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More on the Liquid Rules: Why We Do the Things We Do (Commenting Disabled)

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Monday, February 04, 2008

Last week, there was a post on the ars technica blog by Jon Stokes, Senior Editor and Co-Founder, posing some questions on TSA’s liquids rules similar to other questions we’ve gotten on the blog so far. Kip Hawley wrote the following response, and we wanted to post it here for TSA blog readers to see as well.


Thanks for the question on liquids. We have lots of material on our site ( going into the liquids issue so that is available for background, including the video of it blowing up. I'll try here to break the question down into the sub-questions I hear most. I enjoy ars technica, especially that it is thoughtful and issue-oriented and I appreciate having the opportunity to address your question.

Was this a real threat? Yes, there was a very serious plot to blow up planes using liquid explosives in bombs that would have worked to bring down aircraft.

Why don't you just ban all liquids? Because our National Labs and international allies demonstrated to my satisfaction that there is, in fact, a scientific basis for allowing small amounts of liquids on as carry-on. We try to prohibit the minimum possible from a security standpoint. Also, the consequence of banning all liquids is a large increase in the number of checked bags, which creates its own issues.

Why can't multiple people bring on explosives in three-ounce containers and mix them post security? The tough one! Tough because there are parts of the reason that are truly classified but here goes... (read them all before throwing up your hands!)

  1. We are involved in risk management. The question to me is: "What do you have to do to make a successful attack so complex that an intelligent enemy would recognize that the odds of success are too low?"
  2. Because there are limits to our ability to detect every thing every time at the checkpoint, we use layers of security. For example, I and senior leaders at TSA work every day with the intelligence and law enforcement communities world-wide to get insights in how to make our security better -- frequently adding specific training and sometimes, respecting our obligations to the intell and law enforcement communities (like our remote control toys advisory), communicating directly to the public. Also, we reduce risk by a) adding behavior detection capability, K-9 teams, surge teams and document checking out front; and b) by undercover presence throughout the area behind the checkpoint, as well as better screening of the supply chain of items in the sterile area after the checkpoint.
  3. We reduce risk by deciding what we believe is necessary for a completed bomb -- the core of the 100ml (3.4 ounce) limit. Extensive testing began the morning of August 10, 2006 -- the day the liquids plot was made public -- to determine if there is a level at which any liquid brought onboard a plane represents little risk. These were tests by multiple government agencies, National Laboratories and other nations and they assisted in the 3-1-1 formulation. We announced 3-1-1 on September 26, 2006 and that allowed travelers to go on overnight trips without having to check a bag. That is the trade-off: if 3-1-1 is too complicated, you can always just check your bag.
  4. The preparation of these bombs is very much more complex than tossing together several bottles-worth of formula and lighting it up. In fact, in recent tests, a National Lab was asked to formulate a test mixture and it took several tries using the best equipment and best scientists for it to even ignite. That was with a bomb prepared in advance in a lab setting. A less skilled person attempting to put it together inside a secure area or a plane is not a good bet. You have to have significant uninterrupted time with space and other requirements that are not easily available in a secured area of an airport. It adds complexity to their preferred model and reduces our risk, having the expert make the bomb and give it to someone else to carry aboard. They are well aware of the Richard Reid factor where he could not even ignite a completed bomb. Simple is truly better for them. Also, bomb-makers are easier for us to identify than so-called clean 'mules.'
  5. The container itself adds complexity. A 100ml container limits the effect of, and even the ability of, a detonation. It also forces a more precise mix, and a lot more boost -- which makes it easier to detect from that side. Even creative ways to smuggle liquids in are less effective because, eventually, they still have to mix it right and get it into the right container, etc. There are also issues with what kind of container you use, but let's leave them to puzzle that out further...
  6. The baggie gives us two benefits: A) It serves as a visually identifiable, easy way to limit quantity. Even if they wanted to bring multiple bottles to mix, we limit the quantity of their total liquids as well (bottles "hidden" in the carry-on bag stick out). B) The baggie serves to concentrate the vapor - substances used to create liquid explosives are very volatile and emit fumes even through sealed bottles. (We have tested.) We have liquid explosives detectors that take advantage of the vapor concentration factor in the baggie. This way, we do not have to examine what's inside every bottle, regardless of what the label says.
  7. The effect of pulling out liquids and aggregating them separately allows our security officers to have a clear look at the liquids -- and, perhaps just as important, it de-clutters the carry-on bag so that we have a clearer view of that as well.
  8. With our medical exceptions, they have to talk to one of our Security Officers who can use a variety of methods to tell whether it presents a problem including test strips, and hand-held detectors that are highly effective, even with closed and sealed bottles. With the larger bottles, the other features needed to make it viable would be very apparent.

