TSA into making this blog entry.

But now that I read it I notice a few items here and there that mean your previous announcements were almost as phony as I suspected they were.

First, this is a liquid and a powder. Yes, it's easy to make, yes it's cheap to make. But all this time you had us looking for an impossible binary liquid explosive. Really, why did you have us looking for binary liquids when the compound in question was a liquid and a powder. Were you sitting back chuckling at us pointing out the impossibility of the binary liquid? Were you saying "Those fools are so off track, it's a liquid and a powder, not a binary liquid"?

Second, you still haven't addressed the fact that if someone came up to the checkpoint with this liquid-powder explosive in their bags and threw it in the liquid disposal bin, you've just created an unsafe situation in the airport.

Third, this is, sadly, pre-mixed. According to the wild goose you had us chasing for months, mixed with the facts of this story, one guy comes through with H2O2, another guy comes through with tang powder, and together they make a bomb while in the terminal.

Fourth, how volitile is this particular liquid explosive? The chief complaint of the pre-mixed binary liquid is that the terrorist is more likely to blow himself up on the way to the airport than to do so on the plane.

Once you get over the gaping holes, you did a good job this time.

millertxu said...

Hi. I had an uncomfortable and disheartening experience in Oakland this morning. My husband, 10-month old daughter, and I had stayed with a friend in SF over the weekend, and she and I were returning to Seattle, leaving my husband there to attend a conference (WWDC, for those who care). We make our own baby food, and as I needed to feed my daughter on the return flight, I brought some of this with me. The friend we stayed with is a bachelor, has no tupperware, so I improvised, putting the food in a disposable cup covered with saran wrap, which I fastened with a rubber band. When I went through security, I took this and a ziplock baggie of liquids (hand sanitizer, tiny toothpaste, etc.) out of my daughter's diaper bag an put these in a bin along with my boots. As my makeshift container went through, the woman looking at the machine looked at it, ran it backwards, then handed it to another official. I waved and smiled and pointed at my daughter, whom I was wearing in a carrier on my front, and said "her lunch." We went through the scanner, I put my boots on, and waited for her food to come back. Another TSA official, Trish, came over and told me they had to run tests on her food. She then told me I should carry the food in a more normal container. I told her I make my own baby food. She said I should put that food in a baby food jar or something. I was a little indignant at her giving me instructions, but tried to defuse my irritation by joking, "well, I was staying with a bachelor, he doesn't even have tupperware!" She coolly stated "you should be more prepared." I was now quite mad at how rude she was being. As a security official, she knows she is in a position of authority, so I was incensed that she was using her position to tell me how to do things, and to indicate I was unprepared. I said, "you're a mom?" She said yes, she has 3 boys. I asked whether she has always been prepared for everything. She said yes. A. Whatever. B. Whatever. C. Once I got over being angry at how this woman who didn't know me had treated me, I realized how absurd her condescending unsolicited advice was. The TSA is supposed to keep us safe. According to her logic, if I carry explosives (I guess? or poison gas? or whatever I could've been suspected of?) in baby food jars, they won't be examined, because they look normal, but if I carry what's obviously a makeshift container, I _will_ be stopped, my food will be tested, and I'll be subjected to criticism for my unpreparedness as a mother.

Anonymous said...

Trollkiller,

I was reffering to in-line baggage screening systems when I said that I believe that it would be impractical, the airport where I fly out of has all in-line systems and the TSA never touches the bags unless they alarm. For those airports where they still do the screening in the lobby I guess you strapping machine idea might have merit, although I believe that most airports are trying to go to in-line systems which really does save money by reducing the number of TSO's.

Anonymous said...

When Sept 11 occurred, I thought that I should remove my little swiss army office card (the size of a credit card with small scissors, a knife, etc.) from my backpack. I couldn't find it but upon returning from a trip that occurred a few weeks after Sept. 11, I found the item in my backpack -- undetected. I was shocked that security missed it. I decided to keep the item in my backpack to "test the system." Amazingly, with travel to/from almost every major airport in the US (I have about 1.5 million miles in a major airline), the device has only been detected twice -- both in OKC ! Once, the guy in OKC even pinpointed what the item was from the x-ray machine. I pretended like I had it in my bag by mistake; however, I wanted to commend the guy for being so sharp.

What I do is to sandwich the flat credit card size swiss army device between a PC card and a cellular modem card.

