Saturday, November 19, 2011

Happy 10th Birthday TSA

10 years… It’s hard to believe. I remember my 10th birthday. I got an Atari 2600 Console with Space Invaders! I vaguely recall someone saying how good the graphics were compared to “Pong.” Those were the days… 

I also remember when I started at TSA. I didn’t start on November 19th, 2001 when TSA was created, but I did start shortly after in 2002 and was part of the team that Federalized Cincinnati’s CVG airport. We’ve come so far since then. I remember a very dedicated group of people who were very eager to learn and to protect their country. In many cases, people had left jobs that paid more money because of their desire to find a way to serve their country. 

While security screening at airports wasn’t new, we were recreating it. Everything was a learning experience and we took every opportunity to improve upon procedures and the way things were done. That’s still going on today. We’ve gone from using technology from the 1970s to using state of the art equipment such as the body scanners. We still strive to find ways to strengthen and improve our procedures according to the latest intelligence as well as continue to do so in our commitment to keep the flying public safe. 

Take a look at this post from last summer on all of the things we’ve accomplished since our inception. You can see just how far we’ve come and get an idea of how much further along we’ll be in the next 10 years.

Blogger Bob Burns
TSA Blog Team 

If you’d like to comment on an unrelated topic you can do so in our Off Topic Comments post. You can also view our blog post archives or search our blog to find a related topic to comment in. If you have a travel related issue or question that needs an immediate answer, you can contact a Customer Support Manager at the airport you traveled, or will be traveling through by using Talk to TSA.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Just Business as Usual… Reality TV Star Tweets About Security

I noticed that the Jersey Shore’s JWOWW was making the news in a TSA related story. I looked into her story to see what the kerfuffle was all about.

It turns out she commented via social media about her screening experience at Fargo, North Dakota’s Hector Field (FAR) International Airport.

While she may have truly believed she was singled out, this was actually part of our random (and I do mean random) protocol. After looking into it more we learned she was one of several passengers who were randomly selected for gate screening prior to boarding the aircraft. 

This is a pre-set procedure for gate screening prior to boarding an aircraft. This particular one consisted of a swabbing of the hands to search for traces of explosives.

I’ve talked about gate screening and swabbing of the hands before here on the blog. Take a look at these posts for more information. 
TSA strives to screen all passengers with dignity and respect while performing its security mission. TSA employs an intelligence-driven, risk-based security approach to screen the nearly 1.8 million passengers traveling daily – which could include the occasional reality TV star.

TSA Blog Team

If you’d like to comment on an unrelated topic you can do so in our Off Topic Comments post. You can also view our blog post archives or search our blog to find a related topic to comment in. If you have a travel related issue or question that needs an immediate answer, you can contact a Customer Support Manager at the airport you traveled, or will be traveling through by using Talk to TSA.

Good Gravy, Let’s Talk Turkey!: TSA Holiday Travel Tips

Holiday QR code sign.
Holiday Checkpoint Signage
If you’re getting ready to travel for the holidays and need to brush up on airport security, you’re in the right place! Here is a cornucopia of travel info, tips and linkage that will help you get to where you’re going safely. You’ll be as good as gravy, and in my book, gravy is about as good as it gets. Next to turducken

New Security Improvements for Holiday Travel
TSA Pre✓™ Expedited Screening Pilot: This pilot program prescreens individuals traveling on Delta Air Lines at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International and Detroit Metropolitan Wayne County airports and on American Airlines at Miami International and Dallas/Fort Worth International airports - who volunteer information about themselves prior to flying in order to potentially expedite the screening experience. TSA plans to expand this program to Las Vegas McCarran International, Minneapolis St. Paul International and Los Angeles International airports in the coming months.   During this pilot, certain frequent fliers from Delta Air Lines and American Airlines, as well as certain members of U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s Trusted Traveler programs, including Global Entry, SENTRI, and NEXUS who are also flying on Delta or American are eligible. Currently, this is only open to American citizens. 

Kids 12 & Under Can Keep Their Shoes On: As part of our move towards a risk-based security approach, we rolled out revised screening procedures for passengers 12 and under. While most will be able to keep their shoes on, there may be instances when shoes may have to come off. Click here to learn more about the revisions. 

