Airport security part 2: TSA is failing us, let my associated ranting begin thusly

Airport security part 2: TSA is failing us, let my associated ranting begin thusly

Summary: I want to start out by saying that I take great personal risk of getting black listed before my flight to K.C.

TOPICS: Security

Rafal LosI want to start out by saying that I take great personal risk of getting black listed before my flight to K.C. tomorrow morning, but I thought I'd talk about an article by Rafal Los on how the TSA is failing us again.  This actually reminds me of an older article that I posted on this subject, and I've been meaning to follow up on this larger topic as part of the thoughts we've put into what our government is doing about security, er, I suppose I mean what it's not doing, and well, I think you're getting the picture.

Before I talk about Rafal's article, I got to thinking... do you ever feel like there is just too many dumb people making big kid decisions in this world?  I mean, things like rules that say you can't carry more than a four ounce stick of deodorant on a plane?  Seriously?  Because five ounces would be one ounce too many buddy! 

Decisions like this rob us of the opportunity of living in a world of intelligent decisions.  You know what I was thinking, if TSA (or whoever is in charge) has deemed more than four ounces of deodorant dangerous, then what's to stop me from having me and four of my jihadist buddies bringing four ounces each and combining our 16 ounces of deodorant into one massive plane destroying bomb?

Am I the crazy one here, or are these rules just ridiculous?  It's frustrating.

Anyways, here's Rafal's tail of terror on the tarmac:

I am still in shock, and absolutely horrified by what I saw today. First, let me explain the situation and then I will paste the letter which I sent to the TSA directly... maybe they'll respond.

1:05 PM Central Daylight Time: I arrive at O'Hare Int'l Airport, and go through security check (I only have my 2 carry-ons so no need to check anything). I am hassled in the security checkpoint because I have a 1 oz. bottle of hand sanitizer, and they immediately throw it away, without asking if I would like to put it in the quart-sized bag that is in the other bin I have, with my suitcase... no matter, it was cheap. I am reprimanded by someone from TSA (I will keep the name out of it, as it's of no relevance) who impolitely reminds me that these "safety measures" have been in effect for quite some time and that they are for my safety (more on this in a minute). I then watch a very old wheelchair-bound woman being made to walk through the security screen, then patted down, searched, as if she was spouting Jihad... unreal.

... my flight takes off 40 minutes late (weather delays, you know) and we land in Lexington, KY airport and everyone starts to deplane. It is then that I discover, much to my horror - a lighter sitting on the floor under row 6, seat C. My eyes about popped out of my head, and my heart sank to my stomach. I can't believe that in this day of ultra paranoid TSA personnel (poorly trained as they are) I'm still able to find this lighter, a combustible object unlike my hand sanitizer... on the plane. UNREAL you say? I mean, it must have been that 90+ year old lady who wasn't throughly cavity-searched enough, right? I'm absolutely befuddled, baffled and dumbfounded.

Now - ask yourself... do you feel any safer today than before 911? I certainly don't.

The answer is, I actually feel less safe.  To be perfectly honest, we're probably safer, but I FEEL a lot less safe.  Seriously, Rafal had to give up one ounce of hand sanitizer, but I'm thinking that if some MacGyver terrorist can put together a bomb with one ounce of hand sanitizer, his seat belt, and the "What to do in case of a crash" instructions in his seat pocket, then I'm freaking terrified of LIFE.  What's to stop the evil looking toddler I saw walking down Michigan ave. today, with his mom, from making a rifle out of his big league chew gum and shoelaces then taking a shot at me cause he doesn't like my beard?  Rafal continues:

Here is the email I sent directly from the TSA website (, with a

Security Issues (Choose One)* Urgent/Time Sensitive

designation... Let's see what the TSA folks have to say for themselves. Who wants to bet that I get some standard answer about "no one being perfect" and some crap about how "they're always improving"... waste of my taxpayers money, if you ask me...

To the TSA This afternoon I was on United Flight 5802 from Chicago, IL [ORD] to Lexington, Kentucky [LEX] at 2:19pm CDT. As we were de-planing in Lexington, and in utter horror I passed seat 6C I saw a green BIC lighter on the floor. If I can't bring a hand sanitizer on board, how is it that someone walks onto this plane with a (potentially) EXPLOSIVE device? We are being told that our privacy is being violated in the name of safety - I demandto know how this could possibly happen, and who will be held accountable. Thank You.

Here's to flying at an increased cost, with increased delays, with an increased sense of fear and poor customer service... we truly are living the American dream.


P.S., note that Rafal's blog is now "Nate McFeters Certified".  Get yours today!

Topic: Security

Kick off your day with ZDNet's daily email newsletter. It's the freshest tech news and opinion, served hot. Get it.