One suggestion: have people remove metal items and lay them out. Otherwise, it is easy to hide sharp objects among a sea of stuff. Usually, I take my phone and press it against the bag pocket that contains the PC Card-Swiss Army card-cellular modem card. I also shove my wallet against this pocket. When the x ray screener looks at all this stuff, the knife is buried in everything.

Trollkiller said...

Anonymous said...
Trollkiller,

I was reffering to in-line baggage screening systems when I said that I believe that it would be impractical, the airport where I fly out of has all in-line systems and the TSA never touches the bags unless they alarm. For those airports where they still do the screening in the lobby I guess you strapping machine idea might have merit, although I believe that most airports are trying to go to in-line systems which really does save money by reducing the number of TSO's.


You know me, I am a cheap man, anything to save money. If labor costs are a concern at the airports with in-line screening, like you described, the TSA can employ a system like the SMG 50/55. (PDF warning)

As you can see by the brochure, it is a "no touch" system. The system automatically judges the height and length of the package before it attaches the strap(s). The TSO would just send it down the conveyor like normal. The only extra duty I can see for the TSO is loading a new roll of strapping.

I don’t know about you but I would pay an extra 50 cent security tax in order to have all the luggage secure.

Anonymous said...

This blog needs a report a post link or something similar. The post telling people how to sneak prohibited items through security needs to be removed. I wish there were some changes made to this blog to make it more like a message board so that reporting posts or posters and allowing posters to start topics were possible. As it is if TSO's publish SSI and another TSO sees it we have no option.

I do not understand the desire to leave prohibited items in your property to test us. Yes we aren't perfect but having artfully concealed prohibs is actually fine worthy so telling others how to do so is letting them know how to possibly get themselves a big fine and maybe in trouble with law enforcement.

Jim said...

Thanks for posting Lynn. It helps to know there's logic behind this. One question I did have - and only because this came up Friday - would, say, a bottle of aspirin fall under 3-1-1? The aspirin are solid, but the original container was greater than 3 oz.

Slightly off-topic: Has there been any consideration to maintaining a drop bin so items that do not adhere to 3-1-1 can be donated to local charities? (I ask because on the way home from SeaTac, there was a news blurb about the local battered women's shelter needing donations of toiletries. It seemed to bad no one would benefit from the ginormous shampoo bottle I saw forfeited in Providence earlier that day.)

Anonymous said...

Aspirin is a pill and not a liquid so there is no need to do anything different regarding it.

The drop bin idea has been proposed before and some airports do give the large liquids away, but the TSA doesn't do anything with them due to liability issues. Plus just think about why the liquids can't go. They can't go because bad guys might be disguising explosives as harmless products. I'd not want to be there when the supposed shampoo bottle explodes.

Shamino said...

According to a recent TV show, a company called Optosecurity is marketing a product called the Optoscreener. According to the company, and the TV documentary, this device can scan and identify liquids in containers, even in sealed containers.

Is the TSA going to adopt a device like this in place of today's X-ray machines? And if this happens, will that be sufficient to eliminate the 3-1-1 rule?

After all, since we all (at least everybody reading this blog) know, it isn't possible to mix an explosive post-checkpoint without killing yourself (and in a way that won't damage an airplane.) So if a scanner can detect and block pre-mixed liquids, we can be certain that what is passed is safe, and should therefore be safe in any quantity.

Anonymous said...

I was going through a check point just the other day and was behind a young lady she had a "container" that would hold more than 3 ounces, yet the contents was clearly less than 3 oz. Still the TSA took it and threw it away. What is the deal, TSA employees can't use common sense?

Anonymous said...

The TSA's policy on liquids and gels is a joke. On June 27, 2008 I flew out of Boston's Logan airport carrying a bag of food that included hard freezable ice pack, containing gel. It's hard plastic block containing about 6 ounces of refreezable gel. It did not occur to me that it violated the TSA gel restriction. The screeners at Logan did not stop me. A week later I flew home out of Minneapolis-St. Paul, again with the same ice pack. This time the screener at MSP grabbed the ice pack and scolded me for carrying it. I told him I had taken it through security at Logan a week early to which he merely glared and stole my property from me.

I would assume I am now on some sort of no-fly, terrorist list for daring to fly with an ice pack.

Anonymous said...

Regarding the idea that the items that are disposed of at the checkpoint be donated to charity ...

Supposedly they are confiscated because they are potentially dangerous and do not contain what they say they contain. So any redistribution would should be done only after each item is screened and declared to be legitimate.