New Privacy Protection Software on All Millimeter Wave Machines: TSA has upgraded all millimeter wave body scanner units nationwide with new software to further enhance privacy protections by eliminating the image of an actual passenger and replacing it with a generic outline of a person. You step into the Advanced Imaging Technology (AIT) machine and the new software will auto-detect potential threats and show their location. The image is on a monitor that is attached to the AIT unit in public view so that passengers can see what the officer sees. Because this eliminates privacy concerns, we no longer have to place an officer in a separate room to view the images. 

Known Crew Member: TSA has a new program  for crew members to expedite screening for airline pilots through positive identification verification, which is currently being tested at Seattle-Tacoma International, Minneapolis-St. Paul International, Chicago O’Hare International, Miami International and Washington Dulles International airports.

Expanded Behavior Detection Pilot: At Boston Logan International and Detroit Metropolitan Wayne County airports, Behavior Detection Officers have casual conversations with travelers to determine if the traveler should be referred for additional screening at the checkpoint.
Tips, Linkage, and More!
Family Lanes: Frequent flyers hate it when they’re in line behind a family, and guess what… families hate it when the frequent flyer is behind them tapping their foot and sighing. That’s why we created Family Lanes. They’re designed to let families take their time and ask questions without feeling rushed by the experienced frequent flyers who can zip through a checkpoint in no time. Also anybody carrying medically necessary liquids, aerosols and gels in excess of 3.4 oz may be directed to a Family Lane. Unfortunately, gravy is not medically necessary.
Travel Advice for Domesticated Turkeys: While you can fly on a plane, you can’t really fly.
Double Check Your Bag For Guns And Knives: It sounds silly, but so far this year, our officers have found more than 1,000 guns in passenger’s bags. A good percentage of those were loaded. The most common excuse is that the passenger didn’t know it was in the bag.
Gifts: Wrapped gifts may need to be unwrapped. If there’s something in the gift that needs to be inspected, we have to open it. Our officers try their best not to mangle the gift wrap, but it’s not a guarantee and it also slows down the line for everybody else when we have to do this.
The MyTSA App: Our MyTSA App (available as an iPhone or mobile web app) amongst other great features has a “Can I Bring My…” tool. You can type in the name of the item you’re curious about and it tells you if the item is permitted or not. Wondering if you can take your cranberry sauce on a plane?  Check the app to find out. A wait time feature is also available on our MyTSA application. It relies on crowd sourcing which means the more people who use it, the better. Spread the word, just like butter over a dinner roll.
Pat-downs & Body Scanners: A very small percentage of passengers receive pat-downs. To reduce the need for a pat-down, the most important thing you can do is take everything out of your pockets before screening. You can put these items in your carry-on bag. Don't wear clothes with a high metal content, and put heavy jewelry on after you go through security. You will also receive a pat-down if you choose to opt out of our Advanced Imaging Technology. (Body Scanners) Check out this post to read some myths and facts about the pat-down.
The 4-1-1 on 3-1-1 (Liquids, Gels & Aerosols): Let me start by saying this, it is my dream that gravy will one day come in a container similar to a whipped cream spray can. Now that I’ve gotten that off of my chest,  if you’re checking a bag, make it easy on yourself and just put your liquids in your checked luggage. That way, you don’t have to worry about 3-1-1. I know that suggestion doesn’t work for everybody. Some liquids are essential and some of you do not like to check your luggage. If you’d rather take liquids in your carry-on, please continue reading… 3-1-1 is the name for our liquid policy. You can read here for more details, but here is the gist of 3-1-1… Each passenger is allowed to take one clear quart-sized sealable bag and fill it with as many liquids in 3.4 oz or less sized containers that will fit, while still being able to seal the bag. Basically, don’t stuff it to the point where it won’t close. Make sure you take the bag out of your carry-on prior to sending it through the X-ray, or our officers may have to search your bag.
Turkey Facts: Turkeys take offense to the phrase “laugh your head off.”
Makeup: Any liquid makeup cosmetics such as eyeliner, nail polish, liquid foundation, etc. should be placed in the baggie. That goes for perfume as well. Powder makeup is fine. Powdered mashed potatoes are a crime against humanity, but fine to travel with.
Deep Turkey Thoughts: When deceased turkeys are offended, do they roll over in their gravy?
Shaving Razors: You can get more info from our blog post on this subject where the pictures will answer all of your questions.
Foods: Pies are permitted, but they are subject to additional screening if our officers see any anomalies. (Additional screening of pies does not include our officers tasting the pie, no matter what they tell you…) Cakes, bread, donuts, turkeys, etc. are all permitted. If it’s a live turkey, you might want to have a word with the airline. Here is a list of items that should be placed in your checked bags or shipped: cranberry sauce, creamy dips and spreads (cheeses, peanut butter, etc.), gift baskets with food items (salsa, jams and salad dressings), gravy (mmm gravy), jams, jellies, maple syrup, oils and vinegars, sauces, soups, wine, liquor and beer.
Turkey Humor: Unlike people who join the Navy, most turkeys are destined to join the gravy.
Snow Globes: We are not in cahoots with the Heat Miser, but snow globes are not permitted in your carry-on luggage. They are sealed containers full of liquid that would have to be opened and destroyed to test. We’re not in the business of busting snow globes, so we suggest you place them in your checked baggage or mail them ahead of time.
Forgotten or Lost IDs: If you have lost or forgotten your ID, you will still be permitted to fly as long as you help us verify you are who you say you are by answering a few questions.
What If The Name On Your ID Doesn’t Match Your Boarding Pass?: Also, folks have had questions about the Secure Flight program and whether the name on your ticket has to match the name on your ID. The Secure Flight watch-list matching process occurs before a passenger even gets to the airport, so if you get a boarding pass, the Secure Flight watch-list matching process is done. In other words, you are clear once you get that pass.
ID &Boarding Pass Checking & Secure Flight: As you approach a TSA checkpoint, you will see an officer checking IDs and boarding passes. Please have your acceptable ID and boarding pass out and ready to present to our officer. The several seconds it takes to get your ID and boarding pass out might not seem like much time, but it really adds up when you’ve got people in line behind you.
Turkey Trivia: Contrary to popular belief, turkeys prefer to travel on the “Gravy Train,” rather than the “Gravy Boat.”
Follow us on Twitter @tsablogteam for travel tips, blog post announcements, and other useful information. Print out this handy dandy checklist (PDF) so you don’t forget anything and don’t forget to check out TSA.gov for a wealth of information on traveling through TSA checkpoints.

