Monday, February 9, 2009

Why We Do What We Do: Screening People in Wheelchairs



On February 4 at Los Angeles International Airport (better known as LAX), TSA officers found two 6x6x2 packages taped to the abdomen of a passenger.

The passenger arrived at the checkpoint in a wheelchair and was given the option of walking through the metal detector or being patted down in his wheelchair. He chose to walk through the metal detector. Because he was wearing bulky clothing, he also received additional screening - in this case a pat down.

That's when an officer found the two packages. The packages were tested and initial results were positive for explosive content. A TSA Bomb Appraisal Officer eventually cleared the packages through additional tests at the checkpoint and LAX police determined that the packages contained cocaine. The passenger was arrested, and federal charges are pending.

Now we know what some of you are thinking - TSA’s mission is not to find drugs, and that’s true. But finding drugs isn’t the success story here – the success story is that the officers found suspicious items intentionally concealed on a person’s body and that person was someone who would appear to pose no threat. We know that people who want to sneak something through a checkpoint – like improvised explosives devices and their components – often look to the techniques of drug and money smugglers and other criminals. In this case, it was drugs (which are admittedly not a threat to a plane), but when an officer finds these kinds of items, they don’t know what the contents are until the package is tested.

And because it’s a hot topic, it bears repeating that because transportation security officers are federal officers, if they find drugs, they must report it to law enforcement. Often on the blog we get questions like: “how is granny a threat?,” “what can a person in a wheelchair do on a plane,” etc. To us, this story is about the importance of screening everyone, and not giving anyone an exemption that a terrorist could use to their advantage.

Case in point: in 2005 in Colombia, a man in a wheelchair was allowed to bypass the metal detectors to board his flight. He and his son then tried to hijack the plane with two hand grenades they got through security. According to the media reporting:

“Duque said the older hijacker boarded the plane in a wheelchair. It may have helped him smuggle the grenades aboard. The wheelchair was too large to pass through an airport metal detector, and the man was not patted down by security agents, Luis Octavio Rojas, director of the Florencia airport, told The Associated Press.

“But they did give him and the chair a visual inspection,” Rojas added.”
______
- Lynn
EoS Blog Team

113 comments:

RB said...

"That's when an officer found the two packages. The packages were tested and initial results were positive for explosive content."

..............................
The screeners found packages. Good!

The packages tested for explosives but were not.

Not good at all!

Granted, the finding of the material is a fair catch. The packages were concealed and may well have been explosives.

But, if test equipment at the checkpoint cannot distinguish cocaine from an explosive just how good are the other explosive tests that are carried out at checkpoints all across the country each day? What other items do the test report false positives on or perhaps false negatives?

Seems like this incident raises other important issues to me!

G.S.S. said...

This is a great post. I've worked in security for quite a while, and the problems connected with "pat-downs" or "body searches" or whatever one prefers to call them come up often.
In fact, one should call them perceived problems instead, as the view that some passengers should not be subject to that kind of search is based on both misinformation and - to be blunt - ignorance about the considerations and risk assessments that lay behind the procedures.
Thanks to TSA and its blog for helping to spread understanding about security and security procedures.

Trollkiller said...

My concern is not the fact you guys found drugs but that cocaine was identified as an explosive on the initial test.

If your testing equipment is that sorry it needs to be replaced before you guys kill one of your own or an innocent passenger.

Mike said...

One point is neglected. This statement is a half-truth:

"[T]he success story is that the officers found suspicious items intentionally concealed on a person’s body and that person was someone who would appear to pose no threat."

It's important to note that the person in question was, in fact, not a threat to the safety of the aircraft.

If our goal is the identify threats and prevent them from boarding, this story does not illustrate a success for TSA. The same results could be achieved by patting down everybody.

Jim Huggins said...

[By the way, the link to "bulky clothing" in the original article leads to some sort of private TSA login site ...]

Anonymous said...

Good Work

Anonymous said...

Great job to the officer who followed procedure for bulky clothing. I believe TSA should broadcast more of their success stories to the public. Perhaps that will explain the "why" for many procedures. I know for a fact that they've caught people with false ID's and passports. Throw those stories up as well! I still agree with many other posters on here though, TSA needs to somehow make sure that ALL their officers, and supervisors properly practice the correct procedures. Kudos to the ones who do.

RB said...

I click the hot link "bulky clothing" and get taken to this:

https://email.tsa.dhs.gov/CookieAuth.dll?GetLogon?curl=Z2FexchwebZ2FbinZ2Fredir.aspZ3FURLZ3DhttpZ3AZ2FZ2Fwww.tsa.govZ2FpressZ2FhappeningsZ2Fsop_facts.shtm&reason=0&formdir=5

Would you please provide a user name and password so I can see what it is you wanted me to read.

I am a bit concerned about the finding of drugs that tested positive for explosives.

Does this mean that the explosive testing used by TSA are that inaccurate? If the tests have false positives then what is the rate of false negatives?

Anonymous said...

How about instead of patting the handicapped down you used puffers or other trace chemical detectors? Much more efficient and much less intrusive.

Anonymous said...

So you're saying that someone COULD appear handicapped to fool screeners into thinking that they were harmless? Why would someone do that? Thats so... typical of what terrorists would do. You "experts" still dont get it. /sigh

Phil said...

Paul at TSA wrote the following and signed it as Lynn:

"The packages were tested and initial results were positive for explosive content. A TSA Bomb Appraisal Officer eventually cleared the packages through additional tests at the checkpoint and LAX police determined that the packages contained cocaine."

Lynn or Paul, could you comment on the false positive alert generated by your explosives test?

It seems that this, which you glossed over, was the most significant fact in the post. It would be very tempting for TSA staff, when searching someone and finding something that looks like it might indicate wrongdoing of the sort that does not affect airline safety, to simply state that initial tests indicated that explosive residue had been identified on the item in order to justify a more intrusive search of that person and his belongings. Surely TSA has some process is in place to avoid such abuse of power.

Searching for explosives is at the core of what TSA does. Wrongly accusing someone of attempting to smuggle explosives aboard a flight, even if it was an honest mistake, should not be taken lightly. I'd like to hear what happened and what you'll do to avoid similar mistakes in the future.

--
Phil
Add your own questions at TSAFAQ.net

Earl Pitts said...

Congratulations. You found something while doing your job.

Whoopie!

My first thought was you guys might have passed a red team test for once.

Seriously though, if you tested it for ETD and it didn't hit and it didn't contain metal, why was it referred to LE? Sounds like to me that once again you guys were exceeding your mandate and playing cop again.

Also sounds like to me you guys are trumpeting a success in drugs.

Be very careful what you guys look for and find. You might be on the receiving end of a lawsuit such as Janet Lee, who was arrested for having flour filled condoms that some TSA do-gooder thought was drugs.

How TSA avoided liability in that is beyond me.

Earl

Poster Paul EoS Blogger Team said...

Just fixed the "bulky clothing" link.

Poster Paul

Al Ames said...

@RB: "Does this mean that the explosive testing used by TSA are that inaccurate? If the tests have false positives then what is the rate of false negatives?"

Could be that TSA has it calibrated for drugs to hit as "explosives" so that they can hand them over to LE and claim to make a Big Catch®. That way, they can say they aren't looking for drugs but in reality, they are.

Al

Tomas said...

Poster Paul! You're still there! Hi!

Tom

Ronnie said...

Great job!!! This is indeed a good example of why we do what we do.

Before you get all up in arms about the false + test for explosives, lets take a minute to be greatful that the crap the guy was smuggling won't wind up on the street and up the nose of your kid.

Back to the false +...(I don't know how much I can say w/o getting into too much SSI) Ocassionally we do get false positives when testing items at the checkpoint. They are generally cleared very easily by a LTSO and a little extra screening. Many things we come into contact with every day contain trace amounts of chemicals that can be found in explosives. The machines we use are quite sensitive, and that's a GOOD thing. Cleaning products, lawn products, medications and the like can occasionally be picked up by the trace machines. Any of these could be the cause of a false positive. I would rather clear a false positive than 'tune down' the machines and posibly miss a real threat.

Ronnie TSO DEN

Anonymous said...

RB said...
The packages tested for explosives but were not.

Not good at all!

Granted, the finding of the material is a fair catch. The packages were concealed and may well have been explosives.
But, if test equipment at the checkpoint cannot distinguish cocaine from an explosive just how good are the other explosive tests that are carried out at checkpoints all across the country each day? What other items do the test report false positives on or perhaps false negatives?