A few other points, this policy has been adopted in more than 80 countries worldwide and means that there are common rules almost everywhere you fly. The choice is a total ban or this, and we are working very hard at a technology solution that should make this better all around. Think early 2009 for that.

The challenge is to reduce risk on the things we know about (shoe bombs, liquids) while having enough other measures in place to disrupt what we don't know is coming. Any time we fixate on one thing, you have to be concerned about opening up something elsewhere. Balance, flexibility, and unpredictability are key. So is going on offense by being connected to intelligence / law enforcement and being proactive with our surge patrols, undercover activities, etc. AND getting TSA and passengers back on the same side! That last one is what we're trying to do at our checkpoint with our TSOs and online with our blog.

Whatever you think about our policies -- please recognize our Security Officers who train and test every day and will do whatever it takes to make you and your families safe when you fly. They are the best in the world and are on your side; please give them a little recognition when you see them. Thanks for the opportunity to comment,



Submitted by Anonymous on

To berlin neon @ 2/6 0751:

" communities receive reports every day that there are terrorists planning to do us harm."

Yes, but (a) most of those are not credible, and (b) none of them have anything to do with liquids on airplanes. Terrorists can't hijack planes anymore. Even with a bomb, it won't work. Passengers will always rise up against them. This was demonstrated DURING the 9/11 attacks: one of the four planes didn't complete its mission, as the passengers took it down. Essentially it took zero time for us to learn this lesson.

Secondly, as has been pointed out many times before, there really is no such thing as a liquid explosive, apart from nitroglycerine. All explosives, for the most part, are solids. There's certainly no such thing as a binary compound that can be mixed aboard to create a bomb. If the goal is to stop explosives, then solids and powders, not liquids, should be banned.

At 2/5 2154, berlin neon also objects to the description of TSA as liars, and asks what the motivation is. There are two clear motivations:

(1) Standard CYA. Security theater makes it appear that the government is doing something to protect us. If a terrorist incident were to occur, the response from TSA would be, "Well, we've been doing everything we can. Give us more money for better equipment." It's a lot easier to deflect blame if you've been pretending to do something.

(2) The liquid ban helps keep the phantom threat of binary liquid explosives in the public's mind. This creates a low level of fear that keeps the populace easily cowed. Look at the people here who have posted positive messages about the illegal searches and seizures being foisted upon them, saying, "Well, it's worth it if it makes us safer!" You won't notice your rights disappearing--you won't notice the increased government intrusions in your life--you won't noticed the increased surveillance--if you're constantly scared that "the terrorists" are going to come get you.

Submitted by Dave X on

Inconveniences and fear in air travel drive people to use alternate modes of transport. I know someone who will drive rather than fly if he can make the trip in under 10 hours.

Some researchers found that the reduced air travel and increased driving caused an increase in traffic fatalites after september 11th:

Since the inconveniences in the name of "Safety" promulgated by the Transportation Security Administration make some people drive rather than fly, TSA is likely killing more people through traffic fatalities than they are saving from terrorists with their enhanced screening procedures.

Submitted by Anonymous on

Coming back to point 4, you're saying that mixing binary liquid explosives is so difficult that trained scientists in a full-equipped laboratory can't do it reliably. But you still think it's worth trying to make it even more difficult? Come on, this is stupid - spend your resources on something real, not 1-in-a-million chances (probably much less, given how many people fly in the US every day) and scaremongering.

Submitted by Anonymous on

What is the big deal with the liguid ban? I am able to travel for 4-5 days with what is permitted by 3-1-1. If you feel the need to take more, just check your bag in. What is the big deal here? You don't want to check bags because the air carriers are bad about handling them? Blame your air carrier, not the TSA. 3-1-1 is a simple rule we can easily live with. There is of course Greyhound and Amtrak as an option for your travel needs.

Thank You TSA!

Submitted by Robert Johnson on

Coming from someone who's worked in intel, you'd be surprised how many reports come across that are bunk or barely enough information to make reliable conclusions. You'd also be surprised at how many reports are looking to support preconceived notions. You'd also be suprised how much good intel is ignored.

Thus if you think that terrorists are all out there looking to bring planes down with shoes and liquids, you'll find information you need to make it fit into that premise. It may not be accurate. It may not even be true, but the claim can be "supported."

Look at George Tennet calling WMD's in Iraq a slam dunk based on the intel. Yet how many have been found? They made Colin Powell look like an idiot in front of the UN when it turned out the intel was bad.

That's not saying there isn't good intel out there. There is. That's not saying terrorism isn't a threat. It is. But is it really the fearsome threat the government makes it out to be? I don't think so. However, TSA and other agencies are out to justify their budgets and get more money. If you can't prove that you're worth the money, Congress cuts the funds. If you can't really justify yourself, you look for ways to do it. TSA is doing it in the form of liquids, shoes, and casting a dragnet to bust people with fake ID's (which is mission creep, by the way ... that's not in their MO).