TSA Blog Team

If you’d like to comment on an unrelated topic you can do so in our Off Topic Comments post. You can also view our blog post archives or search our blog to find a related topic to comment in. If you have a travel related issue or question that needs an immediate answer, you can contact a Customer Support Manager at the airport you traveled, or will be traveling through by using Talk to TSA.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Wrapped Presents Are OK, But We Might Have To Open Them For Anomalies Or Alarms

Wrapped Presents
Photo Courtesy of MB
It's not even Thanksgiving yet and as I jumped into the blogosphere this morning, it was all abuzz with posts and tweets about TSA targeting wrapped presents at checkpoints. Names such as "Grinch" and "Scrooge" were being thrown about with reckless abandon. I even saw a reference to the infamous "Heat Miser." Let me assure you, we are not Mr. Green Christmas and we're not Mr. Sun... 

Since TSA's inception, we've worked to educate passengers about traveling with wrapped presents. This is nothing new. Wrapped gifts are screened just like any other item. We can see through the paper just like we can see through luggage, but just as we have to open a bag when it requires a search due to an anomaly or an alarm, we have to open wrapped items as well if they alarm or require additional screening.

We want your gift to arrive wrapped just as much as you do. Just know the possibility is there that if the item alarms, we might have to open it to resolve the alarm. We don't enjoy unwrapping presents that aren't for us, but if an anomaly is detected inside, we'll have to unwrap it in order to determine what it is so we can clear it for travel. 

This tweet stuck out earlier. It's about a person who had to have their present unwrapped. It was a box of knives!  

Blogger Bob Burns 
TSA Blog Team


Friday, November 11, 2011

Veterans Day: Thank You To All Who Have Served Or Are Serving

Veteran's Day PosterI wanted to take a moment to recognize the Veterans of our armed forces. TSA employs a large number of Veterans, me included. I was in the U.S. Army’s 3rd Armored Division from 1988 -1991 and was stationed in Frankfurt, Germany. I also took a little 6 month trip to Saudi Arabia, Iraq, and Kuwait. I prefer Germany…

I served three years, but a friend of mine who joined the same time as I did, recently retired. It’s amazing how many places he’s been the last 20 years and how decked out his uniform is.  He and many others have made a lot of sacrifices and we should take a few moments, especially today, to think about all of the men and women who have served or are serving our country.

There are thousands of stories to tell from many of TSA and DHS’s Veterans, but here are a few I know of that I can share with you now.

