Scene from an Airport

I’ve gotten to the front of the security line and handed the TSA officer my ID and ticket.

TSA Officer: (Looks at my ticket. Looks at my ID. Looks at me. Smiles.)

Me: (Smiles back.)

TSA Officer: (Looks at my ID. Looks at me. Smiles.)

Me: (Tips hat. Smiles back.)

TSA Officer: A beloved name from the blogosphere.

Me: And I always thought that I slipped through these lines anonymously.

TSA Officer: Don’t worry. No one will notice. This isn’t the sort of job that rewards competence, you know.

Me: Have a good day.

Posted on May 24, 2010 at 2:29 PM85 Comments


bob (the original bob) May 24, 2010 2:55 PM

Unfortunately this is the only time you’ve seen that sort of “aware of a world outside the room you’re currently in” behavior at an airport. The exception that proves the rule.

Anon May 24, 2010 2:58 PM

I was once wearing an EFF t-shirt that had Privacy, Fair Use, Innovation and Free Speech printed on front to a security checkpoint. I didn’t even realize I had that t-shirt on. A TSA trainee commented that she liked my t-shirt 🙂

Andre LePlume May 24, 2010 3:02 PM

Depending on the tone of voice, those words could be kinda creepy. I’m pretty sure the TSA must train their people to not acknowledge public figures unless circumstances demand it, so there may be more “exceptions” than we would otherwise think.

Not being famous, I can’t say, but it must be tiring to be (overtly) recognized everywhere one goes.

(I’d be willing to trade places with Mick Jagger for a couple weeks to test this hypothesis, however)

Don't Worry May 24, 2010 3:08 PM

If I ever see you in public, I’ll just tell my friends its Chuck Norris.

Anon2 May 24, 2010 3:18 PM

I have a ‘Godless American’ T-Shirt, I got from the Atlanta Freethought Society’ some time ago. – The only one to question me about it has been a Postal Worker at our local post office.

Sean Riley May 24, 2010 4:21 PM

I have to agree with Andre; tone is everything in that conversation. Bruce, was that “”This isn’t a job that rewards competence, y’know?” cheerful and amused, resigned and bitter or angry and nasty? I could see all three there, and they all have very different meanings.

Daniel K May 24, 2010 4:57 PM

I carry a lot of gadgets and chargers with me when I travel. Before I learned how to pack properly (everything visible, nothing layered on top of each other, wires neatly coiled), this would sometimes lead to bag screenings by hand. One time, there were two screeners going through my bag – the woman untangling the rats’ nest of wires, and the man going through my clothing and other belongings. He pulls out a book of mine, “The Political Writings of Rousseau”, and looks at it. When I see what he’s looking at, I silenty resign myself to further questioning, as anything with “Political Writings” might indicate “radical behavior” or whatever-the-hell else is in the TSA’s “Paranoia for Drones” training. Much to my surprise, however, he says that he’s read it, and we have a discussion of Rousseau’s views on the idea of the Social Contract and what it means in a representative democracy.

Just goes to show that not all of the TSA grunts are mindless drones.

Bruce Schneier May 24, 2010 5:30 PM

“Bruce, was that ‘This isn’t a job that rewards competence, y’know?’ cheerful and amused, resigned and bitter or angry and nasty?”

More resigned than anything else. Not bitter.t

B. Real May 24, 2010 5:34 PM

The postal worker noticing your T-Shirt, Anon2, reminded me of how, shortly after 9/11, I was taking a large stack of business mail to my local post office when I was detained for questioning by a Postal Inspector because the “American Flag” stamps on my envelopes were upside down. This was apparently disturbing to the counter clerk and seen as possibly subversive.

Felix May 24, 2010 5:48 PM

That reminds me of flying out of San Francisco airport a month or so ago with a friend who didn’t think to remove his shoes in the security line, prompting the TSA agent to call out “Shoes off! This is AMERICA!”

Clive Robinson May 24, 2010 6:08 PM

@ Andre LePlume,

“I’d be willing to trade places with Mick Jagger…”

Next time my son plays football with Mick’s son in the park I’ll let him know, and he can tell his dad.

@ Peri, zaphod, which has just given you a mega clue as to where I live and which hospital the nurse works in…

Rob May 24, 2010 6:16 PM

@B Real: I was told by my girlfriend in 10th grade that upside down stamps are code for “I love you.” If you hang a flag upside down on a flagpole it is a distress signal. So if a flag stamp is upside down, what does that mean? Love in distress?

