Monday, January 9, 2012

Cupcakegate

This will be short and “sweet.” Like many of you, when I think of a cupcake, I don’t think of it being in a jar. However, the photo below shows the “cupcake” that was prohibited from being taken into the cabin of a plane last month.
Normal cup cake and a cup cake in a jar.
Cupcake Jar Photo Courtesy of Consumertraveler.com

I wanted to make it clear that this wasn’t your everyday, run-of-the-mill cupcake. If you’re not familiar with it, we have a policy directly related to the UK liquid bomb plot of 2006 called 3-1-1 that  limits the amount of liquids, gels and aerosols you can bring in your carry-on luggage. Icing falls under the “gel” category.  As you can see from the picture, unlike a thin layer of icing that resides on the top of most cupcakes, this cupcake had a thick layer of icing inside a jar.

In general, cakes and pies are allowed in carry-on luggage, however, the officer in this case used their discretion on whether or not to allow the newfangled modern take on a cupcake per 3-1-1 guidelines. They chose not to let it go.

Every officer wants to finish their shift and go home with the peace of mind that they kept potential threats off of airplanes. They’re not thinking about whether their decisions will go viral on the internet – they’re thinking about keeping bombs off of planes. This incident may seem like a silly move to many of our critics, but when we can’t be exactly sure of what something is, every officer has the discretion to not allow it on the plane.  This is done purely for the safety of everyone traveling.

Here are two very real liquid related incidents from the past. This is why we have limitations on liquids, gels and aerosols.

1995 “Bojinka Plot” in Asia where Ramzi Yousef planned to use liquid explosives to bomb 12 passenger carrying aircraft bound for the United States. This was one month after his test on Philippine Airlines Flight 434 where a smaller “liquid” container killed one person.

The 2006 foiled liquid explosives plot in the U.K. This plot demonstrated a real threat and is the catalyst for TSA's liquids restrictions.

What the two plots above and intelligence gathered from all over the world tells us is that unless Wile E. Coyote is involved, the days of the three sticks of dynamite with a giant alarm clock strapped to them are long gone. Terrorists have moved to novel explosives disguised as common, everyday items. Our officers are regularly briefed and trained by TSA explosives specialists on how just about any common appliance, toy or doohickey can be turned into a dangerous explosive. When you think about it, do you think an explosive would be concealed in an ominous item that would draw attention, or something as simple as a cute cupcake jar?

The bottom line is that you can bring cakes, pies and cupcakes through the security checkpoint, but you should expect that they might get some additional screening, and if something doesn’t seem right, there is always the potential you won’t be able to take it through. 

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.

421 comments:

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Anonymous said...

This is absolutely ridiculous. More TSA shenanigans.

A relative's Maui mustard was confiscated on a trip back from Hawaii. Now, the TSA could have swabbed it to see if it really did contain explosives, but instead it went into thet rash can - right next to the screener and us. I guess it couldn't have been threatening after all, right Bob, because if it had contained explosives it would have gone off right next to all of us. The Maui TSA agent went home knowing that she'd done her job and could sleep safely at night knowing that a small jar of suspicious mustard was sitting in a trash can. In the terminal area.

The problem with the TSA is that is and its regulations lack nearly all common sense. I love travelign to Europe because their security measures are more rational. The TSA looks like the Keystone Cops (apologies to the Keystone Cops) in comparison. The TSA is thee reason I don't travel by air anymore. Its Amtrak and the car from now on.

Anonymous said...

9 years ago My 80 year old mother couldn't bring her nail clippers on a flight because of the 1" finger nail file on it while we watched a whole family of middle eastern descent walk thru with nary a problem and each of the kids had a backpack. Your IDEA of keeping us safe is STUPID. A well trained fighter could do more damage with an inkpen than my mother could do with a 10" knife!

Anonymous said...

9 years ago My 80 year old mother couldn't bring her nail clippers on a flight because of the 1" finger nail file on it while we watched a whole family of middle eastern descent walk thru with nary a problem and each of the kids had a backpack. Your IDEA of keeping us safe is STUPID. A well trained fighter could do more damage with an inkpen than my mother could do with a 10" knife!

William Teach said...

PS: Good thing it didn't have a *gulp* candle on the cupcake, otherwise the passenger might have found herself groped....oh, wait, they do that anyhow....well, found herself in jail or something.

Pretty sad, too, that the TSA is using Blogspot for their official blog.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous said...
"If your teens are "petrified" of simple security...nothing more than they would endure to attend a concert or sports event, then...you, have created that fear."

I don't know where you are going, but I've never been asked to remove my shoes, been X-rayed or had my crotch groped to get into an arena.

You have a bizarre idea of "simple security".

Anonymous said...

It's not about our SAFETY, it's about your OVER-INFLATED EGOS! This does nothing to keep us safe! USE COMMON SENSE! As for the 3 oz. rule, NONSENSE! Apparently it never occured to the "person" making the "rule" that if someone really need more than 3 oz. of "whatever" to blow up a plane, they could simply have several people carry it on and "combine it late!" DUH!

Anonymous said...

You mean that your people can't tell the difference between a cupcake (horrible weapon!) in a jar for protection and a bomb? Are you really that stupid or don't you feed them? It's one thing to protect citizens from terrorists but it's quite another to do something as stupid as this.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous said:

If we're going to have "3-1-1," then it's reasonable for the agents to have acted as they did with the cupcake in a jar. If the passenger had been willing to open the container and take a bite out of the cupcake, I'd have been on the passenger's side, but that didn't seem to be the case here.

According to the passenger she offered to eat the entire thing instead of give it to the TSA agent and she was not allowed to do so. Which leads me to believe that either the TSA employee wanted the entire thing or he honestly did think it was an explosive which then he should have done a terminal dump and called the authorities. Since he did not do that, I suspect he just wanted a cupcake in a jar.

Anonymous said...

Hmm, this is thoroughly impressive.

The TSA hires bloggers, when we complain about our budget deficit. What, the regular people that work for TSA can't handle writing a few paragraphs for free?

Also, after that first post, there has been no response from "Blogger Bob" or any representative from the TSA. Thank you for stealing our cupcakes.

Losing confidenc in governmental intelligence said...

It is actions like this and strip searches because of colestomy bags; forcing mothers to drink their own breast milk,etc ad nausium that has me driving anywhere I can reach in 14 hours or less even if it means an overnight on the road. Much more Totally Stupid Antics and I shall stay two nights on the road one way.

Anonymous said...

No, what's stupid is expecting a freaking cupcake to be tested for explosive components. Really? That's insane! A waste of time, dollars and common sense over a cupcake? Don't like it? Don't get on the plane and we all lose $5 here and there. Better to lose a $5 cupcake then have the loss of life that may occur if a terrorist does decide - I'll fill a cupcake up since some jerk wanted to make a public scandal over her uneaten cupcake.

Anonymous said...

I'm one of those very infrequent travelers who rarely flys. However before I do so I check TSA regs and according to what is posted for boarding rules any gels or liquids have to be 3 ozs. or less. My question is since cake is obviously not a gel did the cupcake icing weigh more than 3 ozs.? Did it actually end up in the trash right beside the check point? Now you see why I prefer to keep my feet on the ground!

Anonymous said...

How many more strikes do the TSA have? They already have thousands of complaints with their workers. Our government need to replace them with better trained agents keep the ones with common sense and fire the stupid ones.

Anonymous said...

Can we get a second illusion of safety for those of us who aren't complete morons?

Anonymous said...

Someone was just hungry.

Blogger Bob said...

Hi. Bob here... Just want to clarify a few things I've read here in the comments:

No, the cupcake in the jar was not eaten. :)

As far as what we do with items such as the cupcake in the jar, let me provide you with the same answer I provided Christopher Elliott in an interview:

Since the UK liquid bomb plot of 2006, TSA has been looking for effective ways to screen liquids in an expeditious manner. That technology hasn’t arrived yet, so we still have to adhere to limiting liquids.

We have the ability to test each and every liquid, but this would lead to wait times requiring passengers to arrive at airports several hours prior to their flight. So instead of testing each and every liquid, passengers have the choice of disposing of the items prior to the checkpoint, or surrendering them to an officer at the checkpoint.

When they’re surrendered at the checkpoint, they are placed in bins and disposed of. Of course if there are wires attached to the liquids in question or a strong smell or anything out of the ordinary is discovered, additional steps are taken.

As far as hazmat, TSA has a contract with Science Application International Corporation (SAIC) to dispose of hazmat in compliance with EPA regulations. Common items such as shampoos and water are voluntarily surrendered by travelers at the checkpoint, periodically collected and disposed of under individual state regulations. Usually this is coordinated through the state’s agency for surplus property.

Thanks,

Blogger Bob Burns

Anonymous said...

This is why I refuse to fly any more. The TSA is totally out of control. This is what happens when people surrender their freedoms to the government.

Anonymous said...

try to buy tires and see how the tsa has to say about how you have to put them on your car.......

Anonymous said...

Point 1: It was not a cupcake that was prohibited. It was a cupcake in a jar of icing.

How do you know that? TSA has not provided a photo of the actual cupcake in a jar that was confiscated.

RB said...

As far as hazmat, TSA has a contract with Science Application International Corporation (SAIC) to dispose of hazmat in compliance with EPA regulations. Common items such as shampoos and water are voluntarily surrendered by travelers at the checkpoint, periodically collected and disposed of under individual state regulations. Usually this is coordinated through the state’s agency for surplus property.

Thanks,

Blogger Bob Burns

January 10, 2012 4:36 PM

...............
TSA thought this cupcake in a jar was not safe enough to enter the secure area. the lady offered to eat it but was refused so this item was in fact confiscated by TSA. Stolen by TSA would be another way to say it.

Now, was the item treated as a suspected threat of some sort or just tossed in the trash?

If the item was just tossed in the trash by TSA that is clearly implying that no threat was thought to exist and confirms that the item was in fact stolen by a TSA employee.

Bob, how much icing is on the typical cake?

How much pie filling is contained in a typical cherry pie?

Those items are allowed!

Anonymous said...

Do not blame the officer - they were simply doing as they were trained, following the guidelines and policy of what is prohibited from a plane - liquids under 3 oz. not in a ziploc bag. Sure, I bet that officer thought "this is stupid, why do I have to take away something that has a gel (liquid-like) frosting?" But they confiscated it anyway because that is what they are supposed to do. It is in their job description - do not allow prohibited items from passing through the security checkpoint. Also, no where in that description does it say anything about "don't throw it away in the garbage". Remember what they are there for - protecting the airplane and it's passengers. They are not protecting the garbage can. If you want to knock this ridiculous policy, then knock the bureaucracy that allows for such a ridiculous policy to continue, more than 5 years after putting the liquid prohibition into place. Rather than spend time and money on researching valid threats and coming up with a better way of screening valid threats, it is easier for them to just take away liquids. Think about it. What's easier - take away all liquids that do not fit into a 3 oz. container that fit into a quart sized ziplock bag, or actually research threats and develop new procedures. Yeah right...

Anonymous said...

Do not blame the officer - they were simply doing as they were trained, following the guidelines and policy of what is prohibited from a plane - liquids under 3 oz. not in a ziploc bag. Sure, I bet that officer thought "this is stupid, why do I have to take away something that has a gel (liquid-like) frosting?" But they confiscated it anyway because that is what they are supposed to do. It is in their job description - do not allow prohibited items from passing through the security checkpoint. Also, no where in that description does it say anything about "don't throw it away in the garbage". Remember what they are there for - protecting the airplane and it's passengers. They are not protecting the garbage can. If you want to knock this ridiculous policy, then knock the bureaucracy that allows for such a ridiculous policy to continue, more than 5 years after putting the liquid prohibition into place. Rather than spend time and money on researching valid threats and coming up with a better way of screening valid threats, it is easier for them to just take away liquids. Think about it. What's easier - take away all liquids that do not fit into a 3 oz. container that fit into a quart sized ziplock bag, or actually research threats and develop new procedures. Yeah right...