I have a better chance of winning next week's Powerball than I have in being in a terrorist attack. Someone somewhere will "hit" the "lottery" somewhere It could even be me hitting one or both. That doesn't mean I'm going to live in fear of a terrorist attack or I have my winnings already spent. I live life as normal. That's all we really can do. Don't be afraid ... that's what the terrorists want. They can't take down America by force, but they sure can make it implode on itself from the inside.

Reasonable means should be taken to deter REAL threats to a plane. Guns and bombs are generally a bad thing. Knives aren't a big deal ... they're already on the plane in the form of cutlery in the galleys on planes. Shoes and water bottles aren't. If they are, use the technology that TSA ALREADY has: puffers and ETD swabs. Swab my water bottle. If it hits, it doesn't go. Puffers will pick up shoe bombs.

Just because TSA doesn't know how to use the technology or maintain it doesn't mean that the public should pay the price in the form of stupidity and harassment.

I'll give Kip some credit: I think he's doing what he can in an impossible job. However, ff he does it right and is successful, no one will notice. So he then tries to make things more outward to look like he's tough on security, such as shoe and liquid screening because people see that. The unfortunate effect of that is we have the farce that TSA is today.

Submitted by Just Some TSO on
How many times did this happen prior to 9/11?

If you're talking about terrorists causing planes to fall out of the sky, the answer is: A LOT. Just not necessarily in the US.

Things that really helped? Reinforced cockpit doors. Decreased complacency. Increase in the number of people who will kick the ever-loving dog out of someone who charges toward the front of the plane. Things like that.

Amen to that.

NOT you making my grandma take her shoes off to go through a checkpoint. Not you taking my daughter's formula water away from her.
Not you making nursing mothers drink their breastmilk at a checkpoint.
Not you seizing nail clippers.

This is wrong on multiple levels.
1) Next time TSA tries to take forumla water from you, ask for a supervisor because that's against policy.
2) Regarding the breastmilk, the same applies. But even if we WANTED to prohibit breastmilk, the last thing we would do is ask you to DRINK IT. When confiscating bottles of liquid(water, soda, etc), many people have asked me, "Can I just drink it right here?" The answer is NO. Your options are: Go back to your airline and tell them to put it in your checked luggage, OR we can dump it out for you. You can drink it, if you choose, but ONLY after we escort you out of the sterile area. I don't know where you got that crazy line.
3) Nail clippers are allowed. So yea. I once had to search a drunk individual's property and after I finished, he threw his lighter at me and said, "You need to do a better job." I threw it back at him and said, "You can keep it"
I understand the rules are changing all the time but you must understand that it's all in the interest of LIMITING inconveniences so the worst thing you can do is whine about rules when you don't even know what the rules are.

There is common sense, and then there is silliness.

And then there's ignorance.

Airport screening doesn't provide safety. It provides a sense of safety.

It provides both. You obviously don't know how many guns and knives we stop from going on your airplanes.
Submitted by Anonymous on

Honestly, I have always wondered what makes it safe to put all the confiscated liquid aside into the same container. Putting aside for a moment the sensationalist possibility that one of the confiscated bottles may be a bomb, what about the risk of unintended mixtures of otherwise innocuous liquids? As I recall, inadvertently mixing water, bleach, and ammonia cleaning products yields chlorine gas.

I am no chemist but it has always seemed to me that the TSA should be more concerned with the creation of inhalant threats from component liquids.

Thank you for providing this forum to ask questions.

Submitted by Anonymous on
If you're talking about terrorists causing planes to fall out of the sky, the answer is: A LOT. Just not necessarily in the US.
1) Since when does the TSA have anything to do with airlines outside of the US? Is the fact that they're taking away your drink in Texas going to stop a plane from being blown up in Russia?
2) Name the last plane that was blown up by liquids. Name the last US plane that was blown up.
Submitted by Anonymous on

I don't know why the TSA bothered to create a blog. It is readily apparent that TSA is still not listening to the public.

The government is OF the people, BY the people, and FOR the people. The TSA works for the PEOPLE - act like it!

The TSA still wants to push new rules and regulations on a public that sees the changes for what they are: nonsense.


9/11 or anything like it will NEVER happen again. Why?

1. Reinforced cockpit doors.
2. A non-complacent public that will kill any would-be terrorist BEFORE they even THINK of taking over a plane.

ALL of the other changes the TSA have made since 9/11 are COMPLETELY USELESS AND UNNECESSARY because of point 1 and point 2.

Submitted by Anonymous on
Regarding the breastmilk, the same applies. But even if we WANTED to prohibit breastmilk, the last thing we would do is ask you to DRINK IT.
Maybe NOW. But the damage to your credibility has already been done. You might try googling for "mother forced to drink breast milk" or similar strings some time. You might be surprised by what you find.

