USA Flag

Official website of the Department of Homeland Security

Transportation Security Administration

Questions We Hear Everyday (Commenting Disabled)

Archived Content

Please note that older content is archived for public record. This page may contain information that is outdated and may not reflect current policy or programs.

If you have questions about policies or procedures, please contact the TSA Contact Center.

Members of the news media may contact TSA Public Affairs.

Friday, February 01, 2008

Throughout the ages, there have been many unanswered questions that continue to baffle the human race. Who built Stonehenge? Is there life on other planets? Why does the TSA make me place my liquids in a clear sealable baggie?

Unfortunately, even the experts at the TSA were not able to solve all of the world's mysteries, but they were able to crack the code on a few.

For your viewing pleasure, we filmed some of our experts explaining a couple of TSA's most frequently asked questions from the flying public. We have others and will post those in the future but for today we have:

We know, we know, what about shoes? Well we're working on a video for this question and plan to update this post with that video this afternoon. In the meantime, check out our post on shoes in the link off to the right. We updated it this morning with a picture of a really funky pair of shoes we found on a guy flying from Alaska last year. We have also posted the x-ray image of a standard pair of shoes. We think it shows pretty clearly that we can actually tell if they've been altered.

You'll notice there's no mention of good old shoe bomber Richard Reid yet. That's because the current rule is not in place only because of one of the more famous residents of the Supermax in Kansas. No, it's all about intel and us knowing that terrorists are still interested in hiding explosives, detonators and other items we really don't want in the cabin of an airplane in their shoes.

Don't forget, we want your feedback but it has to be in the right place because we can't move comments around on this blog yet. Post shoe comments and questions in that link, post liquids issues and scientific research proving us wrong in the liquids page. For anyone interested in discussing screening the elderly and children, feel free to comment right here.

Finally, you'll be happy to know that Kip does not own shares in the plastic baggie business and he is fond of the elderly and small children. I'm also willing to bet you wouldn't even have to take your shoes off at his house. Enjoy...

Evolution Blog Team


Submitted by Anonymous on

At least the clowns at the TSA are having some fun with this.

Now, watch this drive.

Submitted by Anonymous on

The real question is Why do we need TSA @ all? We don't, it is a complete waste of time.. you check nothing, find nothing, and simply clog up air travel.. I use to fly 15-20 times a year commercially.. now, i might fly 5 times a year.. only reason, aggravation of the mess that airports have become.. before 9/11... air travel was a breeze.. we have let the terrorist win.. The USA has become the nation of scared children.

Submitted by Anonymous on

Very helpful thanks

Submitted by Anonymous on

You failed to answer a very common question about liquids:

Why just put them in a big garbage can?

Oh, what was that? Right, because you know it's just a bunch of shampoo.

Then, why confiscate it?

Oh, what was that? Just trust us.

Right, because we all know how reliable the intelligence is in this administration.

Thanks for giving the terrorists just want they want: disruption of American's lives and freedoms.

You are part of the problem.

Submitted by ScottysAir on

Do you think about TSA will eventually changed the shoes policies. I think TSA had nothing can do it for 9/11 attacks. I should right thing to do for me that I am really allowable leave the shoes on while I am in the metal detector. Last time that I had a problems with TSA employees few years ago. It's doesn't no reason why I am taking off the shoes all of the times. It's importance some of those passengers will pleased allowed leave the shoes on while they are at metal detector.

Submitted by The Weary Traveller on

The liquids ban is really stupid. Nobody can create a bomb out of liquids unless he can hide in the restroom the whole flight while having access to a bunsen burner and other paraphenalia from a well-stocked lab.

The whole TSA is window-dressing, reacting to old news and providing theater instead of genuine security. Israel and other countries have found that the best way to stop hijackings is old-fashioned police work, intercepting the would-be hijackers before they get to the airport - otherwise it's too late. They can pass as airport employees and roam the secure areas at will while 80-year-old grannies are being given the third degree.

I give you props for reaching out to people and opening yourselves up to comments, but again it's window dressing.

Submitted by Anonymous on

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

Submitted by Lamb Cannon on

I have flown four times in the last two weeks, and must report that the soi-disant 'security' force of the TSA fills me with despair.

