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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
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

Really? So why does it feel like they're more concerned with exercising their limited power of intimidation and harassment than making us feel safe and welcome when we fly? Why do I always feel like I'm the criminal?
Submitted by Anonymous on

Why don't these rules make sense? My guess is the airline lobby aggressively supports these sorts of restrictions in the name of passenger safety, but they primarily don't want us bringing our own drinks and snacks on the plane. The largest profit margins are made on airport food and $4 water. (In some airports, you can't even find a water fountain.) Just read point 4 about how hard it is to implement such an attack and read the posts about not being allowed to bring in "consumable" liquids in particular. I personally had a small water bottle confiscated and when I asked if I could drink it first, I was told I could not - I thought that was rather absurd.

Submitted by Ayn R Key on

Hi Happy Traveler. How long have you worked for the TSA?

Submitted by Fear_is_the_weapon on

Terrorism is really not about blowing things up or killing people. It's about making people afraid so that they will affect whatever behavior or group the terrorists are against.

To that end, it seems to me that a terrorist could fill up a ziploc bag with water and food coloring in the bathroom and could easily claim to have a bomb, even if it was non-functional, and attempt to take over a plane. The fact that the bomb isn't real has no effect on the outcome of his attempt (which hopefully will end in being pummeled to death by passengers).

Having the TSA present fallacious arguments ("how many planes have gone down since 9/11") just makes me wonder just how much critical thinking is being applied correctly behind the scenes, and definitely doesn't improve their credibility in my book.

Submitted by Anonymous on

Is it true I can't even bring a large EMPTY water bottle on a I don't have to ask the attendants every half hour or more to fill me little cup?

Submitted by Anonymous on

The basic problem with the liquids policy is the way that, in practice, it focuses the attention of security personnel on what amounts to a nearly irrelevant and/or low-risk threat.

I travel often out of Boston-Logan and am entirely convinced that many of the TSA personnel are closet accountants. They appear to delight in measuring and counting liquids, checking to see whether or not the containers say "3.5-ounce" versus "4.0-ounce," looking for the proper plastic baggies, etc. They furthermore (and maybe this is because they're Bostonians) appear to *really* get excited about throwing a fit with you and inconveniencing you over some minor violation of the "liquid rules." They appear to have absolutely no discretion whatsoever. I recently had a (very expensive) 4.0-ounce container of shaving cream get tossed out by an arrogant TSA screener who lectured me like a small child about the importance of respecting the "liquid rules."

There can be no doubt that TSA screeners should spend most of their time and energy studying passengers and looking for subtle clues about the intentions and dispositions of passengers. Instead, we appear to have a team of people who are preoccupied with shoe removal and the inspection of liquids. The liquids policy erodes public confidence in the screening process, makes light of the very serious matter of airport security, and is undoubtedly easily circumvented by individuals who are truly determined to get liquids onto planes.

Submitted by Anonymous on

#5: "The container itself adds complexity. A 100ml container limits the effect of, and even the ability of, a detonation."

Now, I realize that this is just one of the reasons listed. However, my question is what's to prevent someone from packing an empty container in their bag and thus defeating the purpose of the "100ml container rule." Additionally, you could buy larger containers once you are past the security checkpoint.

I find it rather difficult to believe that this the reason that liquids are restricted to this size.

One additional comment - During a recent travel to Puerto Rico, the TSA agent refused to let me bring abroad a 3 ounce container in a clear plastic bag that was not marked with a manufactuer's label. Instead the container had a commercial label that said "3 ounces - perfect for air travel." I had picked up the container at a local CVS store to transfer my aftershave into a small container, one authorized by TSA for airplane travel. Must all 3 ounce container be accomapnied by a "manufactuer's label?"

Submitted by Anonymous on
So they know it's insane but they make us jump through these hoops anyway. The "Shoe Bomber" couldn't manage to ignite his sneakers, but by golly, we've all got to walk through the magnetometer barefoot.

Your statement has me laughing... So you think its okay to let the terrosits take explosives on the planes as long as (we hope anyway) that they are too stupid to figure out to make it blow up?
Submitted by David on

I just got back from Israel where I was allowed to bring whatever liquids I wanted on the plane. This is because I was interrogated ("interviewed") several times before every flight I took to or from Israel during this vacation and after each time they determined that I was, in fact, not a threat. I had an Egyptian visa in my passport and also was a young male traveling alone, so I obviously fit a profile.

