Schneier on Security
A blog covering security and security technology.
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June 5, 2009
Earlier this year, I blogged about a self-defense pen that is likely to easily pass through airport security. On the other hand, this normal pen in the shape of a bullet will probably get you in trouble.
Posted on June 5, 2009 at 12:19 PM
• 20 Comments
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I have a keychain made from a rifle round. It's been sitting in a drawer since 9/11, along with some of the nicer knives I used to carry, because I don't want some security drone having a fainting spell.
Years ago, I remember a junior high school student who had a 3 inch water pistol (clear green plastic) in her purse. She was suspended to send a message to the other students about how serious the school was about its policy against guns. This was long before 9/11. Hysteria is not new, but it does get a shot in the arm from time to time.
I have a pen that uses sort of a telescope construction to extend to about twice its length for writing. When in storage mode, it's small and doesn't look much like a pen. Also, it's made of aluminium. It gets pulled out of my bag every time I fly, so I have stopped carrying it (unless I forget). I wonder what dangerous thing it resembles.
Tiny bit of lead in some telescoping items causes stop/concern. That is what I was told at least.
I have a "bullet" space pen from Fischer (the small, non-actual bullet style), and I can keep it in my pocket and walk right through airport security without getting stopped or setting off the metal detectors. I fly with it all the time and never have a problem.
Probably won't get you in trouble but it could certainly result in a $25 pen donation to the confiscated items wastebasket.
I used to carry my keys on a blaze orange Monadnock Persuader Personal Defense Keychain until the first time I flew after 9/11. Used to never misplace my keys either.
I have a bullet-shaped USB drive, but I haven't tried to get it anywhere.
I used to carry a tiny Italian folding knife on my keychain. The knife was probably a half-inch long, unfolded. Then I almost got it confiscated when getting on to a Greyhound, even though a ballpoint pen would have been much more of a threat. Naturally, now that it's not on my keychain, I've lost the knife.
Winners of the Hugo Award have been warned for years, even before 2001, that the rocket which forms the main part of the trophy tends to look really suspicious when viewed on airport x-ray machines. Here's a photo of one:
An incident from that year is recounted in sidebar #3 here:
"I remember in the San Antonio airport watching Kim Stanley Robinson explain to the check-in clerk that the missile-shaped object in his carry-on bag was a trophy. Pondering, the clerk agreed that a real explosive would be unlikely to sport a plaque with his name and the title BLUE MARS engraved on it. ..."
I know the feeling. My keychain fob used to be an ASP mini-baton ...
Went through security last year with a ammo-belt with fake bullets (snowboard fashion, what can I say) without much hassle. Supervisor was called over for a minute but let us go.
I suspect you would just open the bullet pen and show the ink, or write a little, and they'd let it through.
It seems odd to me, after all that has happened, that anyone with intent would try to get something real through any sort of security?
For many years certain forces from the UK have entered and left countries never carrying anything that might implicate them. Easy really, the message, and those intended to deliver it, arrive by separate routes. None the less, the 'message' is delivered.
Whilst terrorists might not have the training of the forces I'm referring to, it doesn't seem beyond reason that they might do a similar thing.
@Rik: Yes, definitely. However, we've decided that making airplanes themselves completely terror-free zones is an important goal, not just preventing their use as transportation.
That's nothing; I was grilled outside a nightclub for having a rollerball pen in my jacket. Nothing special about it. It was "The Exchange" in Staines, so perhaps it was the first pen they had seen.
in my early 20s,a boyfriend gave me one, and it was pretty easy to train with. i'd had prior weapons training, so maybe that helped.
of course, mine wasn't disguised as a pen. when i tried to take it through airport security in 1997 in PHX, it was taken away and a great deal of my personal information was noted down.
I have a belt pouch made out of thick leather but shaped and fashioned to look just like a hand grenade. I have not yet tried to wear it through airport security.
I don't dispute that US airports, or any airports for that matter, should employ the best available security systems.
The point is that the US has thousands of miles of coast line and given the best will in the world, you cannot protect every inch, every minute.
What if a tourist using a US friendly passport arrives. Nothing shows on the INS system, they leave and collect their 'package' and then use 'it.'
We seem to be putting much effort into 'protecting' our countries, but not as much into killing the root cause. Think back to previous conflicts, this time we have to want to win, whatever it takes.
"Bang! The Bullet" did not make it through security at Toronto Person. The oversized bullet shaped case (approx. 2' in length) for the card game was deemed to be a "replica weapon", even after a supervisor was called in to adjudicate. The "bullet" had previously made it through security at Vancouver International.
The details on the game are here:
I recommend it (the game that is).
How about http://www.tactical-life.com/online/...
If it breaks auto windows and saves lives, what could it do to a human skull?
Yes, let's sacrifice people drowning in cars for the sake of theoretical threats!
Surefire makes a cnc-cut aluminum pen w/integrated glass-breaker for around $130ish. LaRue Tactical should stock them, and possibly some other similar vendors.
Like all things made by Surefire, its fit and finish is astounding, and this is reflected in its price.
A timely article in our local newspaper:
MELBOURNE-BASED musician Steve Lucas has been called many things in his 30-year music career, but never a "potential terrorist". But that's what happened to the singer of punk band X yesterday morning when he boarded a Virgin Blue flight from Sydney to Melbourne with three guitars.
The problem was that his Epiphone electric guitar, which is cased in a coffin-shaped case, was attached to a guitar strap decorated with empty bronze bullet cartridges.
Airport security, stupid the world over.
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