Log in or register to join the discussion
  • Hand Sanitizer Bomb

    interestingly enough, it's probably completely possible to build a bomb out of a can of hand sanitizer and a lighter. well... maybe not a bomb persee... but enough of a distraction i'm sure.

    i know i'm not giving away any closely held national secrets here but most hand sanitizers are 60% isopropyl alcohol.

    alcohol is... wait... FLAMMABLE! and a lighter is... wait... FLAME!!

    dump the sanitizer all over a seat coushin, light it up and you've got enough of a distraction to take a few hostages with your INDESTRUCTABLE comb.

    none of these things makes us any safer, and those in high places know this. however, they are designed to attempt to make people FEEL safer.

    the searching of the wheelchair bound grandmother? such things like that are utterly ridiculous...

    for comparison purposes, a friend of mine told a story of a friend of his, who is a pilot. he was once stopped while going through the security checkpoint (yes, they have to also...) and his large tube of TOOTHPASTE was discarded, apparently because it was... of some threat or something to the plane... nevermind the fact that this is the guy FLYING IT. apparently before one steers a plane into the ground one must first squirt large amounts of toothpaste over everything.

    and then there's the other friend/friend story of the guy who had to relinquish his extra bottle of water as well as his gel insoles. cause you know, those things are like... i guess dangerous... and again, nevermind the fact that this guy was a registered air marshal and while they took away his insoles they happily agreed to let him bring his GUN.

    stupidity is a disease...

    Valis Keogh
    • I laughed so hard...

      ... I nearly shot Starbucks out my nose! This has got to be the quote of the week...

      "apparently before one steers a plane into the ground one must first squirt large amounts of toothpaste over everything"
      Rafal.Los (RX8volution)
      • Beware of Grannies with very white teeth.

        Wait, wait ... In the knitting bag, hidden below the 12" 'needles', it?s big tube of crest.

        As a weekly traveler I see this sort of institutional stupidity, every time I pass through the show ?n tell (security) gauntlet. But as bad as the major airports are, they pale when compared to the second and third level cities. Drop outs who couldn?t get a job handing out towels at the local health club are given a uniform, a badge, and all the authority to make peoples pay for all of the perceived injustices they thing they?ve suffered.
    • Hahahhaa

      Wow, that made my day... spraying toothpaste on the runway.

      The key though is Valis, is this illusion of security actually making anyone feel safer? I know for one I do NOT feel safer.

      • conditioning

        It's all just conditioning the people to be used to the shakedown and the presence of "authority." When the massive malfeasance of this "government" comes home to roost, they'll need an outright police state to keep the people from lynching their (mis)leaders.
    • Good Lord is that ridiculous <nt>

      Can't... manage...find... words...
  • That lighter . . .

    . . . was probably kept in a pants pocket, and the metal content was low enough to not be detected by the magnetometers.

    Good or bad, I've seen it often over the past few years.
    • My nitro spray: I never travel without it.

      Yes, it sounds as stupid as the lighter. I always carry a nitroglycerin spray, as an emergency measure, because of a heart disease. It was never detected, not to say banned, during the last two and a half years.

  • RE: TSA is failing us, let my associated ranting begin thusly

    The only way to be truly secure is to not let anybody on the plane! Going through SFO last year from Tokyo to San Diego, I had a 3-hour layover. I anticipated a relaxing wait in the Red Carpet lounge after check-in. Instead I stood in line for 3 hours to get screened. As usual my artificial knee set off the beepers so I was made to sit 20 minutes for a pat down. After pointing to my watch in 5 to 10 minute increments and given the "wait your turn" wave, five minutes before my flight departure I resorted to the F bomb- "My plane leaves in 5 F'ing minutes and if I'm not on that F'ing plane there will be F'ing hell to pay! So get someone the F over here and get me out of here right F'ing now". It worked and I got to my plane as the last one to board. When I got to San Diego, I found that there are TSA idiots everywhere because they couldn't figure how to open my Japanese-made suitcase and destroyed the locks with a crowbar and taped it together with duct tape! All they had to do was pivot the locks sideways but apparently that wasn't in their spacial vocabulary. My claim was denied because TSA is allowed to take whatever means necessary to ensure we are safe. I fly all over the world and I really HATE flying in the US.
  • RE: TSA is failing us, let my associated ranting begin thusly

    hate to deflate your ego in this one, but lighters are ALLOWED to be carried on

    as for the liquids issue, the means to determine what the item REALLY consists of is not available in the checkpoint environment (try taking thousands of samples a day -- maybe you get my drift) so we have to limit the amount of unknown onborad; take a little time to research the Bojinka plot. Three ounces only takes out a seat, not the whole plane. Preventing a group from getting together... our bosses don't want to go there

    the jihadists are just as capable of strapping explosives to retarded kids and babies, so blue-haired grannies can't be exempt.

    so before venting your spleen on the front-line workers on checkpoint (many former IT people and steel workers at my airport), take it up with the former airline executives who are running the show
    • From the TSA Website

      The below is clipped from the TSA website. If lighters are now permitted, then my comment elsewhere about fluid rules is further validated:

      Lighters without fuel are permitted in checked baggage. Lighters with fuel are prohibited in checked baggage, unless they adhere to the Department of Transportation (DOT) exemption, which allows up to two fueled lighters if properly enclosed in a DOT approved case. If you are uncertain as to whether your lighter is prohibited, please leave it at home.
    • Further update on lighters!!!

