Friday, April 27, 2012

TSA Week in Review: Black Powder, Grenades, and Claymore Mines


Black Powder Flask – 5 ounces of black powder in a small flask was discovered at Syracuse (SYR). Even an amount as small as 5oz of black powder in a small container can cause a significant explosion.  Replica Grenades and Mines – Four replica grenades and two replica Claymore mines were discovered in checked baggage at Guam (GUM). I know I’ve said it over and over, but for anybody who may be new to reading this post, we realize that replicas are totally harmless, however, we don’t know that until we’ve gone through all of the motions. Read here and here for more information on why inert items cause problems at checkpoints.
Black Powder Flask – 5 ounces of black powder in a small flask was discovered at Syracuse (SYR). Even an amount as small as 5oz of black powder in a small container can cause a significant explosion.

Replica Grenades and Mines – Four replica grenades and two replica Claymore mines were discovered in checked baggage at Guam (GUM). I know I’ve said it over and over, but for anybody who may be new to reading this post, we realize that replicas are totally harmless, however, we don’t know that until we’ve gone through all of the motions. Read here and here for more information on why inert items cause problems at checkpoints.

IED Training Aids - We found a similar item just a few weeks ago, but once again, an IED training kit with a training components, a block of simulated SEMTEX-H, and a simulated blasting cap were discovered in checked baggage. This time it was at Columbus (CSG). And in case you’re wondering, it wasn’t an internal test

IED Training Aids - We found a similar item just a few weeks ago, but once again, an IED training kit with a training components, a block of simulated SEMTEX-H, and a simulated blasting cap were discovered in checked baggage. This time it was at Columbus (CSG). And in case you’re wondering, it wasn’t an internal test.
Items Concealed in VCR: A checked bag  at Newark (EWR) appeared to contain a VCR that had been tampered with. After TSA’s Explosive Detection Team cleared the bag to be searched, it was determined that the contents inside of the unit was a VHS tape along with 23 smartphones each individually wrapped in aluminum foil and taped to the unit. (See photo) There was nothing prohibited or dangerous, so the items were cleared for travel. I don’t know which is more surprising, smartphones in a VCR, or that somebody is still using a VCR. 

Items Concealed in VCR: A checked bag  at Newark (EWR) appeared to contain a VCR that had been tampered with. After TSA’s Explosive Detection Team cleared the bag to be searched, it was determined that the contents inside of the unit was a VHS tape along with 23 smartphones each individually wrapped in aluminum foil and taped to the unit. (See photo) There was nothing prohibited or dangerous, so the items were cleared for travel. I don’t know which is more surprising, smartphones in a VCR, or that somebody is still using a VCR.
People Say the Darndest Things - Here are examples of what not to say at the airport. Statements like these not only delay the people who said them but can also inconvenience lots of other passengers if the checkpoint has to be evacuated:  
·     A passenger receiving a pat-down of their waistband at Minneapolis (MSP) told our officer: “This is where I normally keep my explosives.”

·     A passenger approached a TSA Supervisor and stated she had not been properly screened and that she had not gone through the walk through metal detector or body scanner. After reviewing the CCTV, it was determined she had indeed been screened by the walk through metal detector. 
Miscellaneous Prohibited Items - In addition to all of the other prohibited items we find weekly, our Officers also found firearm components, realistic replica firearms, stun guns, brass knuckles, an inordinate amount of knives, ammunition, and batons.

6loaded firearms.
6 loaded firearms.
5 loaded firearms.
Firearms - Here are the firearms our Officers found in carry-on baggage since I posted last Friday.

31 guns discovered. 29 were loaded.
You can travel with your firearms in checked baggage, but they must first be declared to the airline. You can go here for more details on how to properly travel with your firearms. Firearm possession laws vary by state and locality. Travelers should familiarize themselves with state and local firearm laws for each point of travel prior to departure

Unfortunately these sorts of occurrences are all too frequent which is why we talk about these finds. Sure, it’s great to share the things that our officers are finding, but at the same time, each time we find a dangerous item, the throughput is slowed down and a passenger that likely had no ill intent ends up with a citation or in some cases is even arrested. This is a friendly reminder to please leave these items at home. Just because we find a prohibited item on an individual does not mean they had bad intentions, that's for the law enforcement officer to decide. In many cases, people simply forgot they had these items in their bag. That’s why it’s important to double check your luggage before you get to the airport.
 