Anonymous said...

Suggestion:
-Confiscated items of potential danger; ie, liquids, should be taken away from the TSA inspection area, safely stored away from the public and employees, for obvious reasons.

-This blog should have a way to vote the comments, perhaps with "thumbs up" or "thumbs down" to rate validity and relevance by peers. This would allow more people with less time to read the best comments, as some comments are mutual.

Anonymous said...

Moo. Line up like cattle, people.

It's hilarious (and scary at the same time) that all of you on here are defending this TSA action. Most of you on here probably don't fly too often either. The TSA is out of control and the power-hungry (and literally hungry, too--who do you think ate that cupcake?) rude and over-paid knuckleheads that screen us are given FAR too much control.

At the very least this liquids and gels ban has to go...at the most the TSA should be abolished--a major waste of money and time.

yada yada said...

It needs to be said that when this story first went viral, it was not mentioned that it was an indistinguishable blob of ingredients in a jar. That really could have been anything with some innocuous label pasted on. Listen, they don't even like you to take bottled water through screening, so it's pretty understandable that TSA erred on the side of caution with that jar. The biddy who complained certainly wasn't telling the whole story when she talked about a "cupcake" being confiscated. It wasn't a cupcake, was it? But that part was left out when the complaint went viral. And that's the way it goes. You have to be so careful before you jump on bandwagons these days because PEOPLE LIE to make themselves look better.

Anonymous said...

"It is okay to attack TSA, but please use facts when doing so."

You mean like the facts TSA has ignored its entire insane existence?

Anonymous said...

How come the BDO's didn't stop the dangerous terrorist with the cupcake?

Anonymous said...

I'm now convinced that this group of people have no interest in an intelligent dialogue for the most part. I have noticed that rational people (who actually fly on airplanes) are in support of TSA. It's all of the other people who just want to bash a governmental entity from behind their mighty computer screens that seem to have a problem. People who have a problem with the TSA and want it abolished simply are a bunch of arm chair warriors with no travel experience or common sense. I'm thankful for the TSA and though I have been inconvenienced, it's a small price to pay for my safety and the safety of others.

Anonymous said...

if the tsa wants to keep us secure, maybe there should be no carry on items at all and all passengers should be naked. then nothing would be concealed. i bet the tsa agent was hungry & had the cupcake for snack....

Anonymous said...

This is the reason I don't fly and this is why air travel is going in the tubers. There letting the terrorists win.

Anonymous said...

All I can say is, they won....Sad but true, the terrorists got what they wanted and TSA is a total waste of taxpayers money.

Anonymous said...

It's impossible to believe that there is no technology available that can distinguish between harmless substances like water and chocolate syrup and explosives.


It is idiocy to keep pretending you can't do so. Any high school science teacher could show you how.

Anonymous said...

I stopped flying after 911, because of I knew this entire security system would be over the top! If someone wanted to do something horrific, could they not also take a bus or a boat? Thanks, but from now on I plan to drive myself where I need to go, safer for me and mine that way.

Anonymous said...

9 years ago My 80 year old mother couldn't bring her nail clippers on a flight because of the 1" finger nail file on it while we watched a whole family of middle eastern descent walk thru with nary a problem and each of the kids had a backpack.

The operative phrase is "9 years ago." I remember when they were doing this, but the policy has since been changed.

I don't know where you are going, but I've never been asked to remove my shoes, been X-rayed or had my crotch groped to get into an arena.

I've never been groped in the crotch to get into anywhere, including an airplane, and I'm a longtime frequent flyer. I've gone through metal detectors to get into lots of places, not just airplanes.

I do agree with the shoes issue, though. I've heard they're going to change that. Wouldn't be a moment too soon.

According to the passenger she offered to eat the entire thing instead of give it to the TSA agent and she was not allowed to do so.

If that's true, then I'd be with the passenger, as long as it wasn't going to hold up the people in back of her.

Anonymous said...

Who is this "Blogger Bob"? He sounds like a card-carrying Party member with his so-called "observations", all of which tow the party line. Wonder if they'll be knocking at my door in the middle of the night. If this is what TSA does and hires, we need to write our worthless money-grubbing reprentatives to actually do their job and siband the TSa replacing it with people who can actually do the job.

Curious said...

Blogger Bob - Thanks for the clarification about the cupcake incident and the 3-1-1 rule. I also read the post on top 10 items confiscated and it made me wonder - is there any data on numbers and/or types of harmful liquids confiscated by TSA since the inception of the 3-1-1 rule? (or even before...)

Anonymous said...

Ridiculous...cupcakes! That employee was just hungry for dessert. What are the appropriate testing methods that TSA uses against the delicious frosting in a jar? What about taking it out of the jar and putting in another container...would that be okay?

Anonymous said...

Anonymous said...
Please stop calling it "a cupcake."

Why? That's what it was.

You can absolutely take food onto a plane,

Do you work for the TSA? If so, you are woefully uninformed on the rules. Only some types of food are allowed:

"All food must go through the X-ray machine. Do NOT bring food to the security checkpoint unwrapped, as shown in the image on the right.
Food must be wrapped or in a container. Unpeeled natural foods like fruit are okay, but half-eaten fruits must be wrapped."

Not to mention:

"Here's a list of liquid, aerosol and gel items that you should put in your checked bag, ship ahead, or leave at home if they are above the permitted 3.4 oz.

Cranberry sauce
Cologne
Creamy dips and spreads
(cheeses, peanut butter, etc.)
Gift baskets with food items
(salsa, jams and salad dressings)
Gravy
Jams
Jellies
Lotions
Maple syrup
Oils and vinegars
Perfume
Salad dressing
Salsa
Sauces
Snowglobes
Soups
Wine, liquor and beer"

Please note that cupcakes are not on the list.

ALL suspicious items are destroyed. No officer is allowed to take items home.

I'm sure this is the official stance of the TSA. But what really happens?

Anonymous said...

You know

I fly a couple of times a year. TSA is a pain but they are doing their jobs. In all my flights I have made it home without incident. People trying to set their shoe laces on fire, bombs. How about eat the cupcake and travel with it that way.Drive to where your going and carry the cupcake in your car. I don t care then. I just want to travel in this world without idiots and these same people whine about the delays in security. Drive, I don t want to hear it anymore. I just want to get home to my family and friends. I don t take cupcakes or pies. If someone actually does make a cupcake that can blow up a plane----Do you want them on it? It probably can be done.

Stuart Anderson said...

How's this for a terror plot: If organisational misconduct is tolerated and condoned from the top down (say, something like stealing from passengers), then how long will it take for a genuine terrorist to figure out that your unethical agents are the weakest link?

The real threat is not making lame excuses for a cupcake theft (because we all, including you, know that it wasn't anything other than that), its the day that it is real explosive and your agents have been paid to look the other way.

Unlike implausible liquid explosives, organisational corruption is something that is very real. Respond to the real threat and stop wasting time with PR blunders like this post.

Caitlin said...

If it makes US travelers feel any better. My sister had a jar of honey taken from her @ security in Rome, because it exceeded the 100ml rule & was classed as a liquid. Recently, there have been several letters to a newspaper re security at Dublin airport. They have confiscated jars of jam for the same reasons. As was pointed out by the letter writers, jam is jam, not a liquid or a solid. In fairness, sometimes security will let u eat or drink your item then decide. As for the 3-1-1 rule, not really sure what that is. Also, in the 2006 Transatlantic trip that kick started all this. As far as I am aware, those 6 alleged terrorists were never convicted of trying to blow up a plane. There simply wasn't enough evidence. I know that the CPS (Crown Prosecution Service) in the UK, were going to file those prosecutions separably.
Also, the airlines in Europe wanted to relax the rules due to all the hassle but the powers that be decided to keep them enforced for another while.
Also, why do the passengers in the US demand to see the numbers of prevented potential terrorist attacks on planes due to such rules?

Anonymous said...

what is really funny is hey missed the 'real' explosive.......the cake bit of the cp cake.

Suring the second world wat the British invented an explosive that looked like flour, and could even be baked into bread.

So much for the TSA keeping up with the latest explosive developments, thy cannot even keep up with 50 year old ones!

The Only Me. said...

I haven't flown on a plane outside of business requirements since 9/11. Not because I'm afraid, but because I refuse to submit myself to the TSA. Your procedures are ridiculous, ineffective and embarrassing. Until you stop, I won't fly. I drive, or I don't go -- recognizing that I am LESS SAFE in doing so.

Another Bob said...

I like that you're referring to the 2006 plot, which was ultimately a bunch of guys sitting around and talking about a plot and having no actual means to carry said plot out. While we're on the subject, I am going to go home and bake a cake. I have no flour, sugar or eggs, nor the means to get them, but I would like to bake a cake nonetheless. You might want to save your appetite for this cake I am about to bake. No, really.

Anonymous said...

You probably could have tasted the cupcake. Then the passenger gets to keep her cupcake, and the screener also gets a delicious bite: Hooray! Everyone wins!

I shouldn't be too hard on the TSA, though. I met a nice TSA agent once who let me fly with a frying pan. He was cool.

Anonymous said...

I have flown many millions of miles for work in the past, but ever since the first time I had to take off my shoes for 'security' was also the last time I used air transport. I can spend my several hundred thousands of dollars per year on rental cars - except now they have TSA checkpoints on highways! I think it's time to retire...

Anonymous said...

TSA didn't refuse to let a cup cake through. They refused a sealed jar that had CUP CAKE written on the label. Most of the bloggers don't see the difference and I'm glad they don't work for TSA. But they aren't concerned with security, are they?

Anonymous said...

TSA seems to think it's a law unto itself, a sticky, sweet, stupid law.

Mo said...

Two years ago, we traveled to Disney. My boy was just over two years old at the time and we had his little Fisher Price music aquarium that was not allowed onto the plane. There was no way for the TSA to prove it contained more liquid than was allowed, and I was not able to prove it contained less. I guess he burden of proof falls on the passengers.

Of course it's not really about safety, but more about power. I had to discard the aquarium in the trash next to the line of passengers waiting to pass through the checkpoint. So, if it were a bomb and it killed a couple hundred passengers in the terminal, it's OK so long as it didn't happen on the plane, right?

This is just another in a long list of reasons the TSA should be eliminated. 5-6 year old kids being groped. 90 year old ladies being groped. Old people having their colostomy bags burst from being groped. Cupcakes and Bagels being confiscated.

Wake up folks. The terrorists are laughing at us. As the TSA continues to grow more powerful and as the politicians are so enthusiastic about doubling down on the Patriot Act, I have come to this conclusion. The terrorists have won and we have lost.

Anonymous said...

Blogger Bob said...

No, the cupcake in the jar was not eaten. :)

Sorry, Bob, but you've been caught out lying so many times, I doubt anyone beleives that.

Since the UK liquid bomb plot of 2006

You mean those guys talking about how a liquid bomb would be cool, but not actually taking any action to build one, or even get plane tickets? That "plot"??

TSA has been looking for effective ways to screen liquids in an expeditious manner. That technology hasn’t arrived yet, so we still have to adhere to limiting liquids.

If it's a bottle of water/soda/juice/etc, it's not a bomb. Let it through.