This great story talks about how some of TSA’s Veterans are taking care of wounded soldiers as a part of the Wounded Warrior Escort Program. Wounded Warrior Escort program eases air travel for veterans

Here’s an opinion piece from News-Press.com from the Federal Security Director for the Southwest Florida International Airport and the Charlotte County Airport. He explains in his story how he feels the war front prepared him for a career with TSA.

Here’s a great story/video about a TSA employee and an Iraq War Veteran who served two tours with the U.S. Air Force and is now a handler for an explosive-detection dog at Denver’s DIA airport. Qualls and Rhoden:Working to keep DIA safe

DHS Deputy Secretary Jane Holl Lute is an Army Veteran and she has a post up today at the White House Blog about DHS employees who have served in the military. The Department of Homeland Security's Commitment to Veterans

Thank you to all who have served or are serving. 

TSA Blog Team

If you’d like to comment on an unrelated topic you can do so in our Off Topic Comments post. You can also view our blog post archives or search our blog to find a related topic to comment in. If you have a travel related issue or question that needs an immediate answer, you can contact a Customer Support Manager at the airport you traveled, or will be traveling through by using Talk to TSA.

TSA Week In Review: Sword canes, razor blade chewing gum, and a little splash of EVOO

Display of Prohibited Items Found at EWR
Display of Prohibited Items Found at EWR
Note *** The Week In Review normally lists info from Friday through Thursday. This week I won’t be including information for Thursday. Thursday’s report comes in on Friday morning and it’s a Federal Holiday. Also, I’ll be on vacation and will return on the 28th, so the next two Week In Review posts will be abridged versions.
In an odd turn of events at Orlando (MCO), a passenger who was told that her olive oil exceeded the size limit grabbed the bottle and began pouring it upon herself and our officer. I hear EVOO is good for the skin, but yeah… this is frowned upon. 

This week, our officers found not one, but two sword canes! One at Westchester (HPN) and the other at Sarasota (SRQ). These are considered artfully concealed items, but to be fare, most passengers are shocked when we show them what was concealed in their cane. Many of the canes are hand-me-downs or they were purchased at a thrift or antique store.

At Los Angeles (LAX), an anomaly was found during screening with a body scanner. The passenger stated he had burns on the inside of his leg, so the anomaly could not be cleared and the passenger was denied access to the sterile area. Law enforcement responded and the passenger later admitted that the anomaly was marijuana. We’re not looking for drugs, but we had no idea what was concealed on the passenger until he confessed. It could have easily been explosives.
Here is how a situation played out at Houston Intercontinental (IAH).

        Passenger: I have a bomb in my bag.
        Officer: What did you say?
        Passenger: I have a bomb in my bag.
        Officer: [Looking Alarmed]
        Passenger: I’m just kidding.

After this was all said and done, the passenger was allowed to rebook, but not with his original airline. He caused his original flight to be delayed by 42-minutes affecting 224 passengers.
After being told he could not take his snow globe on the flight, a passenger at Reno (RNO) thought it best to begin shouting “I am going to blow up the plane and I know how to do it.” For the record, snow globes are prohibited because the liquid is sealed inside the globe and we have no way of screening the liquid without destroying the globe. Also, shouting that you’re going to blow up a plane is never a good thing. 

Notable News This Week: The TSA Pre✓™  pilot expanded to three more airports. Los Angeles International Airport (LAX),  Las Vegas - McCarran International Airport (LAS), and Minneapolis-Saint Paul International Airport (MSP). 

Firearm components, replica firearms, ammunition, unloaded firearms, a bb gun, stun guns, a belt buckle knife, brass knuckles, a brass knuckles belt buckle, a 6” knife, a collapsible baton, a 4” switchblade, and a butterfly knife, were among some of the dangerous items found around the nation by our officers in passenger’s carry-on bags this past week. And believe it or not, not one grenade turned up this week.

Unfortunately these sorts of occurrences are all too frequent which is why we talk about these finds. Sure, it’s great to share the things that our officers are finding, but at the same time, each time we find a dangerous item, the throughput is slowed down and a passenger that likely had no ill intent ends up with a citation or in some cases is even arrested. On the other hand, there are artfully concealed items. 

