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:

1 – 200 of 421   Newer›   Newest»
Anonymous said...

You are seriously defending this? You people are insane.

RB said...

The cupcake in question was neither a liquid, gel, or aerosol.

The cupcake in question was also ok in Boston, in fact two cupcakes were ok.

The container the cupcake was in could have been tested for explosive components. Was it?

Making excuses for stupid acts by some TSA employees just creates more distrust of TSA and its employees.

Anonymous said...

No way I'd let that thru.

Anonymous said...

If this cupcake was so dangerous, why were two of them allowed to travel on the outbound flight? The TSO in Boston allowed two cupcakes to pass through security and onto the plane. I have a similar question about the soldier who carried 5 lbs of C-4 from NC to Texas, but was stopped on the return trip.

Also, if liquids are so dangerous, why did a TSO at ATL dump a bin full of 15-20 partially filled bottles into a normal trashcan right next to me? Isn't that a safety hazard? What if those had been explosives? Of course we all know that they weren't explosives. Anyway, what is stopping multiple people from carrying the allowed amount of liquids through the checkpoint and combining them later?

I hope the TSA continues confiscating cupcakes and childrens toys. It only makes the TSA look worse. I keep seeing less and less "anything for security" people. A lot of people are realizing the TSA does little for actual safety and security and just provides an illusion of security. Hopefully soon we will have sensible security that doesn't humiliate people and violate the constitution.

Anonymous said...

Cakes on a Plane!

Anonymous said...

Bob,

Thanks for clarifying that. I'd heard of the cupcake incident but didn't have all the details. Now that I do, I see why it was not allowed on the aircraft. Yeah, it was cute but it could have been deadly also.

Anonymous said...

Well at least you quit ignoring the incident, but it is disheartening that your response is to maintain that your employees can refuse to allow passage (resulting in de-facto confiscation) of any arbitrary item for any arbitrary reason with no recourse by the passenger. Way to go. :(

As for "Every officer wants to finish their shift and go home with the peace of mind that they kept potential threats off of airplanes," did the "officer" involved (who has since been named in the press) really believe he had kept a potential threat off of an airplane, or did he believe that he had demonstrated his and TSA's power over an innocent citizen, making an example of them?

If the cupcake went into the trash, or if the cupcake went into some TSA employee's mouth, then the supervisor did not believe it was a threat. It was just a power trip. If they had really believed it was a threat, they should have and would have called over law enforcement to deal with the threat and arrest the passenger.

ccipeter said...

Although sometimes the tail wags the dog when it comes to 'security', the public has to acknowledge that the word, 'screening', may refer to a window screen. It allows air, sunshine and rain, but not most insects, birds and elephants. If we knew in advance that an elephant wanted to jump through our window, we'd either leave the house or trap the beast.

Anonymous said...

Bob wrote: "...if something doesn’t seem right, there is always the potential you won’t be able to take it through."

Or if something just looks delicious, the screeners will be more than happy to steal it - I mean, "accept its voluntary surrender."

EM JM said...

Shame on the media for not reporting the complete facts. Typical though for the media to only report the excerpts of the facts that help them sell their wares.

Anonymous said...

Bob, we all know that the 3.4-1-1 policy you can't be bothered to tell the truth about is nothing but an hysterical overreaction to a purely aspirational plot that had no chance of working. Shame on you for lying and shame on you for stealing cupcakes.

Anonymous said...

Say, Bob, when are you going to share some independent, peer-reviewed research that supports your liquids policy?

Anonymous said...

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...,

If the officer was concerned the cupcake might be a bomb, he or she should have swabbed the jar.

If the "officer" didn't swab the cupcake, he or she couldn't have been that concerned about it being a bomb.

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.

So what you are saying is that if someone wants to disguise a bomb as a pie, they will have better luck getting it on the plane if it looks like a "normal" pie, rather than a "newfangled modern" pie.

The lack of logic and common sense employed by the TSA is staggering.

whitefoote said...

A valid question has been raised that should be addressed. What was done with the suspicious cupcake? Was it disposed of in the trash next to the TSA officer? If it really was a potential threat based upon the possibility of it being combined with another liquid/gel to create an explosive, wouldn't those items 'mix' or at least come in contact with each other in the waste bin? Does the TSA 'throw away' C4 explosive if confiscated? I have had my toothpaste and my shave cream thrown away in the trash can next to the TSA agent because it was in too large a fluid ounce container. If this really was a threat then why was it not handled appropriately? I can only surmise that it was recognised as not being a threat, as were my liquids/gel, and thus truely should not have been confiscated.

Anonymous said...

This is done purely for the safety of everyone traveling.

Yet it had no effect on the actual safety of everyone traveling.

And that's the problem with the TSA. A culture has been allowed to develop such that no matter how dumb a decision a TSO makes, it is defended "for the safety of everyone traveling"

Pedro Velazquez said...

I knew there was more to the story. Unfortunately, this explanation won't go viral and alleviate the bad impression that the cupcake story caused.

Anonymous said...

Actually, liquids explosives were known to exist as early as 1994 when they were used to a kill a passenger on 12/11/94 on Philippine Airline flight 434.

Since this was in all the newspapers at the time, why did it take TSA until 2006 (twelve years after the events in Philippines and four years since its creation) to ban liquids from planes?

The current liquid and cupcake ban seems more like kowtowing to political hysteria rather than a sound and rational security practice and policy.

Anonymous said...

Bob,

I did not really care about the cupcake incident until I read your defense of the action. The defense of the 311 rule, which was created as a temporary measure over 5 years ago and has no end in sight, is based on two failed attempts that occured before the rule went into effect. No evidence of the effectiveness of the 311 rule has been provided, nor has their been evidence presented that indicates a tangible threat still exists. All you presented was theories of what could possibly happen, I guess the real proof is SSI.

Fortunately, this rule must be effective, as there have not been any further liquid bomb plots agains air travel. In fact the 311 rule at TSA checkpoints has been so effective, that there have been zero terrorists attacks in the entire US that relied on liquid explosives in the last five years. WWith evidence like this, I should be happy the TSA checkpoints at airports as they are keeping me safe when I drive to work, shop at the local grocery store, or have a daring meal at a restaurant.

Not Scared of Terrorists

RB said...

Pedro Velazquez said...
I knew there was more to the story. Unfortunately, this explanation won't go viral and alleviate the bad impression that the cupcake story caused.

January 9, 2012 3:56 PM

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

This TSA fairy tale story shouldn't go viral.

Blogger Bob has only proven that using common sense is an impossible feat for a TSA screeners.

A cupcake is not a threat regardless of how it is packaged.

Testing methods were available to determine if the item was a threat.

The problem was not the cupcake but TSA!

Anonymous said...

"Shame on the media for not reporting the complete facts. Typical though for the media to only report the excerpts of the facts that help them sell their wares."

There was no information presented here that was not available in the media. Perhaps you should have read more than the headline if you were interested in this story. If you did read a complete article and was still unaware that the confiscat.. oops I mean voluntarily surendered cupcake was in a jar, then you need to read more than one source.

Did you also read the headline "TSA finds shotgun shell in man's carry-on‎" and not read enough to know that what the TSA actually found was an empty shotgun shell containing no gunpowder, projectiles, or even a primer. In other words, a TSO refused passage to a person for carying an expended shell. I guess I was fortunate that when I flew home from my grandfather's funeral the TSA did not notice the expended rifle shell I picked up after the millitary honors was completed.

Russell said...

Hi Bob,

Think of a cherry pie made from canned cherries and all of that delicious dangerous GEL!!! You're letting pies through? Based on the gel ratio pies are far more dangerous than cupcakes.

Anonymous said...

the 3.4-1-1 rule is actually a compromise that was made by tsa. if you remember there was an absolute ban on all liquids after the initial incident. the tsa came up with the 3-1-1 as a compromise for the passengers so that they could bring some liquids on board. then shortly after that they compromised again and made it 3.4oz as most euro products are sold in 3.4oz containers. so as many of you want to criticize the tsa, they have in fact changed the liquid policy twice since the original ban. and as usual there are no liquid restrictions in checked luggage as long as it doesnt fall under faa hazmat regualtion.

Anonymous said...

The TSA administration and policy makers need to become familiar with the following terms:

False Positive
False Negative
Type I Error
Type II Error

Until the TSA can understand these concepts, can articulate their meaning, and can fully understand the role of these concepts in security, then you will never be able to understand and appreciate the public's frustration with current TSA operations in cases such as this cupcake.