 
If you’d like to comment on an unrelated topic you can do so in our Off Topic Comments post. You can also view our blog post archives or search our blog to find a related topic to comment in. If you have a travel related issue or question that needs an immediate answer, you can contact a Customer Support Manager at the airport you traveled, or will be traveling through by using Talk to TSA

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Four Year Old Child Not Accused of Concealing Firearm


I’ve seen some headlines stating that TSA Officers accused a 4-year-old child of having a firearm. This wasn’t the case, and I wanted to take a few moments to explain what happened.

TSA has long had a security procedure where if somebody has contact with a person who is undergoing additional screening, they must also undergo additional screening. Why you might ask? You’ve probably heard the old saying that the hand can be faster than eye? Well… that’s the reasoning behind this procedure. There’s always the chance that a prohibited item could be traded off during contact. I’m sure you’ve watched the scene play out in more than one movie where two people collide or shake hands and an item is traded off? Same thing… 

We did recently roll out new procedures that reduce the need for pat-downs of children. These new screening procedures include permitting multiple passes through the metal detector and advanced imaging technology to clear any alarms as well as the greater use of explosives trace detection.  These changes in protocol will ultimately reduce – though not eliminate – pat-downs of children. But… this is one of those examples where a pat-down of a child was necessary. 

It was explained to the family why the pat-down was needed and at no time did our Officers suggest the child was carrying a firearm. We’ve reviewed the incident and determined that our officers followed proper current screening procedures.

 
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.

Friday, April 20, 2012

TSA Week in Review: Man Brings Pistol Through Checkpoint. Again!


Loaded gun, flare gun with flares, throwing stars, sword cane, knife, igniter
Click to Enlarge
2nd Time Isn’t a Charm - You can possibly get away with saying you didn’t know you had your gun the first time, but a second time? A passenger at John Wayne Airport (SNA) attempted to bring a loaded .357 pistol through security in his carry-on bag. Leave your guns at home, pilgrim.
 
Warheads - Yes, warheads. Three of them. They were discovered in ominous black lockboxes at the checkpoint at Salt Lake City (SLC). The good news is they were inert devices used for training by the passenger’s company.

A Little Less Flare – If somebody suggested that you should add some flair to your travel, they didn’t mean “flare.” Yes, another flare gun complete with flares was discovered in a carry-on bag. This time it was at Tampa (TPA). 

Det Cord Igniter Used as Keychain - An inert det cord igniter was detected in the carry-on bag of a Sacramento (SAC) passenger. Not the ideal keychain when traveling by air…

Throwing Stars - Two days in a row, Officers at Los Angeles (LAX) found throwing stars. One passenger had the star in his wallet and the other in their bag. We are familiar with the ways of your Kung Fu. 

Cane Sword - Yet another cane sword was discovered. This time it was at Phoenix (PHX). People usually have no idea the swords are inside their cane. 

Lipstick Knife - Unlike cane swords, there is no way you could say you didn’t know the knife was in the lipstick case. This one was found at Oakland (OAK).
Click to Enlarge
Lipstick Knife - Unlike cane swords, there is no way you could say you didn’t know the knife was in the lipstick case. This one was found at Oakland (OAK).

People Say the Darndest Things - Here is an example of what not to say at the airport. Statements like this not only delayed the people who said them, they can also inconvenience lots of other passengers if the checkpoint has to be evacuated:  

While placing their property in a bin prior to screening, a passenger at Rapid City (RAP) stated: “Do you want me to put my explosive belt on top of my explosive shoes?”

Miscellaneous Prohibited Items - In addition to all of the other prohibited items we find weekly, our Officers also found firearm components, realistic replica firearms, stun guns, pepper spray, brass knuckles, a copious amount of knives, ammunition, and batons.

