TSA Security Round-Up

Innocent passenger arrested for trying to bring a rubber-band ball onto an airplane.

Woman passes out on plane after her drugs are confiscated.

San Francisco International Airport screeners were warned in advance of undercover test.

And a cartoon.

We have a serious problem in this country. The TSA operates above, and outside, the law. There’s no due process, no judicial review, no appeal.

EDITED TO ADD (11/21): And six Muslim imams removed from a plane by US Airways because…well because they’re Muslim and that scares people. After they were cleared by the authorities, US Airways refused to sell them a ticket. Refuse to be terrorized, people!

Note that US Airways is the culprit here, not the TSA.

EDITED TO ADD (11/22): Frozen spaghetti sauce confiscated:

You think this is silly, and it is, but a week ago my mother caused a small commotion at a checkpoint at Boston-Logan after screeners discovered a large container of homemade tomato sauce in her bag. What with the preponderance of spaghetti grenades and lasagna bombs, we can all be proud of their vigilance. And, as a liquid, tomato sauce is in clear violation of the Transportation Security Administration’s carry-on statutes. But this time, there was a wrinkle: The sauce was frozen.

No longer in its liquid state, the sauce had the guards in a scramble. According to my mother’s account, a supervisor was called over to help assess the situation. He spent several moments stroking his chin. “He struck me as the type of person who spent most of his life traveling with the circus,” says Mom, who never pulls a punch, “and was only vaguely familiar with the concept of refrigeration.” Nonetheless, drawing from his experiences in grade-school chemistry and at the TSA academy, he sized things up. “It’s not a liquid right now,” he observantly noted. “But it will be soon.”

In the end, the TSA did the right thing and let the woman on with her frozen food.

Posted on November 21, 2006 at 12:51 PM92 Comments


Crash November 21, 2006 1:43 PM

That TSA never ceases to amaze. That advance warning thing is gnarly.

What does Paris’ taking the woman’s meds and giving them to her cabin crew have to do with the TSA?

Frank Ch. Eigler November 21, 2006 2:03 PM

And what does a dude getting arrested by city police have to do with the TSA being “above the law”?

Mike November 21, 2006 2:04 PM

Regarding the rubber-band ball, the “unemotional” account seems to indicate this guy’s first interaction with TSA was to confront them about searching his carry-on.

Whether you feel the search is justfied or not, arguing with the police produces pretty predictable results across time and space.

Arguments are better saved for the judge.

This oversimplifies things, I know, but if you’re going to take sides with someone to make a point, try not to choose a fool.

Chopped Logic November 21, 2006 2:14 PM

(Sigh) Next you’ll complain that secret laws (http://www.eff.org/news/archives/2006_11.php#005000) are a problem, when any intelligent person realizes that if the laws weren’t secret, they could be challenged or repealed. If the laws were no longer present, then the TSA couldn’t protect us at all. Since they are our last line of defense against the Terrorists (TM), We can conclude (with 100% likelihood) that:

Secret Laws prevent you from personally being attacked by Terrorists tomorrow.

(For those who don’t have English as a first language, the sarcasm above is intended.)

Bruce Schneier November 21, 2006 2:17 PM

“And what does a dude getting arrested by city police have to do with the TSA being ‘above the law’?”

Read the article. It was the TSA guy who railroaded him.

Oz November 21, 2006 2:19 PM

the airport staff refused to speak anything other than French

right. It’s not just the TSA, but there’s a certain frenchness to this one…

jojo November 21, 2006 2:20 PM

Whether you feel the search is justfied or not, arguing with the police produces pretty predictable results across time and space.

Arguments are better saved for the judge.

So everybody, just roll over. It’s hopeless to try to build a system where the authorities have a minimal sense of decency and respect for their bosses (the citizens).

Tim November 21, 2006 2:30 PM

Vote with wallet. Until there are enough people prepared to not fly through these gratuitous draconian measures, nothing will change.

David November 21, 2006 2:31 PM

The medicine confiscated reminds me of traffic intersections.

Everyone knows there’s a problem at the intersection.
Everyone knows someone’s going to be killed one day.
Everyone isn’t surprised when someone is killed.
Only then is there a traffic light put up at the intersection.

Once someone dies (or several) will they allow medicine onto the plane like before.

FrozenKiwi November 21, 2006 2:35 PM

oh I don’t know about that jojo. Yeah sure winding police up is likely to result in inconvenience. But asking and insisting on a justified search & detainment is NOT unreasonable.

I am glad that I do NOT live in a country where I have to undergo checkpoints or cow-tow to the police – or risk detainment without proof … or worse, without trial.

Treating police with respect is a sensible course of action across space and time. But you are willingly accepting that police in all states, in all times, are able to lock people up for a day or more without proof, just on suspicion. This isn’t true in many states. And wasn’t in yours until quite recently. Trumped up charges and detention on a whim is common worldwide. But it is NOT universal.

jojo November 21, 2006 2:43 PM


Top two lines aren’t mine — the em was missing. It was a response to Mike at the top.

Kow-towing to the cops in the US has helped lead to our present predicament, by inculcating an authoritarian mentality: Never question authority, it’s just too risky. Which of course leaves the few who do at great risk as outliers.

FrozenKiwi November 21, 2006 2:50 PM

sorry jojo

I realized that only after posting – yeah my comments should have been directed at Mike, as were yours

my bad

Michael Ash November 21, 2006 3:03 PM

It really tells you how bad things have become when you have people calling someone a fool just because he objected to having his bag searched in public without being asked.

Our basic rights are being denied simply because it’s more efficient than following the law, and you still see objections to people requesting the most basic courtesy. You people should all be deeply ashamed of yourselves.

Unknown Citizen November 21, 2006 3:09 PM

These are disturbing stories. Here’s another one, but from the UK this time:

Just in case it sin’t clear to any foreign readers, the train in question goes through the channel tunnel, underneath the sea between UK and France; it is quite sensible to have good security on this particular rail route but why the police arrested this man is a complete mystery to me.

jojo November 21, 2006 3:14 PM

In the US, everyone is learning what it’s like to be black. That’s what equality has brought us: everyone reduced to the same status as the most abused. Votes aren’t counted (see Sarasota FL), police are abusive and government non-responsive. If only MLK could have lived to see the day, when folks were judged, not by the color of their skin, but by the content of their bureaucratic status.

