Saturday, December 17, 2011

TSA Week In Review: Flash! Bang!

Fruit Cake
Live Flash Bang Grenade Found at ELP
Hand grenades again… This time it was a LIVE flash bang grenade in a carry-on bag at El Paso (ELP) and it caused a shutdown of the checkpoint resulting in a 30 minute delay affecting 150 passengers.

Non Metallic Knife (BUF)
Non Metallic Knife (BUF)
A passenger opted out of the body scanner at Buffalo (BUF) and during the pat-down, a 9” nonmetallic serrated knife was found in his pants pocket. The passenger stated later that he opted out of the body scanner because he was trying to get the knife through security. At least he didn’t simply say he forgot it was there…
 A 2’ machete was discovered in  a passenger’s carry-on bag. The passenger stated they were going to the jungle and forgot it was there.
Firearm Found Strapped To Passenger's Ankle (DTW)
Firearm Found Strapped To Passenger's Ankle (DTW)
Notable News: Earlier this week, we blogged about a 76-year-old man who tried to come through the checkpoint with a loaded .380 strapped to his ankle. Just more proof the technology works… Read more here. - TSA Pre™ rolled out in Vegas this week! If you’re interested in expedited screening, check it out! – TSA Administrator John S. Pistole responded to a White House We The People petition. Take a look at the response
Not counting all of the usual items our officers find, this week they also found stun guns, firearm components, ammunition, replica firearms, brass knuckles, nunchucks, switchblades, butterfly knives, collapsible batons, and several knives with blades up to 8”. 
Knives Found at (JFK)
Knives Found at (JFK)
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. This is a friendly reminder to please leave these items at home.

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 double check your luggage before you get to the airport. 
On the other hand, there are artfully concealed items...  Artfully concealed means that the prohibited item was intentionally concealed with the intention of sneaking it through security:
SFO – Passenger wrapped an unloaded .380 pistol in aluminum foil and placed it in an X-ray proof bag inside his checked bag. Yeah, with the X-ray proof bag, we can’t see what’s in it, but we can see the bag which means we have to look in it.
SLC – Razor blade taped to bottom of laptop.
RAP – Razor blade concealed in shoe sole.
PSE – Three Lite-Brite’s found in checked baggage with marijuana stuffed in them. Not looking for drugs, but an organic substance stuffed in with electronics is alarming.
Our officers found 13 loaded firearms and 6 unloaded firearms in carry-on baggage since I posted last Friday. Here’s a rundown of the 19 firearms our officers kept off of airplanes this week:
12/9:  BHM – Unloaded .40 – FLL – Loaded .22
12/10: TUS – 9mm Loaded w/ Round Chambered – DTW – Loaded .380 w/ Round Chambered
12/11: MSY – Loaded .380 - SGF – Unloaded .380 – ATL - Loaded .22  w/ Round Chambered
12/12:  IAH – Unloaded 9mm – ELM – Loaded .380 – SGA - Unloaded 9mm
12/13: ECP – Loaded .38 – BHM – Loaded .380 – DAL – Loaded .380 w/ Round Chambered – BUR – Loaded .22
12/14: IND – Unloaded .380 – BOS – Loaded .22 – BHM – Unloaded .45
12/15: SLC – Loaded 9mm – MIA – Loaded 9mm
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. 

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.

Including checkpoint and checked baggage screening, TSA has 20 layers of security both visible and invisible to the public. Each one of these layers alone is capable of stopping a terrorist attack. In combination their security value is multiplied, creating a much stronger, formidable system. A terrorist who has to overcome multiple security layers in order to carry out an attack is more likely to be pre-empted, deterred, or to fail during the attempt.  


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.


17 comments:

Anthony Myers said...

Before addressing the objective effects of actual defensive uses of guns, a more subjective issue should be addressed. If some people get guns in response to crime or the prospect of being victimized in the future, does a gun make its owner feel safer?

Nadav said...

That 30 minute delay in line is a victory for terrorists. They didn't kill anybody, but they annoyed 150 passengers.

Do you have any statistics about how many artfully concealed items do make it to the airplane? There is no way to catch all of them.

Nadav

Anonymous said...

And just to be clear, Curtis, no one carrying any of these items was a terrorist, correct?

And the gun would have been found by WTMD, correct, Curtis?

Anonymous said...