OK listen up experts. The ETD machines can be CALIBRATED to identify explosives OR drugs. Not both at the same time. Likely the explosive that it picked up on with the initial scan was Ng (nitro glycerine). Common in hand creams and such. Trollkiller, i think this is one particualar topic you need to keep quite about since it appears youre no subject master on this :). The equipment works fine leave it be. GJ LAX.

Anonymous said...

"The packages tested for explosives but were not.

Not good at all!"

Correct, they tested positive for explosives. After that they were handled carefully as explosives, by Bomb Appraisal Officers, who are also experts in their field.

The fact that they tested positive, yet were not truely explosives, does not mean that TSA equipment is faulty. Explosives are made from many different chemicals, which those machines detect. Who's to say what chemicals the cocaine was cut with?

Better (and safer) to have a false positive, than no results at all.

Anonymous said...

Are there any thinkers in the peanut gallery? Cocaine is not an explosive, but there are many compounds used to process coca leaves into cocaine that are highly flammable. And those compounds are usually not 'removed' in the process unless you are dealing with the medical grade stuff manufactured for legal use in surgical procedures.

Then of course there is the whole weapons connection. To tweak your erroneous zone, your standard (normal, non-TSA super-sniffer) ERD will usually tweak on a hand-swab from someone who was simply observing at a firing range.

Lynn said...

In response to:

My concern is not the fact you guys found drugs but that cocaine was identified as an explosive on the initial test.

and:

But, if test equipment at the checkpoint cannot distinguish cocaine from an explosive just how good are the other explosive tests that are carried out at checkpoints all across the country each day?

RB and Trollkiller - please let me clarify. Cocaine wasn't identified as an explosive. Perhaps there was explosive residue on the package from contact with glycerine or handling gun powder or something else. When someone handles explosives or the materials that I mentioned above, the residue is not easily removed, and will alarm during explosives testing.

Anonymous said...

"Coming into Los Angeles, bringing in a couple of keys, don't touch my bags, if you please, me customs man." -- Arlo Guthrie

Woo-hoo! You found a couple keys Now if you can repeat that 500,000 times per year, you guys will win the drug war!

Still, it is a false alarm: "admittedly not a threat to the plane" and you cought yousleves a drug mule. I think your focus on people who "people who want to sneak something through a checkpoint" might be misguided. The 9/11 hijackers didn't smuggle items on, they used perfectly acceptable items, like your 4" scissors.

Maybe, to you, this is a story of success, but to me, it is an example of adjusting your performance metrics to match your process: There's tons of drugs smuggled into the US, and as long as you count catching drug mules as wins in the Global War On Terrorism, you will always have something good to show on your performance reports.

Anonymous said...

"I know for a fact that they've caught people with false ID's and passports."

Please explain how false IDs and passports present any threat to an aircraft.

Robert Johnson said...

Quote from Anonymous: "So you're saying that someone COULD appear handicapped to fool screeners into thinking that they were harmless? Why would someone do that? Thats so... typical of what terrorists would do. You "experts" still dont get it. /sigh"

I thought the whole point of terrorism was doing atypical things to get a reaction that induces terror?

While suicide bombers kill people, they look like they're old hat in Israel. How much of an impact do suicide bombers have over there on forcing an agenda?

Sounds like you're an "expert" that doesn't get how terrorists work either /sigh

Robert

Trollkiller said...

Lynn, the corrections are noted, thanks for the clarification.

RB said...

Lynn said...
In response to:

My concern is not the fact you guys found drugs but that cocaine was identified as an explosive on the initial test.

and:

But, if test equipment at the checkpoint cannot distinguish cocaine from an explosive just how good are the other explosive tests that are carried out at checkpoints all across the country each day?

RB and Trollkiller - please let me clarify. Cocaine wasn't identified as an explosive. Perhaps there was explosive residue on the package from contact with glycerine or handling gun powder or something else. When someone handles explosives or the materials that I mentioned above, the residue is not easily removed, and will alarm during explosives testing.

February 9, 2009 8:36 PM
...............................
"The packages were tested and initial results were positive for explosive content."

What evidence is there that an explosive residue was on the package?

What evidence is there that the testing procedure is not faultyn and this was in fact a false positive?

I think a reasonable person would question the testing methods until a failure is ruled out.

So where is Bob hiding out these days?

Anonymous said...

Is this blog post an admission that TSA's explosive-trace-detection (ETD) machines are configured to detect drugs in addition to explosives?

Some of us have been wondering about that for a while; it just seems too tempting for TSA to use the machines to sniff out drugs (well beyond the supposedly limited scope of their statutory authority to search for weapons, explosives, and incendiaries). They can easily call the "hit" for trugs a presumptive hit for explosives, use that to justify a more thorough search, and then claim they found the drugs in the course of doing their statutory job (just as they have done with this blog post).

Anonymous said...

Most explosive trace detection systems at airports can be set by technicians to detect narcotics.
Its the technicians responsibility to make sure that the the detection machine is set to pick up explosives only, but sometimes errors occur.

Anonymous said...

TSA is known formisidentifying explosives. At least this time the person stopped was actually up to no good. (Albeit drug-related no good)

I'm curious as to why your explosives detection equipment gave a false positive when reading cocaine. Can we really trust this equipment?

Lynn said...

In response to:

TSA is known formisidentifying explosives. At least this time the person stopped was actually up to no good. (Albeit drug-related no good)

Just to be clear, TSA had no involvement with this case. An airport employee near baggage claim saw the MIT student and called the airport police. No TSA personnel were involved, and I believe that in the YouTube video you linked to, the student noted TSA was not involved.

Lynn
EOS Blog Team

Anonymous said...

Hi Lynn,

This is anonymous 1:15 PM.

I did not mean to imply that the ordeal Star Simpson endured for no good reason was TSA's fault, I was merely commenting on TSA's track record with regards to misidentifying explosives. I linked to Star Simpson's interview because it's an excellent example of what can go wrong when there's too much fear and too little knowledge. We expect security personnel of all types to make decisions based on specialist knowledge and hard evidence, unfortunately what happens all to frequently is that things deviating even slightly from the norm at the checkpoint elicit responses so insanely disproportionate that they'd be hilarious if they didn't end with innocent people being unlawfully detained and verbally and physically abused.

I notice that you responded to the part of my post that criticized the TSA, but you didn't address my question. I will repeat it for you. I hope you see fit to prove that you are more than TSA's blogosphere spin doctor.

I'm curious as to why your explosives detection equipment gave a false positive when reading cocaine. Can we really trust this equipment?

Anonymous said...

I would like to remind the TSA that pat downs are unnecessary, as well as ineffective (any smart terrorist today knows to use body cavities). Technology to detect trace chemicals, on the other hand, is unobtrusive and highly effective.

Anonymous said...

If, as you say, it's important to screen everyone, why, then, are TSO's not screened?

Anonymous said...

Ok first off the girl with the LED sweatshirt was not stoped by TSA, It was our Ma State Police that handled the situation, TSA had no involvement. SO maybe people should actualy read instead of just assume. Secondly you cannot tell me, that what this young girl did was smart, coming to an airport with wires and batteries sticking out of your shirt is not clever.(she was prob trying to make a statement), if i was a leo i would have reacted the same way. She is lucky she was not shot

Anonymous said...

While suicide bombers kill people, they look like they're old hat in Israel.

I think you hit the nail on the head with that statement. thats why EVERYONE gets checked at the checkpoints.

Mr. Johnson, I never did claim to be an expert on terrorist tactics. Thank you though for admitting that your not either. Ill remember that when you start telling TSA how to do its job. :)

Harry Nicholson said...

Al Ames said...
Could be that TSA has it calibrated for drugs to hit as "explosives" so that they can hand them over to LE and claim to make a Big Catch®. That way, they can say they aren't looking for drugs but in reality, they are.

Al


The problem I have is that the TSA is not held to the same standards as a cop when it comes to the "in plain sight" doctrine or even for the legality of the initial search.

For example, we don't know if the various machines are calibrated for drugs or not. The TSA says, "Of course not!" but there is no burden of proof. Face it, the only justification they have to conduct a more intrusive search of anyone, anytime, is "I think I saw something." They don't ever have to show to which standard they thought they saw something nor do they ever have to produce the evidence of the "something." They don't even have to explain what the "something" might have been. They never have to be cross-examined to justify their actions.

Sorry, but anybody from the attorney general to Francine The Googler to Barney Fife would be thrown out of court on their ears if they tried to prosecute someone based on "I think I saw something." as justification for a secondary search. That's what's wrong with all of this.