Or else, the entire screening process is a scam.

Speaking of which, if the items confiscated are harmful, or potentially so, why are they simply tossed in an open can in plain sight? Shouldn't they be dealt with by a HAZMAT team?

At the Manchester, NH airport, there are big bins overflowing with toiletries. It looks like the sale bin at Walgreens.

No wonder people think the TSA rules and procedures are a joke.

Anonymous said...

Baggies that can be strapped to ones body to get into games or other events with 'your favorite drink'. While this can be fun at the right time with the right people, what if it got into the wrong hands? http://allday.msnbc.msn.com/archive/2008/07/14/1198327.aspx

diseƱo web said...

I dont think liquids ban make sense at all. As many here there are serious contradictions and lost pieces not only in this but also in other security issues. So the conclusions are... this is a prove of a really reaaaaally bad previous investigation before applying any kind of restriction, or... this is just one more point to the massive paranoic infection the goverment want to spread everywhere?

Anonymous said...

I regularly walk through security with around 200-300 ml of unchecked fluids. I also carry several unchecked ounces of a paste like substance.

The human body is an amazing thing. TSA, what are you going to do about a full bladder and bowels?

Anonymous said...

Hey, either treat ALL liquids like a threat or get rid of the 3-1-1. Doing anything else distracts from the real mission.

Joel C said...

I cannot believe people are complaining to this extent about the 3-1-1 rule. The truth of the matter is that there is no telling how terrorists can utilize liquids, gels, etc to bring down a plane. No one imagined that terrorists would use commercial airplanes as missiles to kill thousands of people and damage our economy. It is not reasonable to expect TSA to conduct tests to determine exactly how much of a liquid would be required to bring down a plane, as surely there is someone out there that can beat that. Nor does it make sense to have complicated rules of what types of containers are allowed, have different quantity limits for different products, and so on.
Although I completely agree it is an inconvenience, I would much rather avoid any possibility of an attack rather than be able to take Diet Coke I purchased before checking in past the security check point. And don’t forget, if you really need something that badly you can check it in your baggage. I understand people’s frustrations but any additional protection this rule provides against an attack is well worth it. I would much rather throw away my drink than face the possibility of, me, or anyone else, losing their loved ones and damaging this nation. Let’s not forget what is at stake if we are wrong…who thought terrorists would be able to hijack these days…

HappyToHelp said...

Ayn R. Key said...
The plot was to mix them on the other side of security.

You guys are talking about the same subject but not the same information. In the public domain it was wildly believed, never confirmed, that the explosives would be mixed after security(such as “Mass murder in the skies: was the plot feasible?”). Now that the trial is done, more information has made it into the public domain(such as “British Muslims 'planned to kill thousands by bringing down SEVEN transatlantic airliners in one go with liquid bombs'”).

The issue here, as I see it, is why didn't the UK do a independent lab test for confirmation. I think the main reason for that was the government EOD teams and the government contractors had similar results with the same conclusion. From their standpoint, I could see why they decided not to have a third test. I will hope in the future they decide to have a independent lab check their results when the time is appropriate(hopefully in the next couple of years). More then likely it won't happen.

Ayn R. Key said...

Third, this is, sadly, pre-mixed. According to the wild goose you had us chasing for months, mixed with the facts of this story, one guy comes through with H2O2, another guy comes through with tang powder, and together they make a bomb while in the terminal.
June 6, 2008 3:34 PM "The Science Behind 3-1-1"


I'm going to have to question your motives. I never attack the person. I try my best to attack the argument. I'm not sure why you posted “The plot was to mix them on the other side of security.” I have to admit your statement raised a eyebrow.

-H2H

rakeback said...

I find it completely far out when people at airports get angry at the security people. Of course we need protection against anyone who intend to harm the flights.

Tery Sachetti said...

Thank God for the TSA and the FAA for working so hard and do what at times almost seems to be the impossible? The countermeasures that must be in place to prevent another horrific attack must be ominous. There always seems to be a voice out there that just cannot be satisfied but there needs to be much more appreciate for what is done on our behalf.

Bob said...

I was looking for some current info but this was interesting to see. I don't envy those that have to decide on security arrangements for air travel as its a delicate balance between safety and inconvenience. I also wonder what effects these times of austerity will have on security budgets.

belong said...

Oh, I think I must search the 3-1-1 countermeasures.