This was much more inconveniencing for me, but it made more sense. When I arrived in NYC, our own security seemed so light compared to the Israelis. I felt that I could look as suspicious as I wanted in American airports and nobody would be allowed to question my motives or where I was going or with whom, etc.

It seems that the Israeli security philosophy is that people are terrorists, not liquids or other things. I know that it is impractical to interview every person on american flights, but I wonder if someone can write more about the "behavior" monitoring that TSA is purporting to install in airports?

Submitted by Anonymous on

So I taking along a salad to eat on-board, but my two ounces of salad dressing was illegal and I was sent to the back of the line.

Once I poured my salad dressing on the salad, I was legal.


Submitted by Anonymous on

I thought by now a little clarification would have been posted regarding the comments made by Kip on the liquids issue.

Item #4 of his post seem to contradict any requirement to confiscate the publics property.

Simply stated making an explosive from liquids is near impossible except in a lab. That is from the mouth of the TSA!

Continue to explain and convince the public that our bottle of pop or water is dangerous.

Simple fact is you can't, yet TSA continues to abuse the public for no reason.

Submitted by Anonymous on

To Kip's point #3.

Why would "extensive" testing start the day the information was made public? Certainly British law enforcement knew of the plot prior to that day and I imagine shared information with allied/USA security and law enforcement officials.

This seems to be reactive instead of proactive. Another indication that we are behind terrorists instead of ahead.

Submitted by Fred on

First, let me commend the TSA for doing its best to do its duty and protect the public (meaning me, of course). I fly very often, and the TSA employees I've dealt with are almost always thorough, respectful, and helpful, and they somehow keep their spirits high in a difficult job, often under difficult circumstances. (I don't imagine LGA is any more fun for them than it is for us. And it's not fun.)

But this liquids policy weakens your credibility. The poster who wrote "Read point number 4. Now read it again." has a (somewhat cheeky) point. It appears assembling a liquid device is very hard to do -- requiring an ice bath?? -- and it undermines TSA's credibility to maintain that it's a realistic threat. Am I uninformed or naive?

And please also consider a point someone made about distractions. The liquids rules force screeners to keep an eye out for yet another possibility. As I have often seen first hand, I think the liquids rules create quite a few distractions in the security line. As just one example, I recall an incident at LGA when a poor man had to throw away a pint of Johnny Walker Red, and everyone expressed good humored sympathies, including the screeners -- a perfect distraction. More typical is everyone scrambling to get their baggies out of their carry-ons, arguments over what constitutes "three ounces" (such as a half-full six ounce bottle), baggies spilling their contents on the conveyor belts, etc. etc.

Finally, let me commend the TSA for having both the guts and democratic spirit to host this blog.

Submitted by Tired And Frust... on

Coming home from our first family vacation with our two children, one of them a toddler, we were hassled over drinks in our bags, and for whatever reason the small-size Gatorades were deemed ok, but the grape soda, a special treat for our child as we do not often allow them to drink soda, was somehow a threat. They also entirely missed the 12 oz. bottle of hairspray that I mistakenly left in my purse. I quoted the TSA's own website that when you are travelling with children you can have juices and water for them, however the younger TSA agent seemed overjoyed that he had found something to harass me about and then the older agent with him made the decision that the Gatorades were okay, but the commercially sealed and packaged grape soda had to go.

The main problem with the liquids ban as it stands right now is that it's applied according to the whim of whomever you are speaking to. So please I would like you to answer the following question.

Your own website states: "When traveling with a child, in the absence of suspicious activity or items, greater than 3 ounces of baby formula, breast milk, or juice are permitted through the security checkpoint in reasonable quantities for the duration of your itinerary".

So please define for me the word "juice". Is it only 100% real fruit juice allowed? What about 10% juice? What about juice with sparkling water? What about artificially flavored juice ala "SunnyD" which is less than 2% "real" juice? What about Tang? Or Gatorade? Or Kool-Aid? Does it have to be in a juice box? What if I have a can of juice? Or a glass bottle of OJ? What if my child has juice in a sippy cup and not a commercially-sealed container?