9 loaded guns.
Click to Enlarge
6 loaded guns.
Click to Enlarge
Firearms - Here are the firearms our Officers found in carry-on baggage since I posted last Friday.

30 guns discovered. 26 were loaded.
Click to Enlarge
 You can travel with your firearms in checked baggage, but they must first be declared to the airline. You can go here for more details on how to properly travel with your firearms. Firearm possession laws vary by state and locality. Travelers should familiarize themselves with state and local firearm laws for each point of travel prior to departure

Unfortunately these sorts of occurrences are all too frequent which is why we talk about these finds. Sure, it’s great to share the things that our officers are finding, but at the same time, each time we find a dangerous item, the throughput is slowed down and a passenger that likely had no ill intent ends up with a citation or in some cases is even arrested. This is a friendly reminder to please leave these items at home. Just because we find a prohibited item on an individual does not mean they had bad intentions, that's for the law enforcement officer to decide. In many cases, people simply forgot they had these items in their bag. That’s why it’s important to double check your luggage before you get to the airport.
 
 
If you’d like to comment on an unrelated topic you can do so in our Off Topic Comments post. You can also view our blog post archives or search our blog to find a related topic to comment in. If you have a travel related issue or question that needs an immediate answer, you can contact a Customer Support Manager at the airport you traveled, or will be traveling through by using Talk to TSA


Tuesday, April 17, 2012

New Technology Will Check Travel Documents

You might remember me blogging about a new piece of technology last year called the CAT/BPSS. Its real name is “Credential Authentication Technology/Boarding Pass Scanning System.” That can be a mouthful, so I simply call it the travel document scanner.

We just started testing the technology at Washington Dulles International Airport (IAD) and will also test at Houston George Bush Intercontinental Airport (IAH) and Luis Muñoz Marín International Airport (SJU) in the coming weeks. Each airport will receive 6 units total.

This technology will scan a passenger’s boarding pass and photo ID, and automatically verify the names provided on both documents and then match and authenticate the boarding pass. The technology also identifies altered or fraudulent photo IDs by analyzing and comparing security features embedded in the IDs.

What should passengers expect? Passengers will hand their ID to the TSA Travel Document Checker (TDC) who will scan it while the passenger scans their own boarding pass using a built in scanner that's part of the technology. Once the scan is complete, the technology automatically and permanently deletes the information from the system. Here's a link to the Privacy Impact Assessment for the technology.

If testing is successful, TSA could deploy the technology to airports nationwide. Our officers at airports that are not part of the operational testing will continue to verify travel documents with the aid of lights and loupes, as one of many layers of security.

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.

Friday, April 13, 2012

TSA Week in Review: Knife Zip-Tied to Handle of Bag


Knives, stun pen, loaded gun, inert grenade.
Click to Enlarge

Concealed Knife – A knife was found zip-tied to the inner workings of a bag handle at Cedar Rapids (CID). Clever, but no match for our officers and technology. (See photo)

Chicken Soup for Your Pants? – Officers found a can of soup in a Las Vegas passenger’s carry-on bag. When told that it couldn’t go through because of the liquids rule (it was more than 3.4 ounces), the passenger said they would put the soup in their checked baggage. But when the passenger returned to the checkpoint, officers saw that the passenger had tried to hide the soup in their pants.  No soup for them.  

Derringer in a Dopp Kit – A Derringer was found amongst everyday toiletry items in a dopp kit at San Diego (SAN). I don’t think you could trim your nails, but I bet you could knick yourself if you shaved with it. (See photo)

Stun Pen – I’ve often heard that the pen can be mightier than the sword. Well, in this case that statement is pretty close to being true. A stun-pen was found on a passenger at Chicago Midway (MDW).

Bad Kitty – Known as a black cat, or cat eyes, this seemingly harmless kitty cat (see photo) becomes a punching weapon when your fingers are inserted in its eyes. It’s cute little pointy cat ears are designed to puncture and rip flesh.