Anonymous said...

SUSPICIOUS ITEMS, Great Job! No time for a Chemistry Class that would tell you that many every day items carry components of explosives, even lotion. Thanks for all the details Lynn, even the false positive. I am glad it was only suspected drugs.

Ed said...

Even if the ETD had come back negative right away, this person was still not going anywhere and the drugs would have still been detected. The false positive would have kept everyone anxious for a while, but made no difference in the long run.

kellymae81 said...

This is in response to all posts that are commenting on the "false positive" and the drug issue.

Several blogs cover why we got the "false positive". Our machines can detect 1 billionth of a gram of an explosive material. So in other words, the machine is very sensitive to even trace amounts. It can pick up any trace amount of any element of what can make up an explosive. You are bound to pick up those traces in everyday things like lotion (and many other things)

As to the drug issue. I've said this before and I'll say it again. It is not our primary job to look for drugs, but if found, it is handed over to law enforcement. If we come across them(like in this incident) we can not just let them go. How do you not understand that?! NO, it is not a "threat" to aviation safety, but we still have to report illegal activity b/c, well, ITS ILLEGAL.

SDF TSO

RB said...

Why do you do what you do, TSA?

Does anyone at TSA really know what the rule is???

This must be one of the rules that are easily followed by the people who buy airline tickets and must pass through a TSA "Dragnet" Checkpoint!

Bob, Paul, Lynn anyone at TSA will you please clarify the statement from the TSA Contact Center?


Thank you for your email message concerning TSA's 3-Ounce Rule.

Air carriers are responsible for identifying passengers, controlling passengers to checkpoints, controlling gate access, and controlling baggage before and after screening. TSA employees are responsible for all passenger and baggage screening to ensure that prohibited items are not placed on board aircraft. TSA consults regularly with its various partners to effectively integrate their respective security responsibilities.

Since the liquid threat was discovered as part of the foiled terror plot in August, TSA has worked very closely with our European partners to harmonize our overall security efforts.

Passengers traveling on an international flight from Europe or other foreign countries into the United States, the 3.4 oz containers in the zip lock bag will be accepted in carry on and will not be confiscated at the checkpoint.

Those passengers traveling from the United States into a foreign country or traveling on a domestic flight within the United States must carry the 3.0 oz containers as carry on in a zip lock bag.

We encourage you to visit our website at www.tsa.gov for additional information about TSA. We continue to add new information and encourage you to check the website frequently for updated information.

TSA Contact Center

Anonymous said...

I just watched KTLA's report on this story and the blog. Doug Rae just stated something to the liking of "terrorism has no face" and that this was a success. Huh? This has nothing to do with terrorism. You caught an old guy with some coke. A college buddy of mine died when Tower 2 collapsed. I find it disgusting that you equate this so-called success to terrorism. Sorry, I don't feel safer.

Robert Johnson said...

Quote from anonymous: "I think you hit the nail on the head with that statement. thats why EVERYONE gets checked at the checkpoints.

Mr. Johnson, I never did claim to be an expert on terrorist tactics. Thank you though for admitting that your not either. Ill remember that when you start telling TSA how to do its job. :)"


I don't recall ever saying that everyone shouldn't be screened. Can you point to any place EVER on this blog where I said that?

I was addressing your argument that terrorists will use "typical" tactics. My point is that suicide bombings don't have the "oomph" that the unexpected tactics had. I doubt the impact would have been as drastic if a plane was bombed with a shipped package (TSA checking those yet?) vs. crashing planes into a building.

How often are suicide bombers paid attention to in the news, outside of casual mentioning? How effective are they at achieving their aims?

Think shock and awe. If you can really scare the heck out of a group of people, you can almost get them to do what you want, even if they think they're doing the opposite (think Patriot Act, DHS, etc).

I have a lot of experience in the security field and have worked in the intelligence community. Expert? Maybe, maybe not. However, I do know what I'm talking about. ;)

Everyone should be screened. That includes TSO's, ramp workers, etc, that aren't being screened now.

However, TSA also needs to be proactive, and not reactive in its security and balance security with civil liberties.

Robert

Al Ames said...

@Anonymous: "Even if the ETD had come back negative right away, this person was still not going anywhere and the drugs would have still been detected. The false positive would have kept everyone anxious for a while, but made no difference in the long run.

Why?

If the items are cleared of ETD, and x-rays don't show anything, TSA has established that it's not a threat. Why should more tests for drugs be conducted, other than TSA overstepping its bounds?

Al

TSO said...

In response to...

If, as you say, it's important to screen everyone, why, then, are TSO's not screened?

Sorry to disappoint you, but we are screened. Just not in the same way, seeing as we're not flying on any planes. (Metal badges alarm, no pat downs since we're all wearing the same thing -- and we still xray our jackets if we're just getting to work.) If we are getting on planes for any non work-related reasons, we get screened just like a passenger, 3.4oz liquids and all.


With other topics: No, our machines do not test for drugs. But as it's already been said, it tests for traces of explosives, which includes household chemicals that can be found in cleaning products, beauty products, and yes very few types of hand lotions. The type of explosive it alarms on gauges how we proceed with screening. Glycerin is the most common alarming chemical that's in household products, if it alarms for that we just look through the rest of the bag, if there's nothing visible that could be a threat then they're on their way. I've seen people cleared of false positives in less than 2 minutes (such as, if just the cell phone alarms). If it alarmed with a high-grade military explosives trace (that I had just last week actually), well, that's something else. fyi, handling bombs in the army was basically his day job, the reason for the positive test result. I'm repeating myself here, but Lynn said it best:
"Perhaps there was explosive residue on the package from contact with glycerine or handling gun powder or something else. When someone handles explosives or the materials that I mentioned above, the residue is not easily removed, and will alarm during explosives testing."

So like it's been said; I'm not worried about a false positive. And I've never heard of a false negative when testing the machines (that get calibrated every few hours by those trained to do so).

Oh and we do have to explain what the "something" is that it alarms on, especially if there's any reason for it to go to court: it's part of the evidence.

But yeah, wheelchairs. We screen them. Yes, terrorists go for high-profile actions. But terrorists with harmful intentions are going to try to act innocent and unnoticable, that harmless-looking guy in the background you don't really notice, until they can get in place (on the plane) to pull off their high-profile attack. And this is why we screen everyone. Thank you for listening, if you managed to make it through my whole comment.

Anonymous said...

Just curious about the coments people are posting regarding the packages testing positive as explosives. Does anyone know the actual chemicals present in processed cocaine? Or any chemicals which may have been placed onto the packages when they were being handled by this person? You may be surprised to learn that many sunscreens contain glycerin as an ingredient, which is actually an explosive. Amny common skin lotions also contain chemicals which are actually explosive in nature.

RB said...

TSO said...
In response to...

"But terrorists with harmful intentions are going to try to act innocent and unnoticable, that harmless-looking guy in the background you don't really notice, until they can get in place (on the plane) to pull off their high-profile attack. And this is why we screen everyone. "
..............................
Can I assume that you have screened thousands of people, perhaps 10's of thousands?

How many of the people that you have screened were actual terrorist?

One? Maybe two? I bet the answer is ZERO!

Anonymous said...

"Sorry to disappoint you, but we are screened. Just not in the same way, seeing as we're not flying on any planes. (Metal badges alarm, no pat downs since we're all wearing the same thing -- and we still xray our jackets if we're just getting to work.)"

So you don't go through a metal detector? And yet you're on the other side of the screening area? You people really ARE a joke.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous said...
"'I know for a fact that they've caught people with false ID's and passports.'

Please explain how false IDs and passports present any threat to an aircraft."

Well, let's say that you're a terrorist, or a drug smuggler, or whatever. Now, assume that you are on a no-fly list or are frequently selected for additional screening by whatever airlines you fly on. Or, for that matter, you would like to do whatever you can to make sure that your true identity remains unknown by the government so you don't get flagged for extra screening in the future. In that situation, you would probably try to obtain a fake ID or passport.

Having a fake passport gives you access to just about anywhere in the world. You can get on any commercial plane headed for almost any country in the world, and if the ID looks legit, then you're not going to be stopped. Knowing who the bad guys are doesn't help if they can constantly change their identity.

RB said...

TSO said...
In response to...

If, as you say, it's important to screen everyone, why, then, are TSO's not screened?