It provides both. You obviously don't know how many guns and knives we stop from going on your airplanes.
I know how much you do allow to get on airplanes.

From the article:
"He gets through, which in real life would mean a terrorist was headed toward a plane with a bomb."

"In tests conducted in 2006 and disclosed to USA Today last year, investigators successfully smuggled 75 percent of fake bombs through checkpoints at Los Angeles International Airport, 60 percent through Chicago's O'Hare International Airport and 20 percent at San Francisco International Airport."

You don't get to claim that you provide safety when you fail 75% of tests at one of the country's largest airports.
Submitted by Jenni on

No matter how many 'good' reasons you give that the liquids ban is keeping us safe, I refuse to believe that the cup of Jello I was going to eat on the plane consituted a national threat.

Submitted by Anonymous on
1) Next time TSA tries to take forumla water from you, ask for a supervisor because that's against policy.
Is there a brand requirement as water that is not Label Nursery Water still gets tossed.

Airport screening doesn't provide safety. It provides a sense of safety.

It provides both. You obviously don't know how many guns and knives we stop from going on your airplanes.

Must be why we are so comforted by the bottles you catch (in just your public test) where the weapon in the same bag gets through.
Submitted by Anonymous on

great, you caught a few guns and knives? while looking for bottles? wonderful.

2 words. BAT DAY.

any major baseball team does it. airlines should do it. Hand out free bats to every person boarding a plane. Seriously FREE bats. Louisville Sluggers.

Then let some terrorist try to mix liquids, grab box knives, or whatever plot they hatch. On a plane full of solid Americans, wanting to fly to wherever they are headed. All holding some good louieville wood.

End of terrorists. I promise.

no, none of those silly Sammy Sosa "corked' bats. I mean a solid block of wood.


the current theater of security is farce. it must change

Submitted by Anonymous on
The preparation of these bombs is very much more complex than tossing together several bottles-worth of formula and lighting it up.

It really sounds like you just disproved the entire premise of your idiotic security theater. Unless someone sets up a professional chemistry lab in the airplane bathroom for a few hours, it is physically impossible for them make of bomb from the contents of a toothpaste tube.

Thank you for admitting this is a stupid pointless distraction.

Now that you've faced the truth, the next step would be letting people bring their shampoo in a carry on and focusing on the people sailing through security with actual bomb components.
Submitted by Anonymous on

In point 4, Kip writes about how incredibly difficult it is to prepare liquid explosives, and how it's essentially impossible to do in an airport bathroom or a plane. And yet, this is precisely what you're claiming we should be afraid of, and that you're attempting to prevent.

TSA, quite frankly, this is precisely the sort of remarks that make us fail to believe you, and make us think that you're performing security theater rather than providing security.

Kip also writes "The choice is a total ban or this". No. That's the choice you've chosen to impose on us. The actual choices are pretty much anything, including deciding that this particular risk isn't high enough to be concerned about. Just because some terrorists were planning to try to do it doesn't mean it's actually likely enough to succeed that we should take action about it. Terrorists can be stupid too.

Kip writes "AND getting TSA and passengers back on the same side! That last one is what we're trying to do at our checkpoint with our TSOs and online with our blog." I hope that everyone at TSA is learning from all the remarks on this blog that the citizens of the US do not feel that TSA is on our side - and remember, it's OUR side that matters, not TSA's, because it's OUR tails on the line when we get in the plane.

Kip writes, "Whatever you think about our policies -- please recognize our Security Officers who train and test every day and will do whatever it takes to make you and your families safe when you fly. They are the best in the world and are on your side;"

If Kip really thinks the hostile, inefficient, rude, inconsistent "security officers" we encounter in airports every day are "the best in the world", he obviously hasn't traveled anywhere. I've been through security in Frankfurt and it was quite thorough, and quite fast (overall - the inspection took longer but they made sure to have enough people on duty to keep the line short), and very polite. El Al airline is the #1 terrorist target in the world, and yet they've never had an incident, and while their security is intensive, it's also polite, and effective.

Submitted by Anonymous on

Chance: Not to change the subject, but I've made many an MRE bomb in my day, (a little tabasco sauce added in works wonders in my experience) but other than a little hot water I never saw them do much damage.

(Same poster as above)

Chance, I fully agree that MRE Bombs are not going to down a plane any time soon, but terrorism is not necessarily about major events like 9/11.

If you take an inescapable tight space filled with hundreds of people and add a little bit of fire (1L of flammable stuff?), loud noises from something that explodes (MRE Bombs?), and then the threat of an invisible and again, inescapable pathogen (Anthrax, Ricin, Whatever. It doesn't have to be real, just real enough for the imagination to take over, and in today's world that's easy.), put all of that together and you've got the makings of a major, if short lived, "terrorist attack".