And I understand that the UK is just as bad.

Jim November 21, 2006 3:20 PM


I respect you greatly but I feel that you are reaching on this one, and I feel that it must be for political reasons. The TSA had nothing to do with the Swedish woman passing out on a French flight, or the Mulsim Iman being removed from the plane by the pilot. The only story that that involved the TSA was the idiot with the rubber band ball, and he was not arrested for having the ball but arguing with the screeners about searching his bag in the first place. He deserved to be smacked upside the head more than being arrested, but that, unfortunately is not one of avenues that are available to a screener if a passenger becomes unruly.

jojo November 21, 2006 3:23 PM

Unknown Citizen:

It appears from that link that you can be arrested for having a fork in the UK:

How the law defines offensive weapons

The offence of having a blade or sharpened point in a public place without good reason or lawful authority carries a maximum penalty of two years’ imprisonment

Possession of an offensive weapon without lawful authority or reasonable excuse carries a maximum penalty of four years’ imprisonment

Offensive weapons are defined in the Prevention of Crime Act 1953 as “any article made or adapted for causing injury???

# A disguised knife is classified as “any knife that has a concealed blade or concealed sharp point???

How much more “discretion” can you give the cops? This appears to be an Anglo-Saxon disease spreading to the world. Maybe the Kiwis are still sane?

jojo November 21, 2006 3:29 PM

he only story that that involved the TSA was the idiot with the rubber band ball, and he was not arrested for having the ball but arguing with the screeners about searching his bag in the first place. He deserved to be smacked upside the head more than being arrested, but that, unfortunately is not one of avenues that are available to a screener if a passenger becomes unruly.


So it’s unruly to simply state your rights? That deserves being smacked upside the head? He just gave the screeners lip for not following procedure. The implication seems to be that we should all behave like schoolchildren in the face of authorities, quietly moving along to whatever directive they give. Now, it’s clearly impractical to request that your rights be observed, but that doesn’t mean that you’re in the wrong for doing so. It’s clear why we’re going to hell in a handbasket: an attitude of constant subservience.

Mike November 21, 2006 3:35 PM

Golly, was the TSA involved in the woman’s flight from Paris to Stockholm, where she passed out after her antihistamine was confiscated?

Or was that Paris or Sweden security?

Plus, do you know the meaning of “Post hoc, ergo propter hoc?”

I don’t particularly like the new security regime, but attacking it with unsound reasoning is not the way to improve things.

Michael Ash November 21, 2006 3:50 PM

“So it’s unruly to simply state your rights? That deserves being smacked upside the head?”

Haven’t you been told? Causing a disruption at the security checkpoints (I love how that word has entered our language) is committing the cardinal sin of slowing down the line. You’re infringing on everybody else’s God-given right to arrive on time! Never mind that pesky Constitution, if you’re involved in something that may make somebody late, you must be punished.

Swiss Connection November 21, 2006 3:52 PM


“What does Paris’ taking the woman’s meds and giving them to her cabin crew have to do with the TSA?”

We Eurpeans are not as paranoid and don’t want those stupid regulations regarding liquids in hand luggage. Unfortunatly the EU buckled under US pressure and introduced the insane measures in Europe early November!

I Think many regular readers of this blog would agree, the concern is about the political agendas behind the TSA security moves.

By the way, has anyone heard what has happened to those UK would be terrorists who were accused of planning to blow up planes with liquid explosives? Has there been court trials or convictions.. anything???

Unknown Citizen November 21, 2006 3:52 PM


“How the law defines offensive weapons”

I used to carry a Swiss Army knife attached to my ring of keys for many years – until I read the article I quoted earlier.

Many years ago, I recall emptying my pockets for an internal flight including my Swiss Army knife. Problem? not at all! I was waved through. It doesn’t bear thinking about what the police could do to me for this harmless habit now.

I am a middle aged, professionally employed person with no criminal record yet I find myself tending to avoid the police …

Anonymous November 21, 2006 4:07 PM

@Swiss Connection:

Well, when are y’all going to stand up? To some extent the US’s behavior is being supported by Europe. Our Gulags are being run in your countries. Our rendition flights are going through your countries. Your intelligence agencies are cooperating with our kidnappings. Your governments are acquiescing to our most insane security demands. Aren’t y’all supposed to be sovereign countries? Y’all have a bit of culpability in our current mess…

crispm November 21, 2006 4:18 PM

@jojo (et alii):

Quis custodiet ipsos custodes, which indicates that in “classic” times they were already aware of this quandary. And of course the framers.

Unfortunately your observation about the problems of “rolling over” is very much on point… and a reliable marker of an oppresive state. This has been modelled, e.g. Huberman and Glance (then at Xerox PARC) for the case of the fall of the East German government in 1989.

jojo November 21, 2006 4:33 PM


It’s always the outlier problem. Another example is the fear of child-theft. I doubt that 40 years ago, the number of monsters was any less than today, but our fear has led us to hide our children. So now, there are fewer eyes on the street, and the few children allowed to explore on their own are obvious targets, leading any reasonable person to hide their own children. We’re stuck in a nasty metastable state.

Historically you see it all the time, with the quick collapse of regimes. Once enough people pull their courage together, the entire system of intimidation collapses, but it usually takes a combination of generational change and a dramatic incident to catalyze.

In the US, for the last generation we’ve seen this tendency to naturally accept the legitimacy of almost any use of authority. It’s a cultural disease that leads to the kind of authoritarian mess we’ve headed into. What will it take to change folks self-image?

jojo November 21, 2006 4:35 PM

Quis custodiet ipsos custodes: everyone, all the time. Isn’t that the point of functional democracy? The custodians are just civil servants?

Roy November 21, 2006 4:35 PM

It’s bad now, but one day we’ll look back at this era as the good old days.

The US government has put itself above the law and above the citizens. Australia and the UK are following the US example.

“Fascism should more properly be called corporatism, since it is the merger of state and corporate power.” -Benito Mussolini

Andre LePlume November 21, 2006 4:59 PM

“Other witnesses said some of the imams were repeating ‘Allah, Allah,’ he said.”