No, I still think the "liquids up to 3 oz in a plastic bag" is the stupidest idea ever.

Are we seriously waiting for the 2nd coming of that little cretin Richard Reid? I don't feel any safer watching women struggle out of their Manolos. Perhaps a ban on UGLY FAT tennis shoes would be a good place to start, otherwise you are wasting all of our time.

As always, the grandmas in wheelchairs were thoroughly searched, while braindead-looking security staff with their ridiculously oversized walkie-talkies strutted around staring at people as if they were criminals. This was at the Delta terminal at JFK; I actually watched one security jerk dancing around to the "get down, Mr. Funky" music blaring out of the PA system, which was completely drowning out the English-challenged boarding instructions. This was at 6:15 in the morning, for God's sake.

At the same time there was a **shocking expose** on the CNN screens talking about how some dumb*ss pranced into Reagan airport with a GUN (no doubt a good Bush voter protecting his prized 2nd amendment rights) and how a fake bomb was waltzed right past the TSA goonsquad--was that at Dulles?

Let's face it--you are strikebreakers, not security people. As pleasant and patient as I try to be with your staff, they are still RUDE, and have the pseudo-official air of camp counselors or DMV workers for the most part. I cringe with embarrassment every time I know I am an American citizen and have to fly somewhere. Anywhere. I just turned down an excellent job opportunity btw because I would have had to travel once a month. That's once too often.

Get it together people. You can be replaced.

Submitted by Anonymous on

haha TSA you dont own the internets, you cant tell us to put our comments in 'plastic bags' and to put them in the 'liquid' box to be thrown out. you cant xray our comments! its all over!

Submitted by Anonymous on

I think you may be missing the point on this whole "blog" thing.

Many people have found that a blog is an excellent way to communicate ideas using the written word.

Submitted by Anonymous on

On the liquid and any other policy, there needs to be a nice consistency of training. On one flight, i have some of my liquids (which were done perfectly to regulations and already passed tow other checkpoints) confiscated. The reason i was given was that the bottle was not properly labeled. No where have i seen the need for labels. I asked aft the next check point about it and they said that is not a regulation. Please train your staff better.

Submitted by Anonymous on

You thought my banana was a bomb. It was not a bomb. It was a delicious and nutritious fruit.

Submitted by Anonymous on

You know what would be nice when you go through a security check? A place to sit down and put your shoes back on? In virtually every airport in this country, I'm left to grab my coat, bag, shoes and laptop and then wander around in my socks like an idiot until I see a chair somewhere in the concourse, use a bench or a wall, or do the manic one-legged dance of the guy trying to put his shoes on with one arm while holding his luggage with the other. When I do sit down in a chair near the x-ray table, I've been told to move because it's for personal searches only or something. Maybe this is the airport's job and not TSA's, but it would sure make the process a lot less annoying.

Submitted by Anonymous on

Are you kidding me? That video is the explanation for the liquid ban?

The ban that is completely useless? How does the 3-1-1 rule prevent anyone from getting as much liquid as they want past security? I can take 10 bottles of 3oz liquid in, or I can make repeated trips through security. At the end of the day, nothing is gained.

I had high hopes for this blog, but if that video is what we can expect as feedback or explanation, then consider this a failed experiment and close it down. It's just going to cause more frustration, since you're now just another government agency that doesn't address a SINGLE issue that people bring up.

Submitted by Mike on

Why are you using Windows Media? Does the TSA consider Mac and Linux users second class citizens?

Submitted by YetAnotherDave on

Okay, more foolish questions:
Why are you still confiscating nail files when there are now steel doors on the airplane flight deck?
Why won't you let people bring sealed bottled water through the gates? How about if they are willing to drink some of it in front of you?
Why is a sweater vest considered an "outer garment," which must be removed and x-rayed?!

Submitted by Anonymous on

What about small knives?

Submitted by Anonymous on

How about a guarantee that no person shall be placed on the no-fly list solely because of a post made here.