See, I just solved a 5-year old problem for you, in about 5 seconds!

We have the ability to test each and every liquid, but this would lead to wait times requiring passengers to arrive at airports several hours prior to their flight.

As opposed to now, where passengers need to arrive several hours before their flight?

Oh, and using common sense to determine which liquids to swab and test would help. But the TSA isn't big on Common Sense, is it?

So instead of testing each and every liquid, passengers have the choice of disposing of the items prior to the checkpoint, or surrendering them to an officer at the checkpoint.

Imagine if the police said "We have the ability to determine guilt or innocence, but that's a lot of work for us to do. So instead, we'll just force you to turn yourself in, or tell our officers you're guilty when they catch you."

Common items such as shampoos and water are voluntarily surrendered by travelers at the checkpoint, periodically collected and disposed of under individual state regulations.

Don't you GET it? That's the entire POINT. If the items are indeed "Common items such as shampoos and water", THEN THEY POSE NO THREAT TO THE PLANE, AND SHOULDN'T BE CONFISCATED.

On the other hand, if the items DO pose a threat, THEY SHOULDN'T BE CASUALLY DISPOSED OF- the bomb squad and/or hazmat squad should be called, and the carrier arrested.

WHICH IS IT?

Anonymous said...

Our taxes at work.

Yeesh. Does the TSA think their effectiveness improves by looking silly?

Anon said...

The people who think just because it's in a jar it's ok to be terrified of it are ignorant. A bomb the size of a mason jar can be hidden in a regular size cake just as easily. In saying that i probably just got all cakes banned from air travel. You're welcome America. The TSA is a joke, a sick, twisted joke.

dre said...

Hello,

While I appreciate your desire to be as reasonable as possible while trying to enforce insane policies, I would like to just remind you and everybody that they are, in fact, insane policies.

Repeat after me: The amount of time, effort, and money we are spending on the TSA is *not worth it*.

I challenge you to show any data demonstrating that we are better off now than "before 9/11". The number of finger nail clippers you've confiscated doesn't count. Also toothpaste, I want all my toothpaste back. It wasn't a bomb, it was toothpaste, just like all the other non-bomb toothpaste you've taken.

This 'security' is all based on stupid fear-mongering and thinly veiled racism (you know, brown people out to get us and stuff). Stop it, it's disgusting.

Here's another pro tip: life is dangerous. Sometimes people die, sometimes people kill other people. I don't expect you or anybody else to keep me completely safe from other people. Just make a good faith effort that is a reasonable compromise for all involved, ya know, like we were doing 'before', and like most other countries still do.

Yours truly,
-Andre LaBranche

Anonymous said...

The TSA is an organization that preys on "innocent" American travelers. I have rewad their idoitic rules and seen footage of their harrassment. They are the true terrorists to the flying public. A cupcake...please how stupid are you people. Now someone with real proven explosives is a dnager. Your rules are so stupid and haven't safe wnyone from attacks, but they sure do inflict pain and humiliation on American flyers. Your agency should be deemed a menace and be disbanded. Our "enemy" whoever that is has already won, without doing any more than attacks. Our paranoia is unfounded and so stupid. I feel more prior to 9/11 than I ever do now. I have been in the military and seen real danger. To bad we are seeing it here in the TSA.

Anonymous said...

Did anyone think of sticking their finger in and tasting this unknown object.Frankly if your explosive specialist thinks a cup cake can be made into an explosive he/she needs to go back to elementary school chemistry and stop watching old Mc Guiver reruns(unless she had some Nitric acid in a separate container(along with other volatiles).Just admit TSA is nothing but a political payback to the unemployable.

Kheris said...

For those of you who haven't heard; the IRS has a reimbursables account with the TSA. Every so often they pay the TSA to act foolish, gain the limelight, wind up in the funny papers, and take the heat off the IRS. Look for more 'cupcakegates' during the upcoming filing season. The TSA, filled with the usual bureacratic mindset, greedily accepted the opportunity to make money while being excoriated for bone headed actions by its employees.

(If the IRS doesn't have a reimbursable account with TSA it should.)

Anonymous said...

This is HILARIOUS!!! These TSA agents have really NO IDEA what they're doing. They have no standards as to what get through and what doesn't. I've had things looked at twice in security at one air port and waved right through at others with the same items in tow. The TSA does ABSOLUTELY NOTHING to make us safer when we fly...You wouldn't believe the things that I've gotten through security rather easily even though they were on the list of items not allowed....TSA is nothing but an ineffective expense.

Jon Peltier said...

So the officer didn't let the passenger keep the cupcake? Ha, I bet he took it home himself. Did he enjoy the cupcake?

Anonymous said...

This reminds me of my personal Cheesegate at the Milwaukee airport a few years ago. I was bringing a few selected Wisconsin cheeses home for the family. The TSA agent confiscated my blue cheese, insisting that if it was brought down to room temperature, the cheese could be spread with a knife and thus potential bomb making material. To this day I remain flabbergasted that I got in an argument with a person of authority on whether cheese was spreadable or not. I'm also sure that she enjoyed my blue cheese that evening with Fava beans and a nice Chianti.

Anonymous said...

You know Bob, if you had said "it was something we had never seen, we could have tested it but we didn't, we screwed up and we are sorry" you would have at least earned some respect. Instead you decided to defend this idiotic decision and ignited the fire some more.

Anonymous said...

So first you say "what the two plots above and intelligence gathered from all over the world tells us is that unless Wile E. Coyote is involved, the days of the three sticks of dynamite with a giant alarm clock strapped to them are long gone."

And then you say "when they’re surrendered at the checkpoint, they are placed in bins and disposed of. Of course if there are wires attached to the liquids in question or a strong smell or anything out of the ordinary is discovered, additional steps are taken."

You make no sense because your rules make no sense.

Anonymous said...

Sad thing is Americans are now afraid to speak up about illegal search and seizure of themselves or their personal items. If they get upset or angry they are now "Enemies of the State" arrested, harrassed or sent through machines that allow the screeners to see everything and I do mean everything. The problem is TSA agents now feel they have the ultimate power and can wield it in anyway or on whomever they choose as they are above reproach and above condemnation. Sad that because real "Enemies of the State" attacked us, our liberties are now under attack by our own government. I work for a different Government agency and if we ever treated the public the way TSA does, we would be suspended or fired.

Anonymous said...

People truly need to stop whining about this cupcake, especially when TSA agents are simply trying to follow the rules they are given. The agents are human which means there are going to be mistakes and in most cases they are not being malicious with their decisions. Sure they could test everything we brought to the gate but if they tested everything it would only cost us travelers more. I am gld the TSA is standing behind the agent.

Got Medieval said...

Is there a gel-based explosive or explosive component that could conceivably be disguised as cupcake icing? Would the faux cupcake bomb pass the sniff test--ie, could a gel-based explosive or explosive precursor still smell like delicious chocolate without giving some hint of its more sinister recipe?

I rather doubt it, and 'better safe than sorry' is no way to justify any specific action, as any action could be construed as ever so slightly dangerous by someone with an interest in banning it for some other reason.

Anonymous said...

Is there a gel-based explosive or explosive component that could conceivably be disguised as cupcake icing? Would the faux cupcake bomb pass the sniff test--ie, could a gel-based explosive or explosive precursor still smell like delicious chocolate without giving some hint of its more sinister recipe?

I rather doubt it, and 'better safe than sorry' is no way to justify any specific action, as any action could be construed as ever so slightly dangerous by someone with an interest in banning it for some other reason.

Dan S. said...

1995 “Bojinka Plot” in Asia where Ramzi Yousef planned to use liquid explosives to bomb 12 passenger carrying aircraft bound for the United States. This was one month after his test on Philippine Airlines Flight 434 where a smaller “liquid” container killed one person.

I like how you put 'liquid' in quotation marks to make it seem scary and mysterious.

I doubt it'd have the same effect if you had written "nitroglycerine," you know, the mysterious, exotic "liquid" explosive that's been in production since 1847. Some obscure Swede named Nobel, apparently made quite a bit of cash off of its manufacture, back in the 1860s. (I'd suggest the TSOs/BDOs pay particularly close attention to anyone associated with Nobel. Here's a list of his 826 known-disciples. I suggest you put them all on the Watch List.)

Yes, the 'test-run' bombing of Philippine Airlines Flight 434 did result in a fatality, but it and the larger-scale Bojinka attack relied heavily on the relatively relaxed security methods employed along the Pacific rim in the early 1990s. The same methodology would not have succeeded after 1995, which saw a spate of spectacularly large-scale terrorism, ranging from the Aum Shinrikyo sarin gas attack in Tokyo and the Chechen hostage crisis in Budyonnovsk to the Oklahoma City Murrah Building bombing.

Bojinka and Philippine Airlines Flight 434 both predate Presidential Decision Directive 62, which, spurred by the 1993 WTC bombing, Bojinka and the OKC bombing, laid out the first national-level strategic plan to combat terrorism. (I should know, PDD62 and PDD63 established the foundation of my decade-long stint in national security and counterterrorism.)

The 2006 UK plot, as even members of the public now know, was technically-difficult to accomplish even in ideal conditions, especially given the extremely unsophisticated skill set possessed by the plotters.

Anonymous said...

What do the cupcake and the c4 grabs have in common? They were captured *on the return flight*. Epic fail.

Anonymous said...

3-1-1 is a joke, the terrorists have won.

Anonymous said...

each one of these incidents comes from a single source;

When the TSA asks their staff to do a job, they impress upon the staff that the security of flights is the single factor to consider. It's not a balance between security and decency, as there is no reward for decency, only punishment for lack of security.

Honestly I hate screening, and i disagree that it's required, but I understand that there is, and can not be a reward for leniency / decency that is compatible with the requirement for security, from the point of view of an individual screener.

If you want to tilt the scales back towards the innocent traveller a little, you should
a) get rid of the liquids rule, which has been shown to combat only fictitious threats
b) Allow suspicious but probably non-threatening items to be bagged and handed over at boarding (like child buggies / prams already are)
c) allow appeals and encourage supervisors to show leniency / common sense, while internally backing their judgement. if two screeners agree that a non compliant item is not a threat, the agency should be off the hook shoudl it turn out to be a threat - you can only do so much.

Anonymous said...

Stopped reading the comments about half through, but there is an underlying point that is rarely raised. Most people find the actions of the TSA obscenely ridiculous. Those same people also attempt to abide by the rules set forth. Frustration arises when insane decisions are made that then impedes their travel. Air travel is not joy for most, but the lesser of evils in getting from point A to B. Having one's premeditated plans inhibited and personal items detained gives rise to a good bit of hostility.

A side issue is, when did personal security ever become a primary issue of concern for the government or TSA? Most irrational policies where implemented after September 11, 2001. The target of the attacks was not the passengers. The underlying intent is not making sure the person next to you sets you on fire with a flaming cupcake, but making sure the cupcake doesn't assist in bringing down a government. Call policy what it is and stop sugar coating the lies.

Anonymous said...

The TSA has never stopped an attack. The TSA does not make us safer. It's a waste of money and an intrusion on our civil liberties, such as our right to travel. The TSA is an expensive waste of time and money.

Anonymous said...

"This incident may seem like a silly move to many of our critics"

I would have put this a bit differently. I would start with "My tax money is being spent by" followed by lots of cursing

Anonymous said...

Sorry TSA, you blew it here.

The lady reported that she offered to eat the cupcake on the spot instead of having it taken away and was told she could not. If if the screener was right to think the cupcake was threat, refusing to let the lady eat the cupcake proves that the screener in question wasn't thinking things through.