You can play theme and variation on this quite a bit, but getting back to the original point, 3-1-1 allows up to 1L of brought liquids on board, or more if someone wished to play the game and circumvent the system, and while working extremely hard to avoid relatively implausible "Die Hard 2" scenarios, there are other things allowed on that appear to be inconsistent with preventing the type of scenario I described.

Got to go!

Submitted by Anonymous on

Wow. The argument put forth in the blog was quite convincing until I read a few of the replies. Pretty easy to poke holes through the BS, it appears.

Submitted by Anonymous on

You said it ...We reduce risk by deciding what we believe is necessary for a completed bomb -- the core of the 100ml (3.4 ounce) limit. So why the confusion? Is it 3 oz. or 3.4 oz.? I'm more than happy to comply since most cosmetics, shampoos, hairjels, etc can come in 3.4 oz (100 ml) bottles, but I don't want to go through that effort and expense only to watch it get confiscated by lack of TSA consistancy or because of a cute marketing plan of 3-1-1 that misrepresents. It's possible the most confusing part of the whole liquid debate - I've been to numberous airports that actually have different signage reflecting 3 oz/90 ml - nothing comes in 90ml...

Submitted by Andrew on

Let me tell you a story about my experience with the liquids policy.

A while back I was flying from NYC to Chicago. I had my little bottles in my little baggie, but the TSA officer at the LGA security checkpoint said I had too many bottles in the bag. The bag was the correct size, and sealed. So she opened up the bag, and pulled out two bottles and said that I had to choose one for her to throw away.

Let me repeat that: She asked me to choose one to keep, and one for her to throw away.

So, if she recognizes that either bottle could be safe, why throw one away? At what point is the TSA simply enforcing its rules for the sake of having rules to enforce?

Perhaps you'll say that she was a bad example, someone who didn't pay attention in her training. But when I asked another officer nearby why I couldn't keep both bottles if the TSA recognized that both could be safe, he agreed with the first woman. He said that was the way it was, and would I choose one now so the line could keep moving?

So I chose. And she threw away the other one--the one that she recognized could be just as safe (or as dangerous, for that matter) as the one I walked away with.


Submitted by Aikidoka on

Again we are lead to believe that "scientists" & 'labs' have verified the liquid threats...

Yet, many people can clearly see that you can circumvent the TSA security.

Chapstick in your pocket; could easily be a little C4 in a plastic tube. We are allowed to take cables which could be disassembled, a simple trigger device (alarm clock), etc. I think you get my point.

Terrorism is a tactic, not a specific action/goal. You only need to scare people to succeed. If someone wants to get the items through they can.

Here's an idea: Send all TSA screeners to train with Israeli airport security forces.

Submitted by Raw Food Diva on

I had a bottle of unopened lotion in my purse. The TSA took it and put it behind thier desk. As I waited to get through the gate I saw them pass it around and use it on themsleves. I am sure if I had complained they would have denied me access to my plane.

Submitted by MLV on

With all due respect, the TSA has NO CUSTOMER SERVICE. I am a frequent flyer, flying nearly 100,000 miles annually, through many cities. I had my absolute worst experience in Houston last 5-15-2007. Because I am a frequent flyer, I know what to expect and try to keep it simple when I go through security. This was not the case for this trip through Houston. I immediately went to the Continental Presidents club and electronically filed a complaint with TSA and was given TCC Control Number: ------>. After a month I recieved NO RESPONSE. So I sent a follow-up request for a response. NO RESPONSE. So I logged a new response and even called the hotline. The TSA staff recieving my call suggested that I send another email. I did as instructed. To date, after three emails, I have still not recieved a response. I think we need to go back to the private companies doing security, as then the public has some influence over the company actions. It appears that TSA has no will or desire to improve its interactions with the public it is supposed to be protecting.

Submitted by Bob on

Love the Blog. Thanks for answering so many questions – honestly.

My comment/question concerns the training of TSO’s at the airports. I fly once or twice a week for business and feel there is a general consistency of application, but sometimes there are some folks that appear to take short cuts. With so many different threats, and the recent CNN article that showed someone sneaking a fake bomb through security, how can you keep everyone trained on the latest threats and how do you retrain someone that is doing it wrong or is lazy?

Submitted by Anonymous on

Let's read point 4 again: explosives experts with a pre-made liquid explosive bomb could not get it to ignite reliably.

Now, please explain exactly how forcing people to abandon clearly marked, factory sealed bottles of water/juice/soda/duty free alcohol improves security. For extra credit, please explain how liquid explosives can successfully disguise themselves as shampoo, toothpaste, or hand lotion.

Submitted by Ayn R Key on

It seems that posts that demonstrate it is impossible to create a bomb in-flight from safe liquids have been removed. I posted such a comment myself. There is no "This comment has been removed" indication either.