Submitted by Anonymous on


Many of us do not use Microsoft software and thus have no way to view streaming .wmv files. Please consider a format more widely available. I understand that YouTube tends to work quite well; maybe you should consider posting there or using that file format.

Submitted by Anonymous on

Here's another question: why does the TSA post videos in proprietary formats that only really work in Windows?

Submitted by Anonymous on

The restriction of liquids and gels is supposedly to prevent terrorists from mixing two part explosives to bring down an airplane. Yet many explosives experts who have written about the subject insist that mixing explosives successfully in a setting as primitive as an airplane lavatory is nigh impossible. Why should we believe the liquid and gel ban is anything other that a grotesque overreaction on the part of the TSA?

Submitted by Not Surprised B... on

Censorship is alive and well with the Evolution Blog Team.

Why did I think it would be otherwise?

Submitted by Anonymous on

The liquids response still does not address the following issues:

1) Numerous sources have discredited the idea that the liquid-explosive TATP can be produced airside by mixing high-concentration peroxide plus acetone because of the laboratory conditions (precise timing and temperature) required and the noxious stench which would alert other travelers to the danger. Yet Kip Hawley admits that peroxide bombs are still the main concern ( Hawley has also admitted that airside-mixed explosives are not considered a threat. (

2) The original justification for the war on water was that bombs could be mixed airside using common harmless liquids that could not be detected by ETD. That has been debunked. Now, conventional liquid explosives such as nitroglycerin (used in the Philippene 434 bombing) are detected quite well by TSA’s existing ETD. Furthermore, nitroglycerin would need to be stabilized in a cotton-like solid to be stable enough to make it through an airport as was done on flight 434; yet soaked solids are not banned by TSA. So why does TSA need to ban all liquids?

3) Liquid explosives are inherently unstable (see above). So by maintaining the ban on liquids, TSA is maintaining that a liquid explosive exists that is stable enough to carry through a checkpoint in a water bottle (so can’t be nitroglycerin) and can’t be detected by existing ETD or puffer. I’ve seen no evidence of such an explosive. If such a liquid exists, then TSA should produce a video of a water-bottle sized container filled with liquid being moved as if through x-ray and a terminal and then detonated to produce a large explosion. Showing the video would not reveal the nature of the explosive or any secrets. Yet all TSA gives us is a vague video of a test explosion with no demonstration of the container or its transport.

4) Ever since the Tylenol cyanide scare a few decades ago, beverage and drug manufacturers have spent millions of dollars producing tamper-evident seals such that tampering is detectible at a glance by untrained persons. Wine manufacturers have used tamper-evident containers (cork and capsule) for decades longer to prevent forgery. So why does TSA need to ban factory sealed water and wine bottles, when any untrained person can instantly detect tampering visually?

5) We were allowed to fly with liquids for over a decade after Philippine 434 and for months after DHS was aware of the 2005 liquid threat. Yet once it became public, TSA institutes yet another reactionary ban on harmless items.

6) Why can’t TSA post clear rules on it’s website stating that empty bottles are not prohibited and that
If TSA wants to win back passengers, it must convince us that ever-increasing restrictions serve a purpose. Now, they seem to be mostly security theater and to be designed mostly to inconvenience travelers and further erode basic rights and dignity. Hiding behind SSI as an excuse to provide basic justification and to avoid admitting past mistakes only makes the problem worse.

Submitted by Mike on

There's this new thing called "youtube." It will let you upload videos and will automagically change them into videos that anyone can see. Then you can even post those videos right into your blog just by copying and pasting text, no thinking required.

Submitted by Change TSA Culture on

Imagine if each and every TSA security screening employee was exceedingly polite and respectful – it would fundamentally change the TSA's relationship with the public overnight.

TSA, why can't you hire people with these qualities? Retaining overly domineering and rude screening agents in your ranks will only further drive the public to resent you.