To simplify, stop labeling every ambiguously classified object as a security risk. This was a cupcake, not a threat.

Anonymous said...

Your liquid ban is robbing me of my right to public transportation. My medication is something I can not risk being irradiated or scrutinized.

Anonymous said...

My teens are afraid to fly. Not because of the threat of terrorism, but the threat of the TSA and the Xray cancer machines. My son is supposed to go on a school trip to Philly and Washington DC but is petrified of the TSA, so now is telling me he doesn't want to go. How sad. How tragic for our country to have become a police state. Ben Franklin is rolling in his grave that we have given up liberty for a bit of theatre under the guise of safety.

Anonymous said...

"so as many of you want to criticize the tsa, they have in fact changed the liquid policy twice since the original ban. "

So what? They changed a pointless and stupid policy to another pointless and stupid policy.

Anonymous said...

Bob, does it make you all warm and fuzzy inside to know that your job as spokesman for the agency on the front lines of keeping the nation's skies safe from terror is reduced to writing a post about, Cupcakes?

Just checking.

[Screenshot captured. This post does not violate the blog terms of service.]

Anonymous said...

We are NOT kept safe by the TSA. What nonsense.

What? Did the TSA have actionable intelligence concerning the potential for explosives being smuggled in cupcakes?

Please.

We can save a little money and not hire bloggers.

Anonymous said...

Oh, no! The Cupcake of Terror! I suppose we should be glad you didn't pass it through your machines and turn it into a radioactive Mutant Cupcake of Terror.

This sort of total nonsense is the reason I stopped flying two years ago. Well, that and that I really don't need to be groped or irradiated by strangers.

AK-VStrom said...

"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."

Wow. I never thought I'd say this, but you are spot on in the quote above, Bob. Unfortunately, that is the reason why so many of us, myself included, are so frustrated with the TSA. You are busy trying to keep any item that can be used as a weapon off of airliners, when in fact, there is only one *real* weapon in the world, and there is absolutely no way to keep it off of passenger airplanes. You see, the human mind is the only real weapon. If I am wearing a belt, I have a weapon. If I have a magazine, I ran roll it up into a weapon. I can use a t-shirt as a weapon. With a little creativity, people can use just about any object within reach as a weapon, and that is why TSA will always fail to keep passenger airplanes "safe". Unless passengers are stripped naked, shackled, and anesthetized during the flight, there will always be something that a "bad actor" can misuse to inflict harm on another.

Can we PLEASE just face the fact that leaving our homes entails some amount of risk, and consequently stop this pretense that irradiating and groping travelers will somehow remove that risk? Let's return some sanity to airport screening. Using metal detectors to keep Rambo knives and firearms off of airplanes was sufficient. Confiscating cupcakes is just absurd.

Anonymous said...

«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.»

Bob, since you have thoroughly looked into this incident, please also tell us what ended up happening to the confiscated item. Was it tossed into the trash? Or were its contents tested for explosives?

If the TSO confiscated the item because he believed it to be a bomb, then why was law enforcement not called over to deal with the passenger?

Going viral on the Internet seems to be the only way to show off the farce of an agency that is your employer.

[Screenshot captured. This post follows the terms of service, and there will be consequences if this post is censored.]

Bob said...

The fact is that these extremely dangerous cupcakes were allowed to depart from Logan, clearly putting hundreds of lives at risk. What action is being taken against the obviously incompetent TSOs that allowed them through in the first place?
Either the cupcakes are potentially dangerous and not allowed, or they are potentially dangerous and your Logan TSOs are incompetent and put people at risk. It has to be one or the other.

Anonymous said...

Bob,
Did the TSA photograph the actual cupcake in a manner similar to the items in your weekly "look what we found" post? If not, why not?

Anonymous said...

I clicked on your link "The 2006 foiled liquid explosives plot". This is what I found interesting in that linked article:

On 18 September, retired Lieutenant-Colonel Nigel Wylde, a former senior British Army Intelligence Officer with decades of anti-terror and explosives experience, declared the plot to be "fiction". He said the explosives in question could not possibly have been produced on the plane. "So who came up with the idea that a bomb could be made on board? Not Al Qaeda for sure. It would not work. Bin Laden is interested in success not deterrence by failure," Wylde stated. He further suggested that the plot was an invention of the UK security services in order to justify wide-ranging new security measures that threaten to permanently curtail civil liberties and to suspend sections of the Human Rights Act of 1998.

amulbunny's random thoughts said...

How many TSO's take cake, pop, peanut butter and jelly through the checkpoint every day for their lunch?

How do you know (wait.. they've gone through rigorous background checks and we know how that works out) that they wouldn't give contraband to a contact past security?

Makes no sense Bob. None at all.

Laura Monteros said...

I've made plenty of cakes and cupcakes in my life. Icing is NOT a gel. It is almost entirely sugar and fat (usually vegetable shortening or butter). Maybe a little milk, flavoring, and color--but definitely not a gel.

Some decorative icings used for writing are gels, but these likely would weigh in under 1 oz.

Maybe instead of defending this agent, the TSA ought to give their employees a basic cookbook.

One of the big problems with the TSA is that they check their common sense at the door.

Anonymous said...

This shows how poorly TSA folks are trained. Explosives come in every consistency, but TSA only worries about liquids. And TSA makes many exceptions that if this threat was real, the exception could be exploited.

I really feel sorry for Bob Burn, he has to know how stupid the TSA decisions are. But it is his job to defend them.

I guess this is his military training coming through.... Do what the commander tells you, even if you believe the commander is as dumb as a bucket of rocks.

Anonymous said...

Icing falls under the “gel” category.

Icing falls under the “gel” category.

Um... no.

"A gel (from the lat. gelu—freezing, cold, ice or gelatus—frozen, immobile) is a solid, jelly-like material..."

"Icing, also called frosting in the United States, is a sweet often creamy glaze made of sugar with a liquid such as water or milk..."

Completely different.

...this cupcake had a thick layer of icing inside a jar.

In general, cakes and pies are allowed in carry-on luggage


So, a pie (that's potentially 3 pounds of liquid/gel explosive in a crust) is perfectly fine, but a few ounces of frosting is verboten? Thanks, yet again, for the reminder you provide nothing but Security Theater.

Every officer wants to finish their shift and go home with the peace of mind that they kept potential threats off of airplanes.

I think you mean "Every officer wants to finish their shift and go home with a piece of a cupcake..."

They’re not thinking about whether their decisions will go viral on the internet – they’re thinking about keeping bombs off of planes.

Then maybe that's what they should do. And leave the cupcakes (jarred or not) alone.

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.

And how, exactly, do you dispose of this 'dangerous' object? Call the bomb squad? Dispose of in a remote steel dumpster? Or casually drop it into the trash?

Your casual disposal of these 'dangerous' items proves that you are perfectly aware they are not actually dangerous. This is not a secret. It is blatantly obvious. So, since you know these things are not dangerous, and we know you know they are not dangerous, and you know we know you know they aren't dangerous... why not just let us keep them??

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.

So, what, exactly, "didn't seem right", so that this cupcake was disallowed? Was the screener hungry that day, maybe miss his morning snack?

Anonymous said...

"whitefoote said...
A valid question has been raised that should be addressed. What was done with the suspicious cupcake? Was it disposed of in the trash next to the TSA officer? If it really was a potential threat based upon the possibility of it being combined with another liquid/gel to create an explosive, wouldn't those items 'mix' or at least come in contact with each other in the waste bin? Does the TSA 'throw away' C4 explosive if confiscated? I have had my toothpaste and my shave cream thrown away in the trash can next to the TSA agent because it was in too large a fluid ounce container. If this really was a threat then why was it not handled appropriately? I can only surmise that it was recognised as not being a threat, as were my liquids/gel, and thus truely should not have been confiscated."

I can only conclude that you are unaware that the TSA conducted extensive peerreviewed research to determine that ordinary human stomach acid renders weapons of mass destruction completely inert.

Anonymous said...

Boston TSA agent said OK to letting the Cupcake fly.

Why?

Especially if it is so dangerous!!!!

Or was this an excuse to explain that one TSA agent was hungry for cupcake.

I wonder what is the real reason the cupcake was seied?

Anonymous said...

There's a disconnect in all this stuff that's collected. You've got piles of stuff sitting in bins and trash cans, right next to the checkpoint. If this stuff is too dangerous to be on the plane, than it should be too dangerous to be sitting in the screening area.

Anonymous said...