In other news, a priest was overheard referring to the Virgin Mary, a minister speaking about Christ, and a rabbi singing about “Adonai”. Film at 11.

quincunx November 21, 2006 5:11 PM

“Our basic rights are being denied simply because it’s more efficient than following the law”

Uhm, the purpose of positive law (the one that pervades now) IS to strip away your rights.

“The US government has put itself above the law and above the citizens. Australia and the UK are following the US example.”

Every government that has the ability to ‘legislate’ puts itself above the law.

In case you are not familiar with history, US and Australia have followed the UK example, not the other way around.

The whole US/Middle East relation bears a striking similarity to UK/Irish relation during the 16th & 17th century. The only difference is the technology, otherwise in deed it is exactly the same: imperialism.

“Is there any way we could elect Bruce Schneier as our nation’s security czar?”

I couldn’t imagine a worse idea. The problem is not the Bruce, but the position itself. No intelligent person could actually accomplish anything positive in politics. He will fail just like all central planning fails.

jojo November 21, 2006 5:17 PM

Why do you bother quincunx? Your knee-jerk libertarianism is so predictable. It’s like listening to a Marxist drone on about the historical inevitability of proletarian revolution.

Such statements as: Every government that has the ability to ‘legislate’ puts itself above the law. Does that have any substance to it? Or is it a trite statement that inequality can be abused? At least hard-core anarchists go all the way, but all the libertarians offer is privatized government, eliminating the one control we all have, the vote.

Anonymous November 21, 2006 5:25 PM

I liked the cartoon best.

The strange thing is how close to reality it really is. You won’t get stopped for having bullets in your document, but you WILL get stopped if you happened to be overheard saying something like “There’s no bullets”, or “Not enough bullets”, or anything else where the context isn’t entirely clear to the nervouse eavesdropper. Especially if you add a curse, like “In the name of Allah, there aren’t enough bullets.”

gfujimori November 21, 2006 5:31 PM

The United States used to be a free country with due process, writ of habeas corpus, and freedom of the press.

Alas, she no longer fulfills these criteria.

quincunx November 21, 2006 5:58 PM

@ jojo

‘Why do you bother quincunx? Your knee-jerk libertarianism is so predictable.’

Is there an argument here? Are you suggesting I’m wrong?

‘At least hard-core anarchists go all the way, but all the libertarians offer is privatized government, eliminating the one control we all have, the vote.’

You are apparently not familiar with my posts, and this statement contradicts your previous one. How do you know that I’m not an anarchist?

‘It’s like listening to a Marxist drone on about the historical inevitability of proletarian revolution.’

In what sense? I have always said the government is the biggest criminal organization in a given territorial area. This is not speculation of the future but simply a fact of reality.

Because the state is a criminal gang, we can use simple historical precedents and economic theory to predict its path of destruction.

Oops, there I go again with my knee-jerk reaction. I should just nod my head to the zeitgeist, and ignore logic and reason.

Richard Braakman November 21, 2006 6:09 PM

I’m fairly sure she lost all that during the War on Drugs. This is just the aftermath.

quincunx November 21, 2006 6:53 PM

@ jojo

‘Such statements as: Every government that has the ability to ‘legislate’ puts itself above the law. Does that have any substance to it?’

Yes it does. If one has the ability to write laws then clearly one is above the law. When one breaks the law, and the monopoly courts lets it slide, that too is being above the law. When the monopoly courts make up a new law out of thin air from a single judgment, that too is above the law.

I will spare you the thousands of examples of such in US history, the millions in world history in the last 4500 years, and the predicable (apparently, only to libertarians) consequences of when that happens.

Globetrotter November 21, 2006 7:23 PM

Recently I was taking pictures out the window in a US airport (of the sunset), which prompted a brief interrogation about why I should be doing such a thing. Strangely enough, this is the kind of stuff that photographers do, as you can’t get paid for the images you didn’t get. I’m sure they had in their mind some weird stuff about suicide attacks, but really if you analyze it, why would I take pictures, bomb the plane I’m on and then take the camera and memory card to the bottom of the sea with me? It’s all crap, and these guys need more real intelligence and less making-it-up-on-the-spot bullshit. Please don’t let some of the dumbest people on the planet improvise; this just can’t work.

Incidentally, on my last trip I enjoyed the leaflet that the TSA left in my suitcase. I paraphrase (the leaflet is not to hand) but roughly it says “We’ve broken your bag open. There’s not a damn thing you can do about it. You have to pay for a new one. We don’t even have to tell you who did it or why.”

Jack November 21, 2006 7:53 PM

I do have what I think was a good story about the TSA and airline people not overreacting. I live in Las Vegas and over the weekend before Halloween I was going to visit the girl I’ve been seeing in New Mexico. While we were having a discussion about the fact that we were going to go to a Halloween party once I got there I decided I should wear my ninja costume to the airport. I did check my plastic sword but otherwise I wore the full outfit, including the face mask. I was kinda expecting to at least be bothered a little bit so I got there extra early. No one even batted an eye during the whole trip, like it was done all the time. The lady who checked my bag asked to see my face when she checked my bag but the lady who checked my ID before the security checkpoint didn’t. So I went through the security checkpoint with my face covered. After I got off the plane in New Mexico a girl that was on the flight came up to me and told me she thought it was awesome and the stewardesses had been laughing and making jokes in the back of the plane like “Watch out for the ninja!”. So I was pleasantly surprised that no one gave a crap that I was in my ninja outfit.

Ms Cynical November 21, 2006 8:30 PM

As a frequent traveler, I’m frequently annoyed at the petty and tyrannical behavior of those who conduct our security theater, both in the US and abroad.

Why is a tube of Chapstick OK when it’s inside a quart-size Ziplock bag, and not OK when it’s in a carryon next to the bag? Because the TSA says so, and there’s not a damn thing you can do about it.

Praying before a flight, taking photographs of a sunset from an airport window, carrying a bottle of water on an airplane — none of these used to be forbidden acts.

Are we safer because the TSA is monitoring the insignificant? Nope. We still risk life and limb every time we drive to/from the airport.

Bolek November 21, 2006 8:34 PM

Considering recent latrinalia (among others) at Heathrow, quite a lot of people are sick of these new regulations.

As was reiterated multiple times, the liquid ban does not provide any significant increase of security, especially looking bleak when compared to the inconvenience of passengers. The confiscation of antihistamines suggests that we may soon witness a wave of The Economy Class Syndrome episodes — ridiculous 100 ml of water for transcontinental flight, not to mention that even empty containers with bigger volume are prohibited. Even flight attendants’ fine service cannot fully mitigate it.