Was this a real threat? Yes, there was a very serious plot to blow up planes using liquid explosives in bombs that would have worked to bring down aircraft.

Was this a real threat? Inside a Hollywood movie, perhaps, but not in the real world where the laws of chemisty and phyics still apply. The problem is you know that to be true and still repeat the standard old lie about the mixing of chemicals in-flight.

The preparation of these bombs is very much more complex than tossing together several bottles-worth of formula and lighting it up. In fact, in recent tests, a National Lab was asked to formulate a test mixture and it took several tries using the best equipment and best scientists for it to even ignite.

And there you even admit it is not a real threat. It is possible, under laboratory conditions, to do this - sometimes. It is therefore necessary to assume on an airplane, in flight, without ventilation hoods or bunson burners or liquid nitrogen cooling, this can be repeated. Does the TSA even believe their own rhetoric anymore?

Why can't multiple people bring on explosives in three-ounce containers and mix them post security? The tough one! Tough because there are parts of the reason that are truly classified but here goes... (read them all before throwing up your hands!)

We already know why it is classified - it is because you do not have good answers to give and if you classify them then you can say "we have a document with all the answers but you can't see it." You don't have a document with all the answers. You've admitted as much in your own contradictory posting that you don't have the answers. You've admitted as much in your own contradictory posting that this ban makes absolutely no sense. You know it, we know it, but as long as the paper that says "this makes no sense" is classified you don't have to admit it.

Submitted by Winston_of_minitruth on

This still doesn't provide a logical explanation for banning clear, factory sealed plastic beverage container onto a plane. I'm not arguing that bringing something like bleach or detergent onto a plane is potentially dangerous, but not allowing a nonalcoholic beverage onto a plane for "security reasons" seems a little odd to me. The obvious reason is to funnel passengers into the shoppette to purchase overpriced items, but what real security threat is there? I just want to know why I can't take my pop onto a plane. Can you answer that without using the Hollywood science and fear-mongering?

Submitted by Anonymous on

I would add: Read point number 1. Now read it again.

Submitted by Anonymous on

"(Harvard) Study: Airport Screening Process Pointless"

Despite Long Lines and Numerous Security Restrictions a Study Says Flying Isn't Any Safer

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Airport security lines can annoy passengers, but there is no evidence that they make flying any safer, U.S. researchers reported Thursday.

A team at the Harvard School of Public Health could not find any studies showing whether the time-consuming process of X-raying carry-on luggage prevents hijackings or attacks.

They also found no evidence to suggest that making passengers take off their shoes and confiscating small items prevented any incidents.

so go get a real job and leave us the f alone. of course a real job will not have the gestapo like powers, you have now. I'm sick and tired of stupid, pointles and COSTLY regulations.

Submitted by Anonymous on

I've read the response to the question: "Why do we ban liquids", and while it was a lengthy and verbose answer, I still feel there is one crucial issue left unanswered.

Namely, why do you ban liquids?

Submitted by Anonymous on

What I truly do not understand is how making a bomb on a plane is a risk at all. A bomb in the airport sure, on the plane no. Even so the same dangerous materials can be acquired inside the airport so the argument for an in Airport bomb is mute when applied to screenings.

If anyone successfully constructed a bomb on a plane from any materials the precedent is they are going to use the plane as a weapon not for a political hijacking. Such an action inside the United States would be absurd as we have the best tactical ground response in the world. As soon as the plane safely lands the hijacker loses.

I somehow doubt that the bomb itself can cause more damage than flying a plane into anything so the bombs only purpose is to be used to hijack the plane and use it as a weapon.

So you have 200-400 people in the situation where they can either not let someone take over the plane because they have a bomb and possibly set it off, or let them take over the plane and use the plane as a weapon.

Either way everyone knows they are going to die and the situation is a no win if no action is taken on the passengers part.

Adding the TSA stated complexity of constructing a bomb mid flight and an informed passenger base the likely hood of a successful hijacking drops to nearly zero. If you have one person willing to call bull and stop said individual your percentage drops even lower.

Imagine if you would adding personal responsibility and duty to a passenger base would solve nearly all these issues.

Liquids, bombs, guns, knives are no threat to air travel people not willing and trained not to act are. This sillyness could all be solved by properly informing your passengers how to respond to a hijacking.

Make it part of the absurd video about wearing my seat belts. "In the event of a hijacking swarm the attacker and restrain their hands and feet until the flight attendants can apply handcuffs. The pilot will then land at the nearest airport."

Submitted by Anonymous on

Explosives? Everyone seems to concentrate on explosives. Binary liquid explosives are bunk, at least for deployment on aircraft, without easily accessible controllable heat as well as plenty of ice and salt.

So that leaves the question: what other things are there that involve *binary* liquids that are mixed together, as a starting point, that could kill lots of people in a confined space, whom have no easy method of escape? Are there any lessons from recent history? Perhaps from a foreign country?