So I suppose the TSO weighed the icing and found it to weigh more than 3.4 ounces? No? Or did he use one of those explosive detector swabs? No? Why didn't he?

I'd bet he ate it after his shift.

TSA needs to go. Now!

christopher wayland said...

This information is too late. This would have been helpful while that girl was appearing on shows and tweeting. Pedro is right, this will not go viral. TSA needs to address PR disasters while they are happening not weeks later.

Anonymous said...

I would like to know why you didn't follow your own policies and chose not to scan this dessert for explosives.

Jim Huggins said...

Short version: cupcakes are permitted, except when one lone TSO says that they're not.

What a wonderful way to treat the passengers that you rely on to serve as your 19th layer of security. (sigh).

TSA needs to invert the way it thinks about security. Right now, everything a passenger wants to bring through a checkpoint is declared contraband by default, and the passenger has to prove to the TSO that it's not --- with no recourse or chance of appeal. It ought to be the other way around: TSA ought to have to prove that a given item is dangerous to deny passengers the ability to bring it through the checkpoint.

Anonymous said...

Please note, the incident in 1995 was before, LONG before, TSA existed. Our skies were safe after that and cupcakes made it through just fine. In 2001 no liquid explosives were used on 9/11. In 2006, it was obvious liquid that was attempted, but caught way beforehand. Not at the gate.

Your excuse is just that, an excuse.

Anonymous said...

Please stop calling it "a cupcake." You can absolutely take food onto a plane, but presented in a gel fashion, absolutely not. Those are the rules, and I'd rather have one lady's day ruined than a plane full of people plus their families and friends.

ALL suspicious items are destroyed. No officer is allowed to take items home. That is such a silly question to even ask, and even further proves how little the public knows about the TSA.

Tha TSA isn't going anywhere. Know what you're getting yourself into if you choose to fly.

And, please, do your research.

Eula said...

I'm sure glad you used small words like 'newfangled' and 'doohickey' so your explanation would be nice and clear for all of us dopes who think this is almost as low as TSA intelligence gets. I agree with the first poster: you guys are all insane.

Anonymous said...

the tsa agent wanted the cupcake to eat.

SciMjr2 said...

Okay, this makes NO SENSE and Russell makes one of the best points here!

By its own admission the TSA lets cakes and pies through security, correct?

Well, what is inside some cakes and all pies? FILLING! Usually in a gel-type form!

Sooo ... how do you reconcile that? A 10" Apple pie is okay but a jar with the same filling inside isn't? Huh???


*** PLEASE LISTEN BLOGGER BOB AND ANY TSA OFFICIALS ***


THAT is the TRUE problem with the TSA! It's not the rules and regulations that frustrates people ... it's the fact that they float and every TSA agent can write their own rules!

Why is it that one agent lets my nail clippers go but the next confiscates them and treats me like I'm an Osama look-a-like?

Anonymous said...

Thus the reason why TSA is the butt of late night comedy jokes.

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. Certainly, if that were to happen there would be just as much criticism, if not more. "How could this have happened?" It's a tough job and although stricter security has changed our lives forever, I am one traveler who is grateful that you continue to do the job even when it ticks us off.

mrflight said...

RB:

It does not matter if the cupcake is essentially not an explosive or a threat. TSA agents are not allowed use officer discretion at some airports(per management) so many agents follow the rules of LGA strictly(in fear of losing their jobs0,if they allow something to go through security, they may be reprimanded or fired for their determination that an item is not a threat. That is why certain things are allowed at certain airports and others they are not

Anonymous said...

"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."

It was a baked good in a jar. How much clearer did that need to be to the TSO?

So, you're essentially saying that a TSO can deny access to anything he pleases, even if it's immediately obvious to anyone with half a brain what it is.

Anonymous said...

I fly often and I would rather them be safe than sorry. If that means taking cupcake in a jar (wherever that came from) so be it. I want to get from point A to point B safely, which is their main priority, and sometimes that means taking things that look suspicious. Sorry this woman couldn't enjoy a cupcake in flight, she can go get another one for goodness sakes. It's not that big of a deal.

Anonymous said...

It worries me that every time the TSA and its employees do something stupid like this cupcake incident that they never take responsibility for there actions. They do the normal "Our employees can do no wrong since after all we are trying to protect you". With the way they keep pushing the boundary i am amazed more people haven't stopped flying. Like a few others have asked did the TSA worker take that cupcake with them when they went on break?

Anonymous said...

Thank you so much for defending us. I appreciate your thoroughness. While it may have been disappointing for this passenger to have to leave the cupcake in a jar behind, it is better to be overly cautious when safety is concerned.

Again, thank you.

Measi said...

It's not "Sweet." It's an appalling over-reach of security by the TSA. This was done as a power trip, nothing more.

The cupcake was a food. It's a solid, not a gel. Even in icing form, it's still a solid.

All this does is reinforce how power-hungry and abusive the TSA is to American citizens.

Anonymous said...

First off no matter what you say I still think that the whole incident was idiotic. Secondly I cannot fly with that policy in effect since i take eye drops for glaucoma and must take them 2 times a day or go blind.

SSSS for some reason said...

Do I understand your policy correctly? We are allowed to take something on a plane until you tell us it isn't allowed.

And any of you are allowed to tell us it isn't allowed at any time you choose regardless of what was allowed before and what may be allowed later.

And if we ask why something isn't allowed you can't tell us because then the terrorist would know how to kill us all.

And you can change any of these rules whenever you think necessary to keep those same terrorists from figuring out how to kill us all, without telling us you changed the rules for the same reasons.

Seems simple enough.

I can think of an even simpler solution? Get rid of the TSA.

Anonymous said...

You TSA are just abominable. If you're going to violate our 4th amendment rights, at least do so with some modicum or intelligence. DUMB.

joshualemar said...

I find this amazing because I travelled from HNL connecting in DEN then onto YYZ with 8 cupcakes and about 16 FL OZ of icing. No one said a thing. It was checked briefly because they saw the cupcakes and asked for one but nothing else. This trip was less than 9 days ago. I find the consistency of TSA to be questionable. Does this not reflect poorly on your performance as a s"ecurity organization" if you can keep my cupcakes off the plane and I clearly had way over the amount of permissible gel if icing counts. The best part was that it was in entire separate container not even on the cupcakes. It wasn't confiscated. Please I'd love to hear the flexible excuse.

Anonymous said...

ANONYMOUS SAID...My son is supposed to go on a school trip to Philly and Washington DC but is petrified of the TSA, so now is telling me he doesn't want to go. How sad.

The SAD part here is that as his parent you did not provide him or help him research his options, choices and /or the benefits of being screened. Has he read about 911 , have you told him how people died, have you explained thee actual or imagined dangers of the AIT, what have you done to calm these fears that I am certain came from you and nor from him. Children are the product of their home environment perhaps it is you that are scared and he is feeding off that. Take some time and read up in the technology, take some time to teach him and have him read the TSA website so he can know what his choices are once he gets to the airport. Being a bit over zealous, being a bit too cautios, being a bit too over the top with screening is far better than letting your chikd go on a plane that allows anyone and anything on board...just take a moment and ask yourself would you rather he go on a plane with knives, guns, unknown substances and have no luggage or persons cleared or would you rather watch him get on a plane that was screened by people who are just tryi ng to do thier best at keeping your child and mine safe.

Anonymous said...

""...if something doesn’t seem right, there is always the potential you won’t be able to take it through."

What didn't seem right about this? Sorry, Bob, this is just the poor behavior of either a badly trained or power-tripping TSO. This will be taken care of when we privatize the TSA and introduce security professionals.

Anonymous said...

First they came for the baby-terrorist (http://www.nytimes.com/2010/01/14/nyregion/14watchlist.html), but I did not speak up because I was not a baby-terrorist. Then they came for the cupcake terrorists, but I did not speak up, because I was not a cupcake terrorist. Then they came for {...}, but it was too late, we were all branded terrorists.

Anonymous said...

Cupcakes bad. C4 good.

Anonymous said...

"Icing is a gel"

We were told multiple times that this story was bogus because cakes and pies are allowed in carry on. Cakes are commonly covered in frosting, so, as usual, the TSA lied to us about what is allowed.

This is why the public has an issue with the TSA. The passenger followed published guidelines and had their property confiscated and destroyed. Afterwards, the TSA said that everything was normal.

"The screener used his discretion." - this covers almost every misapplication of the rules. How is anyone supposed to bring anything onto the plane when the rules are ambiguous and cannot be predicted?