Anonymous November 21, 2006 8:51 PM

I hope this gets thoroughly investigated. If it turns out that some of the people made allegations of wrong-doing without good cause, then maybe they should be charged and that event publicized. I never hear about people being held to account over false allegations. It’s stupid that they are not. It just encourages more of the same stupid, bad, bigoted, behaviour. Society’s not safer by allowing people who feel they have a right to check their brains with their luggage to act as an unaccountable public police force.

Andrew November 21, 2006 10:31 PM

One of my coworkers was a checkpoint security manager back in the days that minimum-wage private security people guarded airports. I thought her stories were awful. These are far, far worse.

Give security back to the private outfits. TSA sucks.

David Harper November 22, 2006 12:59 AM


“>the airport staff refused to speak anything other than French

right. It’s not just the TSA, but there’s a certain frenchness to this one…”

Try talking French or German or Japanese to your friendly TSA operatives next time you fly, and you’ll discover how happy they are to converse in any of the world’s major languages 🙂


alfora November 22, 2006 2:51 AM

Last week I tried to find out the exact regulations that are effective in the EU since November 6th. It was not easy.

The ministry of interior refers to airlines and travel agencies. The airlines refer to the airport and the television agency. The airport refers to the ministry. Everybody refers to “the EU regulation” without giving the reference number of this very regulation. And, yes, everybody tells you different things.

I proceeded by asking the ministry by email. After two days I got an answer and was pointed to a web page of the ministry of transportation where I could find the reference number of the EU regulation. The date of this web page was the date when I wrote my email…

Finally, I found the EU regulation (Nr. 1546/2006 from October 4th, 2006). You can get it from http://eur-lex.europa.eu/ if you are interested. Guess what. The regulations are confidential and are NOT published.

So the EU makes regulations, keeps them confidential, and obviously gives them in secret to the EU gouvernments (I hope). The gouvernments tell the airlines and other agencies of these regulations in an abbreviated form.

This reminds me of the children’s game “chinese whisper”. No wonder that nobody gives you the same information. You have to rely on the goodwill of the airport staff instead of the regulations or the law!

Real world example: I use contact lenses. The liquid to save keep the lenses comes in containers that hold 120 ml.

Question: Can I bring this liquid in my hand luggage if the bottle is half empty? Filling a smaller bottle is not an option because the lens liquid should be as germ free as possible.

In some of the interpreted regulations I found the note that “100 ml” is the maximum size of the container. In other sources they mean the amount of liquid and not the container.

I also found no reference if it is allowed to take the same liquid in more than one container with you as long as it is contained in bottles that hold 100 ml and you don’t exceed your 1 litre plastic bag.

I know this is nit picking but I simply don’t like secret laws and regulations that nobody is allowed to know of but must follow to the letter and is dependent on the goodwill of people.

Robert the Red November 22, 2006 7:40 AM

In the rubber-band-ball case: the RBB guy says he was arrested when the cop looked in his eyes and said that the RBB guy looked like he was on drugs. So he was handcuffed, blood tested, and kept for 12 hours. Is that a legitimate arrest? If so, a cop could arrest anyone at anytime with such “evidence”, which could not possibly be challenged.

We are at the end times of the American Republic.

Reseacher2 November 22, 2006 8:46 AM

It’s been my personal experience in the US and Europe that contact lens stuff, as nonprescription medication, is not included in the “liquids” category but the “meds” category. I just take my contact lens pouch (which is NOT a ziplock bag) out of my carry-on and have it scanned separately. No problems.

Flagstaff November 22, 2006 9:03 AM

Hmmm… regional airport. I experienced a bit of this Big-Fish-small-pond at our local airport. I arrived early as instructed on America West’s site to find the check-in counter un-attended. Waited 1.5 hours before anyone showed up, and was simply told they’d been at lunch. Several passengers asked for a supervisor’s name and number. The women behind the ticket counter then spoke with the TSA “officials??? there. Everyone who complained was given a thorough search – meanwhile they couldn’t possibly have been doing their real jobs.

While you may not want to cause a scene at the time…
1. Don’t let it slide: I filed a complaint, and America West apologized. I never heard from the TSA, but if no one complains, it will never change.
2. Don’t support it: I no longer patronize that airport.


Bruce Schneier November 22, 2006 9:17 AM

“Is there an argument here? Are you suggesting I’m wrong?”

What I suggest is that you are often off topic. This is not a political philosophy blog, and I don’t want it to become one. I am glad you are here commenting, but I would wish for less political rhetoric. Not because I think you’re right or wrong, but because I think you can be off topic.

bob November 22, 2006 9:24 AM

TSA spokesman Nico Melendez said. “At no time was the security of the airport in jeopardy.”

…since nothing the screeners do has anything to do with security, they can be as incompetent as they like.

FP November 22, 2006 9:52 AM

As for the incident in Paris, it is my experience that, especially on outbound flights to the US, European screening procedures at airports are generally more thorough and anal than their US counterparts. For example, Laptops are generally swiped for explosive residue, when that has never happened to me when boarding a flight in the US (domestic or international).

I ascribe that to gentle prodding from the US with regular reminders that landing privileges can be removed at any time for any reason. Like with the debate about PNRs, the EU politicians then choose to “err on the side of caution.” Sad, really.

Michael T November 22, 2006 10:22 AM

Overheard in the security line at Manchester (NH) airport:

Passenger: Can I bring coffee on board?
TSA: Is it liquid?
Passenger: No, it’s a can of instant coffee…it’s a powder.
TSA: That’s OK then. Until they invent a powder you can put into guns.

Arturo Quirantes November 22, 2006 10:40 AM


I always laughed at the thought of having secret laws. After all, ignorance of the law is no excuse for not complying with it. So we Europeans have become a shup-up-comrade heaven, too! Another brilliant American influence (our politicians would eventually find a way to do it anyway, but the “they did it so we must do it too” argument works great agains border.

I delved a bit into the matter. I asked the Spanish ministry (Fomento) and airport authority (Aena) in which BOE (Spain’s Official Register) that regulation is. Nobody was able to answer me. They didn’t deny the information, the just didn’t know. That shocked me, because no European decision is legal in Spain if it’s not in the BOE.