Sorry to disappoint you, but we are screened. Just not in the same way, seeing as we're not flying on any planes. (Metal badges alarm, no pat downs since we're all wearing the same thing -- and we still xray our jackets if we're just getting to work.) If we are getting on planes for any non work-related reasons, we get screened just like a passenger, 3.4oz liquids and all.

.......................
No WTMD, no pat downs=no screening.

What is to prevent one of you highly trained TSO's from bringing something through the checkpoint and passing it to someone else who has already been cleared?

What TSA is doing is betting with my life that not one TSO would do something illegal.

We all know how that has worked out!

As long as TSA fails to screen everyone equally then there is no security provided by TSA.

RB said...

Why does TSA do what it does?

No accountability!

No integrity!

Do responsibility!

Does anyone at TSA really know what the LGA rule is???

This must be one of the rules that are easily followed by the people who buy airline tickets and must pass through a TSA "Dragnet" Checkpoint!

Bob, Paul, Lynn anyone at TSA will you please clarify the statement from the TSA Contact Center?


Thank you for your email message concerning TSA's 3-Ounce Rule.

Air carriers are responsible for identifying passengers, controlling passengers to checkpoints, controlling gate access, and controlling baggage before and after screening. TSA employees are responsible for all passenger and baggage screening to ensure that prohibited items are not placed on board aircraft. TSA consults regularly with its various partners to effectively integrate their respective security responsibilities.

Since the liquid threat was discovered as part of the foiled terror plot in August, TSA has worked very closely with our European partners to harmonize our overall security efforts.

Passengers traveling on an international flight from Europe or other foreign countries into the United States, the 3.4 oz containers in the zip lock bag will be accepted in carry on and will not be confiscated at the checkpoint.

Those passengers traveling from the United States into a foreign country or traveling on a domestic flight within the United States must carry the 3.0 oz containers as carry on in a zip lock bag.

We encourage you to visit our website at www.tsa.gov for additional information about TSA. We continue to add new information and encourage you to check the website frequently for updated information.

TSA Contact Center

AnnElyse said...

I think that it is great that TSA found the packages, not only because of what could have been in them, but because every-time TSA discovers the different ways that people are trying to smuggle contraband onto airplanes and into airports, it gives them more information on how to keep a preventative plan set up. Now that they know how easy it could be for a person in a wheel chair to get through security, they can stop it in the future.

It is also a little bit concerning, however, that presumably up until now people in wheelchairs could have the option of either being pat down or going through the metal detector, which seems like they are going through less security than the rest of the general public. And with the way terrorists are working these days, using small children and the handicap or elderly to carry out their attacks, I think that everyone, no matter what they look like or what their age is, should have to go through the same procedures.

I also think that it is interesting that drugs would set off the the detector that same an explosive material, and it makes me wonder exactly what the machines are programed to test to for.

Anonymous said...

Good job TSA- LAX.

To all the people wondering about the "false" positive for explosives. You are assuming that there were no trace amounts of explosives. Keep in mind that this person was a drug trafficer--now think about what you associate with people that deal with drugs and I think one of the first things you think of is...guns. BINGO- perhaps this person or the person he got it from might have handled a weapon and transfered gun powder to a tacky surface like duct tape...or maybe it just was a false positive.

To Earl Pitts:
"Seriously though, if you tested it for ETD and it didn't hit"

Where in the above article does it state that the item did NOT alarm?...try again.

"and it didn't contain metal, why was it referred to LE?"
So...if you were TSA you would let two 6"x6"x2" packages of potential explosives go since there was no "metal"...even if that were just gun powder it could cause serious damage. BTW- are things like dynamite sticks encased or contain metal in order to work...

Regarding your link to Janet Lee case:
TSA would avoid liability as Philly-PD is the one that tested and got a positive result for the suspicious items....which I think even you would agree were suspicious in nature. Please read the article in your link again and note that TSA simply turned the situation over to PD to let them test for the presence of drugs.

Anonymous said...

to anonymous on their comment of how cocaine dealing doesn't have anything to do with terrorism. Well just in case you didnt know drug trafficking is a form of terrorism. where do you think they get their money from?? drug trafficking, selling weapons all sort of illegal stuff. This is a success story and honestly I wish people could live in the life of a TSA employee and see just how stressful it is. I know that no government agency or any agency is perfect but since TSA has been in place how many accidents have we had since 911??

Also, TSA was not held liable when it came to the lady with the condoms filled with flour(stupid in the 1st place) because they were not the ones who tested the condoms for drugs just explosive, duh!!

Anonymous said...

Alot of comments about the ETD machines, but you fail to comment about the fact the guy was hiding it under clothing. Wheelchair or not that is not the issue. The baggy articles of clothing is the real issue...He had drugs, could've been explosives, it could have been a suicide vest. Hello the TSA is not to profile. There is no true face to a terrorist.

Anonymous said...

The fact the packages alarmed for explosive traces does not shock me at all. Someone carrying that much cocaine would have to be connected to some major smuggling operation. Dangerous people like that handle firearms and other weapons. The alarm probably picked up on gun powder residue.

Anonymous said...

the ETD machines are not calibrated to detect "drugs" but like posters before have said, The way the drugs were handled or processed could have come into contact with explosive materials.

I say good job TSA on this catch.
(even though it was not an explosive, it was still an illegal act, so for that i give you a pat on the back)

Anonymous said...

After many years of reading TSA or government "Haters" comments it doesn't surprise me to read these ignorant posts by people who have no idea what the hell they are talking about. Everyone is so concerned about having too much security, about it being so invasive. Well deal with it. This country is full of greedy impatient people, who will find a way to complain about anything no matter how it's done. So when the security rules are lightened because some human rights groups want to make headlines, don't complain when an attack happens.

Terrorists don't need to have a turbin on their head! They also don't need to be 18-65 years old! They also can be a normal looking American (Tim McVay), they can be a little kid or elderly person forced to carry something dangerous.

For the person who said finding fake IDs and passports has nothing to do with terrorism, use your head! Do you think a known terrorist is going to come through an airport with a real passport with their own name on it??? They will never even get issued a boarding pass because of the No-Fly List. Obviously they are going to bring a fraudulent document to get through security.

For all you people concerned about false positive tests for explosives, there were plenty of comments to explain that. Most drugs are manufactured with chemicals that are used to make such things as household chemicals and explosives. Also just coming in contact with many "harmless" chemicals in trace amounts can trigger a false positive. It takes only a few minutes to distiguish between a false positive and the real deal. So be happy that it can find such small amounts and deal with the extra couple of minutes to clear your items when it happens to you.

I am not saying everything TSA does is perfect or makes sense, but they are doing what they can to help prevent something bad from happening again. These terrorists are smarter and richer than a lot of people and are always adapting. All TSA can do is try to stay ahead of them or make rules based on knowledge of previous terrist attacks. Give these damn people a break and suck it up for 15 minutes and stop being such babies.

Anonymous said...

I'm glad someone thought of the chemical process used to produce cocaine. Being a former Drug Enforcement Agent I can tell you there are different chemicals used to extract cocoa from the leaves. Most common in the early 80's was gasoline. Today much more volatile chemicals are being use to produce a much stronger product. Anyone with access to the internet can find out which ones are and how their chemical properties can be directly link to a wide variety of explosive materials either directly or indirectly.These explosive machines are very accurate if used correctly.
Either way this was a Good Job.

Mike said...

The equipment used is to find explosives, which include gasoline, which is a chemical used in making cocaine. For everyone concerned about the machines finding traces of explosives, thats your answer.

Anonymous said...

Tsa should calibrate both the EDS and ETD machines for drugs. We don't drugs or the people transporting them on the streets or in our airports. It would be a very productive tool in curtailing drug smuggling.

Anonymous said...

When will I be able to use my TWIC card to get past the checkpoint? It's identification issued by the DHS.. in HSDP-12 format.. and it duplicates the function of the USCG (a DHS sub-agency) MMD [not HSDP-12].. Ooh.. Two forms of ID issued by sub-agencies of the same Department that the TSA belongs two that the TSA doesn't recognize. Who would ever believe that?

Let's not even get into the different color covers on Federal passports.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous said...
If, as you say, it's important to screen everyone, why, then, are TSO's not screened?

February 10, 2009 5:41 PM

Thats a good idea... lets hire a private security company to screen screeners. But wait! Then we need to hire screeners to screen screeners who will screen passengers. Sarcasim aside now, who would screen screeners? discuss...

squidoutofguam said...