Artfully Concealed Items: Artfully concealed means that the item was intentionally concealed with the intention of sneaking it through security:
  • A razorblade was found concealed inside a pack of chewing gum at Indianapolis (IND). Something tells me that’s not so hot for your gums.
  • A brass knuckle belt buckle was found at New York LaGuardia (LGA).
  • A knife with a 4 ½” blade was found concealed in the lining of a bag at Midway (MDW).
Our officers found 24 loaded firearms in carry-on baggage since I posted last Friday. (Not counting the unloaded and replica ones we found). Here’s a rundown of the loaded weapons we kept off of airplanes this week:
  • 11-4: TSA Officer at  IAH detects a loaded  9mm pistol with a round in the chamber.
  • 11-4: TSA Officer at  CVG detects a loaded  .38 pistol.
  • 11-5: TSA Officer at  MOB detects a loaded  .22 pistol with a round in the chamber.
  • 11-5: TSA Officer at  OKC detects a loaded  .40 pistol.
  • 11-5: TSA Officer at  SGF detects a loaded .38 pistol.
  • 11-6: TSA Officer at  IAH detects a loaded  .40 pistol with a round in the chamber.
  • 11-6: TSA Officer at  STL detects a loaded  .40 pistol with a round in the chamber.
  • 11-7: TSA Officer at  BZN detects a loaded  .45 pistol.
  • 11-7: TSA Officer at  ATL detects a loaded  .380 pistol.
  • 11-7: TSA Officer at  DFW detects a loaded  9mm pistol.
  • 11-8: TSA Officer at  PIT detects a loaded  .38 pistol.
  • 11-8: TSA Officer at  OMA detects a loaded  .380 pistol with a round in the chamber.
  • 11-8: TSA Officer at  RDM detects a loaded  9mm pistol.
  • 11-8: TSA Officer at  STL detects a loaded  .380 pistol.
  • 11-8: TSA Officer at  DEN detects a loaded  .380 pistol with a round in the chamber.
  • 11-8: TSA Officer at  MEM detects a loaded  .22 pistol.
  • 11-8: TSA Officer at  LIT detects a loaded  .25 pistol with a round in the chamber.
  • 11-9: TSA Officer at  DEN detects a loaded  pistol of unknown caliber.
  • 11-9: TSA Officer at  ELP detects a loaded  .32 pistol.
  • 11-9: TSA Officer at  SMF detects a loaded .22 pistol.
  • 11-9: TSA Officer at  MIA detects a loaded  9mm pistol.
  • 11-9: TSA Officer at  FLL detects a loaded  .45 pistol.
  • 11-9: TSA Officer at  ATL detects a loaded  .40 pistol with a round in the chamber.
  • 11-9: TSA Officer at  LAX detects a loaded .45 pistol with a round in the chamber.
  • 11-10: No Data for Thursday due to federal holiday. (Thursday’s report comes in on Friday mornings.)
You can travel with your firearms in checked baggage, but they must first be declared to the airline. You can go here for more details on how to properly travel with your firearms. 

Body Scanner Finds: We’re not looking for drugs, but that’s normally what we find with the scanners. We don’t know what the anomalies are until we conduct a pat-down and they could very well be dangerous items.
  • Vial of cocaine discovered in right front pocket. Sacramento (SMF)
  • Marijuana was detected in the shorts pocket of passenger. Atlanta (ATL)
  • Cocaine found in the right front pocket of passenger. Sacramento (SMF)
  • Marijuana detected in the left, rear pants pocket of passenger. San Francisco (SFO)
  • Marijuana detected in the right, front pants pocket of passenger. San Diego (SAN)
  • Marijuana detected in the right, upper leg area of passenger. Los Angeles (LAX)
Display of Prohibited Items Found At ACY
Display of Prohibited Items Found At ACY
Just because we find a prohibited item on an individual does not mean they had bad intentions, that's for the law enforcement officer to decide. In many cases, people simply forgot they had these items in their bag. That’s why it’s important to check your bags before you leave.

We also look for explosives and bomb components as well, but thankfully those are extremely rare and we're happy to keep it that way.

TSA Blog Team

If you’d like to comment on an unrelated topic you can do so in our Off Topic Comments post. You can also view our blog post archives or search our blog to find a related topic to comment in. If you have a travel related issue or question that needs an immediate answer, you can contact a Customer Support Manager at the airport you traveled, or will be traveling through by using Talk to TSA.


Wednesday, November 9, 2011

TSA Pre✓™ Pilot Expanding To Three More Airports

TSA Precheck Logo. *** Update 12/6/2011 - Just announced! United Airlines will be the third airline participating in the program in the near future. ***

Today, TSA Administrator John S. Pistole announced that three airports will be added to the TSA Pre✓™ pilot. This limited pilot will help TSA evaluate measures designed to enhance security by placing more focus on pre-screening individuals prior to flying in order to expedite their travel experience.