Moreover, EC Regulation 1546/2006 states that the new measures are on a secret Annex. The reason is (as stated in EC Regulation 2320/2002) “in order to prevent acts of unlawful interference” At least it adds that “Notwithstanding this, passengers shall be clearly informed of rules relating to items prohibited from carriage on aircraft.”

So here we go. Not only is the national law nowhere to be found, you cannot even know it at an European level. You know what you are allowed to carry just because someone felt like it. That will allow security guys to do what they please, or change the rules at will.

Or maybe discard them if it screwy someone. One of the Majorca specialities is a cake known as “ensaimada”. It’s large, and some of them have a liquid core. Security people there were eventually forced to allow them through, lest the island lose lots of revenue and wins lots of angry tourists.

Happy flight, comrades!

Arturo Quirantes November 22, 2006 11:34 AM

@ ken,

In Spanish, you would use the word “Iman”, which BTW als means “magnet”. I’ll leave the possible jokes as a job to the reader…

Chris Wuestefeld November 22, 2006 11:56 AM

From OP:

“It’s not a liquid right now,” he observantly noted.
“But it will be soon.”

The logic here is broken. To assume that it will soon melt is to implicitly accept its chemical properties. If you know it will be a liquid at room temperature (because it’s apparently frozen spaghetti sauce), you likely know enough to dismiss its danger as an explosive.

sigh November 22, 2006 12:52 PM

@Chris W.
“The logic here is broken.”

He’s not paid to assess its chemical properties. He’s only paid to assess its physical characteristics.

And yes, the logic here is profoundly broken: banning liquids is utterly illogical. But the TSA isn’t about logic. It’s about enforcing regulations intended to protect the flying public. Each one of those words is important to understanding why that makes TSA security theatre instead of real security.

Anonymous November 22, 2006 1:30 PM


“Well, when are y’all going to stand up? [clipped]
Y’all have a bit of culpability in our current mess…”

Correct. And you forgot to mention that Europe (particularly Switzerland) is the hiding place for a lions share of the worlds dirty money. The EU has no incentive to change that, but the EU governments (eh I mean financiers) do have to make concessions for their prime overseas customers.

W.P. Fleischmann November 22, 2006 2:51 PM

Much as I despise the security theater, the frozen/soon-to-be-liquid sauce was not confiscated!

From the cited article:
“Please,” urged my mother. “Please don’t take away my dinner.”

Lo and behold, they did not. Whether out of confusion, sympathy or embarrassment, she was allowed to pass with her murderous marinara.

alfora November 22, 2006 4:48 PM


Regarding EU regulations, I found this source:

Note that there also is no indication of the original source of this regulations on that page. And also note that according to the information on that page it would be perfectly “legal” to bring up to 1000 ml of the same liquid as long as you use 10 bottles.

Regarding Switzerland: Did you know that you can still buy original Swiss Army Knives in the duty free shops at airports in Switzerland as long as your flight ends in the EU? Who needs liquids on the plane when you can bring your brand new knife? 😉

The Angry Independent November 23, 2006 10:22 AM

I’m a former screening supervisor (pre-911) & worked at a major U.S. airport (well, it was major pre-911).

One concept that screeners used to work under that should have been carried over to the post-911 screening is the concept of “let common sense prevail”. That used to be drilled in the minds of screeners years ago.

That is an idea that they should have stuck with, and it’s a concept that would still work, even in an environment of tougher screening.

The problem is, the TSA is so stringent that it leaves no room for workers or supervisors to use any discretion whatsoever…. for fear of getting into trouble, the agents and their supervisors decide to eliminate all the risks that they can (airing on the side of caution and the TSA the vast majority of the time)….again…for fear of getting into trouble or missing something.

This lack of discretion, fear among screeners, and the death of the “let common sense prevail” concept has led to all sorts of silly things like what we see here in these reports…. (as I expected), and there have been several incidents like these over the past few years.

Well, some might say that “letting common sense prevail” was what led to 911. WRONG!!! There is no connection between the two. The media has pretty much blamed screeners for 911…. and they have been wrong in doing so. No one has ever challenged the media on this (I will soon try to tackle it on my blog).

What happened on 911 had little to do with the screeners per se on that day(although they were a problem in general terms). Private companies and airlines should have never been responsible for screening passengers….

What happened on 911 had more to do with a broken structure…. lack of a national security system and conflicts of interests caused by how the airport security screening was implemented nationwide. The FAA Security Division did not provide good oversight and guidance in terms of what could be carried onto a plane during those days. You often had different policies at different airports…. it was a mess.

Initially, the creation of the TSA fixed those issues…. but it seems that the old culture is now returning…even under the TSA. You now have airlines and passengers dictating how security should be….and you have low paid screeners (who aren’t consulted about problems and best practices) fearful about their jobs. The old high turnover has therefore returned as well. That in itself is a security problem…when you constantly have new people who are being trained on the job. That’s a security risk. Private security companies are once again doing screening at some airports (although not under contract by airlines….still a bad move though in my opinion).

The system once again appears to be breaking down. It stems from the lack of TSA workers being able to make decisions and the lack of management providing clear guidance. Either provide clear guidance or allow for some discretion. If you are going to have robots who do not have discretion, then you must provide clear and detailed “policy”…. clear procedures and guidance for every conceivable possibility. But managers and politicians are not providing workers with good sound policies to follow. This is why we see so much chaos…. and the policies that they do have are constantly changing…. adding to confusion. When there is no policy for a certain situation….(in fear of getting into trouble) screeners and supervisors are airing on the side of extreme caution…even if they might be ridiculed for it. The same is happening with the airlines to some extent…. and the same is true there as well….no clear guidance from politicians, or the TSA or DHS on what they should do in these cases…. in the absence of policy guidance, clear legal guidance etc, airlines are airing on the side of extreme caution. This whole era is still in its infancy….. it will take another 10 to 20 years for clear government policies and clear legal guidelines to take hold and clear up most of these gray areas (& the chaos that the gray areas are creating).

Mike November 23, 2006 10:28 AM

None of this surprises me. While going through security at O’Hare in late September, I witnessed a mid-60’s woman, who was clearly flying from one part of the US to another, get removed from the line and searched. She then had to be taken out of the secure area so her ‘contraband’ could be placed in checked luggage.