The officers followed procedure and got the job done. So what if the initial readings were for explosives? Positive test for explosives is not, in itself, an indication of guilt but raises questions that must be answered. Further investigation obviously revealed that this was a drug smuggling operation. I have seen, firsthand, how people in wheelchairs tend to attract concern or sympathy over their wellbeing. An unscrupulous person would use this to his or her advantage. As for courtesy, I like it, but to me, security trumps courtesy, every time. So it's okay to be a little blunt with me.

However, security doesn't have to be compromised by courtesy, just treat people as people and they will understand.

Anonymous said...

It doesn't suprise me that explosive residue showed up. Let's think about the kind of people who are putting these packages together and where drugs are made, transported and stored. Do you honestly think that these guys only delt in drugs or that they didn't have some type of explosive ordinance kept on hand? Maybe they, the drug pushers and smugglers, even handled some ordinace themselves.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous said...
I just watched KTLA's report on this story and the blog. Doug Rae just stated something to the liking of "terrorism has no face" and that this was a success. Huh? This has nothing to do with terrorism. You caught an old guy with some coke. A college buddy of mine died when Tower 2 collapsed. I find it disgusting that you equate this so-called success to terrorism. Sorry, I don't feel safer.

And where do you think a significant portion of the terrorist organizations' money comes from?
Any success, no matter how small, is a success. This one's value is in showing that, yes, there is a valid reason to screen everyone the same, even somebody in a wheelchair, who doesn't seem to pose a danger.
Does busting some dude with a little coke make the friendly skies suddenly safe? Hell no. Is it a step in the right direction? Sure.

Anonymous said...

In response to TSO who said:
"Sorry to disappoint you, but we are screened. Just not in the same way, seeing as we're not flying on any planes. (Metal badges alarm, no pat downs since we're all wearing the same thing -- and we still xray our jackets if we're just getting to work.) If we are getting on planes for any non work-related reasons, we get screened just like a passenger, 3.4oz liquids and all."

I fly almost every week, and almost every week I see TSA employees bypass screening altogether, so I guess I'll have to decide who to believe, you or my lying eyes.

With regard to "If we are getting on planes for any non work-related reasons, we get screened just like a passenger...", let me propose a scenario:
1. TSA screener decides to become the next hijacker,
2. buys a ticket,
3. shows up for work,
4. gets screened, but "(j)ust not in the same way",
5. goes on lunch break,
6. reports to gate and boards the flight for which he has a valid ticket.

Is it possible for that to happen? Absolutely. Would that person have had any effective screening? Absolutely not.

Unless everyone entering the sterile environment receives the same level of screening there is a security hole big enough to drive a truck through.

The fact that we have not had a repeat of 9-11 has nothing to do with the "security" provided by TSA and everything to do with the realization by would-be terrorists that the tactics employed then will not work anymore. Reinforced cockpit doors, a change in procedure in dealing with hijackings and a change in attitude of how other passengers react have rendered 9-11 style hijackings ineffective as a future tactic.

All TSA efforts amount to is guarding the barn door long after that horse has fled.

T-the-B at FlyerTalk

Anonymous said...

Couldn't we expect updates on the next business day??

Anonymous said...

Weren't posts coming up the next business day?

Anonymous said...

Sad. So sad. I hope you are really proud of yourselves. You kept cocaine off of an aircraft, even though it is not a threat.

Evidently, your test devices are also inaccurate.

TSA, give up. Fail.

Anonymous said...

Hello? Anybody out there? Where are the next business day approval comments?

Jim Huggins said...

Anonymous writes:

For the person who said finding fake IDs and passports has nothing to do with terrorism, use your head! Do you think a known terrorist is going to come through an airport with a real passport with their own name on it??? They will never even get issued a boarding pass because of the No-Fly List. Obviously they are going to bring a fraudulent document to get through security.

Except that the 9/11 hijackers all came through security using their own, validly issued ID cards.

The no-fly list provides a list of people who might've done something bad in the past. But security is supposed to be about future activity, not past activity. Not being on the list doesn't mean you're not a terrorist.

Phil said...

Someone anonymously wrote:

"Tsa should calibrate both the EDS and ETD machines for drugs. We don't drugs or the people transporting them on the streets or in our airports. It would be a very productive tool in curtailing drug smuggling."

By that logic, TSA should take the opportunity presented by their searching people at airports to check for any number of crimes. That would be a very effective tool in curtailing those crimes. In fact, this line of reasoning suggests that they should erect checkpoints in many places besides airports. It also suggests that if it were feasible to do so, TSA should check everyone when he leaves his home.

The reason our government doesn't conduct such dragnet operations, stopping all the good people just to find the few bad ones, is that it is unconstitutional to do so. Anyone who finds the U.S. Constitution to be a hindrance in this matter might be more comfortable living in a police state.

--
Phil
Add your own questions at TSAFAQ.net

Phil said...

Some misinformed person anonymously wrote:

"drug trafficking is a form of terrorism"

Wrong. Drug trafficking is a form of smuggling items that people are prohibited by law from possessing. Terrorism is, roughly, the calculated use of violence (or the threat of violence) against civilians in order to attain goals that are political or religious or ideological in nature; this is done through intimidation or coercion or instilling fear.

--
Phil
Add your own questions at TSAFAQ.net

TSO Tony said...

Anonymous said ....

When will I be able to use my TWIC card to get past the checkpoint? It's identification issued by the DHS.. in HSDP-12 format.. and it duplicates the function of the USCG (a DHS sub-agency) MMD [not HSDP-12].. Ooh.. Two forms of ID issued by sub-agencies of the same Department that the TSA belongs two that the TSA doesn't recognize. Who would ever believe that?

Let's not even get into the different color covers on Federal passports.

--

FWIW, my TSA/DHS badge can't get me through security to board a plane either. Until we get new badges with enhanced-security features, our own agency IDs aren't secure enough either.

Anonymous said...

Phil, don't you get it? As long as TSA can push the "drug trafficking is a form of terrorism" concept, they can pretend they catch terrorists whenever they catch someone hiding a crack pipe.

And if TSA doesn't catch enough drug-seekers, they can move on and inflate their numbers to include the thousands of potential water-bottle smugglers or other non-conformists to justify their budget.

Phil said...

In response to some fool's belief that smuggling illicit drugs amounts to terrorism, I quoted Princeton University's WordNet project:

"Terrorism is, roughly, the calculated use of violence (or the threat of violence) against civilians in order to attain goals that are political or religious or ideological in nature; this is done through intimidation or coercion or instilling fear."

Note that certain agencies within the United States Government regularly attain their political goals by intimidating and instilling fear in people by threatening that violence against civilians will occur unless they are allowed to achieve those goals.

I don't think of TSA as terrorists, but their actions fit the aforementioned definition of terrorism far better than do those of drug smugglers.

--
Phil
Add your own questions at TSAFAQ.net

Tomas said...

AnnElyse wrote...
It is also a little bit concerning, however, that presumably up until now people in wheelchairs could have the option of either being pat down or going through the metal detector, which seems like they are going through less security than the rest of the general public. And with the way terrorists are working these days, using small children and the handicap or elderly to carry out their attacks, I think that everyone, no matter what they look like or what their age is, should have to go through the same procedures.
________________

The problem with what you are saying is twofold: (1) A wheelchair is usually for the most part metallic, and therefore not something that could pass through a WTMD even if it would fit, and (2) people are in wheelchairs for a reason - many of them DO NOT have self-mobility without the 'chair, and would be unable to pass through the WTMD even with assistance.

I say this from having spent three years in a wheelchair before fighting my way out of it.

(BTW, even trying to "wand" a person in a 'chair is pretty much a waste since the metal parts of the chair will cause it to alarm for probably 90% of their body. Waste of time.)

Pat down and chemical detectors are the best one can really do in some instances.

Tom (1 of 5-6)

Anonymous said...

Quote:
Phil said...
Some misinformed person anonymously wrote:

"drug trafficking is a form of terrorism"

Wrong. Drug trafficking is a form of smuggling items that people are prohibited by law from possessing. Terrorism is, roughly, the calculated use of violence (or the threat of violence) against civilians in order to attain goals that are political or religious or ideological in nature; this is done through intimidation or coercion or instilling fear.

--
Phil

February 17, 2009 12:17 PM"

So Phil, Do you really believe that NO drug smuggling money EVER goes to fund terrorism?

WoW! How do you spell "naive"?

RB said...

Why does TSA do what it does?

No responsibility!

No accountability!

No integrity!


Does anyone at TSA really know what the LGA rule is???

This must be one of the rules that are easily followed by the people who buy airline tickets and must pass through a TSA "Dragnet" Checkpoint!

