TSA Proud of Confiscating Non-Dangerous Item

This is just sad. The TSA confiscated a battery pack not because it’s dangerous, but because other passengers might think it’s dangerous. And they’re proud of the fact.

“We must treat every suspicious item the same and utilize the tools we have available to make a final determination,” said Federal Security Director David Wynn. “Procedures are in place for a reason and this is a clear indication our workforce is doing a great job.”

My guess is that if Kip Hawley were allowed to comment on my blog, he would say something like this: “It’s not just bombs that are prohibited; it’s things that look like bombs. This looks enough like a bomb to fool the other passengers, and that in itself is a threat.”

Okay, that’s fair. But the average person doesn’t know what a bomb looks like; all he knows is what he sees on television and the movies. And this rule means that all homemade electronics are confiscated, because anything homemade with wires can look like a bomb to someone who doesn’t know better. The rule just doesn’t work.

And in today’s passengers-fight-back world, do you think anyone is going to successfully do anything with a fake bomb?

Posted on July 30, 2008 at 6:11 AM146 Comments


Nomen Publicus July 30, 2008 6:36 AM

As I’m pretty certain I’ve read about a t-shirt with a picture of a gun that has been banned in the past, I would guess that a hand drawn cartoon bomb would also be liable for confiscation.

What about a professional cartoon such as “Spy v. Spy” which mostly consists of two characters shooting and bombing each other. Is MAD magazine banned on aeroplanes?

Kees July 30, 2008 6:42 AM

“today’s passengers-fight-back world”

When are the passengers going to fight back at the TSA?

vwm July 30, 2008 6:49 AM

People have hijacked planes just by claiming they have a bomb. So I guess:

1) a fake one might work.
2) confiscating non-dangerous items is still pointless, as bad guys can do without.

Calum July 30, 2008 6:50 AM

What about that grad student at MIT who nearly got herself shot in an arrivals lounge for having a breadboard attached to her sweater?

bob July 30, 2008 6:59 AM

Ok, if I understand this, everyone agreed it was NOT dangerous, but it merely LOOKED dangerous to uninformed people and they might overreact.

NP – they put it in a ziploc bag, give it to the crew and the passenger gets it back when he disembarks at the destination. Why confiscate it?

riots July 30, 2008 7:16 AM

So, then anything could be a suspicious and dangerous item. Remember the Macbook Air? If a battery can be construed as such, how about your camera, ipod, or anything else a grumpy TSA person decides would satisfy their ego as a pound of flesh?
What cannot be construed as a suspicious and dangerous item?

raimundo July 30, 2008 7:29 AM

In movies, bombs have red led countdown timers and other electronic bells and whistles. the real thing has an explosive charge, a detonator, possibly a battery and a timer, and if made by someone who dosent want accidents, it will have an arming switch which may control a single led indicator. any bridge between the various wires will short it out, you could even put a coin between the battery terminals. The public is deluded by the selling of fear that is the republicans only remaining issue that will lead the fools that can be fooled all the time. Do not expect the government to be more truthful than that newyork cop who assaulted the bicyclist and then claimed the bicyclist assaulted him. (youtube video, search critical mass) The government is no longer the democracy you studied in civics class, its a protection and extortion racket run by elites who get no bid contracts. Never trust them

Bob July 30, 2008 7:31 AM

Tangential question: In the movies (where we all learn our science) they are always worried about cutting the “green wire” or “red wire” or whatever when the hero has to disable the bomb. Cut the right wire, we go to DQ and get a cone with sprinkles; cut the wrong wire and we become sprinkles.

My question is – is there some sort of anti-tamper built into “detonators” (the piece stuck into the C4 which gives off enough energy to actually make it explode) which would prevent the hero from just pulling it out of the actual explosive, then letting it go off (relatively) harmlessly?

David Harper July 30, 2008 7:37 AM

@Bob: When the IRA was busy blowing people up in London and other major English cities in the 1970s and 1980s, they did indeed built anti-tamper booby traps into their bombs.

andy July 30, 2008 7:40 AM

Something that for all intents and purposes looks like a real bomb will probably elicit the same response as a real bomb would.

When somebody tries to hijack your plane with a bomb it doesn’t really matter whether or not the bomb goes boom or not. What matters is getting out of the situation without discovering whether or not the bomb has the ability to go “boom”.

In that respect you could say that a fake bomb is just as successful as a real bomb…

clvrmnky July 30, 2008 7:43 AM

And using jargon like “utilize” makes it official! It’s the part of the security theatre that makes the TSA sound like they are actually protecting travellers.

jrr July 30, 2008 7:44 AM

So, is the answer that we carefully craft bombs that look like totally ordinary devices and objects, then publicize the hell out of that? A bomb can be made to look like almost anything. It’d be silly to make a bomb look like a movie bomb.

When people see video of a perfectly normal looking, working computer then exploding with a lot of force, or a diaper doing the same thing (perhaps when detonated by the battery from a cell phone), what would the reaction be? Finally give up and just go back to “no guns, no big knives?” Or would we get to where no carry-on was allowed at all except for registered meds?

Robert July 30, 2008 7:45 AM

You know if you go to the airport looking suspicious then you deserve what you get. We all know what happened on Sept 11th. Why would you want to make your self look suspicious?

What would have been said if it really was a bomb?

I would rather look stupid then to say I let him/her go because I did not want to look like an idiot stopping that individual.

Paul Crowley July 30, 2008 7:48 AM

There is clearly no possibility that any screening could prevent a passenger taking on board components that when put together look like a home made bomb; that’s just a few wires.

Thras July 30, 2008 7:51 AM

Remember how passengers saved the plane from Richard Reid? They stopped him from setting his shoes on fire because they thought it was suspicious.

If you bring something onto a plane that looks very suspicious, passengers may react badly when you pull it out, i.e. they may tackle you. Therefore, airport security is quite right to prevent suspicious devices from going on the plane in the first place.

Please remember, everyone, that the perfect is the enemy of the good. Good security is not perfect, and perfect security is not achievable.

Larry Lard July 30, 2008 7:53 AM

Why’ve you banned Kip Hawley from commenting on your blog?

Oh wait, I see.

Anonymous July 30, 2008 7:56 AM

Hmm… what if I hid an actual bomb in something that resembles a cartoon prop… think big, black bowlingball with sparkling fuse sticking out, or red sticks clearly labelled TNT.

Would I be let through because obviously it’s too ridiculous to be mistaken for an actual bomb?

André July 30, 2008 8:09 AM


so would you please tell us, how not to look suspicious?
and uhm, who decides whether someone looks suspicious or not? and by which “rules”?


Calum July 30, 2008 8:10 AM

@Bob – Detonators are dangerous objects, and can if they have been mistreated go off without much prompting – like being yanked out of a wodge of C4. Simpler and safer to blow the whole thing up. Detonators have sufficient explosive power to take a finger or two off, so not really worth messing with.

Jeroen July 30, 2008 8:18 AM

That’s revealing. Apparently, the TSA knows very well it does not exist to provide security, but to make people feel safe.

From an policy-maker’s of view, it may make economic sense to make people feel safe, even if the measures you take are prime examples of security theatre, or the perceived threat does not exist at all.