Harry May 24, 2010 7:09 PM

I am reminded of my friend’s story. She is federal law enforcement, which means she is armed when she flies. The (hopefully brand-new) TSA guy had no problem with her weapon but tried to make her throw out her bottle of water.

I’m glad to say he was roundly quashed by all the other TSA guys around.

oren May 24, 2010 8:14 PM

“prompting the TSA agent to call out “Shoes off! This is AMERICA!””
By amazing coincidence, I was in line in Tokyo and there was an American (looked military) in front of me, and he automatically started taking off his shoes, when the guard came up to him and indicated that this was not necessary. “This isn’t America”, he said…

Wade May 24, 2010 8:25 PM

I think that the federal law enforcement person should have been required to dump her water, just like everyone else. It isn’t the TSA screener’s job to determine that just because she has a gun, she is allowed water. The rules are there to annoy all of us equally.

After all, they take the water away from the pilots, and a pilot in control of the airplane can do a lot more damage than a passenger with a gun.

Chan Lee Meng May 24, 2010 8:51 PM

The next movie plot threat is:

A terrorist disguised as Bruce Schneier, wearing an EFF t-shirt.

adam May 24, 2010 9:34 PM


On the strength of that story alone, if you need to pay for a drink in a US airport bar ever again, then the terrorists have already won.

Brian McNeil May 24, 2010 10:16 PM

This one made my day.

Not quite as funny as the European Pirate Party members running round an airport in their underwear – with one having sharpied “Bomb inside” on his stomach. But, it perhaps says more along the lines of “where the hell have the jobs for people like this TSA guy to be really useful gone?”

Of course, this particular TSA employee would’ve, if employing my warped sense of humour, taken the aforementioned PP Member into a private room, apologised for needing to search him for explosives, donned a rubber surgical glove, then dissolved in hysterical laughter.

Then again, I’m a fan of the BOFH.

Pym May 24, 2010 10:28 PM

I imagine any of the officers that do take pride in their job, do good work and grate under policy from above would be a tad irked to be lumped in with the highly-publicised mistakes of a small fraction of the percentage of their whole. Federal employees can practically “do no right” there, and clearly must be “resigned” to enjoy or take pride in their jobs. The alternative is that bad morale from constantly being under attack will drive out the people who could eventually fix or improve things.

Disclaimer: I am a Federal employee, though not with TSA.

Onahsakenracree May 24, 2010 11:20 PM

I was recently let onto an airplane after the screwing agent found not only a travel iron, but a 175ml bottle of no-name bug spray! There may be hope!

QnJ1Y2U May 25, 2010 12:06 AM

Apparently the new, updated picture is a security risk – it makes you much too easy to recognize!

Malvolio May 25, 2010 3:34 AM

Not exactly the same category, but back when they asked “Did you pack your own bags?” I once asked a gate agent what would have happened I had said I hadn’t. She learned over and said in a seductive tone, “Full cavity search.”

I smiled. “Well, with the right person, the right wine…”

She busted up laughing.

uk visa May 25, 2010 3:59 AM

“This isn’t the sort of job that rewards competence, you know.”
And here lies the crux of the problem – senior people in the TSA should read this and work out how to improve matters.

thinker May 25, 2010 7:16 AM

reminds me of a (kind of) funny story by EFF co-founder John Gilmore: the plane with him on board returned back to the gate because he was wearing a button “suspected terrorist”, matching the cover story about him in the Reason magazine he was reading.
His words at

Funny side note: when he gave his speach at the hacker convention of the CCC-Camp and told this story he asked “who would like to have some of these buttons? I give them away for free only if you promise to wear these at airports!” – big laughter and everybody wanted one 🙂

And now for something completely similar May 25, 2010 8:15 AM

Officer: Have you read this, sir? (holds up notice)

Man: No! Oh, yes, yes – yes.

Officer: Anything to declare?

Man: Yes … no! No! No! No! Nothing to declare, no, nothing in my suitcase no…

Officer: No watches, cameras, radio sets?

Man: Oh yes … four watches … no, no, no. No. One… one watch…No, no. Not even one watch. No, no watches at all. No, no watches at all. No precision watches, no.

Officer: Which country have you been visiting, sir?