All of these items can be found by a metal detector except the plastic knife, which looks less dangerous than some of the plastic and the metal knives that you can get at restaurants inside the secured zone. So TSA has spent over $1 billion on body scanners and training and staffing to catch this? Let alone about half of these scanners expose INNOCENT citizens to radiation as well as expose their naked bodies to TSA staff? Not much to brag about Bob.

PS - In the summer Director Pistole said that the TSA planned to update the radiation scanners by about the end of the year so at least they do not show naked images . . . but this has not been the case. What is the status?

Anonymous said...

"Earlier this week, we blogged about a 76-year-old man who tried to come through the checkpoint with a loaded .380 strapped to his ankle. Just more proof the technology works…"
____________________________________________________

For the umpteenth time: no one doubts that the scanners are capable of finding certain concealed items. What we doubt is that they are a reasonable, justified, and cost-effective response to the actual threat at hand as compared to other much cheaper and less invasive methods. Is that clear enough for you, Bob?

Andrew MacKie-Mason said...

That's a 3.5" knife, with a 5.5" handle. Good honesty.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous said...
"For the umpteenth time: no one doubts that the scanners are capable of finding certain concealed items. What we doubt is that they are a reasonable, justified, and cost-effective response to the actual threat at hand as compared to other much cheaper and less invasive methods."

The problem is that doing that would require actual hard work and doesn't make nice sound-bites for the evening news, To the TSA, the appearance of security is more important than actual security. They were created to make it look like the government was doing something about terrorism. Since the real work of actually catching terrorists is secret, they needed something public they could show off.

RB said...

For the umpteenth time: no one doubts that the scanners are capable of finding certain concealed items. What we doubt is that they are a reasonable, justified, and cost-effective response to the actual threat at hand as compared to other much cheaper and less invasive methods. Is that clear enough for you, Bob?

December 17, 2011 1:28 PM
.................
The biggest doubt concerning the Strip Search Machines are the safety to humans the Backscatter version presents.

NO true testing has been done by anyone to prove or disprove that these devices are safe.

Anonymous said...

>> That's a 3.5" knife, with a 5.5" handle.

And frankly, looks no more lethal than the butter knife you would get with your meals on-board or at an airport restaurant.

Besides, scissors with pointed tips with blades shorter than 4" are allowed on-board. So why is this thing any more lethal?

It's pathetic that this is a "good find".

[Screenshot captured]

Adrian said...

This nonmetallic knife pictured is not 9" long. It's not even 8" long. The blade length is slightly less than 3.5", and the total length is just over 7.5".

You can find more dangerous steak knives in the restaurants in the "sterile" area.

None of this justifies the x-ray backscatter machines, the liquids ban, nor the identity checks.

Anonymous said...

>> This nonmetallic knife pictured is not 9" long.
>> It's not even 8" long.

Bob, you do realize that if you cannot even correctly measure the length of a knife on a ruler -- which you then display for the world to see -- how do you expect the public to believe anything that comes out of yours or the TSA's mouth?

Why should we believe anything we are told, say, about the safety levels of AIT when you get the length of a knife off by over 15%?

And again, how is this knife any more dangerous than the cutlery that is readily available at airport restaurants and on-board?

Yes, very good catch indeed.

Pathetic.

{Screenshot captured. This post does not violate any ToS.]

Anonymous said...

Once again, where is my post??? What about a post requesting the number of senior citizens strip-searched at the checkpoint is not within rules? It is on topic (weekly review) and uses no inadequate language. Unless you find the words "strip-search" innapropriate, which would be very ironic indeed, since aparently you don´t find the act innapropriate.

Anonymous said...

That ceramic knife is a joke. Much more dangerous knives are available onboard or at restaurants in the "secure" area. TSA is a pathetic waste of our money.

TSORon said...

An Anonymous poster asked…
[[For the umpteenth time: no one doubts that the scanners are capable of finding certain concealed items. What we doubt is that they are a reasonable, justified, and cost-effective response to the actual threat at hand as compared to other much cheaper and less invasive methods. Is that clear enough for you, Bob?]]

One of those concealed items is explosives. Hijacking is pretty much a “never again” kind of thing, but every attempt on a US airline since 9/11 has been by use of explosives.