After all, nothing is more devastating to an economy than people who stop spending. Perhaps the thinking goes that what the TSA does makes people feel safer, hence they keep flying, hence the airlines don’t go out of business.

Having said that, I am personally of the opinion that the total abolition of the TSA would make people feel safer because there would be far fewer security checks, hence “hey, if the government isn’t worried, neither am I”.

jstewart July 30, 2008 8:23 AM

The goal of the TSA isn’t to make you safer, it’s to make you feel safer. Under that rubric confiscating things that look like bombs is exactly the right thing to do.

Anonymous July 30, 2008 8:25 AM

Honestly, I would be worried about someone’s “homemade” battery pack shorting than a fake looking bomb. I didn’t happen to see what types of batteries he used. Just imagine what travel would be like if communism crushed capitalism. Oh snap.

Jeroen July 30, 2008 8:29 AM

a) “But the average person doesn’t know what a bomb looks like”
b) “do you think anyone is going to successfully do anything with a fake bomb?”

From a) follows that the answer to b) is “yes”.

Likewise, how do you know someone isn’t going to be succesful with a fake bomb that doesn’t look like a bomb?

If someone starts waving a nondescript black box in your face, yelling “Do as I say, or I will blow up the plane!!”, will you ignore him because the box doesn’t looke like a bomb?

Of course, as you say, in todays world passengers ARE very likely to fight back, so the real answer to b) should be “not less successfully than with a REAL bomb”. Unless your prime objective is to blow up the plane, of course. in which case the passengers won’t know to fight you until you push the button.

Extremeophile July 30, 2008 8:49 AM

Ok, lets carry this to the logical conclusion. There will be NO carry on items at all and everybody will fly in the nude. That MIGHT satisfy the TSA.

Nick Lancaster July 30, 2008 9:13 AM

If you want a decent bomb movie, see if you can find “Juggernaut.” Richard Harris stars as a tempermental bomb expert dispatched to deal with a series of bombs aboard a luxury liner, and there are numerous booby-traps.

But this TSA thing is like the psychic predictions in the tabloids – they claim credit for getting it right, they claim credit for getting it sort of right, they claim credit for getting it kind of in the same ballpark …

I really am wondering when America is going to wake up and realize what fear has done to us.

Roy July 30, 2008 9:17 AM

The goal of the TSA seems to be to scare the public by exaggerating the least little thing and trying to make everyone see everything as potentially threatening.

theOtherAndy July 30, 2008 9:19 AM

@Robert – Richard Reid had shoes that look like a bomb we now know (because they were a bomb). Suspicions have been raised – shoed people are subject to extra inspection. X-rays don’t seem to be able to reveal the bomb-like nature of shoes, so now we must all fly shoeless?

@Extremeophile – One could fly naked, but we all have places where one could hide bomb-like items for later retrieval and use. Therefore we must all fly naked and sedated.

I don’t like where this is going. Can we request a new TSA with new regulations?

Nat July 30, 2008 9:23 AM

“And in today’s passengers-fight-back world, do you think anyone is going to successfully do anything with a fake bomb?”

These days, I think everyone getting on a plane is so full of rage and frustration that I’d be surprised if a hijacker could do anything successfully with a damn machine gun.

thiefhunter July 30, 2008 9:29 AM

Pathetic, but frightening. I make over a hundred flights a year and travel with a LOT of electronic items. Computers, miniature hidden cameras, battery packs, hard drives, weird audio recorders, and rats’ nests of wires. Yesterday we (my husband and I) were stopped for SSSS (secondary screening), probably because our flight was cancelled so we were put on a different airline’s flight. Watching the dead-faced TSA employees was heart-sinking. What a massive waste of manpower and time. We both had our electronics-laden carryon examined, with every camera lens and cufflink box swabbed and sniffed. Yet, once again, my 12-ounce container of homemade, runny chicken salad (to spread on bread later) sailed through. I wrote about this before: http://bobarno.com/thiefhunters/2008/05/social-engineering-vs-security-theater/

Did I mention that I once had an antique Indian silver belt disallowed? Luckily, I was able to check it through that time. Usually, that option is not possible.


epp_b July 30, 2008 9:34 AM

I just read the story on the TSA’s website. I had to do a double-take to make sure I hadn’t stumbled upon The Onion by mistake.

Peter Galbavy July 30, 2008 9:48 AM

The original objective of protecting the public has been a false claim for quite some time. Ever since cockpit doors were hardened and fitted with locks, the restriction on sharp items and knives could have been unrolled back to something more sensible, ever since the 100ml liquid rule was shown to be trying to prevent attacks of the purest theatre it too could have been recinded, but no.

Both the TSA in the US and other similar tools of other dictatorships (like ours in the UK) have been shown to be simply inciting fear and subsequent obedience in the sheeple. Perhaps someday we may once again see true democracy at work, but not for a while me thinks.

Software Engineer July 30, 2008 9:52 AM

For what it’s worth, the picture in the article doesn’t look entirely benign at first glance. I can imagine what that looks like through an x-ray machine.

A reasonable person would also have to ask the question, why would someone who can afford a plane ticket need to build their own battery pack instead of buying one. “Because they couldn’t find one that suited their needs” is a perfectly acceptable answer.

At the same time though, that item looks more like a bomb than a camera, or a dvd player, or a pair of socks. I don’t think anyone could really get away with saying “That’s definitely not a bomb”, just from a cursory inspection.

wirehead arts July 30, 2008 9:57 AM

So the thing that freaks me out is that I’ve got a homemade piece of lighting hardware. And I can’t take it on the plane anymore because it’s a circuit board with point-to-point soldering inside of a Altoids tin. And I’ve got some fairly exotic not-very-efficient LEDs that I love very much and wouldn’t be able to just replace if the TSA confiscated it.

I realized I had to stop after the agent told me it was a good thing it was sideways in the camera bag because otherwise the X-ray guy was going to freak out when she was handing me back my hand-checked film.

Kelona July 30, 2008 10:07 AM

That may not look exactly like a bomb, but it looks more like one than, say, an orange, or a pair of socks, or a dvd player.

Dan Lewis July 30, 2008 10:28 AM

CD: “That’s not a bomb. This is a bomb.”
LS: “That’s not a bomb, that’s a spoon.”
CD: “So you’ve played bomby-spoony before…”

Unix Ronin July 30, 2008 10:35 AM

I want to know how much longer it is before the TSA just starts confiscating EVERYTHING, “just in case” someone’s figured out how to make a bomb — or a plausible-to-the-TSA fake bomb-like object — out of a shoelace and three pairs of socks.

WOW July 30, 2008 10:41 AM

@Robert –If this was a real bomb, I would have said “Why are you letting the MFer on the plane?” If someone is carrying a suspicious item, aren’t they then suspicious themselves?

A TSA agent may not know if an item truly is a concern, but there should be a level of escalation to confirm if it is. If an item is suspicious, so is the person. If it’s not, then give their property back. Throughout the process monitor the person to see how they react to being stopped, or watch for other signs. This isn’t a ‘follow the checklist’ type of job, and there shouldn’t be ‘follow the checklist’ type of people doing it.