Man: Switzerland … er … no … no … not Switzerland … er … not Switzerland, it began with S but it wasn’t Switzerland… oh what could it be? Terribly bad memory for names. What’s the name of that country where they don’t make watches at all?

Officer: Spain?

Man: Spain! That’s it. Spain, yes, mm.

Officer: The label says ‘Zurich’, sir.

Man: Yes well … it was Spain then.

Officer: Zurich’s in Switzerland, sir.

Man: Switzerland, yes mm … mm … yes.

Officer: Switzerland – where they make the watches.

Man: Oh, nice shed you’ve got here.

Officer: Have you, er, got any Swiss currency, sir?

Man: No… just the watches… er just my watch, er, my watch on the currency… I’ve kept a watch on the currency, and I’ve watched it and I haven’t got any.

Officer: That came out a bit glib didn’t it?

(an alarm clock goes off inside his the Man’s case; the Man thumps it, unsuccessfully)

Officer: Have you got an alarm clock in there, sir?

Man: No, no, heavens no, no… just vests.

(he thumps the case and the alarm stops)

Officer: Sounded a bit like an alarm going off.

Man: Well it can’t have been… it must be a vest, er, going off.

Officer: Going off?

(Clocks start ticking and chiming in the case. The man desperately thumps the case.)

Man: All right, I confess, I’m a smuggler … This whole case is crammed full of Swiss watches and clocks. I’ve been purposely trying to deceive Her Majesty’s Customs and Excise. I’ve been a bloody fool.

Officer: I don’t believe you, sir.

Man: It’s true. I’m, er, guilty of smuggling.

Officer: Don’t give me that, sir … you couldn’t smuggle a piece of greaseproof paper let alone a case full of watches.

Man: What do you mean! I’ve smuggled watches before, you know! I’ve smuggled bombs, cameras, microfilms, aircraft components, you name it – I’ve smuggled it.

Officer: Now come along please, you’re wasting our time… move along please.

Man: Look!

(he opens his case to reveal it stuffed full of watches and clocks)

Man: Look – look at this.

Officer: Look, for all I know, sir, you could’ve bought these in London before you ever went to Switzerland.

Man: What? I wouldn’t buy two thousand clocks.

Officer: People do, now close your case and move along please. Don’t waste our time, we’re out to catch the real smugglers. Come on.

Man: (shouting) I am a real smuggler. I’m a smuggler! Don’t you understand, I’m a smuggler, a lawbreaker… a smuggler.

(he is removed struggling. A vicar is next in line).

Vicar: Poor fellow. I think he needs help.

Officer: Right, cut the wisecracks, vicar. Get to the search room, and strip!

Harry May 25, 2010 8:36 AM

@Wade: I think that the federal law enforcement person should have been required to dump her water, just like everyone else. It isn’t the TSA screener’s job to determine that just because she has a gun, she is allowed water. The rules are there to annoy all of us equally. After all, they take the water away from the pilots, and a pilot in control of the airplane can do a lot more damage than a passenger with a gun.

The rules exist to – supposedly – keep us safe. (The fact they’re ineffective is a different post entirely.) TSA should be differentiating between risky persons and non-risky persons. My friend has been checked, screened, and trained. She has several types of documentation to back this up, and has to present all of them at the airport in order to carry. It’s hard to fake all of this, meaning there’s little risk of an imitator getting through.

To get through security, all pilots need do is dress appropriately and present one piece of ID. It’s not to imitate this, so there is a risk of a fake getting through.

Stepping back, the water rule is dumb, inefficient, and sucks resources (including public good will) away from other measures that might actually do some good. I disagree heartily.

jlc3 May 25, 2010 8:45 AM

Shortly after September 11th, I was flying to Paris from San Francisco. I had used my myriad miles to upgrade to 1st class on what would be my last trip to Europe, and enjoyed the fact that I was the only person in First Class. I didn’t think much about the whispering and looks around the panels from the crew, thinking they hadn’t really dealt with someone as ‘biker’ looking as I, comfy in First Class. I even helped them get the DVD movies playing after we got airborne.

Finally the Purser came and shyly asked me what my t-shirt meant. Suddenly I understood all the furtive glances and worried looks. I was wearing my thinkgeek “rm -rf /bin/laden” t-shirt. Not A Good Thing. I gave her a very quick Unix 101 lesson in what it meant, and the next thing I knew I had the entire flight deck, one at a time, come by to see and chat. They had considered turning back, worried that I might be a threat. Now I could do no wrong.