Meanwhile, the TSA let actual C-4 explosive get through another checkpoint, and the other things it found that it is crowing about, it would have found with standard metal detectors. The TSA is a huge waste of money this country cannot afford and should be scaled back considerably to a cost-effective, appropriate level.

Anonymous said...

why not just have her eat enough to get the frosting under the 3-1-1 limit? this would have done two things:
1.) proven the item was food and not some kind of explosive material
2.) would have reduced the amount of "gel" to the point of perceived safety

Anonymous said...

The TSA is a joke. This incident is just one more notch on the handle to prove it. Another reason I will never fly commercial again!

Anonymous said...

Security theater, indeed. The TSA contributes nothing to the security and safety of the travelling public. Just the illusion of safety. Bring our troops home, and put them in your place. You are a colossal waste of tax dollars. Go away.

Anonymous said...

If toothpaste, and cupcakes, and shampoo, and half empty bottles of water are so dangerous, then why do you toss them into a trash can, right next to the TSA 'agent', with dozens other 'dangerous' liquids and gels? You are either terrible at your jobs, or know full well that you are in the 'illusion of security' business, not the security business.

Anonymous said...

Why this fixation on the liquid state of matter? Explosives can be solid too? Why not limit solids on airplanes? This is insane.

Anonymous said...

hmmm, let's see-pie-cherry pie-filling resembling goo-much more than 3 oz-that's OK. Let them eat pie!!!!

Anonymous said...

Sometimes I think the TSA goes overboard...but I've got to defend them in this case. First, where do we draw the line on acceptable vs. unacceptable? Oh...it HAS been drawn...and a cupcake in a jar doesn't fall under the acceptable guidelines. The fact of the matter is that I've unintentionally carried items through security and onto planes that have missed the trained eyes of the security people. Then, a day or two later going through security at a different airport...oops...snagged. That certainly does NOT mean that what I was carrying was ok under the guidelines since I managed to get it through once and I should be allowed to carry it on again.

Anonymous said...

I truly don't understand why the person had a cupcake in a jar? that makes no sense. no wonder said cupcake was thrown out! If you want to take a cupcake on a flight, put it in a normal carrying container not a jar!

Anonymous said...

If anything, the cupcake confiscation illustrates a huge problem with TSA policy-inconsistency. She was allowed to board the flight in Boston with two of the alleged dangerous item but she flagged in Las Vegas. Really? Your argument would be sound and acceptable if the policy was applied in Boston, which is not known for the most helpful TSA agents.
Instead of defending cupcake confiscation and trying to control the media spin, your agency should focus on the problem. Public Administration 101

Anonymous said...

How about you TSA mopes all get on the same page?! I flew out of RDU with my tube of toothpaste and had no issue at all. However, on my return flight through MDW, my toothpaste was confiscated because it was a five-ounce tube that violated the rules. What rules?! If the "rules" aren't consistently enforced, then THEY AREN'T RULES! And you wonder why the American public has absolutely no patience or tolerance for the TSA!

Anonymous said...

Why wasn't she allowed to eat the cupcake. She has stated she offered to eat the cupcake. But it was apparently too dangerous to let her have it back...

I thought TSA didn't confiscate things.

(screenshot taken)

Anonymous said...

At the end of the day, it's STILL a cupcake, Bob. Quit making excuses for your agency's idiotic policies!

Mike H said...

Like any bureaucracy, the main purpose of the TSA is to justify its own existence. I fly throughout the United States on a weekly basis and the lack of common sense and consistency displayed by TSA on a regular basis is staggering. NEW FLASH: You're not preventing terrorism. You're about as equally responsible for preventing a terrorist attack as the Starbucks barrista who helped make my morning delicious. Get over yourselves.

Anonymous said...

By concentrating on the 'Gel' you have all missed the most dangerous part of the whole cupcake - the cake itself.

Explosives were developed during the second world war that looked like four and could even be baked and eaten, dubbed "Aunt Jemima."

TSA keeping up to date with the latest explosive developments?

Hah. They cannot even keep up to date with 50 year old technology.

Anonymous said...

"I am quite happy that I don't go to the states. The fear-mongering that you poor people have to deal with. Plus, the fact that the citizens have been brain washed into believing that this type of behaviour is justifiable. I got news for you - the terrorists won when you allowed your government to take away your civil liberties all in the name of fighting terrorism. You had a president who stated that if you are willing to give up your freedom for security, then you deserve nothing. I have to agree! I AM CANADIAN AND PROUD OF IT!"

If you "don't go to the states" and are "canadian and proud of it"...why are you wasting your time blogging about something you have no investment in...ey?

Anonymous said...

It goes without saying that it is obvious TSA has let the terrorists win. Imaginary threats have clouded good judgement and candor, it seems their training may come from Alex Jones. In most instances, anything can literally be made into a weapon; I'm guessing we should ban everything. TSA, I know you need to justify your positions so as not to join the unemployment lines with most others, but use common sense and good judgement. Two references of liquids being used in an attack in 17-years does not set a trend. Considering over the US there are over 5,000 flights a day, the odds are pretty low of anything happening, especially from a canned cupcake. Paranoia, just plan and simple paranoia, for which other countries and cultures are getting a good chuckle.......

Anonymous said...

"If your teens are "petrified" of simple security...nothing more than they would endure to attend a concert or sports event, then...you, have created that fear."

I don't know where you are going, but I've never been asked to remove my shoes, been X-rayed or had my crotch groped to get into an arena.

You have a bizarre idea of "simple security".


I am a frequent flyer, and have never had my crotch groped...matter of fact, since I know the rules, I've never even had to have a pat-down. I don't bring any liquid-like substances over 3.4 oz, no knives, no guns (I check those in with the luggage). It just seems silly to me to not just follow the rules and get from point A to B...

Anonymous said...

"No, what's stupid is expecting a freaking cupcake to be tested for explosive components. Really? That's insane! A waste of time, dollars and common sense over a cupcake? Don't like it? Don't get on the plane and we all lose $5 here and there. Better to lose a $5 cupcake then have the loss of life that may occur if a terrorist does decide - I'll fill a cupcake up since some jerk wanted to make a public scandal over her uneaten cupcake."


AMEN! Finally, some common sense. Everyone expects to be catered to while complaining about having to wait in line, and miss their flight...right?

kimm said...

"....Anonymous said...
Thanks, TSA for continuing to try to protect us from the person who might actually try to use a cute cupcake in a jar as a clever way to sneak explosives onto a plane..."

So sorry that you have decided to live in fear. Do you make sure that everyone who is in the grocery store with you has passed through security? How about those you pass by in the street, or are in the same restaurant as you?

Adrienne said...

If 3-1-1 is relevant to this incident, shouldn't it be necessary to measure the amount of frosting on the cupcake and see if it's less than three ounces or not? If it's not measure, it's just an arbitrary decision.

Anonymous said...

If a liquid is confiscated because it could be an explosive and blow up a plane, why is it also discarded in a trashcan in an airport, where it could also blow up the airport?

Anonymous said...

My only question is this: After the TSA agent "confiscated" the cupcake, did he or she enjoy the taste of it? Just curious.

Anonymous said...

Here's what's always bothered me about these TSA incidents:

If what they're trying to bring on the flight is so dangerous, what is keeping it from being so dangerous inside the airport itself? You guys decide something is dangerous, confiscate it, and then that's the end of it? The individual trying to bring such dangerous items on board isn't dangerous? The item itself is magically okay so long as it's not on an airplane?

Most of the things you confiscate aren't dangerous and you know it, otherwise your overall reactions would be different. It's pointless activity for the sake of making people feel better, with no real bearing on anything.

Anonymous said...

It was not a "cupcake in a jar of icing." The icing was layered lightly between much larger layers of cupcake.

Please get the facts straight.

Wes Morgan said...

We understand that the rules (however silly they may be) aren't going to change any time soon; that's another discussion...

The biggest frustration behind stories such as this (my "disallowed" episode involved souvenir snowglobes) is that the traveler has no recourse where "screener discretion" is concerned; since baggage has already been checked, there's no "going back" from the security checkpoint.

For borderline items such as this, TSA needs to set up "questionable items" desks travelers can visit BEFORE REACHING THE TICKET/BAGGAGE COUNTERS. If I have something unusual/uncommon, I should be able to show it to a TSA screener BEFORE I check my luggage; if they disallow the item from carry-on, I can place it in my baggage to be checked.

Such an approach would eliminate quite a few episodes of Security Checkpoint Theatre, would it not?

Anonymous said...

"newfangled modern take on a cupcake"...that's the best thing I've heard all day.

Anonymous said...

For goodness sake. It is a cupcake. Stop being paranoid.

Lisse said...

The problem is that this article sites 2 instances over the period of 16 years.

I really don't think that's enough of a reason to violate personal liberties.

It's been 4 years since I've been on a plane, and I won't until the TSA reverses it's course. If you make me give up my trains, too, then we'll have real problems!

Anonymous said...

I wonder if they called in the local bomb squad and had them remotely detonate the alleged cupcake in the interest of public saftey ? Probably not, but I bet the TSA agent did eat it but only to make sure no public harm could ever come from it LOL. What a farce the TSA is, it needs to be disbanded, as it has become too big for it's own britches as they say :)

Anonymous said...

"This is why I refuse to fly any more. The TSA is totally out of control. This is what happens when people surrender their freedoms to the government."

You are absolutely correct...you are totally free to choose NOT to fly.

Anonymous said...

TSA. please read all these comments and get the message. People are fed up with the absence of common sense and arbitrary approach. While your two employees wasted cycles on this cupcake, they were NOT paying attention to anything else and thereby CREATING a greater security threat. I fly every week and it scares me how policy bound you are. This blog scared me even more as its appears your dumb enough to STILL think you did the right thing. Be smart. The bad guys are. Stop checking the rule book and START applying common sense.

William Beem said...

I'm so glad that my tax dollars are spent defending stupid decisions about dessert treat, instead of looking at the last ten years and realizing that the only thing terrorizing Americans in airports is the TSA agent who wants to steal cupcakes.

Anonymous said...

"No, the cupcake in the jar was not eaten. :)"

Post the video, then.

Anonymous said...

This random and arbitrary enforcement of incomprehensible rules is why I've long since stopped flying. Amtrak goes everywhere I want to be and I'm treated like a human being when I travel.

Anonymous said...

See, I always thought the 3-1-1 rule applied to non-food items. It makes no sense to first say that frosting is a gel and then say that people can bring cakes and pies on a plane. A full sized cake or pie will normally have far more than 3.4 oz of frosting/filling. Why is it that bottled non-food liquids/gels have to be labeled with the weight and stuck in a baggie, while foods of any weight generally get through with just a trip through the scanner? I don't get this. If you generally let through an food regardless of weight, you can't suddenly say that the quantity of frosting was a factor in this decision.

Anonymous said...

Funny how TSA bans cupcakes, then Hostess delcares backruptcy...

::rae:: said...

If it comes down between some man child not getting to eat his little cuppie cake and security, I'm choosing security. Put it in your luggage to be stowed. It's refrigerated in the cargo area any way. Why would you attempt to bring an item no one identifies as a cupcake through security. People can't bring shampoo. Did you really think brown liquid in a glass jar dressed in a homemade label with a spoon was going to cut it? Please. Hope they trashed it just for the customers ignorance.

::rae:: said...

if it comes down to some adult being upset over a cupcake and my security I am choosing security. Did you really think that you could bring something that looks unfamiliar to what you say it is on a plane?! People can't bring shampoo and you really think you are going to get away with bringing a jar of brown mud disguised with a homemade label as a "cupcake" just because you say it's okay....HA! If you know the regulations are strict and you know you can check a bag, I would wonder why you are making such a big stink about CARRYING such an odd item on with you. Sounds suspicious.