Until going through TSA screenings is not an exercise in randomized humiliation and frustration the TSA will continue to be hated by its customers.

Anonymous said...

That you think your blog post justifies the outrageousness of TSA's action highlights just how ignorant and overbearing this bureaucracy has become. Sorry,Bob,but arbitrary rules aren't rules at all. They're nothing more than permission to usurp rights at will.

Anonymous said...

After the World Trade attack, I don't blame you for being very cautious. However, I am sure the cupcake actually smelled like dessert should, not like some icidious explosive. So give your head a shake....no wait...don't do that because the grey matter inside may be explosive.

Anonymous said...

TSA failed to test the cupcake and refused to return it for immediate consumption.

So the TSA obviously can confiscate items that go untested and therein lies the incongruity and the incredulous feelings the public shares.

Cupcakegate is only the beginning of the end.

Anonymous said...

It is not just your "critics" who think this is silly, citizens like myself who appreciate your service to this country think it is more than silly. It is a violation of those things that make this a great country.

This is exactly the type of incident that gives every intelligent and professional TSA officer a very bad name. It shows a complete lack of judgment by the officers and supervisors and your defense if just perpetuates that bad judgment.

When we were young, we were taught to say "my bad" when we did something stupid - and then were expected to learn from our mistakes. It is time TSA learned from their mistakes rather than providing a poor justification for them.

Anonymous said...

TSA, get a grip!

You have done nothing since your inception but create a climate of insecurity and fear through your absurd "security theater"! Oh yeah, that's your real job, right? Stop it!

And, *as if* i believe that i am "anonymous" to the TSA blog ... Hah!

I Will Not Fly!

Mike Toreno said...

"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."

That's the key. The reason the screening clerk "couldn't be exactly sure" that the cupcake was a cupcake is, was that he was too lazy and inattentive to pay attention to what it was. It wasn't it was *impossible* to know what it was, it was that one particularly lazy and inattentive screening clerk didn't know what it was.

When is the TSA going to start firing people for being lazy and inattentive? If you did that, your "officers" would be "exactly sure" of what something is a lot more often.

If the TSA had hired a screening clerk who cared about doing the job properly, *that* screening clerk *could* have been "exactly sure of what something is*.

Anonymous said...

The website http://peabody.patch.com interviewed Ms. Hains. She claims she offered to eat the cupcake on the spot. Yet the "cupcake" was confiscated anyway. If the TSA agent had his suspicions, why did he not follow through? Is C-4 edible?

Anonymous said...

I am so thankful for TSA. Since they have been screening there have been no bears, elephants, or skunks boarding planes.

I feel so safe in the airports in the USA knowing there are such highly trained people who always know what is best for all Americans.

But there is one thing that they can not fix. Defending "stupid" does not fix "stupid."

Flying in some other parts of the world is definitely more pleasant because people are still treated with dignity while security is also maintained.

However, TSA is not alone. Immigration and customs officers can also be some of the worst representatives of the USA when meeting foreign tourists to the USA. Tourism is big business in the USA but apparently TSA has not been so informed.

Do these agencies have classes in how to avoid using common sense and decency

Anonymous said...

Why should we give TSA screeners the benefit of the doubt? Why not give that to American citizens, who have rights, who live in a supposedly free country? It's a CUPCAKE! It doesn't matter whether packaged in tinfoil or paper or a jar. It is a cake with frosting. Your rules say it should go through. Your screeners should be obligated to follow clear rules, not their own gut instinct. You reported nothing new. Rebecca showed the jar in every interview. And thanks to your people, Wicked Good Cupcakes is doing a booming business!

Anonymous said...

You wonder why airlines are going broke.. since when has there been an attack on domestic flight by an American citizen? Non citizens are the ones the TSA should be watching..

Glenn said...

I bet it tasted really good too didnt it?

Sunshine All Day Long said...

I'm from Texas and we know bull excrement when we see it. You can't fool us. The TSA is completely out of control. When will the TSA get trusted travelers so Americans don't have to continue to sacrifice our civil liberties? I am taking my child to Disney soon and we don't want to be felt up by the pervs at the TSA. We are afraid to fly because we are afraid of the TSA.

Anonymous said...

Terrorism Sanctioned by America---TSA

bones said...

The T.S.A. should read the 4th amendment in the constitution rergarding searchs, respect peoples personal rights and freedoms and stop acting godlike! Wise old Ben Franklin said " He who would give up their freedom for their security...deserve neither." I agree! Why should alquida try to terrorize us when we let the T.S.A. do it for them!!!

Anonymous said...

this is stupid icing is not a gel use common sence

Anonymous said...

The real crux of the problem is that the TSA leadership does not want to have to rely on the intelligence of its employees to make any type of decision and sets policy in adherence to that. If they were serious about ensuring 0% risk for flying they could simply ban all flights that carry people. Their concept of zero tolerance that led to this ridiculous action is similar to the zero tolerance policies in schools that have led to so many ridiculous actions. I suppose it's indicative the trend of "dumbing down America" that our school and TSA administrators are responsible for these absurd incidents. Only those with no common sense would try to justify "one fits all" attempts at policy.

Anonymous said...

Thanks TSA for not taking things for granted!

Anonymous said...

This is done purely for the safety of everyone traveling.

No, that's an excuse that you use to emotionally manipulate people so that you can rationalise your insane actions.

There's nothing to prove that any of these silly actions make anyone any safer.

That you'd defend removing a "potentially dangerous cupcake" shows how idiotic and nonsensical this pretend security has become.

Seriously. This all needs to end.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous said...
"My teens are afraid to fly. Not because of the threat of terrorism, but the threat of the TSA and the Xray cancer machines."

You should be proud of your kids - they seem smarter than many adults. Maybe you could encourage them to write to your congressmen about their concerns. They could learn about how our government operates (or fails to operate).

Personally, I avoid flying for pretty much the same reasons.

Anonymous said...

This is just another TSA Power Trip

Anonymous said...

I have a couple of questions:

Why were two cupcakes allowed through security in Boston?

How was the cupcake disposed of? If it is potentially dangerous, was the bomb squad called in to properly dispose of this cupcake? If the TSO could not determine if it is a dangerous item, why wasn't treated as an explosive out of an abundance of caution? It sounds like it was simply thrown into the trash, which must mean it's not dangerous.

Diane said...

The 3-1-1 rule is idiotic. Do you realize that you *can* pack for a week's trip with just a carryon, but trying to bring your toiletries for that time, fills MORE than a dang quart size ziplock. Its really stupid.

Anonymous said...

The only threat I could see in the cupcake would possibly be diabetes.

That thing looks delicious!

eberg said...

I can't say much but...wow! Everyday i come to work and couldn't be more proud of the job i do! Thank you for the "real" support...on the other hand...NO COMMENT!

queensoapbox said...

I just read that TSA uses discretion in their comment posting policy, wonder if you have enough nerve to post my comment!

Anonymous said...

I can't believe you're actually trying to defend this bone-headed decision.

All because of a stupid, silly "plot" in 2006 that never had a chance of succeeding.

Besides, planes can't really be secured. Too many people have access, and the turnaround times are much too fast.

Anonymous said...

There is no defense for this. TSA, we are the citizens, we pay your salary. Its your job to serve us. And we say this is an outrage.

Anonymous said...

"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?"

Wow. Do you realize that by that logic, we should all be travelling with no baggage, naked?

This paranoid insanity has to end.

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.

Anonymous said...

@My teens are afraid to fly

I am no frequent flyer by any stretch, but I have had no problem the the TSA in any of my journeys. Follow the guidelines and there will be no issues.

As for the cupcake in a jar, I had no idea what that was until I actually saw a picture. Seems to me it falls under the 311 rules.

Anonymous said...

I wonder how many Twinkies are allowed -- the cream filling in two or more most likely violates the 3 oz limit! (Plus they would get squished in the 1 qt ziploc bag!)

Adrian said...

Of course, the 100 ml bottles in a 1 qt baggie rule would have been ineffective against the Bojinka plot, since the (highly unstable) liquid explosives were placed in bottles of contact lens solution--contact lens solution is exempt from the freedom baggie because it's for medical purposes.

So not only is the rule an irrational reaction to past terrorist failures, it wouldn't even stop exactly the same plot.

Anonymous said...