Bob, Paul, Lynn anyone at TSA will you please clarify the statement from the TSA Contact Center?


Thank you for your email message concerning TSA's 3-Ounce Rule.

Air carriers are responsible for identifying passengers, controlling passengers to checkpoints, controlling gate access, and controlling baggage before and after screening. TSA employees are responsible for all passenger and baggage screening to ensure that prohibited items are not placed on board aircraft. TSA consults regularly with its various partners to effectively integrate their respective security responsibilities.

Since the liquid threat was discovered as part of the foiled terror plot in August, TSA has worked very closely with our European partners to harmonize our overall security efforts.

Passengers traveling on an international flight from Europe or other foreign countries into the United States, the 3.4 oz containers in the zip lock bag will be accepted in carry on and will not be confiscated at the checkpoint.

Those passengers traveling from the United States into a foreign country or traveling on a domestic flight within the United States must carry the 3.0 oz containers as carry on in a zip lock bag.

We encourage you to visit our website at www.tsa.gov for additional information about TSA. We continue to add new information and encourage you to check the website frequently for updated information.

TSA Contact Center

Sandra said...

From a link on FT, I have just read this and am extremely troubled:

"An experimental program that begins today at Tulsa International Airport will test whether the $170,000 body scanners could replace $10,000 metal detectors that have screened airline passengers since 1973. Airports in San Francisco, Las Vegas, Miami, Albuquerque and Salt Lake City will join the test in the next two months, TSA spokesman Christopher White said.

The scanners aim to close a loophole by finding non-metallic weapons such as plastic and liquid explosives, which the TSA considers a major threat. The machines raise privacy concerns because their images reveal outlines of private body parts.

"We're getting closer and closer to a required strip-search to board an airplane," said Barry Steinhardt of the American Civil Liberties Union."

Strip searches are wrong on so many levels. What in heaven's name are you people thinking when you want to make such mandatory?

Irish said...

Yet another Anonymous TSO asks (yet again):

“I know that no government agency or any agency is perfect but since TSA has been in place how many accidents have we had since 911??”

Post hoc, ergo propter hoc. It means “after this, therefore because of this”. After TSA, “no accidents”, therefore because of TSA, no accidents.

We had a hard freeze where I live, and all the plants in my garden died. I bought a plaster garden troll, and not a single plant has died since. Therefore, buying a garden troll prevented freezing and protected my plants. Post hoc, ergo propter hoc.

You guys can do better than this.

Irish

Irish said...

Just another view . . . .

I think TSA gets a clean catch on this one.

Bulky clothing, of and unto itself does not (IMHO) give them leeway for a pat down. But bulky clothing with something concealed beneath it drapes and moves differently than does bulky clothing with nothing concealed beneath it. That’s a reasonable suspicion. Reasonable suspicion does give them leeway for a non-intrusive pat down.

Finding a concealed package strapped to the body does gives them reason to test the item for explosive residue. The false positive doesn’t bother me insofar as the function of the equipment is concerned – the technology currently available detects all a manner of chemicals used in explosives and incendiaries. Unfortunately, those same chemicals are also used in a plethora of everyday items, so it’s really only a “false” positive in the sense that the component causing the alarm, although a component sometimes found in explosives, wasn’t (this time) found in an explosive. It was a “true positive” – it found a chemical that is a component in explosives. Until the technology is improved to the tricorder level, there are going to be “false positives”.

A positive result gave them probable cause to investigate further. It isn’t clear when LE was called in, but I’d suspect it was certainly no later than this point, and could have easily been justified at the point they found the concealed item. (I suspect that’s when it actually happened.)

The drug discovery was incidental to their procedures for reasonable search for weapons, explosives and incendiaries. As long as it was incidental, it’s a clean catch – in this case, a job done by the book, and done well.

Let’s give credit when credit is due.

Irish
(pondering the incredible stupidity of drug couriers)billi

Earl Pitts said...

@Anonymous: "To Earl Pitts:
"Seriously though, if you tested it for ETD and it didn't hit"

Where in the above article does it state that the item did NOT alarm?...try again. "

I misread. Shoot me. It's not like I can go back and correct a post once it's made.

Think my mistake can be excused with the common TSA excuse: "I thought I saw something"? :P

Earl

GSOLTSO said...

Anon said "How about instead of patting the handicapped down you used puffers or other trace chemical detectors? Much more efficient and much less intrusive."


One problem with that is the cost factor invloved. Those units are expensive and require additional training, blah blah. The bottom line is TSA just can't afford to place the puffers at all checkpoints. This results in people being screened by more rudimentary methods.

GSOLTSO said...

Anon said "Is this blog post an admission that TSA's explosive-trace-detection (ETD) machines are configured to detect drugs in addition to explosives?

Some of us have been wondering about that for a while; it just seems too tempting for TSA to use the machines to sniff out drugs (well beyond the supposedly limited scope of their statutory authority to search for weapons, explosives, and incendiaries). They can easily call the "hit" for trugs a presumptive hit for explosives, use that to justify a more thorough search, and then claim they found the drugs in the course of doing their statutory job (just as they have done with this blog post).
"

Umm, the macines are not calibrated or set to detect drugs. Discovery of illegal (or suspected illegal) substances are just a secondary occurence. If you get a false positive (as will happen from time to time), there are steps to clear it and continue on the process. This is standardized and is done every day nationwide. IF someone has illegal substances (or suspected illegal substances) the TSO's are supposed to contact LEO, this is also a standardized response and is as it should be. Would you have a TSO that finds a key of cocaine just let it go? Justify that to me, I am reasonable and can learn, so please go ahead and do so. There is no reasonable justification of allowing illegal substances to go once they have been discovered (incidentally discovered by the way).

GSOLTSO said...

Boy, anon has been busy on this one. He/she said "I'm curious as to why your explosives detection equipment gave a false positive when reading cocaine. Can we really trust this equipment?"

The equipment did not test positive for Cocaine, it did not misidentify cocaine as something else. The machine tested positive for a substance common in explosives (SSI? sorry if it is). This is not a "false" positive as a lot of people on here are representing, it is an alert on something used in explosives (which is EXACTLY what the machines are supposed to do).

Phil said...

Someone anonymously wrote:

"drug trafficking is a form of terrorism"

I argued that drug trafficking is not a form of terrorism, supporting my argument by quoting Princeton University WordNet's definition of terrorism:

"the calculated use of violence (or the threat of violence) against civilians in order to attain goals that are political or religious or ideological in nature; this is done through intimidation or coercion or instilling fear."

In response, someone ignored the point I made -- that drug trafficking does not fit the definition of terrorism and thus is not "a form of terrorism" -- and anonymously asked:

"So Phil, Do you really believe that NO drug smuggling money EVER goes to fund terrorism?"

Sir or madam, please don't change the subject. We are not discussing all the possible sources of funding for terrorist activity. If we were, the list would be enormous, including a number of black market and lawful business as well as direct and indirect support from various governments, including our own. What we are discussing is whether or not drug trafficking is a form of terrorism. I've stated clearly why I believe that it is not. Can you support your assertion that it is?

If you want to admit that you were mistaken and shift the discussion to activities that contribute to funding of terrorism, please consider that the enormously inflated cost of various drugs is a result of the United States' and other nations prohibitionist policies (and that most of those other nations' policies stem from pressure from the United States). Prohibition creates a black market, and with that black market comes enormous profit for criminals and violence due to their inability to resolve conflicts in court. Consider the high cost of alcohol, illegal profits, and gang violence that was caused by the United States' prohibition of alcohol in the 1920s and 1930s.

U.S. drug policy does very likely facilitate terrorism, but I suspect that other funding would likely be identified by terrorists were we Americans to wise up and dissolve the black market for drugs by ending our ineffective, expensive, and violent, policy of drug prohibition. Moving from prohibitionist drug policy to regulatory drug policy (i.e., ending our so-called "war on drugs") would effectively prevent criminals from profiting from drug sales (legal channels would undercut black market prices), allow us to strictly regulate and control drugs via our government (similar to the manner in which we successfully regulate and control dangerous drugs like alcohol and nicotine), and would very likely result in at least a small reduction in terrorist funding.

--
Phil
Add your own questions at TSAFAQ.net

RB said...