Needless to say, I haven’t worn that t-shirt much, particularly when flying. ::sigh::

DierdreM May 25, 2010 8:51 AM

Memo to the gentlemen above: Wearing a t-shirt to travel is déclassé. Wearing one with things printed onto it cannot be imagined as appropriate travel wear or even something to be worn publicly. T-shirts are underwear.

Please choose a broadcloth shirt with buttons and/or a well designed sweater. To go with that, tailored slacks or, if you must wear denim, have it be the premium type. Footwear choices include plain oxfords, loafers, or in winter, short boots (note the absence of sneakers from this list). A tie is optional. If a coat is required, a trenchcoat is suitable in all but the hottest months.

Dierdre: On a mission to save the world from geek-wear since 2010.

jgreco May 25, 2010 9:29 AM

All of these fun stories are almost enough to make me wish I had reasons to fly 😉

My best train story would probably be that time they didn’t check my photo id when punching a ticket I bought with a credit-card online. Not terribly exciting 🙂

moo May 25, 2010 10:33 AM

@Dierdre: Its possible that some people don’t care so much about what they’re wearing or about what other people might think of them upon seeing it. I fly in t-shirts all the time, and I don’t care how déclassé it might be or how snobbishly others might look down their nose at me. Its true there are people who are so narrow-minded that they will form opinions about a person solely on the basis of their appearance, but fortunately I don’t have to interact with such pathetic people very often, because life is far too short to worry about such trivial things. You can have my geek-wear when you pry it from my cold, dead fingers!

anonymousblob May 25, 2010 10:38 AM

@DierdreM: i remember watching an episode of the Brady Bunch awhile back and laughing because everyone getting off the plane were dressed in their sunday best. Alice even had a hat with one of those little veils i think. Suits for the boys, etc.

Ian May 25, 2010 12:43 PM

@B. Real

For a while after the anthrax scare post-9/11, there were a lot of posters up in Post Offices showing the elements of a “suspicious letter, parcel or package” – one was postage applied incorrectly. I haven’t seen any recently, but I haven’t been looking.

Nothing to do with the distress signal or any perceived disrespect to the ensign, probably just a postal worker stuck staring at that poster for too long. 🙂

jlc3 May 25, 2010 1:35 PM

@Dierdre thank for the chuckle. Trying to imagine myself dressing for someone else’s opinion is laughable. All of my ex-wives would certainly agree.

does it help that I have Fluevogs?

RH May 25, 2010 2:43 PM

Bruce, you should leverage this to seek TSA enlightenment. There’s a decent chance that that employee visits your blog, and if so you TOTALLY made his day. Perhaps it can be some kind of reward. “If you are paying enough attention to recognize me, I’ll put you in my blog.”

Grats to the employee though. It must be hard to follow utterly mind numbing pointless rules every day, and still maintain a level of attentiveness to identify a particular name (especially since Bruce isn’t yet on the no-fly list). And have good humor while doing so, no less.

Ron May 25, 2010 3:47 PM

A few years ago I was on the Navajo reservation and I bought a t-shirt with a picture of some indian fighters with their guns from approx 1880 along with the text “Fighting terrorism since 1492”. I have worn it a number of times and a number of TSA employees have said they really like the shirt. I get more contact with TSA employees than most travelers since I have a heart implant and have to patted down. I have to say that all of the TSA people I have met have been very professional and I don’t blame them for the system.

Steve S May 25, 2010 4:30 PM

In reality, someone at the TSA is pulling Bruce’s travel records and looking at the tapes to determine who to fire.

Left May 25, 2010 5:56 PM

If you buy a roll of 100 self-stick US first-class postage stamps, and the dispenser into which they fit, they will naturally come out upside-down for a left-handed person, unless that person remembers to turn it around. Or to hold the dispenser in the other hand.

Guess those who attach significance to upside-down postage should check handedness first.

rjnerd May 25, 2010 5:58 PM

My weird T shirt at an airport security checkpoint: It reads

Catapultum habeo. Nisi pecunium omnia nihi dabis, ad caput tuum, sa….

(yes, latin scholars will be giggling about some of the translation errors) but basically it says: I have a catapult, give me all your money, or I will hurl a rock at your head.