Now, please define what you mean about reasonable quantities? If I have 3 or more children and I have a multiple-leg journey with a layover and more than 10 hours worth of travel, that might mean quite a lot of quantity as far as liquids go. Who gets to decide how much??

You can see how this gets very muddled very quickly and is completely open to the individual interpretation of the "rules".

What you are really doing with this liquids ban is giving the TSA agents the power to harass people at a very basic level over things which are just common sense things. When any traveler dares to enter into the screening area, they should always keep in mind that the space they are entering is not a part of the great American democracy, it's a dictatorship where each TSA person gets his or her own little kingdom to rule over. Whether or not your liquids will pass muster rides entirely on who you are standing in front of.
And that is entirely why you are getting so much flack over this "rule". My kid's water or juice or whatever is ok one place, but not another, confiscated at one, ignored elsewhere. My $100 4 oz. bottle of moisturizer that sails through in Boston, gets pitched in Dallas on the way home.

The complete and total arbitrariness of the ban is infuriating and frustrating, and your by your own admission, a liquid bomb is nearly impossible to achieve even under perfect laboratory conditions with expert scientists at hand. So please inform your agents to quit picking on small children and babies by taking away their drinks!

Submitted by Anonymous on

Why is peanut butter a liquid?

Submitted by Anonymous on

i've circumvented the liquids ban many times with a glass liquor flash and a pair of baggy shorts

Submitted by Anonymous on

My wife says that at LGA and LAX she has gone through security with no posting or requirement concerning liquids sequestered in plastic bags. What gives?

Submitted by Frustrated Flyer on

I have a legitimate question that I'd be afraid to pose to a TSA agent for fear of being perceived as a smart aleck and facing retribution: If I want water for my flight, but don't wish to pay $3 a bottle once I get past security, can I freeze a bottle at home, run it through security and simply allow it to melt and become drinkable en route? I would not be traveling with a solid, not a liquid, gel or aerosol.

Also, two quick comments on inconsistency: 1) Why do some of the screeners require you to physically remove your driver's license and hand it to them, while others are perfectly content to let you flash them ID through the clear plastic portion of your wallet?

2) While I travel frequently, on a recent morning flight I neglected to grab a plastic bag. The sum total of my 3-1-1 items consisted of a single sample size tube of toothpaste, which was ultimately confiscated. No amount of logic could convince the TSA agent, her supervisor, or the station manager that a sample size toothpaste would -- by any reasonable logic known to man -- fit in a quart size ziploc bag.

I was in the same airport the following week and a fairly young, attractive blond went through the screening line ahead of me. She poured an array of cosmetic items into her tray sans bag. The female TSA agent on the line notices and starts giving her a hard time. Then, a second TSA agent (a male) slides up, inquires as to the problem, and slips a plastic bag out of his pocket for her use. (Evidently white males bearing a tube of toothpaste present a risk to national security, but attractive blondes do not!) This woman was not asked to load all of her cosmetics into the bag. They would NOT have fit. Nothing was re-screened or tested for "vapors".


Submitted by Jim on

I wish the TSA would get their signage and web site correct. What is the 3 oz limit -- 90ml or 3.4 oz which is 100ml? Could there be some standard here? Many TSA people don't have a clue here when you ask them.

Submitted by TSA TSO NY on
Anonymous said...
Why is peanut butter a liquid?

February 11, 2008 11:41 AM

Uh, liquid, gel, paste or cream.

Anonymous said...
i've circumvented the liquids ban many times with a glass liquor flash and a pair of baggy shorts

February 11, 2008 1:41 PM

Please let me be the one who screens you and find the items you deliberately "hid".

Anonymous said...
My wife says that at LGA and LAX she has gone through security with no posting or requirement concerning liquids sequestered in plastic bags. What gives?

February 11, 2008 3:09 PM

Truth be told....
They just can't bother.
We hear this all the time, XXX airport let me through with this.... XXX airport didn't make me take my liquids out....

Well, guess what, XXX airport saw the liquids on xray and decided they couldn't be bother with the rules and have you remove them.
I'd be more concerned with the airports that DON'T make you follow the rules than those that do. Those airports are putting YOU at risk and I would definitely complain.

As for the signs, I'm sure they are there, just look around.
Submitted by Dave X The First on

@February 11, 2008 10:58 PM TSA TSO NY said...