      LOL. As a link from the no lighters policy there is a policy change statement! Isn't government communications great?

      Q. Are lighters not a threat anymore?
      A. Lighters are not a serious threat. Lifting the ban is a common sense, risk-based security decision. This change allows officers to focus on finding explosives and IED components. TSA collects 22,000 lighters a day.

      Q: Why were all lighters banned as carry-on items in the first place?
      A. In April of 2005, TSA began enforcing a Congressional mandate to ban common lighters on the secure side of airports or onboard airplanes.

      Q. What is a torch lighter?
      A. Torch lighters create a thin, needle-like flame that is hotter (reaching 2,500 degrees Fahrenheit) and more intense than those from common lighters. Torch lighters are often used for pipes and cigars, and maintain a consistent stream of air-propelled fire regardless of the angle at which it is held. Torch lighters continue to be banned.

      Q. Does your lighter need to be in a baggie since it contains liquid?
      A. No. TSA's common-sense approach harmonizes with worldwide standards for lighters.
      • WTF?

        "TSA's common-sense approach harmonizing with worldwide standards"?

        What alternate reality are they living in here? There's nothing common-sense or harmonizing with worldwide standards about these rules.

        • The Real Message

          To harmonise with world standards is quite easy - just
          keep dropping these asinine "no water allowed on planes"
          rules until you're back to the simple rules you had before
          the World Trade Centre attacks.

          Then just actually apply the rules on immigration, licences,
          security clearances, etc, that were in place before those
          attacks. None of the new rules that are being passed
          would prevent any of the attacks that have actually

          The binary-explosive plot that was uncovered in London
          never actually happened. In fact, I question whether it was
          even feasible.
    • Hawhat?

      No one is venting at the individual workers, they're just doing their jobs... of course, some common sense could be applied that it's not likely a grandma in her wheelchair is rocking out the jihad action.

      In any case, the issue is with those who make the ridiculous decisions on these rules, not those who carry out the implementation of those rules.

      It's just like I don't blame cops for giving people J-Walking tickets. They might be assholes for doing it, but hey, it is a law, we should blame the douche bag who put the law into play.

    • And the hand sanitizer?

      Wait, that can kill <i>millions</i> of bacteria!
  • Chicago TSA

    I've seen incredibly rude, mean, self righteous behavior on the part of TSA at O'Hare.

    I doesn't matter if the front line people are poorly trained and poorly paid. Major lambasts at the traveling public should be rewarded with firing. Not everyone flies frequently and acting as though the public can keep up with the fluid rules makes any sense at all.

    As an aside, an example of good behavior by security is the KC airport--where the security is privately contracted and not TSA.
    • Agreed on KC

      I have never had trouble with the KC Airport Security. At times they can be a bit more strict on the metal detectors, but this was before 9/11. I know of some one who occasionally passes through there with a metal rod in his leg and he seems to get picked up there more often than other airports.
  • The TSA... bah.

    Last Christmas on my trip to the parents' home, I did good until I got to the metal detectors. An elderly female TSA agent asked to see my ID and ticket. I showed it to her, she marked the ticket with some sort of pen and sent me on my way.

    I walked [b]four steps[/b] past her to the conveyor belt, where I was again asked for my ID and ticket by another TSA agent.

    The TSA agent standing there told me to put EVERYTHING into the bin for screening, and watched me as I unloaded my wallet, coins, MP3 player, etc, etc, and sent it on its way down the conveyor.

    I take [b]two steps[/b] and walk through the detector: no alarms.

    Then a third TSA agent, who was standing on the "exit side" of the metal detector stops me and says "Where are your ID and ticket?"

    I point to the 2nd agent and say "He told me to put everything in the bin, so I did. They're in there."

    Apparently that's a common tactic of terrorists, because as soon as I said that, I had TSA stooges all around me. I guess they thought I was going to make a mad dash for the airplane... which would have rather difficult, as the plane, inbound from Atlanta, was still in the air at that time.

    Without letting me get anywhere near the conveyor, they tell me to identify my belongings as each bin is held up by TSA agent number 8 or 9.

    I point out the correct bin, they retrieve my wallet and ticket, and bring them to TSA stooge #3, who makes me tell him what info is on my ID without me looking at it.

    I finally convince them that I am who I say I am, walk through the detector, again, and set off no alarms, again. So I put everything back in my pockets, put my shoes and jacket on, and thank <insert deity here> that the ordeal is over.

    But it seems it's my lucky day, because TSA stooge #4 decides I need an in-depth screening. [b]After I show my ID and ticket for the 4th time in 20 feet[/b], I get to take everything back out of my pockets, take off my jacket, take off my shoes, and stand on a really, really, nasty looking pair of footprints on the carpet while they do everything short of a full body cavity search.

    On the upside though, instead of the anticipated 1.5 hour wait to board the plane, by the time they got finished with me I only had to wait 45 minutes.
    Hallowed are the Ori
  • That's just one example

    For those who enjoy this non-fiction/horror genre:
    makes for some entertaining reading.