TSA rules are clear when it comes to liquids and gels. They are only to be tested if they are needed for infants or medical reasons. There is obviously not enough time to test every liquid or gel that is brought through just because someone wants a snack. Get real, the people employed by TSA are doing exactly what they have been instructed to do. Had this TSA officer let that go on the plane, then they would be the subject of another article stating their lack of competence. Is there no winning? Just because the container was made of glass does not give the officer permission to TEST it...the passenger would have needed to have that cupcake for medical necessities.

Anonymous said...

What is the volume of the jar that contained the cupcake? It looks like it is much less than 1 quart per the picture you posted. If the jar is less than 1 quart, wouldn't that be acceptable or would it need to be placed in a zip lock bag? Would it have been acceptable to separate the frosting and place it into 3.4 ounce bottles?

Anonymous said...

I'm glad the TSA actually had the spine to come out and defend this instead of caving to all the whiners out there. In all my years of commercial air travel, I've never had anything confiscated from me. Don't take anything on the plane that you don't NEED during the flight. I'm tired of people getting up and climbing over me to get their bag of Cheetos, Moutain Dew, stuffed animal, and blanket out of the overhead compartment. I say limit everyone to one carry on and the heck with everything else.

Anonymous said...

Sorry Bob, but I think some of the TSA needed a cupcake fix. While they're confiscating the delicious confections (thanks to reruns of "DC Cupcakes" and "Cupcake Wars"), people are running around with C-4 in their bags. Which is deadlier: C-4? Or cupcake mix?
Focus on the stuff that can actually *kill* people, not make them obese.

Of course, this could all be part of Mrs. Obama's plan to force everyone to be healthy. If so, wow...

Anonymous said...

There is no way that should have been allowed on a plane. Get over it -- if you don't like it, get your own plane!

Anonymous said...

I fly regularly and have been more than hassled by the TSA, however I do it.. I allow them to swab my hands, fondle my rings, belt buckles or whatever else they see fit. They have even confiscated my bubble bath. I know the rules and why they are administered and the bottom line is that these rules are to protect my safety. I say that anyone who wants to 'try' to get around the rules can certainly give it a shot, however it is up to the discretion of the TSA who are trained to protect the passengers. I RESPECT the authority of the TSA, though they have been rude to me. They do not know me personally. For all they know, my bubble bath or cupcake can be something else. Surely someone with ill intent would not do as wiley coyote... and be obvious in their attempt to harm others, as they would find themselves instantly in custody. Get a clue people. You're only in your own way when you argue this issue... that is... if you ever fly on a commercial plane.

Anonymous said...

"and as usual there are no liquid restrictions in checked luggage as long as it doesnt fall under faa hazmat regualtion."

Wrong. The TSA blog carried a story about fish being detected in a large container of water in checked luggage. The bag was removed.

DJ said...

typical. "The bottom line is, our policy allows you to carry this item, unless our screeners decide you can't."

And even if the screener's decision is nothing more than gut feel, TSA corporate is going to support it.

it's nice being accountable to no one, isn't it?

Peter R. Wood said...

Grow up, TSA.

tape said...

"Icing falls under the 'gel' category."

This statement is completely asinine.

"This is done purely for the safety of everyone traveling."

And this statement is recognized as a joke by anyone who is a mentally functional human.

Why does the TSA still exist again? They're certainly not making anything more secure.

Anonymous said...

The passenger stated that she had traveled through Logan Airport checkpoints with the offending jar, with no problems.

Will your co-workers be reviewing the tapes to see which TSOs screened the passenger at Logan, so that they may be reprimanded for letting through contraband?

Anonymous said...

Any item confiscated by the TSA security for exceeding the "3-1-1" rule should be treated as a potential explosive. After all, that is my understanding for the rule, to prevent possible explosives from being carried on to an aircraft. Call the bomb squad and have them determine the hazardous nature of the item and dispose of the product safely if necessary. On the other hand, if the product is determined to not be explosive or hazardous material, let the passenger continue with the cupcake. By the way, how much icing/gel is on a 12" birthday cake? I do not want it confiscated the next time I go through security.

Anonymous said...

The TSA is a joke, and this action is just proves it. What a waste of taxpayer money.

Anonymous said...

If something doesn't "seem right" then expect a problem. A cupcake in a wrapper or tupperware - OK. Cupcake in a jar=dangerous!!! That's total crap.

It should have been swabbed and let through.

But it was confiscated. Not voluntarily surrendered. The woman was not allowed to have it back (she could have eaten it or checked it). But it was apparently deemed to dangerous for that, despite not even being swabbed.

(screenshotted)

RB said...

Bob, how much frosting and filling would you think is on and in the average cake?

How much filling would you estimate is in the typical cherry pie?

In TSA's Bizzaro world would one regular cupcake be ok? Two? A dozen? Face it the amount of icing is going up with each added cupcake.

You have posted some pretty outlandish stuff for TSA on this blog but I think you have reached a new low for yourself with this one.

Anonymous said...

"Every officer wants to finish their shift and go home with the peace of mind that they kept potential threats off of airplanes."

I call B.S. TSA officers are poorly trained and mainly there, like police officers, to harass the general public. If this "TSA officer" was truly concerned about the passenger then he could have tested the cupcake for explosives like they do TONS of items (such as Air Casts) that go through the airport. However, in this case, he decided to flaunt his authority over the general public (part of that poor training I mentioned) and instead threw it out. Power tripping is not the sign of appropriately trained officers.

The first comments make a good point. If these things are truly things to worry about why are they discarded in a public forum where, if ignited, they would do far more damage then on the plane itself. If you can throw it out in the airport it can go on the plane. Think about it (only keep in mind the TSA would prefer you not...cause when you think...they look bad).

I would also like to make the comment that where there is a will there is a way. You haven't been able to stop prostitution and you probably won't stop someone from getting something on a plane that they are truly determined to bring on the plane. In the face of adversity we find innovation.

Anonymous said...

WOW, you folks use no common sense at all.

Anonymous said...

The "Return On Investment" for the tens of billions of dollars spent on the TSA is essentially zero.

I certainly do not FEEL any safer.

I do not believe the TSA actually MAKES us any safer.

There are so many holes and flaws in the system that you should blush to accept your paychecks.

pienoceros said...

That makes much more sense. I suppose the people who simply called it "a cupcake" were being deliberately disingenuous.

CliffOnTheRoad said...

Some of the comments deserve a response from you guys, including the "tested?" and "how was the cupcake disposed of?", or at least a rethink by the TSA.

Corrections needed; the 3 in 3.1.1 WAS 3, and as far as I know, it was me who alerted TSA via email that domestic toothpaste tubes were 3.4 oz. and they soon thereafter revised the textual description.

2nd hand info: Some items (wine) cost $10 a pound to be disposed but other stuff is just thrown out (thankfully.) However, I've seen 2 sealed jars of peanut butter confiscated; I was more upset than the owner. Want a list of stupid decisions?

I was stupid (ignorant) about a 110 volt power drill and almost lost it. But TSA agent explaination was "you might unscrew something on the plane." That was in line with my 9-16-11 loss of a piece of rope "you might tie up the pilot."

I'll put the "drill" paragraph into the "off topic" blog because there's so much more than the cupcake bomber topic to comment on.

I partly agree with Anonymous' comment: ... he had to demonstrate his and TSA's power over an innocent citizen. Plus, the 2006 reference was thought provoking.

"When all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail" is akin to "TSA screeners enjoy exercising their power."

mikeef said...

Ya know, if once, just once, you admitted that there is a possibility that one of your "officers" overreacted, we might have the slightest willingness to give you the benefit of the doubt.

As for the disposal of the cupcake, I still do not see anything on here to indicate that it was placed in a proper container. Thus, I have a new plan: Every time a TSO confiscates (Yes, CONFISCATES) an item and does not dispose of it properly, I am going to inform a LEO or airport manager. After all, isn't the new rule, "If you see something, say something?"

Anonymous said...

If you do a google search for "Check point bomb" you will find that all over the world where we have real threats of bombs, the security checkpoints themselves are targets.

Why are we banning cupcakes (even if in a jar) from planes, but not treating them as actual bombs unless we know they really are not bombs?

Why do we at most airports pack people in large groups as they line up to go through security if we are really worried about bombs? Are we not making them a target for a bombing should anyone actually choose to bomb something?

Obviously we don't really think these things are real threats. Why are we pretending that we are?

Anonymous said...

TSA rationalizations have gone from bad to pathetic. Utterly pathetic.

Anonymous said...

I'm sorry that my taxes are paying for your wages to defend and do this. This is stupid and the TSA is not protecting American's. It is harassing and groping Americans.