Wyle_E July 30, 2008 10:52 AM

I once got so tired of all the “The red wire!” “No! Cut the blue wire!” nonsense on TV that I designed a bomb trigger that would fire if you cut any visible wire or shorted the obvious battery. The real circuitry was inside the big block of plastique. My favorite bomb is one I encountered in an otherwise-forgettable SF novel: a scantily-clad “pregnant” woman who was actually wearing a silicone prosthesis loaded with a gallon of Astrolite. I don’t think the TSA is equipped with ultrasound gear, or even stethoscopes.

laguna July 30, 2008 11:04 AM

The passenger is an idiot for bringing something like that on a plane. If I was a passenger in line behind him, I’d kick his ass for wasting my time, the other passengers’ time and the TSA’s time with his obvious lack of common sense.

This is why lines for TSA inspection are so long, because brainless retards try to bring everything but the kitchen sink on the plane.

There are plenty of cases showing that the TSA is inept but this isn’t one of them. And why did this idiot feel it was necessary to make their job harder with his crappy battery pack.

Too bad they didn’t subject the passenger to a full body cavity search as well.

Mike July 30, 2008 11:10 AM

It sounded silly to me, then I saw the picture. A battery pack is one thing; this was (a) a homemade bundle of 28 batteries, (b) glued together, (c) with resistors, and — most importantly — (d) connected by a wire to a metal bottle. What’s the purpose of the bottle? This looks more legitimately suspicious that a homemade, battery-powered LED badge like the MIT student had, or the AquaTeen Hunger Force lighted Mooninite sign.

Also, these were rechargeable batteries. Lithium, maybe? Perhaps they’re not similar enough to laptop batteries to pose the same danger of bursting into flame [ http://preview.tinyurl.com/hmeek ] or exploding [ http://preview.tinyurl.com/2z8l8g ], but I’d prefer not to have a home-wired mass of them on my plane.

Fred P July 30, 2008 11:12 AM

Interesting perspective. My opinion is that the TSA was wasting everyone’s time. There was neither explosive nor detonator, so it was obviously not a bomb.

andyinsdca July 30, 2008 11:14 AM

The guy that tried to bring this battery pack thru screening needs to be kicked in the jimmy repeatedly until he bleeds from his hair follicles. OF COURSE it looks like a bomb. He couldn’t do the reasonable thing and buy a couple of extra batteries for his DVD player. No, he had to go out of his way to kludge something together that looks an awful lot like a real bomb.

Believe it or not, I side with the TSA on this one.

Engineer July 30, 2008 11:28 AM

The interesting thing about this is that after 9/11 I flew with battery packs and circuit boards with all kinds of wires sticking out of them, and wasn’t even stopped.

Jerke Wadde July 30, 2008 11:30 AM

So really, the moral of the story for terrorists is to take your home-made bundles of wires and explosives, and place it into the AppleTV box you gutted for just such a purpose.

Jim July 30, 2008 11:36 AM

I have an idea..How about people quit the complaining and just STOP FLYING if they dont like they way they are treated at airports.

George July 30, 2008 11:36 AM

With actual dangerous items few and far between, the TSA faces the serious problem of the public doubting its effectiveness. The obvious way to remedy this problem is to expand the definition of “dangerous items” to improve confiscation statistics and therefore their effectiveness.

So oversized containers of liquids or gels (and possibly unlabeled containers of the proper size, depending on the “enhancements” an individual airport or screener may add to the rules) are now “dangerous items,” and the trash bin full of contraband provides visible proof that the TSA is doing its job. That’s fine, but occasionally Kip needs something bigger to crow about. If someone doesn’t walk up to the checkpoint with a bomb when Karl Rove says it’s time for a press release, a strange-looking piece of electronics or even a fake military jacket will do just fine.

I feel so much safer knowing that the TSA is protecting aviation!

ken July 30, 2008 11:39 AM

When things that look like bombs are outlawed, only outlaws will have things that look like bombs!

Laguna July 30, 2008 11:44 AM


It’s an airline flight not a swap meet.

I don’t want the TSA spending time verifying there definitely is no detonator or an item is definitely is not explosive.

If it looks suspicious and non-essential, destroy it.

If you’re driving in your own car, or flying your own plane, bring all the crap you want. But you’re sharing a plane with 100s of other people, show a little common sense.

Kashmarek July 30, 2008 11:44 AM

Civics class? When is the last time Civics was taught in American schools?

How about those real bombs that are made to look like something else to deceive the TSA? Of course, they go off and there is no evidence of what they looked like.

Helmut Spargle July 30, 2008 11:55 AM

@Jim “I have an idea..How about people quit the complaining and just STOP FLYING if they dont like they way they are treated at airports.”

Way ahead of you there. No commercial flights since 2002. Security theatre has made an unpleasant airline experience completely intolerable.

Joe July 30, 2008 11:56 AM

Those of you defending the TSA. If someone is carrying something that might be a bomb. Under what circumstance would it make sense to confiscate the ‘bomb’ and allow them to go on their way? I don’t care to share an airplane with an attempted bomber.

If you think something is a bomb, why would you put it in a barrel right next to your workspace and a long line of passengers?

I would assert that the staff involved knew full well this was a piece of home-made electronics and did not pose a threat. If it had, they would have escalated until the person was in custody, or the device had been found harmless. They just don’t care if someone else loses a piece of property, as long as it’s not their fault something slipped through.

If a passenger becomes hysterical that passenger needs to be addressed, not the person that was quietly trying to watch a couple DVDs during a four hour flight.

Tom M July 30, 2008 12:00 PM

When are we just going to go to the (absurd) conclusion, and ban all carry-ons, including all clothing, wigs etc. Only then can the public feel assured that no one has brought anything improper on board. Of course then we just have to worry about anyone with special ops training …

leastcommondenominator July 30, 2008 12:04 PM

So we are once again held captive by the least common denominator — just so long as there is one stupid, hysterical person in this world who might imagine my yogurt is a bomb it has to be confiscated?

I am SO sick of this country. Please someone invade and subdue us.

Zorak July 30, 2008 12:07 PM

My favorite line: “Transportation Security Officer Scot Peele leveraged his training and experience when he detected the suspicious item while monitoring the X-ray image of the passenger’s carry-on bag.”

If it is so obviously a bomb that they’re afraid of other passengers’ reactions, then exactly how much training and experience is it necessary to “leverage” to detect it?

I hate PR people.

Pat Cahalan July 30, 2008 12:21 PM

As some commentators have pointed out, this guy was something of an idiot for bringing his contraption on the plane in the first place.

That doesn’t, however, mean that TSA should be calling this a “success” (this is what Bruce was trying to point out, I think). This isn’t a clear indication that they’re doing a good job. If they’re going to say anything about this incident what they should say is, “It is unfortunate that we had to waste passengers’ time and screening resources on this incident. Please don’t bring jury-rigged or jerry-built DIY devices through the security line.”

Chris Granade July 30, 2008 12:24 PM

Really, if you want, just kick it off the plane for being a potentially dangerous device without implying that it was intentionally dangerous. What irks me is this whole “it looked like a bomb so that’s bad” kind of argument.

cb22 July 30, 2008 12:46 PM

Instead of going through all the effort to sneak onboard a plane with explosives to blow the thing up, why not simply sit at the end of a run way with a few RPGs and take pot shots at the planes as they take off.