::rae:: said...

its funny how so many people have opinions but only post anonymously. Stand behind your thoughts. Puting faces behind your words is what makes an impact. i think TSA was right but I just had to say that.

Anonymous said...

[I]Anonymous said...
Point 1: It was not a cupcake that was prohibited. It was a cupcake in a jar of icing.

Point 2: We don't know if the cupcake in a jar of icing was allowed through Boston. We only know that is what the passenger is saying.

It is okay to attack TSA, but please use facts when doing so.[/I]

Facts are that a CUPCAKE IN A JAR OF ICING, which MAY OR MAY NOT HAVE TRAVELED THROUGH BOSTON was confiscated by a TSO who used poor discretion. Especially considering the FACTS that he:

1) Referred to it as a cupcake

2) Treated it like a harmless cupcake (no EOD team summoned)

3) Blogger Bob and the TSA is backing up the fact that they all KNEW it was not an explosive product and not an explosive by continuing to describe it as "CUPCAKE" whenever they refer to in in news articles and even on this blog---complete with a picture.

The facts are it is what it is, and they knew what it was. It was a friggin cupcake for crying out loud!! TSA is backing up the fact that they confiscated a KNOWN cupcake, whether it was in a jar or not, and yet they're scratching their heads wondering why we (the public) cannot understand their stupid logic.

Anonymous said...

Can the TSA please publish the specifications for a TSA approved cupcake. I don't want any misunderstanding you know.

Anonymous said...

Get over yourselves. Please!

Have the person bringing the food/drink/etc drink or eat it.

Oh. BTW... What was your risk assessment of the person carrying this article? Start looking for terrorists and stop looking for bottles and cupcakes.
What a joke!

Anonymous said...

Would the cupcake been allowed through if it was frozen? From previous blog entries (Britney Spears' cup of ice & the diabetic's partially melted icepacks) I've learned that completely frozen liquids & gels are not dangerous. I'm not sure why ice is ok and water is not, but that's what the TSA says.

Anonymous said...

I sincerely hope that those complaining about this being "over the top" and "Stupid" are also complacent when an actual BOMB kills someone they love because this or some other incident causes enough of a stink to make the TSA "relax" their standards. Personally I say if it is suspicious then it needs to be sent via some other means. As my Grandmother told me on many an occasion, Tis better to be safe than sorry.

Anonymous said...

"Point 1: It was not a cupcake that was prohibited. It was a cupcake in a jar of icing. "

Are you saying that it was the icing that made the item a threat to aviation safety? This is what the legal profession calls a distinction without a difference.

"Point 2: We don't know if the cupcake in a jar of icing was allowed through Boston. We only know that is what the passenger is saying. "

Yes, we do know that it went through security in Boston

More than $8B/year, 60000 plus employees and the TSA can't determine that a cupcake isn't a threat. Ditto the same for a bottle of water.

The TSA embodies rank incompetence. Time for a reset.

It is okay to attack TSA, but please use facts when doing so.

Anonymous said...

"TSA didn't refuse to let a cup cake through. They refused a sealed jar that had CUP CAKE written on the label. Most of the bloggers don't see the difference and I'm glad they don't work for TSA. But they aren't concerned with security, are they?"

$8B/year, 60000 employees and the TSA can't determine if a cupcake is a threat. I'd say it's the TSA that isn't interested in security, just theater of the absurd.

Anonymous said...

To Anonymous:
Point 1: It was a cup cake in a jar WITH icing. Cupcakes normally come with icing - nothing suspicious there.

Point 2: We do know that cup cake came through Boston because other people traveling with the passenger corroborated the story.

It is ok to complain about people who are willing to stand up to TSA being over bearing but you need to have your facts straight. Clearly you are affiliated with TSA and have just provided a marvelous example of the analytical skill set belonging to TSA.

Anonymous said...

"I have noticed that rational people (who actually fly on airplanes) are in support of TSA."

Really? I fly something like 20 times a year and I know NO other frequent fliers who believe the TSA provides any measurable level of security. On the other hand, my colleagues are military (or retired military, most of whom support (or supported the Intelligence Community).

" It's all of the other people who just want to bash a governmental entity from behind their mighty computer screens that seem to have a problem."

Again, really? You're going to say the only reason that people who disagree with you and, I suspect, your employer want to bash a USG agency? Sorry, that's ridiculous. My group despises hypocrisy and lying both of which are in evidence with the TSA.

" People who have a problem with the TSA and want it abolished simply are a bunch of arm chair warriors with no travel experience or common sense."

Sorry but again, you're simply incorrect. Also, please don't make a comment like this to us in person. You likely wouldn't like the reaction.

" I'm thankful for the TSA and though I have been inconvenienced, it's a small price to pay for my safety and the safety of others."

It's good to be thankful for any number of things. I'm glad you feel safe. Given that 70% of contraband is missed by the TSA, that access to the SIDA is amazingly porous, you're feeling of safety has little to do with reality.

Anonymous said...

Why did you take Gizmodo's burritos? http://gizmodo.com/5875345

What is it about burritos or styrofoam trays that are a threat to aviation?

Didn't you learn anything about the cupcake incident?

Micah said...

Does Blogger Bob really believe the TSA's point of view here is defensible? I'm personally embarrassed for so many people involved in this story...

Anonymous said...

Have we all forgotten 9-11?

Anonymous said...

I have a serious question for those who are defending this insanity:

Two weeks ago I boarded a bus carrying a large opaque trash bag stuffed with laundry and a large bottle of detergent. These containers were large enough to conceal enough explosives to cause catastrophic damage in an enclosed compartment like a bus. Furthermore, there have been numerous instances in which terrorists have targeted buses.

Here is my question: How do you think my fellow passengers should have responded? Should they have fled the bus? Insisted that the driver perform a thorough search? Tackled me "out of an abundance of caution?". Or am I naive to think that it is ok to use a municipal bus to travel to the laundromat in the post-9/11 world?

Again, it is a serious question. I would appreciate a serious response.

Anonymous said...

It was my understanding the lady in question offered to remove the "Cupcake" from the jar. The TSA screener was unwilling to listen to reason. I also don't understand in this case the confiscation. I can understand if you won't allow the packaged cupcake to be taken onto the aircraft even though I don't agree with that decision in this case. But refusing to give the Lady her cupcake back?

Anonymous said...

I'm starting to think this cupcake incident is just a cover up for the soldier who was caught in Texas with the 5 pounds of C4. Normally that would be a "good catch", but the evidence indicates that the soldier carried the C4 through a TSA checkpoint in North Carolina on his flight to Texas. Why hasn't anything been posted about missing the C4? The C4 is more dangerous than a cupcake.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous said...
"I am a frequent flyer, and have never had my crotch groped...matter of fact, since I know the rules, I've never even had to have a pat-down."

The you are lucky to not have to wear any medical devices that cause you to alarm the scanner and get a pat-down. If you look through the posts on this site site you can find examples of people who always get a pat-down.

Anonymous said...

"Have we all forgotten 9-11?"

No, we all remember that cupcakes had nothing to do with 9/11, and that screening would not have prevented it.

Well, not ALL of us. Just those of us who don't work for TSA.

Jim Huggins said...

Rae writes: Why would you attempt to bring an item no one identifies as a cupcake through security. Clearly lots of people have identified it as a cupcake: the passenger, the screener, Blogger Bob, lots of folks.

Rae writes: If you know the regulations are strict and you know you can check a bag, I would wonder why you are making such a big stink about CARRYING such an odd item on with you. Simple. Stuff gets stolen from checked bags all the time ... especially since TSA insists on being able to open any checked bag at any time. Airlines specifically disclaim any responsibility for items stolen from checked bags --- even though it's probably their employees doing the stealing.

This points out one of the inherent contradictions in TSA/airline policy. TSA says "don't put stuff we can't screen in your carry-on". The airlines say "don't put valuables in your checked bags". What's a passenger to do when a passenger has something that is valuable and can't be screened? Checkmate.

RB said...

TSA has somewhere around 60,000 employees.

Can't just one of them step up and admit this Cupcake thing was a TSA mistake?

Anonymous said...

Why did you choose to confiscate some burritos but let C4 get through?


Burrito story: http://gizmodo.com/5875345/the-one-about-the-las-vegas-per-diem

C4 story: http://www.mywesttexas.com/top_stories/article_77d0d2ca-3642-11e1-ac08-001871e3ce6c.html

TSA rules on food: http://www.tsa.gov/travelers/airtravel/assistant/editorial_1667.shtm

What's the deal with you guys?

(screenshot taken)

RB said...

One common thing about TSA and any other large group, agency, business, or other such entity is that the organizations behavior and practices are a reflection of that groups leadership.

TSA has no reflection.

Anonymous said...

You're talking about a "thin layer of frosting" on normal cupcakes while showing a photograph of what is clearly a cupcake with a huge pile of frosting on top of it.

This security theater doesn't help me feel safer; it makes me feel hassled to the point where I don't fly anymore. Way to waste my taxdollars, TSA.

Anonymous said...

Using Bojinka to defend 3-1-1 is disingenuous. The one successful Bojinka bomb (PAL 434) used a smaller than 2 oz bottle of nitro. Clearly 3-1-1 would not have stopped it.

You defend the confiscation of the cupcake by saying "well, it was in a jar of stuff". But really, "TSA Bans Jar Of Frosting" doesn't sound a whole lot more sensible.

A simple explosives test would have been enough to confirm the contents of the jar were safe. Or a spoon.

The defense of one agents' actions in the face of the opposite actions of other agents at other locations defends the completely arbitrary methodologies used at TSA; that there are no actual rules because TSA agents have broad leeway on what to confiscate. Arbitrary enforcement and broad authority in the hands of civilian agents are signature tools of police states.

Anonymous said...

TSA has never caught one bomb. You should all be out of jobs.

Anonymous said...

We'd all dislike the TSA less if you'd quit trying to spin agents stupidity as good work... The agent made a mistake here, the cupcake was a cake. They could have swabbed the jar for explosives and found out. And if it was a banned item, why did two cupcakes just like it make it onto another flight, wouldn't that mean you're inconsistent and ineffective? Oh wait the TSA can't admit to that.


If the TSA were willing to admit to its mistakes instead of making excuses and claiming you're right, we'd have better security. The TSA needs to engage in an actual dialog with Americans, and quite frankly this blog ain't it. What you do on this blog is provide PR lies to cover for agents who are bad at their jobs and harass the traveling public. It's happened time and time again, first breastmilk gate, now cupcake gate. Stop insulting us.

I'm one of those people who thinks the TSA isn't completely pointless, but that many of its decisions are arbitrary and it allows for little public input and oversight. I'm not looking to simply bash the TSA and abolish it, I want the TSA to be more effective with less molestation. The only way to be secure is through an open dialog, open standards, and open scrutiny of the TSA's actions. Quit it with the strawman argument that everyone criticizing the TSA's actions wants us less safe... Any adult who has a highschool education knows this for what it is.

Anonymous said...

". As was pointed out by the letter writers, jam is jam, not a liquid or a solid"
--------
Wow! A new state of matter! Jam!
Last time I checked there were only 3 states of matter (4 if you count Plasma) Solid, Liquid or Gas. Which would you put jam under?

truthspeaker said...

Not to mention, checking a bag costs money.

truthspeaker said...