On Wednesday, 21 December 1988 a 747 was taken down by explosives, a small amount really. $40mil for the aircraft, 243 passengers and 16 crew members died, and 11 people on the ground where the wreckage landed were killed. The cost to the airline, the British government for clean up, investigation, and the general commercial aviation industry was in the billions. To the families of those lost, the cost cannot be measured.

So, is the cost justified? Yes, obviously. Is it reasonable? Again the answer is yes. Is it cost effective? Well, since hijacking is honestly no longer an option against a US carrier, hardened cockpit door and passengers willing to intervene at the possible cost of their own lives, that pretty much leaves explosives (not counting MANPADS of course) as the main threat axis. Since the scanners can detect explosives in odd places on the human body then I’d have to say yes, they are very cost effective. 9/11 cost this country hundreds of billions, and American reaction to another terrorism incident against US commercial aviation could easily cost as much or more. Yes, the scanners are very cost effective.

RB said…
[[NO true testing has been done by anyone to prove or disprove that these devices are safe.]]

Correction: No true test that you are willing to accept. Many test have been conducted, you just choose to not accept the results.

Anonymous said...

"Correction: No true test that you are willing to accept. Many test have been conducted, you just choose to not accept the results."

This is great news, Ron. Please post links to these tests. I assume they are peer reviewed with full documenation, correct?

Ron? Ron? You issued a correction so now please back it up. As an employee of the TSA you owe us that.

Anonymous said...

TSORon (or anyone else who cares to address this) -

While you're backing up your earlier claim of safety, please address the comments of Dr. Dauer:

"Because the scanners' lose dose of radiation penetrates just below skin level, it could imperil the lens of the eye, the thyroid and a woman's breasts, said Dr. Edward Dauer, head of radiology at Florida Medical Center in Fort Lauderdale.

"I think it's potentially a real danger to the public," he said, noting that even a small dose could be risky for people predisposed to cancer. "This is an additional exposure."

There's more in the article but I don't want this post to be too long so here's the link:
http://articles.sun-sentinel.com/2011-12-25/news/fl-tsa-scanner-concern-20111223_1_body-scanners-backscatter-machines-millimeter-wave-scanners

Not quite as recent but still never refuted are comments in a letter signed by Doctors John Sedat Ph.D., David Agard, Ph.D., Marc Shuman, M.D., Robert Stroud.

While you're at it, please note that Drs John Sedat Ph.D., David Agard, Ph.D., Marc Shuman, M.D., Robert Stroud, Ph.D., all from the University of California wrote John Holdren, the President's Science Advisor regarding their concerns as well. For reference, Dr. Sedat is a Professor Emeritus in Biochemistry and Biophysics at the University of California, San Francisco, with expertise in imaging. He is also a member of the National Academy of Sciences. The other cosigners include Dr Marc Shuman, and internationally well known and respected cancer expert and UCSF professor, as well as Drs David Agard and Robert Stroud, who are UCSF Professors, X-ray crystallographers, imaging experts and NAS members.

Mr. Pistole recently backtracked on his pledge to a Congressional panel to allow independent testing. Unfortunately for Mr. Pistole - but fortunate for the traveling public - is that independent testing will be conducted as such testing will be mandated by Congress.

So, go ahead, TSORon and company, but please come equipped with more than simple "you're exposed to radiation when you fly" and similar trivialities. We all know this - such truisms have not escaped the experts listed above - so you'll need to refer to actual scientists and not TSA blandishments.

Mark said...

TSORon, thank you for your comments. I believe the scanners are safe, and I believe that preventing terrorist attacks against airliners is a worth while undertaking. I do believe that many of the prohibited items are foolish to prohibit.

As you state, explosives are the only viable option to down an aircraft, so why are small knives prohibited? Why were the screwdrivers out of my eyeglass repair kit confiscated? Why was it necessary to stop me, delay me, and waste an agents time patting me down for a receipt in my pocket?

I agree that explosives should not be on planes. Unfortunately, I am sure I could synthesize explosives and detonators and sneak them into an airport, which allows their transfer to any other airport. The two reports of recent failed terrorist attempts I know of have failed because the would-be terrorist was incompetent and couldn't detonate the explosives. I question whether or not TSA is effective against explosives - the primary threat to air traffic.

In the unlikely event you dont know about the security problems, include in your reply verifiable contact information and I will write a brief description of holes I have observed (but I wont post it for all to see).