Ed T. July 30, 2008 12:47 PM

“Remember how passengers saved the plane from Richard Reid? They stopped him from setting his shoes on fire because they thought it was suspicious.

If you bring something onto a plane that looks very suspicious, passengers may react badly when you pull it out, i.e. they may tackle you. Therefore, airport security is quite right to prevent suspicious devices from going on the plane in the first place.”

Which means that TSA should be confiscating everyone’s shoes!?


Ed T. July 30, 2008 1:02 PM

“As some commentators have pointed out, this guy was something of an idiot for bringing his contraption on the plane in the first place.”

I don’t agree with this at all. He home-brewed a battery pack, for crying out loud! The only real difference between what he had and what you and I carry with us for out laptops is a bit of slick packaging (the cover) – the insides of our laptop have pretty much the same components as what he had. In fact, I have commercially-produced battery packs that look almost identical.

Now, if TSA wants to add to their list of “prohibited items” anything not built with a pretty cover on it, your statement about people not bringing home-brewed items to the airport might make some sense.

BTW: some sandwiches are known to cause the production of noxious gases (H2S) when combined with digestive juices. Should TSA be confiscating all egg salad sandwiches, just because someone might consider them dangerous!?


anon July 30, 2008 1:04 PM

I read once that a cell phone battery has the energy equivalent of a hand gernade. I’m guessing a laptop battery has a much higher energy equivalent.

Lithium-polymer batteries are notorious for catching on fire and have been banned in certain cases from aviation uses. So what is to prevent someone from shorting out their laptop or cellphone battery in flight and melting through the hull of the aircraft? This is what frightens me.

aeschylus July 30, 2008 1:14 PM

Actually if a person is suspicious of an item, that item is suspect. A suspicious item would have concerned little eyes on it that glare at you accusingly.

von satyr-masoch July 30, 2008 1:50 PM

I’m an experimental musician and I have a device that I made at my parents’ house that unfortunately must remain there because it looks like the kind of bomb you see on t.v. shows, and I know for sure that it would never make it on to a plane if anyone was paying attention. I’ve had guitar pedals that weren’t modified at all still get inspected and wiped down with alcohol pads (wtf?), but at least they made it through.

Here’s a pic of my baby: http://a605.ac-images.myspacecdn.com/images01/20/l_b1aa1ad39313425c655e9b6177929f84.jpg

clvrmnky July 30, 2008 1:56 PM

@anon: Yes, this is a real concern, but not for the reasons you suggest. All those batteries carry a lot of energy, but it won’t go off like “a hand grenade”. If it fails (or is shorted) it can smolder and smoke and burst into flames. The engineers have tried to put fail-safes in these batteries (which are really a collection of cels and a little circuit or even a little computer to control charge/discharge profiles) but as we have seen, we are still learning how to do this.

As our power requirements up, those milliamp-hours packed into the batteries also go up.

Eventually one of these items will burst into flames in the cargo area and we will be banned from bringing /any/ battery powered item of sufficient power rating.

If you want real danger, how many of us can fly unnoticed with small barometers or thermometers? Meteorologists are supposed to check in their barometers in sealed containers, but how many TSA people would recognize small containers of mercury? Here’s a movie-plot threat: a team of terrorists (or disgruntled weather reporters) sneak enough mercury on board to create a device that melts a hole in the fuselage.

Hint: mercury and aluminum really don’t get along very well.

Everything is a weapon and a bomb, and security will never be able to close all the holes. I can see why this device was stopped — it is not up to the TSA to determine the real use of home-made equipment. However, to answer why someone would create such a thing, let’s remember that there are no standards for these cels, and manufacturers discontinue designs regularly. It’s better for them if you buy a new computer or phone.

So some hobbyists simply design their own battery packs if they can’t find the official part, or don’t want to pay for the aftermarket device. I’ve done it myself, and would think nothing of packing it in my suitcase if I did so.

Of course, real terrorists will simply build their devices into real IBM or Dell battery assemblies. Who doesn’t bring 2-3 of these along on a business trip? Heck, my IBM has a pack that looks like a gun from the right angle!

As usual, we catch the unexpected and the stupid. We are lucky terrorists and criminals are so often stupid.

Honestly, this stuff must be a nightmare for security people. It’s hard enough to train your frontline folks to get this stuff right. They also have to pass hundreds of devices every hour that could conceivably hide a real nefarious device, and there is nothing really they can do about that.

mckt July 30, 2008 1:58 PM

So what is to prevent someone from shorting out their laptop or cellphone battery in flight and melting through the hull of the aircraft? This is what frightens me

Nothing is going to prevent it. Certainly not TSA.

So either don’t fly, or accept the risk. The actual risk that you face on a plane is incredibly low, and TSA isn’t making it any lower. They are just wasting astronomical amounts of time, money, and manpower on making it look like they are making it lower (then hailing a false alarm as a success).

Steve July 30, 2008 1:58 PM

If something looks like a bomb (or even what people think looks like a bomb), it can be used as a threat, whether or not it really is a bomb.

As much as I dislike the TSA and its idiotic policies, this one, at least, seems reasonable.

Jason July 30, 2008 2:03 PM

The TSA needs little stickers like the Wal-mart smilies you get when you bring something back to the store to return it.

They could have stick their little TSA sticker on his super-battery and if anyone questioned it, he could just point to it while enjoying his DVD player during the long trans-Pacific flight.

Tragedy averted.

The TSA knew it wasn’t a bomb. The guy who brought it knew it wasn’t a bomb.

That is ridiculous.

eric idle July 30, 2008 2:22 PM

[Scottish brogue] There’s a bomb on board this plane, and I’ll tell you where it is for a pound.

Davi Ottenheimer July 30, 2008 2:40 PM

I agree. Dumb move, and bad marketing too.

The only benefit I can see is if they take away those disgusting smelly lunch meat sandwiches that people are starting to drag onto planes that don’t serve food. Those nasty things sure smell like a bomb, and when passengers are done eating…all I can say is things that can turn into a bomb after digestion also should be prohibited.

Davi Ottenheimer July 30, 2008 2:46 PM

One other point, this isn’t the first time that the TSA has been confused. It just seems like took a more gentle approach coupled with some marketing to win support for their confusion.

Remember the story about the woman who had flour-filled condoms in her bag?


She was imprisoned for three weeks! She then won nearly $200K in a civil lawsuit against the TSA.

Fred July 30, 2008 2:52 PM

This type of thing just goes to show you a simple fact. The TSA’s mission is not to make you safer, but to make you FEEL safer.

nwf July 30, 2008 2:55 PM

Amusingly, I’ve seen TSA agents confiscate things and then, not knowing what to do with them, place them atop the X-ray machines.

So that tube of toothpaste you confiscated because it might be an explosive… what’s it doing next to your operator console? Could somebody engineer a timed explosive and sail through TSA’s security theater, get on a plane, and watch the explosion from a safe distance, doing the “oh my god, that was almost me!” freakout if anybody ever questions?

Swampdog July 30, 2008 3:06 PM

re: “if looking like a tv bomb is the problem, terrorists just need to make something that doesn’t look like a tv bomb.”