Those airports are: Los Angeles International Airport (LAX),  Las Vegas - McCarran International Airport (LAS), and Minneapolis-Saint Paul International Airport (MSP).
· LAS will come on board in December for pilot participants traveling on both Delta and American Airlines
· LAX will also come on board in early 2012 for pilot participants traveling on American Airlines
· MSP will come on board in early 2012 for pilot participants traveling on Delta Air Lines
This will be very welcome news not only to travelers at these airports, but to the many TSA Pre✓™ fans and supporters we’ve gained through the pilot programs at ATL, DFW, DTW, and MIA. 

The support for the program has been overwhelmingly positive. We’ve received over 600 comments so far with 99% of the comments being supportive of this pilot. Here are just a few of the many:
“Holy Cow! I have signed up for the pilot program, as I travel every week and am blown away by the speed of the expedited lane! No shoe removal, no liquid removal, no computer removal, no one in line! For those few who were in line, we were laughing and so happy to have such a smooth process! Thank you!”
“The test process for Premium passengers is outstanding. The service, professionalism and communication could not have been better. I only hope the results have been as favorable as mine and the test expands. Thank you for its implementation.”
“What a joy pre-check was today. I travel frequently and at times wish a bathrobe would be offered to passengers at the door. I not only did NOT have to remove either shoes nor laptop, The pre-check reduces stress not only on passengers but your TSA employees as well. Smiles abounded. Thank you.”
In case you’re curious, you can read more here on  how to sign up to participate in TSA Pre✓™. Click here to learn more about TSA Pre™.
 
For those who will participate in the initial pilot, it is important to note that nothing will ever guarantee that an eligible passenger receives expedited security screening. We have built random and unpredictable factors throughout the aviation security system to guard against terrorists gaming the system and this program is no exception. 

TSA Blog Team

If you’d like to comment on an unrelated topic you can do so in our Off Topic Comments post. You can also view our blog post archives or search our blog to find a related topic to comment in. If you have a travel related issue or question that needs an immediate answer, you can contact a Customer Support Manager at the airport you traveled, or will be traveling through by using Talk to TSA.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

In Case You Were Wondering, Our Backscatter Imaging Technology Is Still Safe

Backscatter SignThe safety of our Backscatter Advanced Imaging Technology is being called in to question again. As I’ve done before on this topic, I’m going to simply provide a bulleted list of facts and links. Also, if you haven’t heard yet, TSA Administrator John S. Pistole told Congress last week that we’re going to have another independent safety study on our Backscatter imaging technology.

The Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Lab (APL) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA)’s Center of Devices and Radiological Health (CDRH) both verified that the advanced imaging technology (AIT) equipment TSA purchased and deployed emits radiation at rates much lower than the limits set in the national radiation safety standard for all members of the traveling public and all TSA employees.  
The Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Lab assessment included several recommendations to continue to ensure the highest standard of safety and health. TSA has successfully completed each recommendation.  
A backscatter scan is equivalent to amount of naturally occurring radiation received during two minutes of flying at altitude.  
In addition to these independent studies validating the safety of imaging technology, TSA also conducts site acceptance testing of AIT units upon installation in airports to ensure each individual AIT unit meets safety standards.  Once installed, preventive maintenance is regularly performed by qualified personnel.  
Certified health physicists from the U.S. Army Public Health Command are also performing additional radiation safety surveys to ensure continued compliance with radiation safety standards.  
In early 2011, TSA posted radiation surveys for every backscatter imaging technology unit deployed in U.S. airports. The reports confirm that every backscatter unit currently used for passenger screening in U.S. airports is operating well within applicable national safety standards.  
TSAposts reports for all radiation tests, including the annual TSA-mandated testof every X-ray based technology, on TSA’s website as they are completed.  
Accordingto CBS News, MIT’s leading radiation safety experts and experts from the HealthPhysics Society, drinking three glasses of water a day for a year might giveyou a cumulative exposure of about 0.045 millirems, that's at least five timesmore than the dose from an airport scanner and well beneath the 10,000 milliremline where there is danger. According to Francis Marre, former director ofradiation safety at MIT, “There is no known risk” from being scanned.  
SanFrancisco Weekly story on backscatter technology.  
HealthPhysics Society’s FAQ: “ Safety for Security Screening Using Devices ThatExpose Individuals to Ionizing Radiation.  
FDA FAQ page: “Products for Security Screening of People”.  
SFWeekly article featuring leading radiologists refuting safety claims by UCSFprofessors.  
National standard for one backscatter scan: 0.025 millirem (two and a half one-hundreths of a millirem) per scan.  
TSA’s backscatter systems maximum possible radiation emission: 0.005 millirem (five one-thousandths of a millirem) scan.  
TSA’s backscatter systems actual emission: generally less than 0.0025 millirem (two and a half one-thousandths of a millirem) per scan.  
Advanced imaging technology screening is safe for passengers, including pregnant women and children. One backscatter technology scan produces the same exposure as approximately two minutes of flying on an airplane. Advanced imaging technology is optional for all passengers.