It was a pickup run, my SO had a meeting in DC. I was standing outside of security, waiting for the plane to disgorge. The initial screener was amused by it, guessed latin, and asked for a translation. He got a good laugh, doubly so when I confirmed that I did actually own catapults.

Brian McNeil May 25, 2010 7:24 PM


I travel well-dressed because, at least 20-odd years ago, it gave you the chance of an upgrade.

“Clothes maketh the man” is taken too far. The remainder of that sentence is “, naked people have very little influence on society.”

Although, … with widespread access to the Internet…

Brian Murtagh May 25, 2010 9:09 PM

Whenever I fly I make it a point to wear my ringer t-shirt emblazoned with the Arabic for “I Am Not A Terrorist” on it.

Sadly, no one ever asks.

Clive Robinson May 25, 2010 10:05 PM

@ Dear Deirdre,

You mentioned the trench coat as suitable external attire, but did not mention appropriate head wear. Most shocking as Bruce knows a true gentalman should never be without head wear when outside. apart from the obviouse benifit of providing shelter from the inclement elements at the annual extremists it also enables a gentalman to tip or raise his hat as a sign of greeting or as a salute of appreciation.

Can I therfore commend to you, to top the ensemble you outline the geekiest of wear the fedora?

Tyler Thompson May 26, 2010 1:47 AM

Funny you mention this. I was reading “Beyond Fear” on an airplane two years back and was sitting by an off-duty airline worker. Apparently, he had been reading over my shoulder on one of the pages that deals with terrorism.

After a while, he started asking me questions in a frenzy – noticeably shaken.

Worker: What do you do for a living?

Me: I’m an undergrad in Information Assurance.

Worker: What does that mean?

Me: I work with computer security.

Worker: What is that book about?

Me: How to think reasonably about security without freaking out and acting out of fear. It talks a lot about the failures on September 11 and how security could be handled differently, without taking off my shoes to see if there is a bomb there.

Worker: Oh. {looks away nervously}

I wasn’t sure whether to be concerned or to laugh. He was obviously reacting out of fear because my book had the word “terrorism” written in it, but it also made me think that people like him are in positions that determine who gets on a plane and who doesn’t, or when an incident is reported for follow up.

GreenSquirrel May 26, 2010 4:50 AM

Wonderful to see humour displayed by people who are otherwise thought of as mindless drones.

Reading it has fired a variety of thoughts across my mind:

1 – First and foremost, it has made me feel a touch guilty for assuming that all the border guard types are robotic jobsworths who have no existence away from the point of inconvienience. It is interesting that this one flash of darkly humourous resignation to the situation has been enough to remind me of my own failings. I cant promise to be more open minded in future, but I will try. Now, if only more TSA (etc) staff could lighten up a touch….

2 – It does make me wonder what the corporate reponse to this employee would be. The comment by Steve S at May 25, 2010 4:30 PM is funny and worrying, simply because it has become plausible now. I suspect that, if named, this employee would be disciplined rather than lauded. This is a crying shame.

yt May 26, 2010 6:27 AM

@DierdreM “Memo to the gentlemen above: Wearing a t-shirt to travel is déclassé.”

And that right there is how you spot the non-rev (non-revenue traveler, usually an airline employee flying standby for close to free). Back when I worked for an airline, we had a number of rules about flying as a non-rev (one of which, ironically, was not to draw undue attention to yourself). There was also a dress code. It made non-revs easy to spot, as no one in their right mind would get that dressed up to take a flight any more these days.

BF Skinner May 26, 2010 7:04 AM

@clive “the geekiest of wear the fedora”

That would have to be the BRIGHT RED fedora I see worn by marketing reps at the Red Hat booth. MY fedora however is cool (even with the official Indian Jones label)

alreadyonthelist May 26, 2010 8:07 AM

Great post Bruce. Showing the humanity inside the security machine! Its important to remember that we are all just people.

I try to remember that my federally funded contractor/observers are just people on my job. One observer came up to me and said “the government has us doing some pretty stupid things.”

A Telco Security Dweeb May 26, 2010 8:24 AM

Bruce :

Every so often, along comes a vignette like this, which sort of sums up the entire TSA, “papers please” bucket of nonsense, in a Zen-like fashion.