Any writers out there want to take my plot idea of a terrorist group posing as a sex toy salesmen to get dildo shaped bombs onto airplanes? Extra points for the scene at the screening checkpoint where the screener asks to see what’s in the bag and he goes into a sales pitch of the benefits of the various models, turning on motors, flopping around the wiggly ones and brandishing the big stiff ones like clubs. I’m laughing already.

Seriously, though, I really have to think that explosives have a distinctive signature that show up on the scanners. A pound of C4 is going to show up however you wrap it. Right? Please?

Jeff Bell July 30, 2008 3:07 PM

“I read once that a cell phone battery has the energy equivalent of a hand gernade”

A stick of butter has even more.

Jason July 30, 2008 3:37 PM

Really its “whatever the TSA agent thinks other people might think is a bomb.” which makes it even more bizzare. Good way to get this policy changed – always accuse the person in front of you of having a bomb by telling the TSA agent their things are scary, i.e. the guy in front of me has scary glasses, might be a bomb, please confiscate, i’m terrified. 🙂

aktep July 30, 2008 3:40 PM

This is all spectacle for brainless people. Drug smuggler routinely use mules who ingest hundred grams of cocaine stuffed in latex bags.

What would prevent a wannabe martyr to ingest 150g of C4 with detonator and an electronic clock set to goes on at a specific time ?

Would 150g of C4 enough to blow a plane ? May be not, but it would be enough for TSA to require an X ray scan of every passager afterward….

lllogic July 30, 2008 3:48 PM

hey, i’m an ACLU loving libertarian.

but 28 rechargeable batteries connected to amateur electronics /IS/ dangerous on a plane.

much ado about nothing here.

Jason July 30, 2008 3:54 PM

Re: Illogic

The point is that the device was confiscated because someone might think it looks like a bomb and not because it was a hazard in its own right.

Also Re: “I read once that a cell phone battery has the energy equivalent of a hand gernade”

I hope that was sarcasm. If not, let me forward you this email from Bill Gates and Disney and if you read it, they’ll give you $1000.

lllogic July 30, 2008 3:55 PM

further, Bruce, you’re contradicting yourself here.

this guy is unusual, bringing an unusual device on an airplane. it’s exactly the kind of thing the tsa should be looking out for and examining more closely. you think El-Al would allow this thing on board? hell no.

is the TSA really expected to open those batteries and make sure they’re nicd or nimh and not ceramic explosives? really? just tell the guy, “no you can’t bring a home made battery on the plane and create inordinate unknown risk for everyone else just for the sake of your stupid DVD watching”

gopi July 30, 2008 3:55 PM

Last time I flew, I had a ~ 15 lb microwave filter with me. 8x10x2 inches, white, solid metal. It was inside a Pelican case on its own. The guy manning the X-ray thought it was one of the coolest looking things he had seen, and asked me what it was. He was not, however, actually suspicious – just curious. They didn’t make me open it up and show them what was inside.

The last time they swabbed my carry on electronics for explosives, they gave up halfway through because I had so much.

Does anybody else remember years ago when they asked the question, “Are you certain your bags contain no electrical or electronic items?” I got that flying in from the UK a lot. I hated it. I would try to answer it without sounding sarcastic, but, “Actually, I’m certain they do, in fact, they’re about half electronics by volume…”

lllogic July 30, 2008 3:59 PM

it’s not out of bounds to suggest that any electronics not FCC approved could potentially be refused on board. that’d be perfectly fine by me. it’s not limiting anyone’s constitutional freedoms.

no-fly list? bad.
id requirements? bad.
keeping crap like this off airplanes? good.

lllogic July 30, 2008 4:04 PM

oh, FYI everyone, bungee cords not allowed.

i had given my wife a bungee cord to wrap around her umbrella stroller so it wouldn’t accidentally pop open when the baggage handler tossed it in the plane.

but the tsa removed it, and handed it over to me (i wasn’t flying) and then let my wife & stroller through.

bungee cords are not listed at tsa.gov

but it’s not restricting my constitutional rights to travel, and i have no problem with that.

Mailman July 30, 2008 4:43 PM

Judging by the picture in the article, it looks a lot like the guy who brought this to the airport purposely made an object that could be interpreted as a bomb (batteries+wires+opaque container), either as a prank, as a provocation, or as an attempt to create panic.

Geoff July 30, 2008 4:55 PM

I just hope that it doesn’t work in the reverse direction, so that the TSA would let anything through so long as it appears to be mass-produced.

mikeb July 30, 2008 5:11 PM

@bob That cannot simply put it in a bag to give to the crew since how can we know that the crew can be trusted? They have to go through the very same security scanning as do the passengers. Nevermind that those that work on the planes and do daily service (e.g. food / beverage) only get occasional scans.

SFOtter July 30, 2008 5:17 PM

Flying has been made into a degrading and humiliating process.

I choose not to participate. Let that industry die. I can telecommute.

Drunken Economist July 30, 2008 6:11 PM

@Jim “I have an idea..How about people quit the complaining and just STOP FLYING if they dont like they way they are treated at airports.”

I thought the whole point of the TSA and their byzantine policies was to explicitly discourage the public from flying.

I haven’t done any personal traveling since the TSA and the Feds at large started skirting the 4th amendment. My information is my own, NOT the TSA’s or anyone elses.

I think the next traveling I do will be to emigrate from the USA if the intent is to become another Weimar Republic for the sake of my ‘safety’.

@SFOtter: I couldn’t have said it better. I think the airlines are in for a world of hurt, thanks to the ineptitude of our so-called government. Not that they weren’t in a bad state before.

Gavin P. July 30, 2008 6:20 PM

Did everybody look at the picture? this wasn’t a sweater. It sure looks like a bomb to me. batteries all taped together and connected to a sealed metal bottle? you just need to stuff the bottle with explosives and add some kind of timer, any electronic device with a clock will do.

imagine if somebody wanted you dead and you found this in your underwear drawer?

Moderator July 30, 2008 6:51 PM

Please stay focused on the issues, and hold the posturing and insults. I’ve removed a couple of pointless flames from this thread already.

Moderator July 30, 2008 6:53 PM

Oh, and Aeschylus, the word “suspicious” has been used to mean “worthy of suspicion” since it first entered the English language. You can take up your complaint with Chaucer and the translator of Ayenbite of Inwyt if you want to.

zale July 30, 2008 7:12 PM

how long until we are only allowed to fly naked and shrinkwrapped into our seats with lugage on a seperate plane?

aeschylus July 30, 2008 7:51 PM


No doubt people use it that way. It is, however, needlessly ambiguous. People who wish to write clearly use “suspicious” of agents who suspect and “suspect” of the thing suspected. Others amuse by suggesting that inanimate objects are capable of suspicion. It’s just another one of those signposts for the attentive reader.

Oh, and if you want to use Chaucer as a style guide, things are going to get passing silly.

2Resell July 30, 2008 8:07 PM

Seriously, is the TSA being gamed as a racket?
You can hire idiots who do the claim work and feel important.
You resell most of the loot.
Seriously, money or power is usually at work, and not security.
I think we have all been had since 9/11.
Why isn’t the FBI/DOJ considering this, ah, because they are all getting some kickbacks or told to ignore it?