Submitted by Anonymous on

Dear TSA,
      A recent poll (Associated Press-Ipsos, December 2007) found that the TSA was among the least favored of government agencies. Given that existing image problem, how do you feel about the DHS using the TSA as a tool for political punishment against those states that object to the REAL ID act?
      The DHS announced their final rule on the REAL ID act. As part of that ruling, starting May 11th of this year a state issued driver's license will not be considered valid identification for TSA purposes, unless the issuing state promises that their future driver's licenses will meet the REAL ID standard. Given that there is no possible security reason for this rule—a promise by a state that driver's licenses that it issues in 2011 will be secure has absolutely no effect on the security of an already issued driver's license—it is clear that the rule is designed to punish citizens of the states that have passed bills rejecting the act.
      In a time when the TSA is busy explaining why passengers must remove their shoes and trying to justify the 3-1-1 (liquids) rule, doesn't this clear political rule undermine the effort to get the American public to take the TSA's rules seriously?

Submitted by Anonymous on

You guys have it so easy. I think I'm going to start telling anyone who asks me a question I don't want to or can't answer that I can't answer for national security reasons. That's the kind of built-in excuse I thrive on.

Submitted by Don't Trust The... on

So great, we're limited to small travel size containers of whatever. So get a dozen or so collaborators together to bring their small bottles of whatever together and aggregate them after you get through security. How is that different than one person bringing through a larger bottle? If terrorist organizations are as clever as you claim, I can't imagine that they would not have thought of this already. I have a feeling that the actual reason behind the size restriction is to ensure that the corporations who sell travel size toiletries get their piece of the security pie as on a per oz basis, the products are usually several times more expensive than they would otherwise have been had they been purchased in larger size containers. There is nothing that this government has done, does, or will do that is about the health, safety or welfare of the people of the USA. Everything it does is about lining the pockets of some corporate contributor or other republican crony. Follow the money. Just follow the money.

Submitted by Anonymous on

Why, if they're so smart, do your experts have to read their responses off of cue cards?

Submitted by Anonymous on

Not able to view the videos on my Mac.

Submitted by 100KFlyer on

Hilarious! The video posted by the TSA basically says that "binary explosives can be created in a lab under controlled conditions, hence we assume that you can also make the exact same explosive in an airplane lavatory."

Paging Mr. Kafka, Mr. Kafka please report to the TSA Program Office.

Submitted by Anonymous on

The real question is why they are using blogger instead of their own server. Have their consul suggested it as a way around public records law?

Submitted by Barry on

Just wondering: given that the Israelis don't have a policy for stealing hair gel and toothpaste from travelers, why aren't we warned about traveling to Israel? It seems irresponsible to fail to warn travelers when they're traveling to a place that doesn't know anything about terrorism.

Submitted by Anonymous on

I can't really watch the video and get anything out of it because I don't have speakers or even a headset at this time. Also, I'm just not good with listening to people explain things - I'd much rather read it at my own pace. If you could transcribe or write something up that would approximate the video, that would be nice.

Submitted by Anonymous on

I posted previously but it didn't make it through moderation. But what about sexual assault? Where does that fit into the security policy? Eventually some husband or boyfriend is going to school a TSA screener because of one to many fondlings of his wife/girlfriend. Of course the TSA will just pull an arrest on him much like they did the gentleman who recently carried a gun through security and came back to report the problem and ended being arrested rather than thanked.

Submitted by Anonymous on

The problems with the liquid ban are: (1) There aren't any effective binary explosive compounds.
(2) Explosives can't be "manufactured" aboard the aircraft from precursors
(3) The arbitrary 3-oz limit doesn't prevent passenger collusion to collect arbitrarily large amounts aboard the plane.
(4) There are, roughly, 100 times more solid and powder explosives than liquids. Wait, should I have said that? Will TSA now ban solids and liquids too? Will only plasmas be allowed?

Submitted by Anonymous on

i was flying to los angeles:
the guy in front of me went through the metal detector and it went off. the tsa agents were too busy talking to stop the man.

Submitted by Anonymous on

If I have my only liquid/paste/gel item (deodorant) in a TSA-approved "Zip Lock (tm)" baggie, in the grey bin, then I can keep it.

If I have my only liquid/paste/gel item (deodorant) in a grey bin, then I can't keep it.


Submitted by Anonymous on

One of my friends is dead certain that a TSA baggage screener stole his iPod out of his checked luggage. Do you get accused of this a lot? Are the accusations founded?