Submitted by Anonymous on

There is an easy way to FORCE them to change the policy.
Every person should bring 2 2liter bottles of water (tap water would be fine), and throw them at the check point containers.
This will create a massive cost to the airport, and they will review the policy.
Just blow where it hurts, the pocket.

Submitted by Anonymous on

What I don't get is that someone could pack kilos of sodium cyanide on him/her and vomit on it to release hydrogen cyanide that kills everybody instantly and bring down a plane. How are they gonna check for that one, huh? It's just false security.

Submitted by Anonymous on

I travel frequently for work. I got to this blog entry from a link on Slashdot. I just wanted to send a quick note to say Thank You! I really enjoyed reading this information, and it made perfect sense to me. I realize there is no 'perfect answer' for security, but it's always a good reminder to know that there is always a good reason behind why some things are done. In the interest of safety, I personally feel that the security checkpoints are NO hassle at all, and would even be open to more thorough screening if TSA felt it was necessary. Thanks again and keep up the good work!

Submitted by Tb on

If we're going to behave paranoid, why are there no comparable security on the Greyhound Buses (or any bus) or the trains? That could make as much (sometimes more) damage as bringing down a plane.
You probably just need some electricity skills to be able to fool a couple of trains to a frontal collision.

In the airport close to here, we can't carry small metal things like nail clippers, but when after we passed the security, we can buy a meal with metal fork and knife.

Jeez... I'd rather risk to die in one of a million planes, than spending the rest of my life living in (induced) paranoid fear.

Submitted by Anonymous on

When will the madness just end?

... It's ridiculous. The points made in the above post are actually all quite salient except for the fact that the point is missed entirely.

... If you make one area of a countries security or even one area of air travel safer people are simply going to attack somewhere else. What's stopping a pilot being under duress to crash a plane whilst the other pilot's in the loo under threat of his family getting tortured to death?

.. What stops a ground to air missile? What stops any other of a million possible threats.

These are 'white elephant' threats that ridiculous quantities of money and peoples time are being wasted over. The terrorists have already won thanks to the terrible expense and cost the TSA is forcing on people. Terrorists are an extremely unlikely remote threat. The TSA is a threat that you can't even avoid; regardless of how you try to comply EVERY PERSON, on EVERY FLIGHT will be impacted by the TSA.

9/11 threats were never likely to be exploited again even were nothing done. The TSA is pointless. How would a plane be taken now, with 9/11 having happened given the revolt that other passengers would stage if it seemed a plane were being hijacked?

.. It's just ridiculous to think terrorists would attack again in the same place, when it is so blatantly clear unreasonable money is being wasted on that threat, but little money is being spent in places it might actually make a difference.

EPIC FAIL. The TSA is still a terrible expense making everyone afraid of air travel. I've read many posts on here verifying that other people are driving vast distances to avoid air travel because they don't want to face the TSA penalties.

Submitted by Adam on

Were all these reasons thought up before or after the restrictions were put in place?

Submitted by Anonymous on

So, can Coca-Cola that I purchased in the secure area of the airport be used to make a bomb?

If not, why can't I carry that bottle on to the plane?

Submitted by Anonymous on

What's more amusing is that the policy doesn't even work.

I got bored of declaring my liquids, so simply stopped it. I've never been bothered about it.

Submitted by Anonymous on

Even if the TSA didn't have the policy, you couldn't make the explosive on the plane or outside the gate. Because: you need an ice bath, some very stinky chemicals, over 3 hours, and plenty of room. Try doing that on an aircraft without being noticed! Richard Reid couldn't even light his shoe bomb without getting his butt kicked. And these days with how irate fliers are, the police will be lucky to get a bomber alive and in one piece.

Submitted by Anonymous on

The majority of the TSA practices implemented today give the blind/ignorant public the perception of security. The reality is far different.

Example: I was helping a colleague tear down after a tradeshow in August of 2007. We had to ship a dozen computers, monitors, keyboards, and all associated cables, power strips etc. This was all packed in a very large (4' x 2' x 8') wood crate on wheels that must have weighed over 500 pounds. Everything was packed in its proper place, and then my colleague surprised me as she padlocked the crate which was previously labelled for shipment on a passenger airline. I asked her who would be screening it for explosives. She smiled - she said that she "guaranteed" that there was nothing bad in the crate by contract with the shipping company, who in turn guaranteed that the content was safe with the airline. The airline then receives the crate and puts it on a flight. No screening is done by anyone.

So for all you flying folks, while you are taking off your shoes, removing your belt, unpacking your laptop, buying tiny toiletries, waiting in long security lines, and limited to horrible food beyond security, remember that under your seats in the cargo bins are unchecked cargo crates that could easily destroy the largest airliners with simple technology.