Her ‘contraband’? 6 jars of freshly picked mushrooms.

Meanwhile they let me through with a inch sharpened steel pen, something far more dangerous than mushrooms.

What a waste of time and resources.

You want a terrorist to get on a plane? Have them slip some home-canned pickles or mushrooms into an old woman’s bag and then they will be able to slip through almost unnoticed in all the excitement of getter her back out of the secure area.

The Angry Independent November 23, 2006 11:26 AM

One other thing….

On the issue of food being carried on…

This is mostly a result of the U.S. government and DHS in particular, not engaging in any real (sustained) public information or public education efforts….on ANY aspect of what is expected of the American public since 911. That covers everything from how to report suspicious activity, what sacrifices are needed from the American people, how to protect ourselves, how to prepare, and how to travel esp. via airports….what items are o.k. and what to ship via an alternative route.

If the government did a better job of educating Americans on these matters, there would not be as many problems. This aspect of the “war on terror” and homeland security have pretty much been completely neglected.

I personally believe that such items… (food being shipped in carry on) should be shipped through an alternative route… such as in checked baggage, or through UPS, FED ex or through some other service ahead of time….or through a service provided by the airlines. That would avoid many of these problems. But if passengers don’t know, then this is going to keep happening. Again….it goes back to a lack of leadership by the clowns who run this country and who are run “Homeland Security” and the so-called “War On Terrorism”.

I recall seeing (and still do) PSA’s on drugs…. quite often…. but I can’t recall the last time I saw or heard a PSA about Homeland Security, travel rules/tips, how to protect myself, how to participate in the War on Terror, what is required from me, nothing of the sort…..

The last thing I remember was something about duct tape and plastic several years ago.

The public education/public information part of this whole post 911 situation has been dismal. The American people are poorly informed by their government on a variety of Homeland Security related issues…..(often not due to any fault of their own).

Reasonable November 24, 2006 1:12 AM

I think the constant attacks on TSA are just disguised attempts to attack the anti-terror policies of the administration. I think, however, that these attacks do not strengthen security, but weaken it.
More to the case in point, the cheap shots at the expense of the TSA agent noting that the sauce is frozen but would soon not be are just that, cheap shots. I liquids are not allowed, then they are not. Making TSA agents lives harder by trying to mount pressure on them to let more people bend the rules serves no purpose, and is frankly disingenuous.

Clive Robinson November 24, 2006 8:56 AM

@The Angry Independent

“The public education/public information part of this whole post 911 situation has been dismal. ”

That is the whole point, if you had information then you could make informed desisions, and thereby withold your concent in a justifiable way.

No info = no ability to do anything other than you are told when you are told….

rfid November 24, 2006 9:16 AM

I don’t think this is a timing attack; it’s a side-channel attack that exploits the fact that OpenSSL’s impact on the branch prediction cache leaks information. The only “timing” done here is to determine whether a jump address is in the BTB or not.

Michael Ash November 24, 2006 1:15 PM

“I think the constant attacks on TSA are just disguised attempts to attack the anti-terror policies of the administration.”

Considering that the TSA and what it does are a big part of the anti-terror policies of the administration, this is a really terrible disguise.

Rusty November 24, 2006 2:13 PM

The craziness is not just limited to planes – back in the summer myself, my fiance and another couple where traveling to Nantucket by ferry.

This is one of those ‘floating waiting room ferries’, with rows of uncomfortable plastic chairs, a small cafeteria, and not much else

But as I was on vacation, and a guy, I though I’d take some pics of the ferry and my traveling companions.

A (very polite and reasonable) TSA agent approached me and I was informed that I was prohibited from taking pictures of the interior of the ferry.

Being a stranger in an ever-stranger land (I’m Canadian, where our government is only mildly retarded), I politely acquiesced and put my camera away. If I was at home I would of pushed back, but I wasn’t in any hurry to fly CIAirways to Syria so I didn’t.

The TSA agent thanked me, we had a pleasant chat and I took my seat.

From my seat, where I wasn’t taking pictures to keep everyone safe, I had a marvelous view of one of the several TV’s mounted on the walls that showed a topographical map of the bay we were in, with an icon indicating the ships current position, a nice dotted line showing the intended course, along with heading, current speed, GPS co-ordinates etc.

Security Theatre indeed!

Anonymous November 24, 2006 3:04 PM

@Michael Ash
“..this is a really terrible disguise.”

The TSA can’t even get THAT right.

Davi Ottenheimer November 27, 2006 3:17 AM

“Switzerland is not part of the EU.”

Funny you should mention that. On a recent flight through Zurich I was told I could not bring a bottle of wine in my carry-on because…I was coming from outside the EU. Nevermind the fact that I had just purchased the bottle in duty-free after the luggage-check point. In order to save my poor bottle, I thus was instructed to exit into Switzerland, then check my bag through to my destination (in the EU). I managed to get through the whole fiasco in about 30 minutes. I would say that’s an average delay for security theatre.

Sadly, as I went through security again, I ran into some Australians who had been caught in the same duty-free ruse. One country says it’s ok to bring a bottle, while another country says no bottles of any kind are allowed. They asked for a receipt proving that the bottles were being taken away from them by security…

Oh, and as an aside, the Zurich security were very calm and professional although they kept insisting I needed a “sealed” bag. They showed me the official rules (on a handout) but I pointed out that it clearly said a “resealable” bag. The distinction was lost on them. Moreover, I tried to point out that a duty-free bottle of wine is clearly “sealed”. I was clearly lost in the translation of already inconsistent and silly rules, and so I settled with jumping around the hoops and checking everything through.

Anyway, I guess my point is that the Swiss told me I was entering the EU via Zurich with non-EU materials and thus was subject to higher scrutiny.

derf November 27, 2006 10:46 AM

CNN did a quick drive-by on the TSA this morning. Guess where those bottles of hair gel, silverware, and fingernail clippers end up? You have probably guessed it – either given to government agencies or sold on eBay. Since this program was created, the TSA has earned $200,000+ on eBay selling confiscated items.

It’s no wonder airline security is so bad – the incentive is to steal, not secure.

Jones November 27, 2006 11:45 AM

“It’s like listening to a Marxist drone on about the historical inevitability of proletarian revolution.”