WASHINGTON — For the first time, some airline passengers will skip metal detectors and instead be screened by body scanning machines that look through clothing for hidden weapons, the Transportation Security Administration said Tuesday.
An experimental program that begins today at Tulsa International Airport will test whether the $170,000 body scanners could replace $10,000 metal detectors that have screened airline passengers since 1973. Airports in San Francisco, Las Vegas, Miami, Albuquerque and Salt Lake City will join the test in the next two months, TSA spokesman Christopher White said.

..........................
So using a machine that costs $170,000.00 each and is viewed in secret instead of a machine that cost $10,000 used in the open is how TSA maximizes their budget.

What a disgusting group of people!

I cannot understand how anyone with a semblance of sanity or personal integrity could take money from this agency.

RB said...

MMW instead of WWMD.

Posted by Nico some months ago.

"As a married father of five small children, I wouldn’t think twice about sending my wife, my four boys or little girl into this machine. I’ve seen the image it produces and I am not only confident as a TSA employee - but as a citizen - that TSA has done everything possible to address passengers’ privacy concerns regarding whole body imaging.

For those of you who remain skeptical, you’ll be happy to know that, as we expand the use of whole body imaging to JFK and LAX, it remains an optional screening method for passengers. It’s voluntary so if you’re selected for additional screening and you prefer the physical pat-down, just let our officers know.

Millimeter wave, a form of whole body imaging technology, is currently in use at Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport. Since its introduction there, more than 90 percent of passengers have elected to undergo screening with this technology instead of being subjected to a pat-down.

Nico Melendez

TSA EoS Blog Team"
...........................

When challenged to post MMW images of Nico's family he refused.

So much for the innocent images.

Nico also stated that it was voluntary to submit to a virtual strip search.

What do you have to say now Nico?

Anonymous said...

And how does this make anyone safer? PATHETIC! I'm looking forward to a time in the future when the TSA actually catches something that matters!

Dunstan said...

another anonymous said:
"February 17, 2009 12:17 PM"

So Phil, Do you really believe that NO drug smuggling money EVER goes to fund terrorism?

WoW! How do you spell "naive"?"

perhaps in this case it it is spelled simplistic...

Certainly there is politics, violence, death, bribery, corruption, and perhaps even terrorism involved with some aspects of drug transactions. Just think about which drugs are legal, or illegal, and historically, why...

The average drug mule is probably just out to make some money, however. While smuggling is arguably a poor lifestyle choice, it doesn't follow that the smuggler is a mass murderer or terrorist.

RB said...

Why were the post I submitted February 18, 2009dealing with required MMW screening rejected?

The subject is On Topic for this forum.

No questionable words were used.

Freedom of speech to hard for you folks at TSA to handle?

I feel a Civil Rights Violation complaint coming on Bob.

Phil said...

GSOLTSO wrote:

"IF someone has illegal substances (or suspected illegal substances) the TSO's are supposed to contact LEO, this is also a standardized response and is as it should be."

Unless your bag inspector has a superhuman ability to determine whether a given substance is one that is prohibited by law or something that looks similar but is not prohibited, he or she can only suspect that some substance is illegal.

"Would you have a TSO that finds a key of cocaine just let it go?"

I'll assume that what you meant was, "When, in the course of searching someone for weapons, explosives, or incendiaries, a TSA employee finds something that he suspects might be cocaine, would you have him stop performing his duty of searching for weapons, explosives, and incendiaries so that he can either investigate or hold the search subject until police arrive to investigate?"

The answer is "no". If the item, one that was found during a warrantless search that would otherwise be unconstitutional but is allowed because of the perception of extreme danger of weapons, explosives, or incendiaries being smuggled aboard flights, does not pose a danger to other passengers or crew, TSA should not waste any time investigating it.

When you are conducting warrantless searches of us, please, if you see something in our belongings that catches your attention, unless that item is a weapon, explosive, or incendiary, understand that it is none of your business, and that you would never have found it in the first place had we not granted you special permission to conduct that search for specific items.

If you see a pipe, please assume it is free of residue of illegal substances and intended for use with legal substances. If you see a magazine, please assume that it does not contain nude images of 17.5-year-olds. If you see a pet, please assume that it is licensed and has had its rabies shots. If you see some cash, please assume that it belongs to the person holding it. If you see an digital music player, please assume that the person holding it had permission to copy the data it contains onto it. If you see some papers, please assume that they are not secret plans for world domination. If you see someone with brown skin, please assume that he has a right to be where he is. None of that is any of your business.

While allowing you to conduct a dragnet operation at our airports would surely assist you in apprehending people who were not likely to pose a danger to others on their flight but who are criminals, many courts have ruled that our government cannot set up "roadblocks" or "checkpoints" and stop everyone who passes, merely to catch the tiny minority who may have done something wrong. The rights of the many override the desire to catch the few.

--
Phil
Add your own questions at TSAFAQ.net

RB said...

GSOLTSO said...
Anon said "How about instead of patting the handicapped down you used puffers or other trace chemical detectors? Much more efficient and much less intrusive."


One problem with that is the cost factor invloved. Those units are expensive and require additional training, blah blah. The bottom line is TSA just can't afford to place the puffers at all checkpoints. This results in people being screened by more rudimentary methods.

February 18, 2009 10:29 AM

...................
And TSA can afford to place $270,000.00 each MMW Whole Body Imagers at all checkpoints in quanity?

A machine that cost 27 times what a WTMD does?

A machine that is nothing less than a strip search?

A machine that was stated on this very blog would be voluntary?

TSA has a problem with the truth!!

Anonymous said...

GSOLTSO: "This is not a "false" positive as a lot of people on here are representing, it is an alert on something used in explosives (which is EXACTLY what the machines are supposed to do)."


It is a false positive in the sense that what it detected was not an explosive or a terrorist. It is a distraction from that goal. Each time the ETD raises an alarm for non-explosives, it dilutes message sent by the alarm. Suppose the glycerine in a suppository sets off an a detector, which may be exactly what the detector might be designed to do, how many "alarms" are you going to clear before you stop looking once you find something labelled "Fleet".

False alarms degrade the performance of the followup clearing process--how can you truly tell the difference between normal hand lotion and explosive hand lotion?

RB said...

GSOLTSO said...
Anon said "Is this blog post an admission that TSA's explosive-trace-detection (ETD) machines are configured to detect drugs in addition to explosives?

Some of us have been wondering about that for a while; it just seems too tempting for TSA to use the machines to sniff out drugs (well beyond the supposedly limited scope of their statutory authority to search for weapons, explosives, and incendiaries). They can easily call the "hit" for trugs a presumptive hit for explosives, use that to justify a more thorough search, and then claim they found the drugs in the course of doing their statutory job (just as they have done with this blog post).
"

Umm, the macines are not calibrated or set to detect drugs. Discovery of illegal (or suspected illegal) substances are just a secondary occurence. If you get a false positive (as will happen from time to time), there are steps to clear it and continue on the process. This is standardized and is done every day nationwide. IF someone has illegal substances (or suspected illegal substances) the TSO's are supposed to contact LEO, this is also a standardized response and is as it should be. Would you have a TSO that finds a key of cocaine just let it go? Justify that to me, I am reasonable and can learn, so please go ahead and do so. There is no reasonable justification of allowing illegal substances to go once they have been discovered (incidentally discovered by the way).

February 18, 2009 10:43 AM

If a TSO was really concerned about the finding of a possible illegal item then they should make a citizens arrest.

That would demonstrate their concern for the law.

Bob said...

RB said...Why were the post I submitted February 18, 2009dealing with required MMW screening rejected? The subject is On Topic for this forum. No questionable words were used.Freedom of speech to hard for you folks at TSA to handle? I feel a Civil Rights Violation complaint coming on Bob.
February 18, 2009 9:47 PM
-------------------------
RB, take a deep breath, let it out, walk around your house a few times, and then come back and look at the blog. Nothing was deleted. It's been a hectic day and I just started moderating posts from yesterday. Also, it is important to know that I am not the only person who moderates this blog. But thanks for calling me out. I love the press. :)

Bob

EoS Blog Team

Anonymous said...

"If a TSO was really concerned about the finding of a possible illegal item then they should make a citizens arrest.

That would demonstrate their concern for the law."

Which is exactly why a LEO (Law Enforcement Officer) was called in to make the arrest. I believe that would be your citizens arrest, unless I misunderstood your statement.

Earl Pitts said...

@RB: "When challenged to post MMW images of Nico's family he refused.

So much for the innocent images.

Nico also stated that it was voluntary to submit to a virtual strip search.

What do you have to say now Nico?"


Nico will probably still say it's voluntary as you can choose to be felt up instead of being strip searched.

Anonymous said...