Belt Buckle Knife – A belt buckle knife was found was found on a passenger during screening at Akron (CAK). Holy utility belt, Batman, good thing you didn’t bring your batarang and grappling gun.

More Grenades – An inert grenade was found this week in a checked bag at Salt Lake City (SLC). Another was found in a carry-on bag at San Diego (SAN) and it had a 1” knife concealed inside it.

People Say the Darndest Things: Here is an example of what not to say at the airport. Statements like this not only delayed the people who said them, they can also inconvenience lots of other passengers if the checkpoint has to be evacuated:

·     An officer at Minneapolis (MSP) was searching a bag for liquids when the passenger stated: “Those are my explosives.”

Miscellaneous Prohibited Items: In addition to all of the other prohibited items we find weekly, our Officers also found firearm components, realistic replica firearms, stun guns, brass knuckles, a agglomeration of knives, ammunition, and batons.

8 loaded firearms.
Click to Enlarge
Firearms: Here are the firearms our Officers found in carry-on baggage since I posted last Friday.

Click to Enlarge


You can travel with your firearms in checked baggage, but they must first be declared to the airline. You can go here for more details on how to properly travel with your firearms. Firearm possession laws vary by state and locality. Travelers should familiarize themselves with state and local firearm laws for each point of travel prior to departure.

Unfortunately these sorts of occurrences are all too frequent which is why we talk about these finds. Sure, it’s great to share the things that our officers are finding, but at the same time, each time we find a dangerous item, the throughput is slowed down and a passenger that likely had no ill intent ends up with a citation or in some cases is even arrested. This is a friendly reminder to please leave these items at home. Just because we find a prohibited item on an individual does not mean they had bad intentions, that's for the law enforcement officer to decide. In many cases, people simply forgot they had these items in their bag. That’s why it’s important to double check your luggage before you get to the airport.
 
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


The Scoop on TSA Pre✓™

TSA Pre✓™ logoHello out there in the blogosphere, I am Jonella. I work with Bob at TSA and in particular I work on a lot of the TSA Pre communications. Since the launch of TSA Pre✓™ last October, more than 750,000 travelers have received expedited screening and we’ve received lots of positive feedback and a few reoccurring questions or themes that  I want to address and what better place than here on the TSA Blog! 

“Why is TSA Pre™ only open to a small, select group of passengers?” 

TSA Pre™, as with our other risk-based initiatives, is based on the premise that most passengers do not pose a risk to security. Acting on that premise, we looked for pre-existing traveler databases we could utilize to test our ability to identify low-risk passengers. U.S. airlines and U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) have populations of travelers who have already provided details about themselves and both were willing to partner with TSA to offer TSA Pre™ benefits to their populations as part of our initial test of the expedited screening concept. 

We are actively looking for ways to include more populations in some of the risk-based screening initiatives. For example, we recently added active duty U.S. service members to the TSA Pre™ population. We are starting their eligibility for those traveling out of Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport with plans of  expanding this particular initiative to other airports in the future through our partnership with the Department of Defense. 

Frequent flyers contacted by aircraft operators do not incur a fee to participate in TSA Pre™. Currently, American Airlines and Delta Air Lines are participating in TSA Pre™ and operating out of 12 airports and both continue to offer eligible passengers the opportunity to opt in. US Airways, United Airlines and Alaska Airlines, which will join TSA Pre™ in the coming months, are also contacting eligible passengers to invite them to opt in. JetBlue is expected to join later this year. So, if you are a frequent flyer with any one of these airlines, check your email and be sure to opt in so you can participate.

Another option for passengers is to join one of CBP’s Trusted Traveler programs. TSA’s partnership with CBP automatically qualifies U.S. citizens who are members of Global Entry, SENTRI, and NEXUS for participation in TSA Pre™ - at no additional cost. People who are not current members of those programs can apply anytime to get the dual benefit of Global Entry for international travel and TSA Pre™ for domestic travel. Global Entry charges $100, and membership is good for five years. The cost to join NEXUS is about half as much and also applies for five years.

“I opted into TSA Pre™ but I rarely, if ever, get expedited screening.”