TSA Blog Team

If you’d like to comment on an unrelated topic you can do so in our Off Topic Comments post. You can also view our blog post archives or search our blog to find a related topic to comment in. If you have a travel related issue or question that needs an immediate answer, you can contact a Customer Support Manager at the airport you traveled, or will be traveling through by using Talk to TSA.
 
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Friday, November 4, 2011

TSA Week In Review: Do Not Let Your Grandson Pack Your Bags

Grenade
The Gift of Grenade (BHM)
Grenade
Grandma's Grenade (SLC)
An inert grenade was found in a passenger’s bag at Salt Lake City (SLC). It turns out that the passenger’s grandson had packed her bag. I’m sure you can imagine grandma’s surprise! Moral of the story: Do not let your grandson pack your bags! Another inert grenade was detected at Birmingham (BHM) and in this case, it was a gift for the passenger’s father. Read here and here why even inert grenades at the airport are a problem.

Stun Gun
Stun Gun (CRW)
 A stun gun resembling a smart phone  was discovered at Charleston (CRW). 

A passenger traveling through LaGuardia (LGA) reported his wallet missing to a TSA Supervisor. After searching around the checkpoint and double checking his bags, the wallet containing approximately $1,000.00 and 5 credit cards did not turn up. But wait! A call came in from the Airport Police Department... After reviewing the camera footage, it was determined that the passenger dropped his wallet and another passenger picked it up and kept it. Airport police met the culprit at the gate and placed him under arrest returning the wallet to its rightful owner.

Notable News This Week: Senator Lieberman took to Twitter to defend TSA! Also, take a look at Lisa’s post from earlier this week about some interesting items we found on Halloween. Some people have been really vocal as to how they believe TSA should profile. Well… while this wasn’t aviation related, I don’t think these gentleman would fit any of the suggested profiles we’ve been given as the type of person we need to look out for. 

Stun guns, firearm components, ammunition, an asp, brass knuckles, a switchblade, butterfly knives, a belt buckle knife, a brass knuckle belt buckle, a 4” belt buckle knife, and other knives with blades up to 6 ½” were among some of the dangerous items found around the nation by our officers in passenger’s carry-on bags this past week. 

Unfortunately these sorts of occurrences are all too frequent which is why we talk about these finds. Sure, it’s great to share the things that our officers are finding, but at the same time, each time we find a dangerous item, the throughput is slowed down and a passenger that likely had no ill intent ends up with a citation or in some cases is even arrested. On the other hand, there are artfully concealed items. 