So on a boring Friday night i sit here a read the comments posted before this and it reminds me that theres a reason why TSA does what they do! the package alarmed for traces of an explosive so to dumb it down for those who dont understand that means the tape on the package had trace explosives on it not the cocaine itself. holy cow you have to find a something negative in everything! well do guy! awesome catch you make us proud! btw, what if that was explosives taped to this mans stomach? they were caught thats a good thing RIGHT?

dave78 said...

I've read that some poeple are concern that the cocaine alarmed for explosives. The reason may be that when in the process of making cocaine from the coca leaf they use ammonia to dry it out. Ammonia is a chemical that will set off alarms. The process of making such a drug also involves flamable solvents which some of you may want to look up for clarification.

JGB said...

It is interesting to note that most people consider that it is the job of the TSA to catch terrorists when the actual job is deterrence. This is something that is practiced on the street and even around the world by our government. From the security guard hired to keep watch over a building, to the ballistic missile submarine poised out at sea. We have been using deterrence for over 50 years and it has worked and is continuing to work. Sure, it is expensive, but the alternative is a cost that is paid in blood.

As to the screeners discovering the drugs, they did what they were trained to do. Theirs is a thankless job which shouldn’t be necessary but is.

Anonymous said...

It's complete Bullsh*t that TSA arrests a private citizen for carrying non-threatening items to the plane. Will the TSA make it an objective to search someone's papers on suspicion they might be cheating on taxes?

Our relinquishment of privacy when we step into the checkpoint is for the explicit purpose of safety on the plane and any further invasion is unwarranted.

They should have confirmed that the item was no threat to the plane, then allowed him to move on with it with no charges filed, cocaine in hand.

Drug dealers are experts at bribery and finding the loopholes so any TSA employee taking a bribe from a would-be drug dealer might actually be taking a bribe from a terrorist. This arrest by the TSA puts us all in just that much more danger.

Anonymous said...

To annonymous above...

The TSA does not have the authority to arrest anyone. When illegal items are found, they notify local law enforcement who makes the arrest. If you saw someone robbing your neighbor, would it not be your civic duty to report it? If the airline found that cocaine on you, you would be just as arrested. Reguardless, given that the TSA does not make arrests, your point is moot.

As for the explosives testing equipment, listen up the next time you go through a security checkpoint. Watch what happens. Chances are you will be there when one of these "false positives" occur. The fact is, the explosives testing equipment is sensitive enough to pick up a packet of sugar in an olympic size swimming pool. So it is possible that there were traces of explosives or components there of, ever so minute, on his property. You step in the wrong fertilizer, put the shoes in your bag and then use the bag a month later and it is likely to test positive for explosives. With this knowledge in mind, the liklihood of false negatives is nil.

Anonymous said...

RW
Many of the base components of making cocaine and other drugs are also the base components of many homemade explosives and commercially avaivable explosives. do a search for crystal meth and a homemade explosive called TATP you will see that they share many simiular components. Any way you look at it finding any illegal substance helps reduce crime which is always a goodthing.

LT said...

To RB (and anyone else ignorant as to how ETD machines work): There are SEVERAL chemicals and materials that can be used in a variety of explosive material. Even common items such as glycerin (which can be found in anything from hand lotion to heart medication) can be used in explosives and thus picked up by an EXPLOSIVE TRACE DETECTION machine. And these machines are made to be able to detect residue up to one-billionth of a gram--the equivalent of filling Yankee Stadium up with white golf balls and 1 red one. Fertilizers, medications, lotions, certain eye drop, etc. ALL contain different chemicals and compunds which can be easily used in an improvised explosive device (hence the term "improvised"). Therefore, I hope everyone from now on actually does their research before simply determining that someone doesn't know their job and or/is faulty or power-hungry with what they do. Great job LAX!

TSORon said...

Another Anonymous poster said:

“It's complete Bullsh*t that TSA arrests a private citizen for carrying non-threatening items to the plane. Will the TSA make it an objective to search someone's papers on suspicion they might be cheating on taxes?”

Illicit drugs threaten everyone, not just the guy importing them.

And continues to say:

“Our relinquishment of privacy when we step into the checkpoint is for the explicit purpose of safety on the plane and any further invasion is unwarranted.”

If you find the “invasion” beyond your ability to bear you are more than welcome to drive, ride the bus, catch a train, or even walk. We wont mind, honest. We are there to ensure the safety of the flying public, and we do our very best to avoid invading someone’s personal space any more than absolutely necessary.

And continues with:

”They should have confirmed that the item was no threat to the plane, then allowed him to move on with it with no charges filed, cocaine in hand.”

The substance tested as an explosive, therefore a LEO was called. I’m pretty sure that the LEO is the one that made the arrest. LEO, Law Enforcement Officer. Do the math.

And finishes with:

”Drug dealers are experts at bribery and finding the loopholes so any TSA employee taking a bribe from a would-be drug dealer might actually be taking a bribe from a terrorist. This arrest by the TSA puts us all in just that much more danger.”

Wow, now that’s a leap. We deal with passengers 15 seconds at a time. I would think it would be very difficult to bribe someone in such a short period of time. We also go through extensive background checks prior to becoming a TSO, and while its not a perfect method the fact that there are at least 2 other TSO’s watching what’s going on at the checkpoint also kind of makes bribery difficult. Easier to try and sneak that kilo through than take a more … chancy risk.

We can do “What if”’s all day long. RB and others can nit-pick as much as they like, but the TSA is a fact, and not one that is going to go away anytime soon. People can help us make their checkpoint experience far easier just by reading the rules and trying to comply. We don’t expect perfection, but those who just don’t care about the rules make things hard on themselves.

ira said...

Well, i think it's a great thing to do. But you guys have to make sure that your equipment can detect the explosive material before that thing explodes.

Good Job.

Leonardo said...

*none* of these comments are from people in wheelchairs. I am disabled. I think the pat-down needs reworking for the sake of the disabled and the security of all.

Also, I don't feel confident that the TSA agents searches wheelchairs thoroughly:

* What about under the seat?
* What about the seat-back-cushion?
* What about the side guards?

2.


If they can develop a roll-through detector that can be more secure, then this quicker, less humiliating process will help retain the dignity of disabled wheelchair passengers like me.

kellymae81 said...

This is in response to Leonardo's comment...

1. We do check under the seat
2. We do check the back seat cushion
3. We do check the side guards...if these things are not being done at the airport you are going thru, I would complain b/c they are simply not doing their job; it doesn't mean these procedures are not in place. This is a huge problem.
4. There isn't going to be roll thru detector that can detect the metal in prohibited items and not the metal in the chair, thats impossible.

Also, the newer alternative to pat downs at some airports is the millimeter wave portals and we have to have a standing view of the individual, so that wont work either. So, unfortunately, we have to stay with the current procedures for wheelchair screening and its passenger. I wish as much as the passengers that there was an easier way. We hate patting you down just as much as you hate it.

SDF TSO

Anonymous said...

Hey, I say "Good Work!" TSA. They found two concealed packages which were cocaine but very easily could have been explosives!

They did their job, and they also stopped cocaine from being distributed to maybe your son or daughter. Keep up the good work!!!

Jan Jacobson said...

They did indeed a very good work! although they should now have no options for avoiding the dectector!
Phenomenon post!!!

Anonymous said...

The overall mission is safe passage for people and commerce in the United States. Someone brings aboard drugs, especially something like cocaine, how is that NOT a threat? Yes, I can see that it will not bring down a plane like explosives will...but what if that person decides to sniff a little while in the sterile area of the airport and becomes high? What if he gets it to someone else, that other person gets high and/or caught, and that becomes a distraction for while while part of that same "team" is trying to get bigger things through? And what if the man was successful in getting cocaine to the his final destination? You think the people picking him up are meeting him with flowers and candy, wanting to say "How are you doing?" Those guys are coming to the airport armed, most likely illegally, and although they are not in the sterile area, they are on airport premisses.
Anonymous 123

Anonymous said...

I have a question. I went through security last week at LAX in an airport provided wheelchair. I was able to walk through the full body scanner and my carry on bags went through security with no problem. Then I had to wait for the wheelchair to come through and be searched. They took the pad off and searched everything - that's fine - but then they told me the wheelchair did not pass inspection. They couldn't tell me what that meant, but because the wheelchair didn't pass I had to have a pat down. I let them do it in a private room, but it was ridiculous. If the wheelchair didn't pass it should have been taken away, but they put me in the same wheelchair. What the heck was that all about???? MGK