Redfox July 30, 2008 9:13 PM

You can turn every laptop into a Bomb with this flash-animation:


@ the Look-at-the-picture!-It-looks-like-a-Bomb Folks:

We shouldn’t forget that this picture was taken by the TSA. Its a piece of propaganda to justify their actions.
I bet they placed the parts to make it look like an Hollywood-style bomb. Would you lift the bottle, you would probably see that the wire ends in a ordinary plug.

Mr. Clue-Bat July 30, 2008 10:10 PM

A few things that most of you don’t seem to realize:

1) You can buy rechargeable AA batteries up to around 3000 milli-amp hours.

2) Such batteries are quite inexpensive, especially in bulk.

3) You can wire them in series and parallel to obtain whatever voltage and current capacity you need.

4) The biggest dangers to a homemade battery pack are:

(A) Shorting them out. (Which could start a fire, but thats true for any battery, rechargeable or not.)

(B) Depending on the cell type, over-draining. (Which can prevent them from ever being recharged again.)

(C) Improper recharging. (Which can inhibit their ability to holding a charge.)

Of all of these, only shorting out presents even the remotest sort of danger. Even that is really quite minor.

Said danger can be further reduced by:

(A) Using current limiting resisters to limit the maximum current draw.

(B) Soldering directly to the batteries. (Spring-loaded batteries can pop out during jostling.)

(C) Solidly attaching the batteries together. (Like say with multiple layers of a silicone-based adhesive…)

(D) Enclosing said battery pack in a plastic or metal case. I prefer plastic since it acts as an insulator. But metal works well too, and provides better containment should anything go wrong.

In order for a fire to start you need an extreme current draw across a very thin wire coupled with a flammable material nearby and a good oxygen source.

Look, I’m an amateur radio operator. I build things like this all the time to power radios, atv gear, etc. I happen to prefer plastic containers, mostly because the material is so much easier to work with. And I prefer to use modeling clay or Play-Doh to hold my batteries in place, so that it’s easier to change the configuration around later on.

What the TSA thugs are doing is just idiotic. They are effectively outlawing the do-it-yourself crowd. If it hasn’t been professionally manufactured, you are just screwed.

I for one am proud to be a part of the growing number of Americans who are intentionally boycotting air travel. I’ll spend two days driving cross-country rather than put up with their bullshit. Even with the higher gas prices and a hotel stay, it’s still cheaper… And I don’t have to worry about getting robbed by an high school bully/dropout who thinks standing in front of an X-ray machine 8 hours a day is a good career choice.

hans July 30, 2008 10:27 PM

What’s obvious to me is that if the TSA actually stopped a terrorist from getting on a plane, or at least thought they did, we’d be hearing about it, just like we’ve heard about the so-called “terrorist cells” foiled by the FBI.

But since they haven’t actually done that, we get to hear PR fanfare: “For six long minutes on June 30, screening operations froze….”, pointless confiscations, “dangerous” military impersonators, and liquid explosives. Whatever justifies their existance.

Clown-car security.

EyeSpy Guy July 30, 2008 10:39 PM

So let me get this straight:

Now to make use of our freedom to travel we have to be much more concerned about what other people think (or might think) than actual facts?

Congratulations! We are now living in perpetual fear of each other. Mere suspicion is enough to be detained, searched and verbally abused (or even locked up for “not cooperating), all while your fellow passangers say things like “Kick him in the Jimmies for wasting our time!”

Land of the free, huh?

dave July 30, 2008 10:42 PM

The empty bottle wasn’t attached to the wires from the battery pack, it was just placed that way for the TSA picture: DVD player+battery pack+ empty bottle = frightful.

What the TSA is patting themselves on the back for is confiscating a block of useful batteries with a useful wire sticking out of it. If a terrorist needs a few amps of 15V to do their dirty work, they can easily buy a non-suspicious commercial laptop battery.

If TSA is trying to protect us from bomb hoaxes, they should take all our electronic car-opening fobs, they are just as dangerous.

The passenger shouldn’t be faulted for having to comply with the TSA idiots.

Michael July 30, 2008 11:49 PM

The irony of all of this is that the TSA is basically giving potential bombmakers a stylesheet on what bombs will and won’t make it through security. If it looks homemade then don’t bother trying. On the other hand if it looks like some kind of electronics with batteries inside like a laptop or DVD player then you are all set. If you are going to bring a knife on board, make sure it is not metal and does not look knifelike.
Somehow I think that anyone motivated to try an attack would have figured that out to begin with, but the TSA is making sure that it is very clear.

ROTFLMAO July 31, 2008 12:12 AM

“The TSA needs little stickers like the Wal-mart smilies you get when you bring something back to the store to return it.”

Exactly. Or the colored tape like the grocery store check-out person puts on your milk to show you paid for it.

In this case, the TSA tape could have writing like “This is not a bomb”, and they could stick it on the item so everyone knew.

Ndoc July 31, 2008 12:41 AM

It was a STAGED photo. That cylinder is an empty aluminum water bottle that was also in his luggage.

Look, if I take the contents of your carry on bag, say a couple of rolled up socks, wrap your digital watch around them, and then leave a bunch of wires sticking in and out of them from your cellphone charger, it’ll look like a freaking bomb.

So if the TSA takes your bag, opens it, arranges your socks and watch and charger like that and then takes a picture of it for the news, are they then justified in confiscating them?

averros July 31, 2008 12:46 AM

I’m tired of hearing the assumption that mission of TSA is “to make us safer” or, alternatively, “to make us FEEL safer” (which is a more sophisticated version of the same myth).

It is neither. The only mission of TSA is to have the sheepie to part with money without much resistance. TSA bosses (and their “security” business pals) are taking a lot of the loot, the low-level flunkies are getting enough to get by (better than flipping burgers, anyway, which is about as much as they are capable of doing).

Of course, to perpetuate this scam TSA needs to have sheepie appropriately scared – so they do that by manufacturing security scares, and by capricious application of their ability to harrass. It is a well-known psychological fact that inconsistency of application of punishment can be used to increase obedience – it disorients victims and leaves them unprepared and fearful.

We don’t need to improve TSA. We need to abolish it.

caradoc July 31, 2008 12:56 AM

At first, they wouldn’t let you use a laptop on a plane. It seems the pilots didn’t know what they were and it made them nervous. Can’t have that.

Patrick Cahalan July 31, 2008 1:27 AM

@ EdT

I don’t agree with this at all. He home-brewed a
battery pack, for crying out loud!

Yes, and that’s very cool. I applaud the gadget, he should submit it to Make (if that’s not where he got it from in the first place).

It’s also painfully obvious that anyone that dumps that into an airplane x-ray machine ought to be expecting some sort of response from TSA – not because the TSA reaction is reasonable.

Whether or not their response is measured isn’t the issue. These people put up signs saying that you cannot make jokes about bombs while passing through security.

This is exactly like walking up to that neighborhood dog that has a reputation for attacking small children while wearing a suit made out of steak. Sure, the dog ought to be trained properly and all that, yes. Obviously. We all know that already. That doesn’t change the fact that you’re being an idiot.

Look, you cannot possibly convince me that any person who has been on an airplane since 9/11 would think that a homemade battery pack would get through security screening. Seriously?

You’ve read my commentary on the TSA on the dozens of other threads on this blog, so you know I’m not a fan of their idea of security. I’m not justifying or condoning TSA security or their response.

