While browsing the web this morning, I saw that the topic de jour was that TSA was now screening liquids at the gate. We've talked about random gate screening here before, and if you travel frequently, you've likely experienced a gate screening. Not a big deal really... Heck, even I have been pulled aside for random gate screening.
So, the most popular question that comes up with this topic is: "Isn't this redundant?" On the surface, it does seem that way, and it's the first logical thought that many have. However, any security expert will tell you that nothing is ever 100% secure. So, gate screening is kind of like our safety net to keep up with anybody who might be trying to get things past conventional screening.
We stay away from static security tactics. Layered security is common practice, providing the necessary unpredictable measure that makes it more difficult to do malice to the transportation infrastructure. If everything we did was always the same, it would provide a checklist for people to know exactly what to expect. While this would be extremely helpful for passengers, it would also be useful to those wishing to do us harm.
To keep this from happening, every day at airports around the nation, we work with airport partners to determine what additional screening tactics should be employed. These additional random tactics, such as gate screening, greatly increase security by making it truly unpredictable.
As far as the testing of liquids at the gate, this is just one of the many options we have to choose from when deciding what additional tactics to use each day. We started using test strips back in the summer of 2007 and continue to do so. The test involves a test strip and a dropper containing a nontoxic solution. In case you're wondering, our officers don't place the test strips in your beverages/liquids. They simply have the passenger remove the cap/lid and they hold the strip over the opening of the container. Procedures call for moving the test strip to the side and applying the solution from the dropper to test the strip. If the test results are positive TSA will conduct additional testing to make a final assessment.
In a nutshell, liquid screening at gates is random and it isn't happening at every airport every day. So other than possibly taking a few moments of your time before boarding your flight, it's business as usual.
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