Random and unpredictable security measures are a part of everything we do. This is to ensure that terrorists and anyone with bad intentions will have a hard time gaming the system. To that end, no one who opts in should expect to get expedited screening every time they fly through a TSA Pre™ airport. That said, some passengers say they have opted in but seldom receive expedited screening and there could be a few reasons for this.  

First, it is important to remember that TSA Pre™ is currently only available for U.S. citizens traveling domestically on a participating airline, out of a participating airport. Click here for the most updated list.
Secondly, if you are a member of a CBP Trusted Traveler program, be sure you’re including your PASS ID – found in the top-left corner on the back of your membership card – in the ‘Known Traveler’ field every time you book a flight. If you’re not sure it’s in there, especially if you’re not booking it yourself, you can always call your airline to confirm that your number is on the reservation before you fly. 

“I can’t remember if I opted in with my airline. How can I find out?”

The airlines capture your TSA Pre™ opt-in status and transmit that information to TSA along with your TSA Secure Flight passenger data. If you’re unsure whether you have already opted in, I would encourage you to check your airline member profile. Some airlines have the ability to add your TSA Pre™ opt-in status to your frequent flyer account information online. And remember, if you’re already a member of one of the CBP Trusted Traveler programs you can enter your PASS ID when booking your own travel or saving it in your frequent flyer profile – that signals your opt-in status and that info will be transmitted to TSA when the airline sends your other data.

We are excited about the initiative’s success and look forward to its continued expansion. Stay tuned on the blog and TSA.gov for future announcements for TSA Pre™. 

I'll be blogging more in the future. See you next time!

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

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Why do Laptops Have to be Removed When Tablets can Stay in the Bag?

Laptop***Update -- 4/11/12*** 

Why can an 11” Laptop Stay in and a 13” Laptop has to Come out? 

I’ve read where some people are asking why an 11” laptop can stay in and why a 13” laptop has to come out? 

As with any policy or procedure, we have to set general guidelines so passengers know how to prepare for security and  our officers  know what procedures they need to follow.

For laptops that need to come out of your bag, we describe them as a “standard size” laptop – which loosely translates into approximately 12x14” or larger. We’re not measuring every laptop that comes through the checkpoint but that is the general dimensions of what we consider to be standard size.  Also, the larger the laptop, the more stuff that can be hidden in it. So if your laptop is approximately 12x14” or larger it must be removed from the bag, but remember, if you choose to leave the smaller ones in your bag, our officers still need to be able to see clearly on the X-ray what else is in the bag with your laptop, so there is always a chance they might ask you to remove it to give them that clearer view.  ~ Bob Burns 

------------------------------------------------------ 

Why do Laptops Have to be Removed When Tablets can Stay in the Bag? 

I saw some headlines today stating that TSA refuses to explain why laptops have to be removed and tablet computers do not. This kind of baffled me, because a post has been up on the subject since April of 2010. Most of the post explains what can stay in and what has to come out, but we give a  reason why towards the end:
“Only electronics the size of a standard laptop or larger (for example Playstation®, Xbox™, or Nintendo®), full-size DVD players, and video cameras that use video cassettes must be removed from their carrying cases and submitted separately for x-ray screening. Removing larger electronics helps us get a better look at them and also allows us to get a better look at the contents of your bag.”
Basically, tablet computers, netbooks, and e-readers are less dense than your typical laptop, so it’s easier for our X-ray operator to inspect your bag. However, larger laptops and game consoles appear more dense and need to be removed in order for the X-ray operator to get a good look at your bag. With that said, there are still times that tablet computers, netbooks, and e-readers have to come out. If our Officer can’t get a good look at your bag or if they see something out of the ordinary, they’ll have to remove it. 

The larger the laptop, the more stuff you can hide in it. Items have been found concealed in laptops in the past, so we have to be able to get a good look at them.. Our officers have about 3 seconds to make a call in order to keep lines moving, so the less clutter, the easier it is to clear your bag and get you on your way.

Now to get down to solving that dad-blasted Easter Island mystery…  

Bob Burns  
TSA Blog Team