End the TSA.

Anonymous said...

I think it would make more sense to test such items instead of discarding them. The technology is in place. I understand it would be time consuming but this would be better customer service. Maybe a special testing line or someone assigned just to test such things. There are plenty of whackos out there so I do understand but instead of angering folks why not test the items in question. Best wishes!

Anonymous said...

I think the TSA agent was probably correct in his interpretation of the rules. That doesn't mean the rules weren't just as stupid as any other "zero tolerance policy" where people aren't permitted to use discretion and common sense, but he followed the rules the way he was told, and I can't really fault him for that. I can fault the TSA itself for having such a ridiculous policy that a man fears losing his job over not taking someone else's cupcakes.

Chris said...

Wow. If this is how they're treating icing, I'd hate to come through with a sandwich sporting mayonnaise.

Anonymous said...

So we should not go online and talk about these situations of bizarre policies on the grounds that it may hurt the TSA agent's feelings? How about this - reverse the policies (which don't work) and then people will stop writing about them. Problem solved.

William Teach said...

So, let me get this straight: Blogger Bob is making light of the fact that TSA is completely out of control, and isn't smart enough to realize that it is a cupcake carried by a middle aged white woman who in no way fits the profile of someone who would blow up a plane?

Perhaps if TSA would use a little more common sense, like they did in Boston, the public wouldn't be outraged by their overreach. But, power corrupts.

Anonymous said...

"Icing falls under the “gel” category."

If it falls into the gels category, why do you feel the need to quote it...as if it really DIDN'T fall into that category?

Anonymous said...

TSA did the right thing. It should have been caught the first time. If they really wanted there cupcake then CHECK IT! simple! If you dont want to be scrutinezed by the TSA then dont fly. Common Sense.

Roby said...

Please, it is not a doohickey, it is a doohinkey. Doohinkeies, as everyone knows, are explosive whereas doohickies are not. Please keep your terms correct so as not to confuse the traveling public.

SER said...

Discretion would be removing the offensive "gel" (which is not what icing is) and allowing the cupcake to be transported. The TSA officer's actions are typical of the incompetence that typifies government bureaucrats in general and TSA employees in particular.

Anonymous said...

I would be very interested to know when the last time an actual terrorist plot was foiled by the TSA. Not "woman accidentally packs knife in carry on" or "marijuana smuggled into water bottle" but an actual Al Qaeda or other terrorist operative trying to carry out a plot but stopped by TSA screeners.

Every time there's the slightest, minor incident where the TSA stops something like a knife in someone's bag, a press release is issued and the media alerted, so I think it's safe to assume that if there was an actual major plot foiled, it would be HUGE news that the agency would want to trumpet far and wide. What could be better for their credibility and to reassure the public that they are, indeed, keeping us safe?

So why haven't we heard about this? Ever?

Anonymous said...

TSA, really ?

From a cupcake ?

You have got to be kidding !

Anonymous said...

The TSA, a part of US Homeland Security, is blogging about cupcakes passing through airport checkpoints. It would be funny if not so utterly pathetic.

Hopefully average Americans will elect leaders in November that believe departments like the TSA should address real issues concerning a majority of Americans like radiation health concerns and privacy instead of silliness like the cupcake story.

Anonymous said...

I would appeal to every one reading this to contact their representatives and have the TSA disbanded. Other than circular proof, there is no evidance that would stand to any measure of peer review that the TSA has accomplished any thing to improve your safety. Remember the underware bomber? He made it through TSA screening with no effort and it was citizens that stopped him. TSA is a WASTE of tax payer money.

Anonymous said...

TSA the fact that you wouldn't let this on is bad, the fact that you are defending this is worse. You have become the agressor and are viewing the American people as the enemy. It is time for you to go home and stop making war on us.

Anonymous said...

In the private sector this would be considered a failure. TSA failed to see that the cupcake was harmless and not a threat.

tramky said...

This explanation does nothing to quell the underlying problem with the TSA. The argument remains the same: the ends justify the means. I would like an estimate of the annual total value of items confiscated by TSA at airports in the United States, by category: food items, real firearms & ammunition, bladed objects, liquids, toys, replica firearms.

We need to understand the economic damage done by the TSA to Americans.

It is not enough to convince yourselves that because a commercial airliner did not blow up today, that TSA has done a good job, or that its mission it acceptable. You get PAID money and receive retirement pensions for what you do at TSA--we the flying public have our property stolen from us under financial and legal threats of every agency of the Federal government AND by the airlines. It is mass coercion, in the end literally with a gun to our heads.

When we go to an airport the Constitution of the United States no longer applies. And we know that the guns are there.

eileensideways said...

this is so insane. a cupcake? really? yet i was allowed to fly with an EpiPen, a syringe filled with epinephrine, and no one at any airport questioned it. gimme a break.

Anonymous said...

Aviation continued for over a decade after the Bojinka plot without any absurd overreactions like banning all liquids and without any planes falling out of the sky due to liquid bombs. Food for thought.

Also, the device used in the "test" (that did result in a fatality) for the Bojinka plot more resembled wet cottonballs in a contact lens solution bottle than a cupcake, tube of toothpaste, sports drink, peanut butter, or any number of other liquid/gel/aerosol items TSA insists on banning.

Oddly enough, neither contact-lens solution nor wet cotton balls are prohibited by TSA's war on water. More food for thought.

Anonymous said...

I recently traveled to Paris, Amsterdam, and Scotland. The airport screeners were thorough and professional. I felt more secure getting on the plane.

Here, the TSA folk and procedures appear to be a joke. Arbitrary rules and procedures, people who do not seem to know what they are doing, and then doing it badly.

I do not feel more secure, just insulted and violated.

Anonymous said...

Until "We the people" address these outrageous issues with our elected officials (i.e., Congress men & women, and Senators), we can continue to have our 4th amendement rights violated. Sitting on the blog and complaining to "Bob" the talking head will not do any good.

Write your representatives in DC, then attend town hall meetings and have them take action, or have them removed from office. Belittling "Sideshow Bob" is pointless. Your vote as well as who is in office does matter. Elect someone that will work for you, and not just to get your vote!

Anonymous said...

A few years ago I was escorting an exchange student through security and TSA personnel confiscated a jar of JIF peanut butter that was found in her carry-on. He politely explained it wasn't allowed and apologized. On my way out of the airport he allowed me to pick it up and take it home (I later mailed the jar to her through USPS). I feel the cupcake in a jar should be held to the same expectations and there's no need to get all butt-hurt about the situation. Just because a small percentage of people do not wish to cooperate with the rules (I'll admit to believing that many of them are silly and unnecessary) doesn't mean that they are empowered to make everyone else waiting in that 2-hour-long-security-line listen to them complain about how TSA should make an exception for them because they're "special".

Joshua Cohen said...

Wait, this isn't a joke? That is really your defense? Instead of owning the fact that your TSA agent made a mistake, which would raise the stature of the TSA in the eyes of Americans for being mature enough to admit mistakes and move on, you turtle up and defend this ridiculous action by citing the 3.1.1 rule? Thank you for confirming what most American's believe, the TSA is a group of power hungry morons who can't get hired with any other LEO in the country. The screener who extorted the cupcake from this citizen, did she eat it and does she weight over 200lbs?

We think you are clowns because you act like clowns.

J. K. said...

You don't professionalize until you federalize....what a joke. Please put the safety of all American travelers back into the hands of people that can be rational, not minimum wage wannabe power mongers.
DO YOU WANT FREEDOM OR DO YOU WANT SECURITY? The more security you get the less freedoms you have.

Anonymous said...

So how is the TSA going to deal with the serious security lapse that occured at Logan when, per your agent's statement, "the officer (screener) there did not do his job?" Like with the purse with a revolver-like emblem on it, which flew one way just to be banned from the return flight, obvious irregularities and the defense of one action without correcting the error that such a defense clearly indicates, that undermines the trust and confidence of the public in TSA's performance and procedures.

Ayn R. Key said...

It's Still a Cupcake!

Oh for crying out loud...

Ayn R. Key said...

By the way, why did you reference the 2006 plot as support for your failed policy?

The plot involved a bunch of people sitting around saying "yeah that would be cool." They had no recipe, they had no plane ticket.

In other words, there was no 2006 plot.

Curtis, tell the truth. I know it is possible for you to do so, even though it is against the SSI policy manual.

Anonymous said...

In all fairness, a canned cupcake labeled a peanut butter "surprise" is a little disturbing.