I've also gotten a pat down, because the ROC airport has strict rules about removing everything from your pocket before going through the full-body cancer scanner, but, at that time, they didn't post the rules anywhere. I was patted down because I went through the scanner with my wallet and a tube of Chapstick in my pocket.

Mary Forgione said...

Hi all. I just posted this on the L.A. Times Travel blog. A Rhode Island bakery is marketing a TSA Compliant Cupcake!

http://www.latimes.com/travel/la-trb-tsa-compliant-cupcake-20120112,0,1384418.story

RB said...

Anonymous said...
You're talking about a "thin layer of frosting" on normal cupcakes while showing a photograph of what is clearly a cupcake with a huge pile of frosting on top of it.
..............


OK, so how much frosting is on a cake which TSA via Blogger Bob says is allowed?

"Foods: Cakes, pies, bread, donuts, turkeys, etc. are all permitted. Printout 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.


Blogger Bob Burns
TSA Blog Team"

Anonymous said...

I appreciate this blog. The writer has a light touch, and nicely explains the rationale behind the decision not to let the cupcake jar through security. It was a judgment call made by someone who is trying to keep explosives off airplanes. Seems fair enough. Maybe the judgment was wrong, maybe cupcake jars can never be explosives in disguise. I dunno. But it seems like a fair call to me. Keep up the good work.

SilenceDogood said...

Man, Bob, you must've been sweating bullets thinking about how to defend the TSA's abject failure in detecting a real explosive getting through your "expert" screening procedures in Fayetteville, NC.

When cupcakegate broke you must've been so relieved to have something to discuss to distract attention.

How's about you explain why 1 cupcake on a return trip at LAS could be a dangerous bomb, but 2 on the same outbound trip from BOS are "delicious"? Meanwhile, actual explosives are flying from North Carolina to Texas. Why are your screeners so inept?

Anonymous said...

Have we all forgotten 9-11?

January 12, 2012 1:30 AM


If the lesson that we were supposed to take from 9/11 was that any policy that is justified by groundless appeals to our safety is reasonable and justified, then yes-- I have forgotten 9/11.

Anonymous said...

Check out this story! Makes total sense! Why CAN'T the TSA produce the alleged Cupcake Bomb?

http://www.stinque.com/2012/01/12/fatal-confection-at-large-in-the-usa/#comments

Anonymous said...

Rationalize all you want, TSA. The fact is, you're a gross waste of money for the actual benefit we get from having you.

Realize that this isn't about outrage over a cupcake. It's outrage over your very existence, that we the taxpayers didn't get a choice about. The cupcake is just the most amusing example of your uselessness at the moment, but if it wasn't the cupcake, it would be something else.

Anonymous said...

Rebecca, the "TSA cupcake lady" speaks on Bob's post:

"Now, this might seem a silly point for me to rebut, but I study media discourse professionally (I'm a media studies professor), and the TSA is misrepresenting facts ever-so-slightly. To me, it's a transparent attempt to sway public opinion. By offering a description that led a credible national news agency to believe the cupcake was "packed in a jar of icing," they attempt to position their agent's decision as understandable—even logical. However, the decision was anything but. Frosting is not a gel! And it does not magically become one just because it's in a jar. If the TSA says cakes and cupcakes are safe to fly, there should be no caveat saying, "oh, um, unless it's conforming to the shape of a container, like a glass jar!"

http://consumerist.com/2012/01/the-tsa-cupcake-lady-speaks-out-im-terribly-sick-of-talking-about-cupcakes.html

rdm said...

The moral of the story, for me, is:

Stay home.

...that way I do not have to deal with this nonsense. (Personally, I have flown about 100 times, and almost all of those flights were immediately before 9/11 and TSA. I am earning less money now, in part because I am not making those flights -- but I have a lot more free time, and I think I have made a choice which is good for me.)

PrometheeFeu said...

In the 11 years that preceded the TSA's liquid policy, nobody died. In the following 5 years, the TSA caught no bomb. However, if the plot is ever repeated, I can rest safe in the knowledge that if they find a bottle full of nitroglycerin, the TSO will toss in the garbage can potentially killing everyone at the checkpoint. When you have friends like the TSA, who needs ennemies?

Anonymous said...

I just love all the uproar over a cupcake when there is so much going on in this country that REALLY matters. Can we please stop beating a dead horse? Lets get on to bigger things that need to be worried about like some sort of election.

Anonymous said...

Please realize that if liquids are to be allowed again then anything over 3.4oz will need to be tested in some way. This means much longer lines and it will take so much more time to get through the screening area. It doesnt matter if you dont think that liquid explosives are a threat, the tsa does so thats that. The signs are clearly posted and people know it by now. Its funny how fast this has spread, what happened to complaining about real things?

Anonymous said...

Two weeks ago I boarded a bus carrying a large opaque trash bag stuffed with laundry and a large bottle of detergent. These containers were large enough to conceal enough explosives to cause catastrophic damage in an enclosed compartment like a bus. Furthermore, there have been numerous instances in which terrorists have targeted buses.

Here is my question: How do you think my fellow passengers should have responded? Should they have fled the bus? Insisted that the driver perform a thorough search? Tackled me "out of an abundance of caution?". Or am I naive to think that it is ok to use a municipal bus to travel to the laundromat in the post-9/11 world?

Again, it is a serious question. I would appreciate a serious response.


Okay, I'll play. I'm a road warrior who's had a couple posts in this thread defending the TSA in this case. I'll even resist the urge to match the sarcasm of your purportedly "serious question."

For starters, apart from the detergent, could the contents of your trash bag have fit into a piece of carryon luggage of the size now allowed onto airliners? If so, then that question has been answered.

As for the detergent, yeah, I suppose someone could blow up the bus. After all, there are no security checks at all, correct?

But I don't know of any buses that can carry as many people as a typical airliner, like for example a Boeing 757, much less a widebody. The practalities of airports and hub-spoke routing demands that, if you screen any commercial flights, you screen them all. So it's not a rebuttal to point out that some commuter aircraft carry fewer people than a bus.

Finally, I haven't heard of any buses used as weapons, as the airplanes were on 9/11. There was a truck used to deliver explosives to the Oklahoma City federal building, but it was filled completely with oil soaked fertilizer, and therefore not comparable to a bus carrying even a big detergent bottle full of liquid explosives.

That much said, one never knows what the future will bring. We'll do whatever we feel we have to.

So there's your "serious response," but somehow I don't think you were actually looking for one. If I'm wrong about that, great.

Anonymous said...

The 1995 plot was in 1995. And yet despite a death, the government did not feel this was enough to warrant a liquids ban (as others have pointed out).

The 2006 plot was nothing more than a plot. Lots of households have the alleged explosive item hydrogen peroxide, commonly used to bleach hair, disinfect cuts, and clean tile and grout. The search of their residence indicated that they didn't even know how to use binary explosives.

Anonymous said...

With these posters the gulf between knowledge of the subject and their reactions is vast. It’s obvious that the owner of the “cupcake” went on an immediate spin tour as soon as she landed and the ignorant bought into the whole thing, hook line and sinker.

The jar had a volume of greater than 3.4 ounces and it contained a restricted substance (paste). The flyer says it was a “cupcake”, yet she provides no proof of this. She says she offered to eat a portion of the product as an offer of proof that It was harmless. OK, most explosives are toxic, but how long would it take for her to become sick after eating that small portion? An hour? Two? When she was over Tennessee at 34,000 feet? If one takes an explosive like that on a plane it’s obvious that they do not expect to survive the flight (suicide bomber), so eating it does nothing to prove anything, they would not expect to live anyway.

There are many different types of explosives out there. Commercial or military explosives are called “High Explosives”, homemade explosives usually do not qualify for that category. They usually come in about at “low explosives” or “incendiary devices”, either of which are more than enough to bring a plane down and kill everyone aboard. All of them come in many different forms. Liquid, solid, paste, gaseous, slurry, metal (experimental as of right now), powder, and so on. And all of them can be made to look like something else, in most cases its child’s play to do so.

Multipart explosives also exist people. And yes for commercial or military applications they need to be mixed in a controlled environment. Terrorists care nothing for laboratory quality explosives, not if “good enough” will do and can avoid detection. “Good enough”, to kill, destroy, or maim. Good enough to help them make a political statement. Laboratory grade explosives are not needed to bring down a plane, only one that is “good enough”.

There is an old saying that many here should think about before they post. "Better to keep your mouth closed and be thought a fool than to open it and remove all doubt"? Many here have removed that doubt, voluntarily.

Christine said...

Ok, this is ridiculous.

If liquids are such a threat, why can I buy a giant bottle of water AFTER security and take it on the plane, but I can't bring my own?

If the concern is that my bottle might contain flammable or explosive liquid, here's an easy solution -- make me take a drink of it as I walk through security. You know, like you used to do before 9/11.

In this case, why didn't they just have the passenger open the stupid thing and take a bite? Ok, that might not have been much of an improvement over confiscation if it was intended as a gift, but it would have at least been a somewhat logical solution.

I'm all for security, and as a relatively frequent passenger, I appreciate the people trying to provide it. But I'm with the poster who commented on the futility of most of this crap, given that the real weapon is human ingenuity combined with a willingness to die for the "cause." If you divide items between multiple passengers, you can easily get all the materials you need on a plane to blow it out of the sky if you want to. My belt can be a weapon if I know how to use it as one. I can do some pretty good damage with a sharp pencil.

The reason the terrorists were successful with box cutters on 9/11 was that the conventional wisdom at the time said "don't resist." There's no way a plane load of people would let that happen again.

As long as stories like this occur...and similarly ridiculous ones like the time my federal agent sister was allowed to board with her gun -- but not her nail clippers -- TSA is going to look ridiculous and be publicly excoriated for every one of these stories. This went viral partly because it's so ridiculous...but also in part because it's so NOT unique.

Anonymous said...

I'll support TSA's justification. Only it is my understanding she boarded the outgoing flight from Boston with three of the cupcakes. And the only comment for TSA inspectors there was that they looked delicious. Hence, is the security breach at the Boston airport being investigated?

John C said...

I must admit I've never understood the thinking behind the 3-1-1 rule. People can get past security with large empty containers (or buy large containers past security and dump the contents). They are allowed to bring multiple 3 ounce containers; and multiple people are allowed to travel together. So does the TSA just believe terrorists don't know how to pour?

This is just another example of the same principle. Because the frosting was too think, it was disallowed. But had it been in seperate containers and then combined right past the checkpoint, well that would have been fine? The whole rule just seems silly to me.

Anonymous said...

WHAT ABOUT THE C-4 that got through?

Anonymous said...

"With food or bottles of water, why can't the screeners have the passenger take a bite of food or drink of the liquid. If thye don't fall over, they should be good to go."

Paying $8B/year, we should expect that the TSA can determine if a cupcake is a bomb or if water is a liquid explosive without having to do something this primitive.

Anonymous said...

"If liquids are such a threat, why can I buy a giant bottle of water AFTER security and take it on the plane, but I can't bring my own? "

The overwhelming majority of explosives are solids, so the question is why we "allow" solids on airplanes? And since bombs - solid or liquid-based - can be planted why we allow solids in the form of people on airplanes? The only way we can ensure aviation safety is to build a fleet of large unmanned air vehicles that fly from point-to-point without any humans or cargo on board.

Think of all the jobs we can create to engineer and build this fleet! Of course, we will continue to pay a huge fleet of TSA union employees to screen people through "security" before they are turned around and made to exit the airport without boarding an airplane.

Only in this way can we have the aviation security that so many crave.

Anonymous said...