Artfully Concealed Items: Artfully concealed means that the item was intentionally concealed with the intention of sneaking it through security:
Knife
Knife Found In Bag Handle (EWR)
  • Something didn’t look right about a bag that was screened at Milwaukee (MKE). After rescreening a jar of peanut butter in the bag, it was determined that there was a mass in the center of the jar. The mass turned out to be a lighter, glass pipe, and marijuana. We’re not looking for drugs, but you can probably imagine how this might look dangerous to us and why we took a closer look.
  • A passenger at Santa Barbara (SBA) alarmed the walk through metal detector and an anomaly was detected in her groin area during a pat-down. The passenger eventually admitted she had a tube of toothpaste concealed in her groin area. While we’re not looking for toothpaste, it was concealed in an area where explosives can be hidden and we had no idea what it was until we resolved the alarm. We should have known what it was though, right? Isn’t that where all the cool kids are keeping their toothpaste nowadays?
  • As I stated last week, contrary to popular belief, the lining of a bag is not X-ray proof. A passenger at Milwaukee (MKE) had their knife concealed under the bag lining. We found it.  
  • “I always keep them in my shoes” is what a passenger at Philadelphia (PHL) stated after two razorblades were found under the insole of his shoes.  
  • A knife was found concealed in the handle of a bag at Newark (EWR). I guess you could say our officers “handled” it. 
Our officers found 12 loaded firearms in carry-on baggage since I posted last Friday. (Not counting the unloaded and replica ones we found). Here’s a rundown of the loaded weapons we kept off of airplanes this week:
  • 10-28: TSA Officer at SAT detects a loaded .40 pistol.
  • 10-28: TSA Officer at ATL detects a loaded 9mm pistol.
  • 10-28: TSA Officer at IAH detects a loaded 9mm pistol.
  • 10-29: TSA Officer at ICT detects a loaded .25 pistol.
  • 10-30: TSA Officer at RNO detects a loaded 9mm pistol with a round in the chamber.
  • 10-31: TSA Officer at MSY detects a loaded .380 pistol with a round in the chamber.
  • 11-1: TSA Officer at BNA detects a loaded .380 pistol.
  • 11-1: TSA Officer at CVG detects a loaded .380 pistol.
  • 11-1: TSA Officer at DFW detects a loaded pistol of unknown caliber with a round in the chamber.
  • 11-1: TSA Officer at BDL detects a loaded .38 pistol.
  • 11-2: TSA Officer at JAN detects a loaded .25 pistol.
  • 11-3: TSA Officer at PHX detects a loaded .32 pistol.
You can travel with your firearms in checked baggage, but they must first be declared to the airline. You can go here for more details on how to properly travel with your firearms. 
    Just because we find a prohibited item on an individual does not mean they had bad intentions, that's for the law enforcement officer to decide. In many cases, people simply forgot they had these items in their bag. That’s why it’s important to check your bags before you leave.

    We also look for explosives and bomb components as well, but thankfully those are extremely rare and we're happy to keep it that way.

    TSA Blog Team

    If you’d like to comment on an unrelated topic you can do so in our Off Topic Comments post. You can also view our blog post archives or search our blog to find a related topic to comment in. If you have a travel related issue or question that needs an immediate answer, you can contact a Customer Support Manager at the airport you traveled, or will be traveling through by using Talk to TSA.


    Tuesday, November 1, 2011

    TSA Checkpoints This Halloween: Trick Or Treat?

    Boots with bullets.
    Boots with gun barrel heel and bullets Photo courtesy of TSA-JFK
    Halloween. Dress up in a scary costume, visit some neighbors, shout, “Trick or treat!” and race home to see what’s inside the bag. That’s the normal spiel, but passengers at airports this Halloween put their own spin on the holiday, and believe me when I say that several had some tricks up their sleeves and in their bags.

    Let’s see, there was the passenger in Boston who had a steak knife in his carry-on bag; the El Paso passenger with a 6 ½-inch hunting knife in his carry-on bag; the LaGuardia Airport passenger who had eight rounds of 9 mm ammunition in his bag; the JFK Airport passenger who had a 6-inch butterfly knife in his bag; and the New Orleans passenger who had a loaded .380 caliber firearm--with a bullet in the chamber--in his carry-on bag.

    Unlike trick or treat, these passengers didn’t get to go home with their goodies. All of those items were confiscated. And due to jurisdictional laws, the passengers in the New York airports were cited for violating the local laws. 

    Now that the fall season is arriving, it’s likely that many of you are camping, hunting, hiking, etc. There’s a good chance the last time you wore your fall coat or used your knapsack was on a hunting or fishing trip, and maybe you left a knife or some ammunition tucked away in one of those handy-dandy compartments. Truth is, we’d rather you keep your guns, knives, and ammunition--just keep them at home, that’s all. So be sure to take the time to do a quick check of your personal items to be sure you’re not forgetting about the weapon you tucked away during your last trip.

    And it doesn’t hurt to think about what you’re wearing when heading to the airport. Your favorite belt with the brass-knuckles buckle? Leave it at home. The cool western belt with bullets decorating the side, leave it in the drawer. Hand grenade belt buckle? Yep…. We see it all. And the boots pictured below that were worn to JFK Airport—the ones with the shiny bullets and handgun barrel heel--please leave them in the closet instead of wearing them to the airport, even on Halloween. 

    Lisa Farbstein - Guest Blogger/TSA Spokesperson New York/New Jersey

    If you’d like to comment on an unrelated topic you can do so in our Off Topic Comments post. You can also view our blog post archives or search our blog to find a related topic to comment in. If you have a travel related issue or question that needs an immediate answer, you can contact a Customer Support Manager at the airport you traveled, or will be traveling through by using Talk to TSA.