Submitted by Livid Mom on

We were returning from my mother's memorial service in Feb. 2007 and TSA decided to search my sixteen-year-old daughter because she did not have a government ID which is not necessary until age seventeen according to TSA's website regarding ID's. I was upset they wanted to search her at all but even after I continually said, "She's a minor. I'm her mother. I need to be present when you search her!" they ignored my remarks and escorted me away from where she was being searched by a female TSA employee. Apparently they thought I was lying about her age. What else could it be? Why would it have bothered them to allow me to observe the search? They checked in her bra, etc. I was livid. Still in mourning for my recently deceased mother I never filed a formal complaint however Frontier did report it as the agent at the gate was the same woman who processed our luggage at the reservation window. She was appalled at how we were treated.

Anyone want to comment on this?

Submitted by Anonymous on

Why confiscate knives, or other similair tools? Guns I can understand, bullets in a plane are bad. But a terrorist still has a chance to smuggle a handheld weapon onboard.

Passengers are a plane's best hope. Everyone knows that after 9/11, it's best NOT to comply with a terrorist's demands, and it's better to fight. With locked cabin doors, its unlikely they'll be able to take over a plane again.

So why take away openly carried pocketknives? Why deny passengers the ability to defend themselves in a incident? Why make all our lives a lot more inconvenient due to this "Security Theatre" farce?

Submitted by Anonymous on

So after about 2 days of this blog being set up, we've ascertained (a) most people think that the liquids ban is stupid and pointless, (b) most people think that taking off their shoes is stupid and pointless, (c) there are some TSA screeners who are badly trained and unprofessional, (d)there are some TSA baggage screeners who are thieves, (e) some people don't fly any more because the aggravation seems too much. It seems to me this blog needs to provide more than just a forum for people to repeat these 5 or 6 basic complaints ad infinitum. How about having separate posts directed towards particular airports? As TSA performance seems to be so airport-dependent perhaps the best way to raise the performance of particularly maligned airports is to gather the comments from people who use that airport regularly all in one place. Then perhaps someone with the power to do something about it could read it and do something about it! We can but dream...

Submitted by Anonymous on

Come on people, why complain about the liquid restrictions? It's not like it's a surprise now - it's been pretty well publicized what amount of liquids you can bring on to the airplane. If you don't like it, don't fly. Geeesshhh.

Submitted by Anonymous on

we indirectly must thank osama bin laden for making the TSA make its own blog.

by the way im so tired of throwing away liquid soap and not being able to bring water aboard the plane. cant you guys have a screening machine that identifies water?

Submitted by Anonymous on

So whats the deal with sandals/flip flops cause thats basically all I ever wear, and lets be honest, theres like no place to hide anything. Most of the time I don't have to take them off but one time a TSA person asked me to take off my shoes and I was like uhhh what shoes. Also along the same point my mom's boyfriend has shoes with a flask built in to the soles by the company cause he likes to drink. Would you guys totally freak if you saw that? He also has a pair of flip flops with a bottle opener on the bottom.

But on a serious note, if I change my liquid to a solid through the complex process known as "freezing" you wouldn't be able to take my water would you?

Submitted by Anonymous on

This is ridiculous: a blog that preemptively screens every single comment for "appropriateness"!

Isn't it silly to use such an open medium to do PR for a very unpopular program? The obvious solution (to screen and heavily comments) contradicts the whole point of having a blog.

Agencies like TSA should accept that much of what they do is unnecessary and therefore unpopular with most of the population (who are not stupid and have no problem recognizing what is a legitimate security need and what is not) and should stop trying to push PR on a medium designed for building real communities around ideas and things that people actually respect.

Submitted by Anonymous on

Please, it has been proven time and time again that making a bomb from binary liquids is nigh impossible within the confines of a plane, how about you actually have real security standards, not restrictive fake ones that just justify your jobs.

Submitted by Ab on

I believe tou have absolutely no right to do this kind of checking. Did the government gave you the right? Sorry, rights are not granted by governments. Rights are natural. Airline security a serious matter, but it is between the passengers and the airline, period.