We used to have this old coot sit and loudly spout Marxism in the neighborhood cafeteria without ordering anything except a cup of coffee. There were several attempts to get him kicked out and prevent him from going back in the cafeteria. At some point, the police decided that they had better stuff to do with their time than keep the guy from going to the cafeteria.

Regulars learned to ignore the old man and you could tell if someone was new to the place (and a dogmatic capitalist) when you saw them verbally sparring with the old guy. Sometimes, I took people to the place just to watch the old man rant.

At some point, he stopped showing up and the owner told us that he had had a heart attack.

I used to get annoyed with Quincunx’s comments (as did Bruce) but I’ve learned to regard him as we did the old Marxist. While he’s always threatened to quit visiting Bruce’s blog, I’ve yet to see that happen.

D November 27, 2006 9:26 PM

Wait a minute Bruce – you’re the one who always says that the best security are people looking for strange behavior. My immediate family has logged more than two million air miles in the past 15 years. We have never, not once, seen a group of men praying in public. It is absolutely legitimate to consider that unusal behavior and submit those men to additional scrutiny – and I’m damn glad that they did.

Security must be blind to political correctness to be effective. In the United States, especially Post-911, Muslim men congregating in an airport, whispering prayers, is simply asking for trouble. It’s time for other cultures to adapt to our norms – not the other way around.

asdf0001 November 28, 2006 11:27 AM

Security must be blind to political correctness to be effective.


From http://www.washingtontimes.com/national/20061128-122902-7522r.htm :

Muslim religious leaders removed from a Minneapolis flight last week exhibited behavior associated with a security probe by terrorists and were not merely engaged in prayers, according to witnesses, police reports and aviation security officials.
Witnesses said three of the imams were praying loudly in the concourse and repeatedly shouted “Allah” when passengers were called for boarding US Airways Flight 300 to Phoenix.
“I was suspicious by the way they were praying very loud,” the gate agent told the Minneapolis Police Department.
Passengers and flight attendants told law-enforcement officials the imams switched from their assigned seats to a pattern associated with the September 11 terrorist attacks and also found in probes of U.S. security since the attacks — two in the front row first-class, two in the middle of the plane on the exit aisle and two in the rear of the cabin.
“That would alarm me,” said a federal air marshal who asked to remain anonymous. “They now control all of the entry and exit routes to the plane.”

Mr. Ibis November 28, 2006 12:48 PM

Like most of you, this entire situation makes my head want to explode. We can all sit around here bitching about poorly trained TSA agents and security theater, but how do we fix it ? Challenging a stupid rule in the security line makes a point, but doesn’t effect any change.

Who do we talk to about this? Who has the power to change it ? Do we have to write Congress ? which sub-committee ?

Jim November 28, 2006 7:01 PM


I agree with you completely

1) Schneier says we should profile behavior rather than by ethnicity.

But when a member of a certain ethnic group exhibits the behavior of a terrorist…

2) Schneier criticizes the security professionals for performing such profiling.

“Aviation security officials said thousands of Muslims fly every day and conduct prayers in airports in a quiet and private manner without creating incidents.” This quote points to the fact that these individuals were not removed from the plane for ethnic reasons, but rather inappropriate behavior.

David Conrad December 6, 2006 6:42 PM

I know this post is a little stale now, but I have to make a comment or two on the Imams.

They controlled the exits from the plane? So, when they began their takeover attempt at 35,000 feet, no one would be able to jump out??

Jim: Praying is exhibiting “the behavior of a terrorist?” Are you for real? Please, tell me you’re joking.

I want to know where I can get one of those shirts with a pink gun on it.

Zefram December 15, 2006 9:11 AM

The rubber band ball case looks like bribe-seeking behaviour from the TSA guy. He’s invented false charges (metallic core to the ball, passenger on drugs), and supplied a threat (put you in jail for twelve hours). With the accusations he was making it appears that there was no legitimate way for the passenger to satisfy him, so the only reason to delay turning him over to the cops was to give him an opportunity to offer a bribe.

With no bribe forthcoming, the passenger is handed over to the cops (who appear to be straight). Passenger and TSA guy both know that the blood test will come out negative, and the ball will prove innocuous, but the cops have to work through the investigation, which takes time. TSA guy will claim it was all a mistake, or (given the time) come up with a better pretext for having arrested him. (His second pretext was already better than the opportunistic first one.) Voila, passenger has been punished with impunity by corrupt official.

And what’s up with keeping a proven-innocent citizen in jail for twelve hours? Sounds unconstitutional. I’d like to see the rationale for that.

Robert Goldman December 15, 2006 12:33 PM

Since the original US Airways story, there has been a bit of a backlash and claims (notably in the Wall Street Journal) that the people removed from the flight for “being Muslim” might have been doing some social engineering of their own to provoke the reaction. The WSJ story is available for free on their opinionjournal web page: http://www.opinionjournal.com/editorial/feature.html?id=110009348
The WSJ editorial page isn’t a source in whose reportage I have a lot of faith. I’d be interested to hear if there has been any corroboration of this more nuanced version of the story. If it’s true, then we may own an apology to the US Airways folks we have accused of bigotry.
Indeed, it’s not clear how our society can do the kind of smart security that you are calling for, if we second-guess the security staff in this way. On the other hand, I have watched a customs person (not in MSP airport) clearly and obviously harassing someone for no other reason than his race…

zoli kincses December 31, 2006 1:04 PM

I was travelling from Budapest to Dakar through Paris, and customs took from me even the liquid against mosquito…on the backway they took from me the remained sunoil (it was 150 ml bottle, imagine the danger).
And they give this knife on the plane to eat the chicken:
These liquid regulations are for security? I fear if we have such “experts” in the EU.

everett January 15, 2007 1:04 PM

On Sat, 16 Dec 2006, I emailed you with the following (I hadn’t
replied to your monthly email newsletter before, and apparently I
hadn’t figured out the correct procedure–I hope I’ve got it right
this time):

To: “Bruce Schneier”
Subject: Comments on CRYPTO-GRAM of 15 Dec 2006

. . .

I very much appreciate your viewpoints on security, and wish that
everyone were as level headed on the topic as I believe you are.