Submitted by CouldaShouldaWoulda on

Well let's try again - my other post was not added.
Look - I travel all the time from Canada to the US and back.
I never have problems with screening. I can have anything on my person that doesn't hit the metal detection threshold. I simply wear bulky cargo pants. I never get patted down, I don't see how a wand will discover anything non-metallic. Finally I always forget to remove the stupid liquid baggy from my carry-on luggage, and the machine never picks it up. Correct me if I am wrong but the machines for carry-on don't work that well. As has been mentioned before the employees are too busy socializing to really notice much. Perhaps they know this is just a game.
Of course like everything else, this is about money - who benefits the most from all this silliness:
-cargo companies don't have their shipments checked $$
-not checking cargo speeds up plane turn-around $$
-poor air traffic infrastructure could not handle this
-ID/boarding pass checks are to prevent travelers from using non-transferable tickets $$

Further thoughts:
-Nav Can tracked planes in the US airspace during 9/11 because they have better equipment
-Checked luggage is scanned and the operators make sure they hit their quota of rejected luggage
-Why I carry a laptop security cable on a plane?
-Who benefits from Homeland and TSA from being re-active and not pro-active? It’s much easier to use fear to justify an action.
-Who benefits from security constraints at airports vis-a-vis funding, staffing, etc $$
-Why was everybody at running around with smiles on their faces when Homeland was announced? Who benefits?

Submitted by Anonymous on

What's even more amusing... it's easy to -not- take liquids out of your carryone bags. They only catch it 1:10 times.

Big shampoo bottles, etc.

Worthless policy.

Submitted by Anonymous on

Jay Maynard said:
"Logical fallacy. How many angry circus elephants have charged the checkpoints at MSP since 9/11? Obviously, the TSA is deterring those, too."

Yeah, but there is no evidence that angry circus elephants are wanting to charge TSA checkpoints. TSA and the other intel communities receive reports every day that there are terrorists planning to do us harm.

See the difference?

The elephants would leave threats but because their limbs are so big they have trouble using a keyboard or telephone.

Long live security theatre.
I am so glad i do not live in the "land of the free/home of the brave". It appears to be neither.
Submitted by Usage May Vary on

Sorry, but I find your response nothing other than unacceptable. You state yourself it's unlikely yet are treating this in an extreme circumstance? Every comment here debunks every point of yours and already shows how this policy not only

a: does nothing
and b: isn't even necessary.

So get rid of it, as we already boycott the TSA except that we are locked into following it unless we make enough to afford private jets. So we are market locked (AKA MONOPOLY) into a waste of government cash, and time. Nobody likes what you guys have done ever, and you're not restoring my faith here.

Submitted by Madcrow on

So, can Coca-Cola that I purchased in the secure area of the airport be used to make a bomb?

If not, why can't I carry that bottle on to the plane?

Well of course you can't have people bringing unauhtorized drinks onto an airplane: that would disrupt the whole "pay uber-inflated prices for everything" model that the airlines are moving to...

Think it's a coincidence that free drinks/snacks/meals were eliminated from flights right after the ability of passengers to bring their own was taken away? I strongly doubt it. The liquid ban is nothing more than a gift to the airlines to force passengers to have to buy drinks on the plane and thus prop up a dying industry.

Submitted by Anonymous on

Dear TSA we really care about this issue. Do you understand? We do not care about your concerns for our safety. Do you hear? We have listened to your concerns and found them to be less believable than you think. Are you listening to us? Get rid of the ban, we are not interested in your political reasoning or you secrets. Just STOP IT. JUST STOP IT.

Submitted by Anonymous on

So you try to spin out your answers, not actually tell us anything credible, and further undermine the liquid policy.

Well done. Convinces me that this whole exercise isn't a complete waste of everyone's time.

Who oversees the TSA? How about we look at getting someone with a brain elected to that position, and forcing some sensible changes eh?

Terrorism is not a big threat. More people per year are killed crossing the street or driving to work, in the US that are killed globally by terrorism. Vastly more people.

So why all the nonsense at airports?

Submitted by Anonymous on

Are airlines required to do all this screening? I mean if some passengers value their convienience more than safety, are they allowed to sign a waiver and just board a plane with NO checks whatsoever? Of course, the airlines would have to provide these NO-check flights but I thought this was a free country so they should be able to do it.

Submitted by Anonymous on

A 5 ounce limit would be a lot more convenient for travelers as most cosmetic items fit below that level. 100 ml requires that special sample size items be purchased.

Also, going by the size of the container when it is nearly empty is totally silly. Lets face it, if someone has a nearly squeezed out 5 ounce tube of toothpaste it not a 5 ounce container anymore. Ever try to put the toothpaste back in the tube? But my nearly empty toothpaste tube was taken away. It must have looked threatening.