Anonymous said...
Why is peanut butter a liquid?

February 11, 2008 11:41 AM

Uh, liquid, gel, paste or cream.


No tsa tso ny, unless you are working off of some set of secret rules. TSA's website says "liquids, gels and aerosols" not "paste or cream". They do list peanut butter as an example of canned or jarred goods under foods, right there by the fantasy of a 3oz pressurized cheese container.

The prohibition on pastes is one of those inconsistencies something tsa tso ny is making up.

Submitted by Anonymous on

Regarding Kip's comments;

Would you please explain why item 4 of your comments does not contradict your policy?


Submitted by Anonymous on

The biggest thing that TSA could do to increase security is to increase morale and lower the attrition rate by treating the screeners like valued employees.

Submitted by Anonymous on

It seems that alot of my fellow passengers FORGET that all screeners that you come across are people, and should be treated as such. they have a job to do that is alot harder than your desk job. they obviously deal with your complaining about things they cant personally change, and risk injuring their bodies for your safety.

All of the screeners i have come across are professional and very polite. why cant we all look at the bigger picture here instead of looking at the small dot that is liquids ban.

If you are SOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO upset about it. put all of your ridiculous items and belongings in your checked luggage.

there i solved your problem.

Submitted by TSA TSO NY on
The prohibition on pastes is one of those inconsistencies something tsa tso ny is making up.

Go check your dictionary and you will find that gel and paste/cream are considered essentially the same thing - not solid.

TSA is prohibiting anything that fits this definition. I believe there are even some TSA signs in use that say "If it squeezes, spills or pours, it's not allowed" or something on that order.

From the TSA site:
Canned or jarred goods such as soup, sauces, peanut butter, fruits, vegetables and jellies
Cheese in pressurized containers
Gel based sports supplements
Whipped cream

You will see that the items bolded above are in fact more creams then gels. You will also note the term "Such As". This means "of the type" so, anything such as the listed items will not be allowed.
that goes back to my creams & pastes definitions.

Oh, and if you are unsure, just bring a bunch of those items through a checkpoint and I'm sure the TSOs will be happy to educate you on our definition vs. yours.
Submitted by Anonymous on
(Evidently white males bearing a tube of toothpaste present a risk to national security, but attractive blondes do not!)

Submitted by Ashamed_of_the_us on

Quite a number of comments, I've read every single one.

A very few "oh gee you say it's for my safety, thanks so much then, you guys are great".

A lot of "This is utterly stupid" with examples.

A number of good points:
- Liquids are easily concealed under loose closing (or simply in the carryon) in quantities MUCH larger than 10 ounces. (so removing liquids from bags is useless, thank you)

- The actual risk of something lethal happening in a plane (bombing, hijack, butterfly wing causing a lightning bolt that blows the plane etc) is MUCH MUCH lower than other transportation. That was true before AND after 9/11, without water policies.
Guns were not ok then, and tightening -that- policy is a good idea.
Because of -this- policy however, people use more other vehicles (and therefore die more, thank you).

- You can't hope to hijack a plane anymore, best you can do is kill the passengers and there are MANY (easier) ways of doing more damage than that in the US or abroad, without a liquids rule. Nevermind easier ways of killing passengers than with liquids.

- The COST of this is mind boggling even without factoring the uselessness of it. Insane amounts of money and people's time (lives?) have been stolen from us by the biggest terrorist of all, the government, while keeping us very afraid. Thank you for doing the terrorist's job, you DO know that is what they're trying to do right? You do know -you- are acting as a terrorist organization, costing the world countless lives and money?

- There are MANY other ways the time and money could be better invested for the -real- rather than -percieved- security of people (healthcare anyone??). Ironic considering the best thing that could be said about this is that it makes people feel secure, when it generally does the opposite, as people are more afraid all the time.

Submitted by Dave X The First on

tsa tso ny:

"From the TSA site:
Canned or jarred goods such as soup, sauces, peanut butter, fruits, vegetables and jellies "

I think the operative portion may be the "canned or jarred" part.

I can squeeze a cucumber, unpressurized cheese, a hard boiled egg, a loaf of bread, and a banana, and the more you try to convince people that these are 'liquids, gels, or aerosol' bomb making components, the more you convince people that y'all are idiots.