I AM getting in line to get on a plane tomorrow morning, and if some joker drops one of those in the x-ray machine and holds up the line for an hour and I miss my flight, I’m going to be severely put out.

Mark July 31, 2008 2:01 AM

Terrorists, please start making bombs that look like babies. Then babies will be banned because they look like bombs and I won’t have to listen to babies scream for hours on planes any more 🙂

Tom July 31, 2008 5:39 AM

TSA took my brothers laptop battery. I told him he should have asked for a supervisor. My thought was the TSA guy needed the battery for himselve or a friend. These folks are dummer then rocks:-(

A July 31, 2008 6:07 AM

@richard reid commentors:

Reid was determined to be acting suspicious when his detonator failed and he tried to detonate the explosive in his heels with a match. Fair cop. You don’t set fire to stuff on a plane.

What have we done in response to that? Oh yes. We make people take off their shoes so we can X-ray them for something that doesn’t show up on an X-ray.

Personally i’m waiting for the “Fake Breasts” or “Explosive Dildo in pants” bomber, which will have TSA officialy logically concluding they have to massage the erogenous zones of all passengers.

RonK July 31, 2008 6:55 AM

@ Jim

I have an idea..How about people quit the
complaining and just STOP FLYING if they dont
like they way they are treated at airports.

I have a idea..How about Jim quits complaining and just STOPS READING AND POSTING ON THE INTERNET if he doesn’t like what other people say.

Actually, that was a joke analogy to get you to try to understand that the right to air flight might actually be as important to (some) people as posting free speech on the Internet (for example, people who have to fly to work in their chosen profession, or to visit loved ones regularly), and therefore shouldn’t be arbitrarily denied to people for little reason, and artificially making it harder to do (for everyone) has serious social implications.

bushfearsale July 31, 2008 9:28 AM

there is no need to bring any batteries onto a plane to detonate explosives, there are plenty of light sockets to use onboard, just go to the can, and put the two wires into the light socket, martyr the empennage off it. will they ever figure out that the harrassment of innocent people is not the answer, but focused intelligence which they are incapable of will work, hell they cant even deal with the pakistanis tribes.

George July 31, 2008 10:31 AM

@avarros: The only mission of TSA is to have the sheepie to part with money without much resistance.

I’m more inclined to belive that the real purpose of the TSA is to acclimate the sheepie to accepting and even welcoming arbitrary government intrusions into all aspects of their lives in the name of “security” and “the Global War On Terror.” Once the sheepie get over their current phase of resentment and become terrified into quiet acceptance of TSA dragnets at airports as a necessary “protection,” the Unitary Executive will be able to expand its “security” measures well beyond airports. It will condition the sheepie to not merely accept the repeal of the Fourth Amendment, but to welcome it as a necessary condition for promises of victory. So when a uniformed agent asks for your papers, you’ll not only eagerly hand them over but respond with the appropriate spirited “Heil Cheney!”

shMerker July 31, 2008 12:14 PM

Those who are saying that the pack shouldn’t have been let on because laptop batteries have been exploding I want you to reread the statement by the TSA. They didn’t care about the possibility that the thing might actually explode(a concern we will allow as genuine here for the sake of argument) all they were worried about was a man’s ability to pretend like it would explode and a passenger’s ability to wrongfully expect it to explode.

I’m not saying that improvised battery packs aren’t dangerous, or that the TSA should not have confiscated the batteries in question. What I’m saying is that if the batteries are dangerous for a different reason than the one they were confiscated for, the TsA also screwed up. If a TSA agent disallowed an automatic weapon on the plane because “it might have cooties” I would hope you would be worried about their sanity rather than congratulating them for confiscating a dangerous weapon.

Someone actually said “just stop flying.” While this may be a sane response for many cases and many people do you realize the kinds of things you are asking people to do? Now if I want to visit a foreign country overseas or am sent there for business I should take a roadtrip up to Canada just to get a plane without going through an insane checkpoint(they don’t have this in Canada right?) If I want to visit relatives in the midwest I must allow extra days of travel for a train, a bus, or driving.

You may have mistakenly thought this was a question of letting a free market work this out. It’s not. The TSA are a security monopoly that all airlines use because they have no choice.

SumDumGuy July 31, 2008 3:54 PM

Looks like Bruce shamed the TSA into retracting their press release.

The URL is giving me a 404 not found, and if I use the search box on the TSA website to find all pages mentioning “scot peele” the only hit that comes up also leads to a 404 not found.

Redfox July 31, 2008 4:24 PM

The site is up again.
This time with an “Editor’s Note” that admits that “the wire was not attached to the bottle”.

David Keech July 31, 2008 10:23 PM


I can attest to detonators going off and taking fingers with them once they have been mistreated.

When he was young, my Grandfather found a detonator on the railway tracks and was playing with it with his brother. After a while they decided they had “broken” it (probably dented it) and decided to get rid of the evidence… by hammering it into a fence post. Needless to say, my Grandfather (who was holding the detonator while his brother hit it) only had 7 fingers for the rest of his life.

antibozo August 1, 2008 1:02 AM

Credit where credit is due. The editor’s note has been extended, and now reads:

“We obviously had a lapse of judgement on this story and you folks in the blogosphere have done a good job of keeping us honest. The points made by Gizmodo, Boing Boing, and Bruce Schneier were compelling.

“First, the headline is misleading, we totally over-hyped it.

“A suspicious-looking item is not the burden of proof for surrender of said item. This looks much more like the Wylie Coyote bomb of yesteryear. In this case, the item was easy to spot but not harmful. TSA finds far more interesting items through improvised explosive device (IED) drills every day.

“To be clear, we did not doctor the photo. The wire was not attached to the bottle, but was resting underneath it as the passenger placed it in the bin.

“There is credibility to looking at batteries as they are commonly improvised by terrorists: click here.

“- Ellen Howe”

The “click here” is a link to:


Rob August 1, 2008 2:11 AM

Bruce, I disagree with the statement “That’s fair.” It’s not. It’s ridiculous. It cowtows to Chicken Little. If it were to be accepted as fair, then so should ignorance of the law be construed as an acceptable alibi.

R August 1, 2008 6:56 PM

Anyone stupid enough to be frightened by any device which has been inspected by trained security operatives before it is allowed on board should be permanently barred from using any kind of mass transport.

The huge prevalence of sneering, selfish and hysterical morons today is the biggest threat that the rest of us face.

Its high time that laws were passed to protect those of us who can think for ourselves from these dangerous lobotomites.

Henry Minsky August 2, 2008 1:40 AM

My father is friends with the guy who designed the atomic bomb movie prop for the movie “The Manhattan Project” (where a kid builds an A-bomb for his science project).

It was a very scientifically accurate and detailed full scale model of an atomic bomb.

They had to fly the completed prop from New York to Los Angeles. When they got to the airport, the airport security asked them what it was, and they responded “oh, it’s a prop for a movie”, and they checked it in no problem.

Alleister August 2, 2008 7:17 AM

Humanity is too stupid to survive. What happened to us.
I really don’t want to live with people who think that leds in the shape of a star on a t-shirt is a likely incarnation of a bomb.
Sure and you can identify terrorist by their official terror-network-nametag (mandatory to wear in a good visible fashion) and their official Al Quaida club card.