"In this case, why didn't they just have the passenger open the stupid thing and take a bite? "

Oh, nice try. The TSA is on to you. A TSO in Great Falls imagined that a bomb could actually be formed by a human eating bomb components that would form an explosive in the passenger's stomach. Such an explosive would then be used to create mayhem.

Such a bomb is absolutely impossible but since it was imagined, it will shortly be TSA policy.

Anonymous said...

They were trying to save her from herself. If she ate healthier she wouldn't have to worry about it. Cup cake in a jar? Yuck, just the idea makes me sick to my stomach. As a security issue however, a gel like substance,ok,gross frosting (how do they know?) surrounded by glass in an explosion can cause a lot of damage. Good catch and good heads up TSA, well done. No way I let that mess on board.

Anonymous said...

"Please realize that if liquids are to be allowed again then anything over 3.4oz will need to be tested in some way. "

Why? There's nothing magical about 3.4 ounces, it's an arbitrary number the hysterical liars at TSA came up with. End the liquids ban and don't screen any liquids; the entire liquid "plot" that TSA keeps going on about was nothing but a bunch of guys talking about doing something. They had no explosives, they had no plane tickets, they didn't even have passports.

RB said...

Anonymous said...
I appreciate this blog. The writer has a light touch, and nicely explains the rationale behind the decision not to let the cupcake jar through security. It was a judgment call made by someone who is trying to keep explosives off airplanes. Seems fair enough. Maybe the judgment was wrong, maybe cupcake jars can never be explosives in disguise. I dunno. But it seems like a fair call to me. Keep up the good work.

January 12, 2012 2:00 PM

..............
Here's the problem.

That person had a reasonable expectation that the item they had would be allowed since it was allowed by TSA in Boston.

When not allowed by LAS TSA the person asked for the item back so they could eat the cupcake and was refused.

TSA has refused to provide the public with a list of rules that a person must follow to transit a TSA Checkpoint so it is impossible to know what may or may not be permitted.

The decision by LAS TSA caused a financial loss to a person without due process.

LAS TSA violated the civil rights of the traveler.

TSA is operating outside of United States law.

RB said...

The jar had a volume of greater than 3.4 ounces and it contained a restricted substance (paste). The flyer says it was a “cupcake”, yet she provides no proof of this. She says she offered to eat a portion of the product as an offer of proof that It was harmless. OK, most explosives are toxic, but how long would it take for her to become sick after eating that small portion? An hour? Two? When she was over Tennessee at 34,000 feet? If one takes an explosive like that on a plane it’s obvious that they do not expect to survive the flight (suicide bomber), so eating it does nothing to prove anything, they would not expect to live anyway.

There is an old saying that many here should think about before they post. "Better to keep your mouth closed and be thought a fool than to open it and remove all doubt"? Many here have removed that doubt, voluntarily.

January 12, 2012 7:58 PM

....................

Anon, ETD.

Explosive Trace Detection. A testing device TSA has at every checkpoint.

I suggest you adhere to your own advice in your last paragraph.

RB said...

Anonymous said...
Please realize that if liquids are to be allowed again then anything over 3.4oz will need to be tested in some way. This means much longer lines and it will take so much more time to get through the screening area. It doesnt matter if you dont think that liquid explosives are a threat, the tsa does so thats that. The signs are clearly posted and people know it by now. Its funny how fast this has spread, what happened to complaining about real things?

January 12, 2012 6:46 PM

....................

Perhaps you can answer my question since TSA seems unable to do so.

So a 20 ounce bottle of water is not permitted across a TSA checkpoint in a single container and because it exceeds 100 ml.

Yet I can decant that 20 ounce bottle of water into 6 individual 3.4 ounce/100 ml bottles (total capacity = 20.4 ounces or 591.5 ml) and place those 6 individual containers in a 1 quart zip-lock type baggie (and yes 6 3.4 ounce/ 100 ml bottles will fit in a 1 quart baggie).

What's the difference?

RB said...

So Bob, it is clear that TSA Screeners can identify a dangerous cupcake so what was the problem with the highly trained Fayetteville North Carolina TSA Screeners not being able to find and identifying somewhere between two and five pounds of C4 plastic explosives?

That really should be the current discussion issue.

Anonymous said...

"The practalities of airports and hub-spoke routing demands that, if you screen any commercial flights, you screen them all. So it's not a rebuttal to point out that some commuter aircraft carry fewer people than a bus."

Truly tortured logic. Hijackers are going to use explosives to destroy an airliner; hijackers are NOT going to gain control of an airliner as in a 9/11 style attack. That attack was facilitated by truly tragic government-mandated training that counseled airline crews to resist but ultimately give into hijacker demands. As is typical for the government, it addressed a long-outdated threat and failed to stay current.

But let's continue to analyze your reasoning, shall we?

Even a medium sized movie theater or banquet hall holds more people, say 1000, than even an Airbus A380. So to follow your logic, no one should be able to enter prior to screening. No one should be able to take in a bottle of water unless it can fit into a baggie. We will carefully screen the theater watchers (passengers) while we allow the theater crew (mechanics and baggage handlers) to move in and out of the theater (SIDA) with little oversight. It's all about security theater (pun intended!) after all.

"Finally, I haven't heard of any buses used as weapons, as the airplanes were on 9/11."

Then you're not paying much attention. Smaller buses have been used in both Iraq and Afghanistan to deliver bombs. This is precisely the problem mentioned above of addressing the last attack, not the current threat.


"There was a truck used to deliver explosives to the Oklahoma City federal building, but it was filled completely with oil soaked fertilizer, and therefore not comparable to a bus carrying even a big detergent bottle full of liquid explosives."

So you're saying that the bus in question was screened, baggage compartment, fuel tanks, etc? After all, the detergent bottle might have been a feint! Those working for the TSA should look up the word "feint" since it's a likely tool in the event of a piracy act.

"That much said, one never knows what the future will bring. We'll do whatever we feel we have to."

If by "we" you mean the TSA then, no, you likely won't. Legislation in Congress will curtail the amazingly ineffective and expensive foolishness of the TSA and replace it with effective security conducted by professionals.

"So there's your "serious response," but somehow I don't think you were actually looking for one. If I'm wrong about that, great."

I'll give you credit for a serious response (quotation marks not needed) but it's not a very effective one since it envisions continuing the status quo. Nearly $100B in spending on the TSA and it can't tell the difference between a water bottle and a liquid explosive? Senior citizens are forced to remove medical appliances in violation of TSA policy? Can't tell the difference between a cupcake and a bomb?

The issue isn't whether security is needed or not, a worthless ad absurdum argument that TSA employees here like to trot out. The issue is effective and efficient security. By virtually any measure, the TSA fails at that, perhaps no where more clearly shown than in the original post. "We'll do whatever we feel we have to do?" Leaving aside the statutory and Constitutional problems of such an arrogant statement, the problem remains: What the TSA "feels" it needs to do has, at best, a passing relationship with providing effective security.

Anonymous said...

Simply put,The TSA can't catch everything. Some people are smart and a terrorist dead set on destruction will find a way. The rules are in place to identify potential dangers and are in no way perfect or are the people trained to enforce them. If the item doesn't meet the criteria, its not allowed simple as that. They really can't make exceptions because your beloved Grand Mimaw just baked it just for you. Or what ever clever excuse is used or how cute its wrapped. Its still contraband.

RB said...

Anonymous said...
Simply put,The TSA can't catch everything. Some people are smart and a terrorist dead set on destruction will find a way. The rules are in place to identify potential dangers and are in no way perfect or are the people trained to enforce them. If the item doesn't meet the criteria, its not allowed simple as that. They really can't make exceptions because your beloved Grand Mimaw just baked it just for you. Or what ever clever excuse is used or how cute its wrapped. Its still contraband.

January 13, 2012 12:57 PM

................
Why was this Contraband allowed by TSA at Boston?

How much icing is on a standard size cake?

How much pie filling is in a standard size pie?

The TSA rules don't make any sense and the end result is that TSA and TSA employees come across even more stupid than people think.

Sensible security would be welcomed.

Stupid Security is what TSA does.

Anonymous said...

RB said…
Anon, ETD.

Explosive Trace Detection. A testing device TSA has at every checkpoint.

I suggest you adhere to your own advice in your last paragraph.
------
Nice theory RB, but ETD testing takes time, and people are already complaining about wait times being far too high. To ETD every liquid that comes through the checkpoint would add hours to the already high wait times, so instead of asking that you arrive at the airport 2 hours before your scheduled flight the TSA will be asking you to show up 4 hours early. Or 6.

I think the other Anon has it pegged about “removing all doubt”. Sounds like they know more about the process than you do, or are at least willing to make a rational response to what is already a large group of irrational and ignorant comments.

Anonymous said...

"They really can't make exceptions because your beloved Grand Mimaw just baked it just for you. Or what ever clever excuse is used or how cute its wrapped. Its still contraband."

Ah, so you're saying you won't follow TSA policy?

Anonymous said...

"With these posters the gulf between knowledge of the subject and their reactions is vast. It’s obvious that the owner of the “cupcake” went on an immediate spin tour as soon as she landed and the ignorant bought into the whole thing, hook line and sinker."

Yes, I'm sure that passenger is basking in his/her millions, having cashed in on this. Yet you provide no proof that the passenger was doing anything other than trying to expose TSA incompetence. Do you have any proof?

The jar had a volume of greater than 3.4 ounces and it contained a restricted substance (paste). The flyer says it was a “cupcake”, yet she provides no proof of this."

A TSO took a water bottle from me once, claiming that it was filled with a liquid, yet provided no proof that it was, in fact, a liquid.

Seriously, this is one of the dumbest posts I've seen apologizing for TSA incompetence in a long time, ranking up there with "Americans have no right to fly" that a TSO was peddling recently.

The bottom line is that with $100B spent on the TSA, it should be able to determine if a cupcake is a bomb or a cupcake. Likewise a water bottle. Suggesting anything else is making excuses for incompetence.

RB said...

Anonymous said...
RB said…
Anon, ETD.

Explosive Trace Detection. A testing device TSA has at every checkpoint.

I suggest you adhere to your own advice in your last paragraph.
------
Nice theory RB, but ETD testing takes time, and people are already complaining about wait times being far too high. To ETD every liquid that comes through the checkpoint would add hours to the already high wait times, so instead of asking that you arrive at the airport 2 hours before your scheduled flight the TSA will be asking you to show up 4 hours early. Or 6.

January 13, 2012 4:55 PM
................

I see that you are using the same clear thinking that is typical of TSA employees.

Who said every item or liquid needs ETD testing?

In this case it was one cupcake in a jar. Just a matter of a few seconds with the ETD test and the lady would have been on her way or detained for investigation by police.

Why is it that you TSA people can't admit this screening was bungled? Procedures are in place to test the odd item and determine if reason is present to take further action?

I have to ask again, what corrective action is being taken against the Boston TSA screeners who let two of these dangerous "Cupcakes in a Jar" through TSA security? Have the Boston screeners been relieved of their duties? Has anyone been fired?

If the action taken by LAS TSA was correct then clearly Boston TSA was wrong in its actions.

TSA can't have it both ways.

RB said...

Anonymous said...
Simply put,The TSA can't catch everything. Some people are smart and a terrorist dead set on destruction will find a way. The rules are in place to identify potential dangers and are in no way perfect or are the people trained to enforce them. If the item doesn't meet the criteria, its not allowed simple as that. They really can't make exceptions because your beloved Grand Mimaw just baked it just for you. Or what ever clever excuse is used or how cute its wrapped. Its still contraband.

January 13, 2012 12:57 PM
.........................
In the case of this "Cupcake in a jar" it was ok'ed by TSA in Boston.