However, an item in yesterday’s issue compels me to write this reply.
It’s the one about the

Six Muslim imams removed from a plane by US Airways because…well
because they’re Muslim and that scares people. After they were
cleared by the authorities, US Airways refused to sell them a ticket.
Note that US Airways is the culprit here, not the TSA. Refuse to be
terrorized, people!

I read each of the three links you provided with regard to this, and I
believe you have not heard the full story. I had heard this story
before on the Glenn Beck program on Headline News, and as presented
there, I think it is much more troubling than your comment and your
sources would lead us to believe. I have come to pretty much trust
Glenn Beck on the state of affairs in the world as much as I have come
to trust your thoughts on security.

Please read (and look up for yourself) the following long quote :

From the transcript of the Glenn Beck program on CNN Headline News of
November 30, 2006 – 19:00:00 ET
http://transcripts.cnn.com/TRANSCRIPTS/0611/30/gb.01.html :

BECK: Now, there was a flight last week in Minneapolis. Aboard, six
Muslim imams reportedly began praying loudly and repeatedly —
repeatedly shouted “Allah.” They also changed their seating
assignments to a pattern associated with the attacks of 9/11: two
people in the front row, two people in the exit row, and two in the
rear of the cabin.

Witnesses also said that they overheard the imams talking about al
Qaeda and the name Osama bin Laden. Well, naturally, security had them
removed from the plane.

Now, Mehdi Bray (ph) from the Muslim American Society Freedom
Foundation is saying that this was racist.

All right, maybe these people werent terrorists, but heres the
thing: the world has changed. I cant bring hair gel on a plane. You
t be saying “Allah” at the top of your lungs, changing your
seats to mimic the 9/11 attacks and talking about bin Laden. If you do
all of these things, then don`t really complain when someone gets a
little suspicious and says, “Can you check on those guys?”

Captain Dave Mackett, he is a commercial airline pilot and the
president of the Airline Pilots Security Alliance. Hes the guy who
started the movement to allow pilots to be armed, if I
m not mistaken.

Correct. There are other agencies, but we`re one of the organizations.

BECK: OK. What have I missed. Tell me, would any of these things by
themselves — for instance, you see a bunch of Arab men. Nobody is
going to kick you off a flight, right.

MACKETT: Absolutely not.

BECK: Right. You see a much of Arab men that are praying, are you
going to get kicked off a flight?

MACKETT: Of course not.

BECK: You see a bunch of Arab men that are playing — praying and then
they are changing their seats, is that going to get you kicked off a

MACKETT: That raises the bar a little bit. I mean, you have to look at
this from the perspective of a flight crew. Terrorists are actively
seeking to attack commercial aviation. This is the new normal. It`s
not going anywhere any time soon.

Airport security checkpoints failed to detect hidden weapons more than
90 percent of the time of the governments own tests. So theres no
question that bad things and bad people are going to be able to get
onto our airplanes. Once they do, only a small fraction of airplanes
are protected by armed pilots even today. Only a small fraction are
protected by air marshals.

So once that flight leaves the gate, it is virtually nine times out of
ten, defenseless against a terrorist attack. So you have to have some
level of understanding for this hyper vigilance on the part of flight
crew, given that we don`t have another method to stop this attack
once: if it was going to take place in the air.

BECK: Dave, the political correctness — Im so afraid the people who
are in the air -- your job -- if you
re a pilot, your job is to get me
there safely.


BECK: And it`s my understanding that, first of all, first question, if
this is true or not, are there dry runs? Do you believe there are
actual terrorist dry runs going on right now in America?

MACKETT: Right now I dont know. There have been, absolutely, dry runs
in the past several years. And that
s been confirmed by the

BECK: Since 9/11?

MACKETT: Oh, absolutely since 9/11. Not only dry runs but planned
attacks which we saw with explosive entertainments and other ones.

BECK: OK. Do you believe that our pilots are afraid, even to the point
of just serious hesitation, to say anything because of political
correctness or lawsuits?

MACKETT: It depends on what the instigator is. I dont think political
correctness should be in conflict with a behavioral profiling
strategy, where you say it
s a very simple test. Is this behavior
unusual? If it is unusual, is it understandable? And if it is not
understandable, let`s just go ask the passenger why he did what he did
so we can all, you know, give him a free drink and go fly.

BECK: So what was — do you know, what was the reason for changing
their seats? What was the reason — what was — if you were the pilot,
what would be the straw that you would say, I dont care what their
explanation is, they
re off the plane?

MACKETT: Actually, its funny; its kind of convoluted sense, where a
pastor may be concerned about things like talking about al Qaeda and
Osama bin Laden. Everybody does that.

BECK: Right.

MACKETT: Praying in a terminal is no big deal. Praying loudly in a
terminal is no big deal.

The fact that they were reported to be clearly together in the
terminal, but once they got on the plane they separated, and two of
them went to first class, and theres a report that says they did so
without permission. That
s enough, at least, to just go ask the
passenger and say, “OK, why did you do this?” Maybe theres a good
explanation. Maybe they had an argument in the terminal and they
t want to sit together.

Its then the reaction of the passenger. Is he cooperative? Does he
stand up and say absolutely, I
d love to tell you what happen and then
well vet it and well all go flying together.

If the pastor takes the tact that, “No, I`m not going to explain this
to you and you have no right, and I” — you know, then that sort of
takes you down a path where the crew, even though they want to take
him, has very little latitude but to send this down a different path
toward the law enforcement track.

And once law enforcement removes the passenger from the airplane, its
kind of out of our hands, and we can
t do anything about it.

BECK: Dave, thanks a lot.

MACKETT: Thank you.

BECK: Appreciate it.

Thanks for your time and attention, Bruce. I’ll be interested in
hearing your reaction to these details of the story.


Ezight December 9, 2007 12:34 PM

I won’t travel unless i first REMOVE the hard drive from my laptop.

I then only travel with a LIVE LINUX CD.
Puppy linux.

I can surf listen to mp3’s
use Firefox
Use Wifi outlets.

All without a hard drive.

If you want to save use a thumbdrive (which can be looked at by TSA) I’d rather use Email storage or my personal server at home.

No hard drive no saved data once the laptop is turned completely off..

SEARCH THAT !!!!!!!!!!!

Computer user since 1983
First computer TRS80 (Tandy)
Operating systems.

Puppy linux
D@m small linux
Windows Beast Edition

Go mad with a ROOT SHELL!!!!

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