Anonymous said...

Let's face it, folks... this will not end until we agree to exchange our clothes for officially supplied disposal paper clothes, and change in a room full of sensors to detect any threat. That will have to include x-rays, as one could have a bomb surgically implanted in the stomach cavity, or replacing a bone. If we're lucky, we get our clothes back at the other end...

Anonymous said...

I have not gotten on an airplane since the last millennium
Thanks for ruining The USA, fascist government. I do not feel safe from my own government and it is doubtful if I will ever get on an airplane.

Anonymous said...

So the justification is that since this product didn't conform to the established norm for such products, it was a threat.

I guess that means that the argument that bureaucracy stifles innovation is correct!!!

Headmistress, zookeeper said...

TSA let me through untouched with:
A massive bottle of pepto bismol (I forgot I had it)
A letterman knife (likewise, forgot it was in my purse, TSA didn't even see it).
A wad of cheese (my daughter is multiple food allergies and can't eat airplane food)
a bag of olives

You know what TSA did not let through?

My handicapped child's leg brace.
My handicapped child- she's four feet tall, looks about 8, wears a diaper and functions at the level of a two year old, she cannot speak, was in a TSA provided wheelchair because her disabilities make it tough to progress through an airport in timely fashion, and while I was taking off my shoes and comforting another of my children TSA had reduced to tears over a travel bottle of bath bubbles that was not in a ziplock bag, TSA whisked my disabled child off BEHIND MY BACK without my permission, stuck her in the glass explosion booth and walked off.

I chased them down (without my shoes)and tried to explain to them that developmentally she functions at the level of a two year old and they cannot treat her like the age on her card (21 at the time). I didn't then object to her getting a special screening, my issue was the danger they placed her in by taking her away from her mom, putting her in a booth and walking away. She easily could have decided to leave the booth and would not have understood commands to stop.

Your stupid, stupid TSA agents kept telling me she wasn't two, she was 21. They would NOT listen to me about her disabilities and lack of understanding. Eventually another employee showed up who had the grace to blush, be ashamed of your idiot workers, and apologize, although he still insisted her leg brace be removed and her person wand searched. Afterward, I realized your idiot TSA employees probably had no clue what DEVELOPMENTALLY the age of TWO meant and I should have used words of one syllable- like Law. Suit.

Their inability to understand 'developmentally the age of 2' does not instill me with confidence in their ability to discern a cupcake in a jar from a bomb. I don't think they could discern their own.... well, you know where that's going.

That is the LAST time I flew. It is the last time I will ever fly until somebody fixes the idiocy.

Anonymous said...

There are two main issues to this story:

1) Why did TSA allow the "potentially dangerous" cupcakes on the outbound flight?

2) If the confiscated items are so potentially dangerous, why does the TSA just dump them into garbage cans next to the screening area?

TSA is a joke to most of the public because their policies are arbitrary, inconsistently enforced, and often just ridiculous. The TSA needs to respond to the real issues and not hide behind blogs about "newfangled" cupcakes and top 10 "catches" of the year.

Anonymous said...

As a certified road warrior who had flown on one of the planes subsequently hijacked on 9/11, I support the TSA's action in this case.

I don't like the security checkpoints, and in particular I don't like "3-1-1." These things seriously degrade the flight experience. But they are rational responses to real threats.

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.

There is one requirement that I think is irrational: shoe removal. It started with the guy who wore gasoline-soaked shoes onto a flight from Paris. He was stopped from getting onto a flight the first time, but then inexplicably released and then inexplicably allowed onto a second flight by what had to have been the dumbest security agent in all of Europe.

I don't think every airline passenger in America should have to be punished for that one stupid European security agent's stupid error. Repealing the irrational removal requirement would make a huge positive difference.

I would also like to comment on some of the other comments. Some of them are quite a bit over the top, especially the one about "the x-ray cancer machines." If that commenter's teens are afraid to fly, just wait until they actually do their homework and compare the extra solar radiation they get at 35,000 feet vs. whatever they get in a security scanner.

Anonymous said...

Pathetic. This is called scare mongering, that's all you're doing. It is not evidence or empirical. You trust manufactured food but not home made food. This trust is dangerous and you refuse to acknowledge it. This demonstrates that even when you have a security you can't seem to analyze it and understand it.

I hope the Republicans win and cancel your entire program. At least that will be one silver lining of their reign.

Anonymous said...

Cigarette lighters prohibited. Matches, however, are just fine. I guess bomb fuzes lit with a lighter are just a whole lot more dangerous than one lit with a match.

Anonymous said...

The TSA is out of control and needs to be 100% DEFUNDED. America is sick and tired of the abuse and kabuki theatre of so called security being played out so the dems can get the public used to being abused and having their rights trampled in addition to having a few hundred extra thousand fed union employee votes!

Anonymous said...

My son is supposed to go on a school trip to Philly and Washington DC but is petrified of the TSA

Mission Accomplished!

Anonymous said...

Just fly naked. I’m never flying again. I won’t be leaving this country and don’t take “vacations” so it’s not worth the hassle.

Did I ever bother to tell the story of how the TSA let me on the plane even after finding actual explosives on my person with those swabs they use? I told them I was re-packing all my gear that was in my truck when it got blown up in order to mail it home(the actual truth by the way, I was still in a wheelchair from my injuries) and it took them all of 10 seconds of muttering between themselves before they let me on the plane with no further questions or checks. I was literally covered with gunpowder(from all the ammo in the truck that got damaged) and high explosives residue (from the IED itself) because I was sorting, folding and packing all of my junk hours before my flight.

In the end the TSA agents made the correct call, I’m not a terrorist or a murderer, but how would they know that?. I just thought it was very odd and decided that would be my last commercial flight. Granted, I had orders and a military ID backed by a semi-plausible story, but they didn't even ask a follow-up question.

When I flew over to Iraq, they were even more idiotic. We had to pull the bolt from your weapon and keep it in your pocket…..plus no knives??? You are on a chartered flight, carrying a rifle and hundreds of soldiers, but they ban a pocket knife.

Chris said...

TSA can de-icing us all it wants — as long as luggage can wind up at a different destination than its traveler, we never will be secure.

Anonymous said...

you suck.

Chris said...

We can laugh about cupcake icing all we want. The truth is, threats we can't even imagine are right around the corner.

And TSA will be too busy asking us to take off our shoes and leave our bottle of Starbucks behind to notice it.

Anonymous said...

Re the three items, three-ounce rule: There is no way that the icing weighed more than 3 ounces and of course, you cannot take the cupcake in a ziplock bag if you want it to arrive in good condition. This is just nuts as are so many of the TSA's policies and actions. FYI: My daughter brought one dozen gourmet cupcakes home from Las Vegas in December and nothing happened to her or the possible offending cupcakes. It's not about cupcakes, it's about the incredible inconsistencies of TSA -airport to airport or security line to security line. I carried boxed chocolates to the UK and no one opened the containers - how could it be any different?

And by the way, please make TSA stop us from taking off scarves after we have been through the xray machines. At Heathrow, you do not take off your shoes nor any fashion accessories...maybe we should send TSA people over there for training!

Anonymous said...

Frosting is fat-based. It is not a gel. This is ridiculous.

Unknown said...

I don't know what's more disheartening, the TSA's asinine defense of their ridiculous security theater, or the comments here from Americans who actually think this is a good explanation that makes sense.

If the icing was believed to be a threat, then the authorities should have been called.

The TSA is the poster-child for the inefficiency of government bureaucracy.

Anonymous said...

Honestly, I figured you'd defend the action based on the BREAKABLE GLASS CONTAINER! geez.

Anonymous said...

So what you are saying is that any agent is welcome to make up any rules they see fit without following official protocol and we just have to go along with it or not fly?

Anonymous said...

Sunshine All Day Long said...
"When will the TSA get trusted travelers so Americans don't have to continue to sacrifice our civil liberties?"

Sorry, but having to tell everything about yourself to a government agent would also count as sacrificing our civil liberties. It's not really an improvement.

Anonymous said...

I can't believe this insanity had to be defended. How the author of this blog can sit down with his pants smoldering so much is beyond me.

Anonymous said...

So you point to two plots that never materialized as proof that people can't even bring a snack onboard without risking all our lives? TSA is completely out of touch. Some of the 9/11 hijackers were on a "no fly" list but were let on anyway. So long as incompetence like that is allowed to continue (and it is, see the underwear bomber for reference), cupcakes won't make a difference.

ArmyWife said...