So explain to us what changes happened to the item between Boston and Las Vegas that made it not ok by TSA.

Why did LAS TSA refuse to let the lady dispose of the item when she asked?

What happened was that LAS TSA stole the item!

Anonymous said...

"Nice theory RB, but ETD testing takes time, and people are already complaining about wait times being far too high. To ETD every liquid that comes through the checkpoint would add hours to the already high wait times, so instead of asking that you arrive at the airport 2 hours before your scheduled flight the TSA will be asking you to show up 4 hours early. Or 6. "

This precisely illustrates the problem. The TSA spends billions developing hardware that doesn't meet the true need. There is no reason that screening should use the outdated (and easily defeated) ETD. With $100B spent, screening should be easily, quickly and effectively accomplished; the TSA does none of these currently.

Dogs, for instance, take little time to screen materials. Unfortunately, the TSA has determined that it has no way to use its current screener crew to handle dogs; the skills are not present and can not easily be developed given the skill set used to hire them. Bet you didn't know that, did you?

Anonymous said...

"The rules are in place to identify potential dangers and are in no way perfect or are the people trained to enforce them. "

The problem is far more serious. The potential dangers are outdated - no terrorist is going to gain control of an airplane with a boxcutter, for example - and the people hired to implement the procedures are virtually untrained in security and non-standardized.

At $8B/year, we demand more. Change is coming via Congress.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous said...
...ETD testing takes time, and people are already complaining about wait times being far too high. To ETD every liquid that comes through the checkpoint would add hours to the already high wait times...

That's why you don't ETD "every liquid that comes through the checkpoint". You ETD the suspicious ones, and allow the ordinary stuff (water bottles, etc) to simply go through.

...Oh, wait, that requires the TSA use Common Sense. Never mind.

TSORon said...

Anonymous said...
[[That's why you don't ETD "every liquid that comes through the checkpoint". You ETD the suspicious ones, and allow the ordinary stuff (water bottles, etc) to simply go through.

...Oh, wait, that requires the TSA use Common Sense. Never mind.]]

methyl ethyl ketone – A colorless liquid, looks a lot like water.

Hydrogen peroxide - A colorless liquid, can look a lot like water.

Nitromethane - Typically a colorless liquid but can also be colored to whatever the user chooses, can look a lot like water.

Ethanolamine - A colorless liquid, can look a lot like water but is usually thicker, a bit like orange juice.

Tetraazidomethane - a colorless, highly explosive liquid. Looks a lot like water.

Hydrazoic acid - a colorless, highly explosive liquid. Looks a lot like water.

You tell me, if these all look like water, how do we tell the difference between what IS water and what only LOOKS LIKE water? And these are just a few of the possibilities, not a comprehensive list at all. 5 minutes on the internet with Google can give you more.

Anonymous said...

The point is, TSA did not know for sure that it was "just a cupcake" and not explosive material packaged to LOOK like a cupcake. As for testing it, that would require them to stick their chemical swabs into the cake. Would you really let your kid eat somehthing that has had who-knows-what chemicals exposed to it? I shure wouldn't.
I am EXTREMELY grateful that TSA is doing all they can to keep me and the rest of the flting public safe, despite getting little to no respect from the majority of the people. They work hard to keep those planes in the air and I guarantee that if TSA had let a bomb disguised as a cupcake onto the plane, these same people who are complaining about TSA "stealing" this cupcake would be the first in line to complain because they didn't stop it from happening. These same people who don't want to be screened themselves will be arguing "Why didn't they do more?" There is a word for these people: HYPOCRITES!

Anonymous said...

I know, we should just ban all "ordinary" items. After all, a bomb could be hidden in any of them.

Why allow us to fly with shoes? After all, there was a shoe bomber.

There was also an underware bomber. So perhaps underware should be bombed too. Now that's how I'd like to fly: a plane full of naked people. It should make screening easier.

Unknown said...

Wonderful, my tax dollars at work again. I have the nagging feeling that The Onion's editors rejected this story as too "out there" a few years ago, and now it's reality.

Anonymous said...

They should of just tried to hide it like a firearm or actual bomb and the agent would not have noticed it, thus preventing this entire situation.

Anonymous said...

Bob wrote: "just about any common appliance, toy or doohickey can be turned into a dangerous explosive"

So if many common items can be turned into explosives, shouldn't the TSA be confiscating all carry-on luggage?

If an intelligent and determined person wants to get a bomb onto a plane, they're going to be able to get it through security. Even if it involves a liquid; how difficult would it be to disguise something as prescription medicine, or to combine smaller quantities?

The alleged 2006 plot was stopped through intelligence, not gate security.

Anonymous said...

With or without the TSA's theater there will be another attack. Our foreign policy pretty much ensures this. The problem is that no politician wants to be in the position where Rick Perry-like they must say "oops." As long as the TSA is doing what it does the politicians' backsides are covered.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous said...
"... I guarantee that if TSA had let a bomb disguised as a cupcake onto the plane, these same people who are complaining about TSA "stealing" this cupcake would be the first in line to complain because they didn't stop it from happening."

I guarantee you are wrong. I know that the TSA can not prevent terrorist attacks on airplanes and if one happens what I'll be saying is "I told you so".

The people complaining will be people like you who were fooled into believing that the TSA security was actually doing something useful to increase safety. You will be upset when you discover that you have been lied to.

Anonymous said...

TSORon said...

[bunch of scary sounding chemicals]

1) Many, if not most, of those have distinct smells. A simple 'sniff test' would tell they are not water.
2) Many, if not most, of those are toxic. A simple 'make the passenger sip' test would reveal them for non-water.
3) ALL OF THESE ARE ALLOWED PAST THE TSA CHECKPOINTS... as long as the passenger pours them into 3.4 ounce bottles in a baggie first. This does absolutely NOTHING to change what they are, or how dangerous they (supposedly) are.

So, RON, why do these scary chemicals suddenly become perfectly safe when they are in tiny bottles???

Anonymous said...

TSORon, you forgot Di-Hydrogen Monoxide. All water, soda, and juice (even the stuff sold in the 'secure' area) contains quite a bit of it.

Some of the known perils of Dihydrogen Monoxide are:

-Death due to accidental inhalation of DHMO, even in small quantities.
-Prolonged exposure to solid DHMO causes severe tissue damage.
-Excessive ingestion produces a number of unpleasant though not typically life-threatening side-effects.
-DHMO is a major component of acid rain.
-Gaseous DHMO can cause severe burns.
-Contributes to soil erosion.
-Leads to corrosion and oxidation of many metals.
-Contamination of electrical systems often causes short-circuits.
-Exposure decreases effectiveness of automobile brakes.
-Found in biopsies of pre-cancerous tumors and lesions.
-Given to vicious dogs involved in recent deadly attacks.

See more at DMHO.org.

The TSA must stop allowing Di-Hydrogen Monoxide to get aboard planes!!

Anonymous said...

I want the SA to be defunded. Quit wasting my time, money, and violating my rights with this crap.

Anonymous said...

The first I heard of this episode was a link to this ludicrous justification. A TSA agent making a stupid decision based on ambiguous, stupid rules is one thing. A PR flack, at leisure, justifying that stupid decision is grotesque.

For all the people who think the security theater is justified, consider what the 9/11 episode really demonstrated:

1. Hijackers don't really need weapons to hijack a plane, because they can always improvise weapons, or just use their own bodies.

2. Hijackers don't need to smuggle a bomb onto a plane, because the plane itself functions as a bomb.

Anonymous said...

I Completely agree with the TSA Screener that this was not an appropriate item to enter a secured area. The fact that it is in a jar, has what appear to be multiple layers of unknown (possibly frosting) orgin. The fact that it was in a mason jar (sealed container) makes it further out of the ordinary.

As a frequent flyer, I sometimes get frustrated with delays, but I appreciate the due dillegence that the TSA is taking. I would be actually more disturbed if that HAD gone through the checkpoint un-notced.

Kudos to an alert TSA Screener!

I would have done the same thing myself if I was in the Screener's place.

---M

Anonymous said...

Desperate to justify the bloated budget and unconstitutional invasion of citizens' personal lives, aren't you?

Anonymous said...

"methyl ethyl ketone – A colorless liquid, looks a lot like water. "

...that has an extremely characteristic and unique smell. Most of us call it acetone when we're not trying to pretend we know something that others don't.

"Hydrogen peroxide - A colorless liquid, can look a lot like water."

That flies on aircraft every day in thousands of situations, normally as a 1% solution for treating wounds. In more dangerous concentrations, it's difficult to contain and smells horrible.

"Nitromethane - Typically a colorless liquid but can also be colored to whatever the user chooses, can look a lot like water."

Again, a huge odor.

"Ethanolamine - A colorless liquid, can look a lot like water but is usually thicker, a bit like orange juice."

Like water only not?

[a couple more but you get the idea - only a child could mistake any of these for water]

Can you point to the research that shows the chemicals you've referenced are safe in quatities up to 750 ml? I can easily put this much of these liquids in a quart bag and carry them through security. At what amounts are these dangerous?

Anonymous said...

Congratulation on protecting innocent travelers from an evil cupcake. This was almost as good as confiscating a ligtsaber or a 4-inch GI Joe weapon. Seriously, is this all the 1.2 billion agency can do?!?!

One question Bob, why would anyone bomb an airliner when (s)he can bomb a huge line at a TSA checkpoint? Terrorists are stupid, but I really doubt that they can't figure out easier way to spread chaos.

I think the government should create a well founded agency that will be responsible for protecting TSA checkpoints from terrorist threat. The agency would create a checkpoint before a TSA checkpoint so travelers are safer. But wait! We can do better, lets create a checkpoint before a checkpoint before a TSA checkpoint. Or simply lets forbid traveling...

Anonymous said...

Apparently one may complain here. I formerly flew regularly but now I avoid airports altogether. Was it having still-sealed toothpaste confiscated? Or was it being threatened for complaining? It is easy to avoid that threat.

If airports become unAmerican, then this is how a terrorist wins, by disrupting our American freedoms and right to travel. I lost a friend on an airplane on 9/11/01, but I see no reason to lose courage and have the terrorists watch us scurry like cowards.

There is not a particularly fine line between adequate and overbearing security procedures. In any possible imagination, could this cupcake have allowed a 9/11 terrorist to take over the cockpit of an airplane? That is what we are trying to avoid, is it not?

Anonymous said...

How in the world are there still so many people that *support* the TSA and their actions? This is one agency that needs to be defunded, disbanded, and written about in history books as "those dark days of US travel." All they give us is security theater (look it up-Bruce Schneier coined the term and makes a great case for the uselessness of the TSA), NOT security.

For myself, I have chosen to drive halfway across the country to visit family for the past few years instead of getting on a plane, because I will not subject myself to the TSA and their ridiculous "security". What a disgrace to the citizens of the United States. A great many someones owe this country a great many apologies.

Anonymous said...

This entire agency is a waste of money and an assault on civil liberties. I am not and never have been afraid of terrorists. I am afraid of an agency that would engage in this kind of behavior.

Anonymous said...

Maybe if someone had paid the proper amount of attention to the Bojinka Plot in 1995, we wouldn't have had 9/11 six years later.

Anonymous said...

You're defending this move? Wow... just wow. TSA rules are an embarrassment to the United States. We are not safer because of them. It's laughable security theater that does nothing more than annoy and delay people. You're still around because politicians are terrified of being seen as soft on terror and security, so it's on with the show! For every right that's curtailed and every useless, expensive hassle that's added to our lives, terrorists get to chalk up another victory. Way to go.

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