All the government imposed checks are an immoral aggression on citizens and airline companies. The government is not "special" it doesn't have "special rights" and the same moral rules apply to government agents and everyone else.

If a random person had the strange idea of imposing his own security controls on airlines he would be arrested by the airport's security.

Governments agents are not different, they are just bullies.

Think about it this way, why people don't take +100kg of luggage? Because the airline refuses to take it. That's it they just refuse a deal.

Why people comply with security checks? Is it because they agreed to it? NO ! It's because if they don't they'll be arrested. The so called "services" the government provide are based on coercion and not on legitimate trade.

By taking a plane, I am taking my own responsibility, and I leave to the airline the responsibility of ensuring my security. It is up to me to decide whether I believe the airline provides a good service or not.

I do think that airline security is a genuine concern, and as a passenger I do care for it, but it has to remain the private business of airline companies.

The government employees performing checks are acting like parasites, living off taxes and making passenger's life miserable.

Submitted by Shrike on

I have a question that has been nagging me for some time and have yet to recieve a half logical answer from the many security personell at the checkpoints. If the screening person checks my passport against the bording pass that I also hand him, how does this make me more secure to be on the other side of the checkpoint? Here are the problems with this as I see it and would like your take on them:

Problem 1). I am in essence giving them my ID and the "Test" for that ID. Bording passes can be printed on a $50 printer at home that will match the name on the ID (many airlines allow this and it would take near no skill to print a false one). They dont check the name against any No Fly list so i'm assuming that impetus is on the airline.

Problem Scenario: Terrorist #1 on the no fly list knows that the airline is the one checking names against the no fly list so they ask their that is not on the list to buy a ticket for them in their buddies name. They print the valid boarding pass then take 3 minutes to print another but with the name changed to match Terrorist #1's real name on his ID. He then has a fake ID made up (ill explain why this may be neccesary later and why it does not ahve to be particularly sophisticated). Now he has 2 sets of documents: A. Real ID with Fake boarding pass both with his real name on it. B. Fake ID and Real boarding pass with his buddies name on it. He walks up to the security checkpoint and to the NTSB operative who presumably is trained on how to spot a fake ID. He hands him his real ID and the fake boarding pass. Remember the fake boarding pass is a piece of paper that is identical to the real one except for just the name (if they passed a law stopping the airlines from alowing home printing of passes then the little card ones would take 3hrs to falsify instead of 3 minutes but would still be easy). The NTSB guard checks the ID against the fake pass and of course it matches and he is let through. Once he is on the other side, the "secure" zone he walks up to the gate and watches the airline stuard to see if they are checking ID. They normaly dont. If that is the case he just walks up when its his turn and hands them the real pass with his buddies name. If they are checking ID he hands them the real pass with the fake ID and since they are far from highly trained they will accept it.

Problem 2). Now this problem makes the above problem almost irrelevant and this whole thing a bit of a farse. It is unconstitutional to not allow someone to travel (including flying) in the US without showing ID. I know that you can be subjected to a more stringent search if you refuse but that does nothing, absolutely nothing about people on the No Fly list from Flying.

Pleast help me understand this. I fly quite often and am a very very security minded person and have many concerns and concepts I would love some insight on. I will limmit this comment to this one as it has now become a wall of text. Thank you

Submitted by Anonymous on

From my POV this is a pile of malarkey. As a chemistry student and amateur journalist i have done some research into the necessity of confiscating liquids. I have asked chem professors and individuals in the munitions industry. There are explosives which can be transported and used in containers the size of tubes of toothpaste or a water bottle. BUT these materials are either incredibly volatile (walking through a metal detector, bumbing into someone, or a light static charge will set them off), very expensive,easily detected, very hard to make, and/or only manufactured by western governments.

If someone wished to commit an act of terrorism at the moment the current security procedures would make no difference. At the moment all the security does is make travelers angry and the TSA power hungry, convinced they have the right to publicly humiliate passengers.

It is worth noting that other nations such as France, The UK, Spain, and Germany have much more relaxed security protocols despite having suffered terrorist attacks and having a much higher risk of homegrown terrorism. As i already said these procedures do not make us safer they just make us angrier and far more miserable, they also provide a disincentive for flying.