"they have in fact changed the liquid policy twice since the original ban. and as usual there are no liquid restrictions in checked luggage as long as it doesnt fall under faa hazmat regualtion."

January 9, 2012 4:56 PM

ok, and? I fly a lot due to business travel, and without fail, I see these dangers to society thrown in a trashcan next to the scanner. As someone who works in Chemical Manufacturing, if we were really concerned these liquids were going to blow the planes to kingdom come, they wouldn't be haphazardly tossed, and co-mingled, in a regular trash bin. Instead, they would be handled by a hazmat team.

How about we train dogs to sniff out potential explosives (novel idea, I know)? If a cute little doggie were to accidently eat the potentially exploding confection in the line of duty, we would get a laugh. Unless it was chocolate, of course.

Anonymous said...

So you point to two plots that never materialized as proof that people can't even bring a snack onboard without risking all our lives? TSA is completely out of touch. Some of the 9/11 hijackers were on a "no fly" list but were let on anyway. So long as incompetence like that is allowed to continue (and it is, see the underwear bomber for reference), cupcakes won't make a difference.

ArmyWife said...

Anonymous said...
No way I'd let that thru.

January 9, 2012 2:31 PM


Me either, looks way too delicious! I mean dangerous...

David M. Crampton said...

Blogger Bob, I am sorry.

I am sorry that you were forced to put together this incredibly transparent piece of excrement. I am sorry that our economy is such that you're stuck in the TSA blogger cage, writing in exchange for cupcakes in jars (voluntarily surrendered deliciousness!).

Even more, I'm sorry that people are asking you intelligent, pointed, and responsible questions that are undoubtedly missing from your talking point memo.

I hope that Craigslist turns up something for you soon. I hope that I speak for everyone when I say that we're rootin' for ya!

Anonymous said...

The TSA has a Gel Like Substance between it's ears.

Anonymous said...

I think it would be helpful to TSA's image if for just once you could say something to the effect of "wow that was stupid of us" instead of defending every asinine thing a TSA employee does.

Anonymous said...

"TSA needs to address PR disasters while they are happening not weeks later."

TSA needs to stop stealing people's cupcakes.

Anonymous said...

If security measures were based on clear, logical principles applied with a little common sense, then there would be no capricious confiscation of cupcakes nor need for blog posts explaining why a cupcake was taken by a TSA officer in the first place.

I'm no expert in gel explosives. I wonder if they smell and taste like sweet, delicious frosting? I'm guessing, no. Maybe they taste more like pop-rocks.

Anonymous said...

so, if you can readily identify something as a non-threat, is there a reason why you would keep it off the plane? Like the chair for the disabled boy? Or the little green army men like the ones in Toy Story who carry tiny solid plastic guns smaller than the tip of your finger?

Anonymous said...

Seriously? if the TSA employee thought the icing could be an explosive, did he call the bomb squad? If not, why not? Did he have the traveler arrested? If not, why not?

Or did he just put the cupcake in the trash? I do hope the employee at the other airport that let the cupcake go is terminated immediately.

Anonymous said...

"First off no matter what you say I still think that the whole incident was idiotic. Secondly I cannot fly with that policy in effect since i take eye drops for glaucoma and must take them 2 times a day or go blind."


Please do your research...any medically needed items are exempt from the liquid rules...And, how big of a bottle of eye drops do you have anyway? More than 3.4 oz?

RB said...

The one person responsible for the abuses by TSA employees is:

TSA Administrator John S. Pistole

Administrator Pistole has the power and authority to make the badly needed corrections at TSA. Administrator Pistole has failed to take proactive steps to fix TSA.

I can only conclude that TSA requires a new Administrator that has some concept of leadership.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for providing a civics lesson for today. Reading the story and the TSA explanation had the students attention. They couldn't stop laughing.

The lesson was about how bureaucracies see themselves as only existing to perpetuate their existence and how they subvert any mission they may have been created to follow.

Please keep the material flowing.

queensoapbox 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!

Wild Rumpus said...

TSA - a cupcake is a tasty dessert, a bomb blows things up. It completely flabbergasts me that you people can't tell the difference.

"they’re thinking about keeping bombs off of planes." - Apparently, no - TSA workers are thinking about keeping desserts off airplanes

This is why, when I travel, I avoid flying into the USA at all costs. The lunatics have taken over the asylum.

I think you crazy TSA Zealots will only be happy when you can strip and humiliate all passengers by forcing us to fly naked. SHEESH!

Yardpilot said...

This is not a "newfangled modern take on a cupcake." Such statements just prove you people are not rowing with both oars. It also shows that you think the people are stupid. Baking cakes in assorted containers like this is so old that it can be called traditional.

Bottom line: If there were actual suspicions about the material in question, it would have been treated at the level suspected. In simple terms, if you thought it remotely might possibly be an actual explosive, prudence would have required you to call a bomb squad and evacuate the area. Was that done? If not, this was just another power trip.

Clue: People don't like this sort of thing. You are constantly adding to the level of disrespect people feel for our government. Government cannot function without the consent of the governed. Where will the people be when you need there help?

Anonymous said...

I have read your blog post about what happens to items taken by TSA personnel, and it was the first time I heard of there being options, the first mention that my items could be mailed to me or given to someone or put in my carry on. When items are taken, it's always at the security screening, when your checked bags are long gone and your ride is half way home and there no mail box in sight. I understand that this is policy, but in practice, the TSA officer just says that you can't take it with you and points to a garbage can. i take it back - I did have an option, once, to step out of line and chug a 12 oz soda. These options needs to be posted clearly, not buried on a website.

truthspeaker said...

And this is why the TSA is a complete joke. We should abolish and start from scratch, or just go back to the system we had prior to 9/11.

Anonymous said...

"Please do your research...any medically needed items are exempt from the liquid rules.."

Yet another reason confiscating the cupcake was idiotic.

A passenger can bring as much "icing" through security as they want. All they need to do is put it in a prescription bottle and call it medicine.

Anonymous said...

To the one commenter who wrote that cigarette lighters are prohibited: You are wrong. I'm a cigar smoker, and fly with cigarette lighters in my carryon all the time.

The TSA agents will make mistakes. They screen hundreds of thousands, maybe millions, of people every day. Is your performance perfect? Mine isn't. To me, the real story is how good they are.

I fly a lot, and if the other passengers were as well-behaved and considerate as the TSA people I've encountered along the way, air travel would be a lot better.

The cupcake-in-a-jar is debatable, but the scorn in many of these comments is something else. Back off. These TSA people are not aliens newly landed from Neptune. The are fellow Americans, doing their best at a thankless job.

A little understanding, and even a sense of humor about it (as long as you don't joke about bombs or hijackings) goes a long way. Oh, and in case anyone's wondering, I'm not a TSA agent, and have no connections with any agents, or the agency, or the government. Just a frequent flyer who's seen it sll.

Anonymous said...

Congratulations Bob.

You've gotten people to focus on the cupcake thingee.

Not the C4 explosive the TSA missed.

Good jobs.

Anonymous said...

TSA has the sweetest deal (pardon the pun) ever. The more fear they create, the more job security they have. Big budgets and no real need to produce any results what-so-ever.

You say that we don't have to give up our rights, that we don't have to fly? Well, sorry, but this society has spread out and grown up being able to visit friends and family far away. We do have to fly and we should have the right to do so without some gorilla patting down our babies and poking through our baggage.

I still think all this BS is not necessary. It only took a few hours after NYC for Americans to figure out how to take out a terrorist.

Anonymous said...

One question. How was the aka: cupcake, disposed?
If eaten your a lier.

Anonymous said...

Here's the issue I have with it. Suppose a terrorist wishes to get some "gel" explosive on a plane with a cupcake in a jar. If they can't get it through security it gets confiscated and likely thrown away (right in front of him/her too). But if they can (like the cupcake in question did on earlier flights) then bingo! Of course this is a fantasy because in order to disrupt air travel you don't need to bomb a plane full fo people - just set the bomb off in the security line, ticket counter, parking garage or maybe a random cab. What would TSA's policy be then?

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.

Anonymous said...

I'm willing to bet that more people have been injured by McDonald's cherry and apple pies than have been injured or killed by cupcakes on a plane. Those things are dangerous!

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.

Anonymous said...

"A little understanding, and even a sense of humor about it"

Had the TSO involved used a little understanding, the cupcake would not have been confiscated.

Back off, TSA. Passengers do not get their "newfangled" cupcakes from aliens newly landed from Neptune.

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