This is all just the tip of the iceberg… art, engineering and generally education is for suicidal people now, because you never know which joke, work, installation or reading of a book will get you shot by an retarded television zombie.

Steve August 2, 2008 1:29 PM

Reminds me of the time my iPod packed up and needed a battery removal reset. So without thinking, I decide to open up my tray in front of me a start circuot surgery with my inflight utensils. Got some strange stares from the attendants and then realised why !!

Cathy August 2, 2008 5:39 PM

Catching a flight from LAX to HNL my carry-on was flagged. I had been on an Alaska cruise and since I am a photographer had my laptop computer along with my camera equipment to process the digital photos after a day’s shooting.

I also am a Christian, and carry my Bible with me almost wherever I go; certainly on an eight-day cruise.

I used my Bible as a cushion for my laptop in my carry-on, placing it at the “foot” of the bag to prevent the laptop from impacts.

Because the Bible was flush on the “bottom” of the bag, I was told, the X-ray machine couldn’t tell what it was. My bag was taken to a separate table, I was called out of the line, and my bag was opened. My laptop wasn’t disturbed, but the TSA person took out my Bible, unzipped the canvas cover, and flipped through it, with an embarrassed look on his face. He advised me of the reason for the inspection, and that I shouldn’t pack my Bible that way (some paperback novels were similarly up-endedly tucked around the laptop for the same reason). I explained why I had done it, and he had no further comment.

It’s not just suspicious-looking battery packs that get singled out.

On the other hand, I had forgotten to pack unmarked containers of shampoo and conditioner in my checked bag, but held them out in a Ziplock bag and explained it was an oversight on my part, and they were simply waved through, and in front of the inspectors I packed them in the carry-on with my paperback novels, my laptop, and my Bible. 😉

Jeffery August 3, 2008 2:30 PM

“Okay, that’s fair. But the average person doesn’t know what a bomb looks like; all he knows is what he sees on television and the movies. And this rule means that all homemade electronics are confiscated, because anything homemade with wires can look like a bomb to someone who doesn’t know better. The rule just doesn’t work.”
I’ve ran into that exact problem – thankfully though, it was on a local bus, and not an airplane. I stopped working on EE homework on the bus after that

Anonymous August 4, 2008 3:51 PM

No I don’t work for the TSA. But, If you know exactly how the next bomb is going to be made why don’t you let them know. Or maybe it’s because no one has a clue as to how it will happen. I’d rather look stupid ANY day then to see anyone injured because I was too scared to look like an idiot.

BTW- looking suspicious is when you have your head covered where you cannot see your eyes and something lighted on it. Like that young lady from the college did.

No one is perfect mistakes are always going to be made.

Again, if a bomb had gone off I’ll bet all of you would be saying why didn’t he check this or why didn’t he do that.

Jon Sowden August 4, 2008 10:03 PM

“Again, if a bomb had gone off I’ll bet all of you would be saying why didn’t he check this or why didn’t he do that.”

Well … look at the Greyhound thread. Most posters there are saying things like ‘Gee, that’s odd/weird. Terrible break for the guy who lost his head. Oh well, back on with life.’

Not ‘OMGWTFBBQKNIFE! Ban knives! Install metal detectors! Give everone guns!’

Well, ok, a couple of people are saying that, but they are by far the minority.

Erik N August 4, 2008 10:22 PM

really nothing new: In 1990 I went Copenhagen-Atlanta, and a guy got confiscated his lighter because it was shaped like a pistol.

While fake weapons or items that may be confused with a weapon do not pose a direct threat, they do pose a threat as long as people are may take them for weapons as this may cause panic, in flight fighting with consequent injury and damage.

For flight safety, such items should be confiscated, and TSA did the right thing!

Bruce, in this case, I think you’ve got it wrong.

Anonymous August 6, 2008 2:18 AM

The TSA is nothing more then a complete waste of money and inconveniences everyone.
The organization is full of idiots and only exists to pacify brain dead sheeple and get them used to a police state.
I often try to aviod flying commercial since 9-11 not because of fear of terrorists but because the security checks have become so inconvenient.
In post 9-11 I have a lot less fear of terrorists because if they tried to hijack the plane they would get mobbed and beaten to death and I probably would be one of those people in the mob if I was on that plane.
I fear the security apparatus that is supposed to protect us from terrorists far more then the actual terrorists.

You’re a lot more likely to get killed by falling in the shower or by well just about everything else you do every day then a terror attack.

The whole angle of the TSA and those behind it is nothing more the an out right lie.
People need to stand up and say no to this kinda of crap.

A true American August 6, 2008 2:30 AM

That girl from MIT should press charges against the state stuper troopers.
I’d sue everyone involved for a large sum of money if I was her I certainly could not let it go.
They pointed an mp5 sub machine gun at her they should not even be allowed to be running around in a crowded public place with weapons like that as it will result in innocent people getting killed sooner or later.

She certainly should not have to perform even a single hour of community service it’s not her fault the security people are epic retards.

Until this BS ends we should all boycott the airlines force them to realize we will not put up with being treated like criminals.
Let the congress critters know we will not take it anymore.

chris August 19, 2008 12:58 PM

Man i miss the early 80’s airline travel when you could go anywhere in the terminal even go to the gate to see your family off if you wanted too now you have the tssa gestapo in their white shirts telling you what to do supposedly making us safe for travel what a crock !!!! remember kids tsa = thousands standing around on taxpayers backs thanks to the gubmint

Anonymoose February 3, 2009 3:41 AM

I think they didn’t go far enough. I think they should strip all passengers naked before flight, give oral and rectal endoscopies to check for hidden drugs, bombs, guns, knives, thermonuclear warheads, tanks, planes, spacecraft, and gerbils, sedate us for the trip, tag our ears with radio transmitters and GPS locaters, take DNA, hair, skin, blood, and brain samples, and release us back into the wild, only to track us down again sixth months later to tag us with tranq darts and check our height and weight. This is the only way to protect us from terrorism.

Clive Robinson February 3, 2009 5:52 AM

@ Anonymoose,

“… give oral and rectal endoscopies …”

Hmm you have forgoten about Federal Budget games.

An endoscope is a very expensive piece of equipment, it requires skilled medical personel to operate. And a colonoscopie carries a risk of around 3%. An gastroscopie also carries a significant risk as well.

Then there is infection control as well, oh and you don’t want to be getting the wrong one in the wrong end would you 8o

I expect that within one or two budget cycles it will be back to the old tried and tested methods with cheap disposable torches, elbow length black rubber gloves and a box of tishes to wipe your eyes.

And as it’s Federal and Government is “by the people for the people”, they realy would not want their “customers” to miss out on “the personal touch” and think they are being treated with the same level of respect you would give to cattle 😉

Clive Robinson February 3, 2009 7:56 AM

@ Anonymoose,

“… give oral and rectal endoscopies …”

Hmm you have forgoten about Federal Budget games.

An endoscope is a very expensive piece of equipment, it requires skilled medical personel to operate. And a colonoscopie carries a risk of around 3%. An endoscopie also carries a significant risk as well. Then there is infection control as well, oh and you don’t want to be getting the wrong one in the wrong end.

So within one budget cycle I expect it will be back to the old tried and tested methods with cheap disposable torches and elbow length black rubber gloves 😉

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