What the security guard said to you reminds me an awful lot of the kinds of stories that we used to see coming out of Soviet-era Eastern Europe, where the same people who were enforcing the idiot “national security” apparatus (that is, people within TSA itself) know better than anyone else what a colossal, futile waste of time and resources is going on.

There’s nothing that they can do, to introduce rationality into the system; the decisions are all being made for cynical, political reasons, far above them, and any attempt to talk sense into their masters will be savagely repressed.

So, like the prototypical East European bureaucrats, they shrug their shoulders, quietly go about their business and make sure that they don’t stand out from all the other faceless bureaucrats. The best that they can do is – occasionally, when “nobody is watching” – is to send people like you, a wry wink of acknowledgment
about the absurdity of it all.

Thanks for sharing your story with us.

DierdreM May 26, 2010 10:26 AM

Fedoras are so old hat.

I specifically left out headgear since it is so widely abused these days. Better no hat than a clichéd one.

@jlc3: Yes, why not inflict your sartorial indiscretions upon the innocent flying public? Clearly, this approach has served you well up to now.

SimonM May 26, 2010 11:44 AM

Talking about T-shirts and bin laden, I am one of those unhappy individuals who has been refused boarding for having the wrong picture on his shirt. It was Andy Warhol type image of Osama and I had nothing else to wear.

moo May 26, 2010 1:48 PM

What I just don’t understand is, how can people feel so threatened by a picture on a t-shirt (or a political slogan on a 1″ lapel pin) that they actually refuse to let you board the aircraft? That is more than just irrational, its downright stupid. A picture on a t-shirt can’t explode and bring down the plane.

Sometimes there are passengers who you wouldn’t want to sit next to on a plane (maybe a big, unclean, smelly guy with a cold?) The airline won’t do anything about those situations, and yet they’ll prevent someone from boarding just because of a slogan on a t-shirt?

Feels like I’m back in grade 3, at the school that instituted a ban on Bart Simpson t-shirts after some teacher got offended by the “eat my shorts” slogan on one of them. Sheesh.

ed May 26, 2010 4:32 PM

The reason t-shirts and lapel pins are so feared is that they are unfalsifiable windows into the wearer’s soul. If it’s on your chest, it must be true.

Bumper stickers are something else that always show a person’s true colors. Not usually worn on one’s chest, though.

I am shocked and dismayed you people don’t know this.

Rob May 26, 2010 4:36 PM

So, Bruce, what kind of hat were you wearing that you could tip it? I prefer a trilby to avoid being either cliché or déclassé.

Anymouse May 26, 2010 4:54 PM

The goonsquad is amusing, were they not so profoundly offensive.

I was “interviewed” by a TSA agent about 2002 for flying with a copy of Applied Cryptography that they discovered in a “random” search of my backpack. While on a flight into BWI to interview for an internship at a TLA.

Multiple questions asked–what is the book about, what is cryptography, why am I reading it–was it for a legitimate course at my university, have I ever “used secret codes”…

My choices were to answer politely as I was “escorted” to the gate–or take a trip into a back room.

Not detained–just answer the questions or miss my flight.

EvertheWatcher May 26, 2010 7:37 PM

Very kind of him not to out that specific TSO (smurf) by posting the same day or with descriptions….

Robert May 26, 2010 7:39 PM

My worst experience at airport check-in was in 1992 at Heathrow. I was carrying a bag of tubes about 1 inch in diameter and 9 inch long, they were in a bundle of about 20. each was filled with a special oil with a solid thing at the center, at the end of each tube were a bunch of wires going off to a bunch of electronic modules.

On the bag Xray it looked like a classic Cartoon style idea of a bomb.

So I got an Uzi shove in my face and was told to get my hands in sight and not to move an inch. This started of the real theater, what to do with the bomb.

I made the mistake of saying “please don’t open the bag” which they interpreted to mean that the bag was booby-trapped. Actually the bags contents were not were part of a defense project, hence my desire that they not open the bag.

Needless to say I missed my flight and had to change my underwear at the first opportunity…

Clive Robinson May 27, 2010 7:20 AM

@ Robert

“So I got an Uzi shove in my face…..”

Hmm I guess it’s difficult to identify a machine pistol when going cross eyed looking at the wrong end of the fore sight (I’ve not had that particular life experiance though). But I doubt it was an Uzi for a number of reasons.

The closest that happened to me like that was getting very nearly shot with the side arm (revolver) of a very fat Nigerian Army SGt at Lagos airport. Whilst trying to stop him shooting my work colleague who had been stupid enough to make some derogatory joke out of a radio announcement that most of the departure lounge heard him shout. Needless to say I refused to travel with him in future.

BF Skinner May 27, 2010 8:55 AM

@Robert “So I got an Uzi shove in my face…”
Surely at Heathrow they use quality British made weapons wouldn’t they?

@Clive “Needless to say I refused to travel with him in future.”
And so we have risk estimates and control in every part of our life. But that must have been an interesting discussion with your boss.

Mark J. May 27, 2010 1:44 PM

Good stuff. A TSA officer with wit. Amazing.

We went through Indy’s airport earlier this week. First TSA ID checker was taking an avg of 3 min (my unofficial estimate) per person to pass people through. The line was very long. He was replaced by a woman who processed 3-4 people per minute.

Which one was (in)competent?

BF Skinner May 27, 2010 6:37 PM


I was surprised to read that the USSS used UZIs until they were replaced by FN P90s.

Good thing Congress wasn’t paying attention to how they were using f’erign weapons to protect the President or there would have been a law and an strip of bacon to S&W.

Sean May 27, 2010 6:44 PM

As an ex-engineer and programmer who now works as a security guard, I suspect that the TSA people have 2 concerns: one that their jobs would disappear in any rational world, and two that any act of self parody (see variant of Poe law?) would be considered unprofessional and get them fired.
I have tried to apply for TSA jobs, even if I understood just how stupid the laws I would be enforcing are. I need the money.
The line level people have no power to change the system. And the reason that Bruce declined any push nomination for the top position is that even the top position has little ability to change the law.
But thanks for all the additional amusing posts, they were as good as his.

moo May 28, 2010 10:36 AM

@Robert: Not sure what it was like in 1992, but I think now in Heathrow they use MP5s.

moo May 28, 2010 10:48 AM

@GreenSquirrel: I expect they liked the portability of them, that they were easy to carry around without showing them off in too “high profile” a way. After all, the appearance of the SS on protection duty might have some unconscious influence on people’s perceptions of the president. They need to have the firepower available at any moment, but a security detail walking around with M16’s would give off a bad public image.

Joan Weinberg Agency-Select May 28, 2010 4:00 PM

Be thankful you’re not a cat or dog flying into Israel’s Ben Gurion Airport. They’re going to start dragging animals out of their cages and X-raying them to be sure they haven’t been stuffed with explosives.

ole coug May 28, 2010 10:00 PM

Israel is fighting a war and they recognize this, Americans are nothing but fat lazy people that have nothing better to do but make fun of other people who try their best to protect us with what they have., again I have to ask why is Bruce a aviation expert when his expertise is in network security? Most of your blog responses are from people who are out of work, and have nothing to do but bitch and look at porn when they are not Bruce Sheisters web site

KG2V June 15, 2010 6:15 AM

Please choose a broadcloth shirt with buttons and/or a well designed sweater. To go with that, tailored slacks or, if you must wear denim, have it be the premium type. Footwear choices include plain oxfords, loafers, or in winter, short boots (note the absence of sneakers from this list). A tie is optional. If a coat is required, a trenchcoat is suitable in all but the hottest months.

I personally prefer 5.11 pants – preferabley treated for fire resistance, ditto some sort of FR shirt (wool isn’t bad – cotton is barely OK – synthetics are OUT unless nomex – and that’s TOO hot), and for shoes, a pair of black patrol shoes and or 6-8″ boots

Not exactly geek wear, but sure isn’t old fashion dressing up. Then again, god forbid, I don’t have to worry as much about flash flame, or beating up on my feet

Russ June 17, 2010 7:05 AM

TSA Officer: (Takes off his glove. Offers me his hand to shake.)

Bruce – This speaks highly of you and the information that you have been providing.

It’s when they put on the gloves that you need to worry.

MeAtCuba August 12, 2011 5:39 AM

Me at Cuba, getting back to Europe :

At the airport :

Girl Officer (Looks at my passport)

Girl Officer (Looks at me, Smiles)

Lol, fi true

vidzz February 22, 2012 6:57 AM

can anyone tell me:
A scene on an airport. there was a sudden alarm. passengers were asked to evacuate.

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Sidebar photo of Bruce Schneier by Joe MacInnis.