As for getting educated by TSOs, I've learned that safety and reality doesn't matter. All that really matters is the whack-all definitions that you TSO's use: You've got say-anything Kip and the folks with the guns on your side.

If you want travellers to treat the TSA with respect, you have to stop trying to rationalize the unreasonable.

Submitted by Anonymous on

When will Kip address point 4 of his comments.

Any number of posters have asked for some clarification on this item.

Oh, I see, if he read his on remarks he would see how poorly he understands the liquids issue.

Another "do it this way because I know better than you."

Yeah, right!

Submitted by Anonymous on

I travel an awful lot, and while I too dislike taking off my shoes and baggie-ing my liquids, I'm not sure why it's such a huge inconvenience that one poster even STOPPED FLYING two years ago. Seriously?? I agree that some of the justifications offered are ridiculous, and I understand that many people come down on the side of freer travel rather than more security. I am also aware that experts are not confident that these additional security measures really "help," and we can argue all day about whether or not they should be eliminated. But really, you people don't seem to understand how good we really have it. We have a decently trained security staff with nationally consistent procedures, that can usually get us through security in a reasonable amount of time, ensuring you still get to sit around for an hour or so before boarding your plane. Try traveling internationally! I just got strip-searched in Tel Aviv, and had my entire suitcase spread out in the middle of the terminal, because I had a passport stamp from an Arab country and was therefore "suspicious." Compared to that and similar stories from travels abroad, I'm not sure why the addition of 10-15 minutes in your travels is worth the angst and complaining.

Also, just as an aside, one of the posters was complaining about how "you" (presumably TSA) expects him to pay for a ticket just to be harassed and inconvenienced. The alleged harassment aside, it's the AIRLINES that are forcing you to buy an overpriced ticket - I'm quite sure TSA has no interest in ticket sale trends. Whatever this issue may or may not be, keep in mind that technically, we're customers of the AIRLINES, not TSA. If you really want something changed, convince United to deploy its highly-paid lobbyists.

Submitted by Anonymous on

Still waiting for Kip to address item #4 of his comments.

Why are you taking so long?

My guess is that you can't justify yourself and are in denial.

Along the same lines, the containers at the checkpoints are just full of liquid items TSA has confiscated. These items must be dangerous since they could not pass through the checkpoint yet I see no efforts to protect the public from these apparently explosive items.

Come on Kip, step up to the plate and explain how these stupid procedures are providing a benefit.

Submitted by Anonymous on

For those of you that have forgot try looking up what Ramsey Yusef,one of the 9/11, did in Dec 1994 on a Philippine Airlines Flight. Then you will understand that liquids can be made into a bomb during a flight and detonated. Just a thought?

Submitted by Ayn R Key on

Ramsey Yusef is identified as a participant in the 1993 attack on the WTC. What I didn't find was any indication that any such attack using liquids on airlines had ever been successful. CNN had one mention of Ramsey Yusef, and a plot to do so, but that the place where the bombs were manufactured caught fire.

Point 4 again. It's barely possible on the ground. It's not possible in mid-air. Come on, TSA, you should answer.

We know you're lying. Admit it.

Submitted by Anonymous on

Well, my first comment never made it up. Big surprise. I'll dispense with the story of the incredibly rude TSA personnel I encountered at Logan in Boston (I suppose an honest account of mistreatment by your staff is considered a "personal attack") and restate my main question.

If the liquids you confiscate are potentially dangerous, why are they routinely treated so casually (thrown away in big garbage cans all mixed together) ?

From the attitudes I have seen displayed by TSA staff when I fly, they know that bottles of coke are harmless. I already put up with the indignity of walking through security in my socks, why on earth do I have to be forced to give up my beverage too? And why in the world can't I simply take a swig to prove that it's a drink and not a bomb?

Submitted by Ayn R Key on

The bloggers are not responding to this old entry. The comments stack up without response.

It's easier to pretend everything is going well than actually face ugly truths.

Facing ugly truths means admitting the TSA is wrong about liquids and scrapping the rule.

Isn't that right, Christopher? Isn't that right, Chance?

Submitted by Anonymous on

The bloggers are not responding to this old entry. The comments stack up without response.

It's easier to pretend everything is going well than actually face ugly truths.

Facing ugly truths means admitting the TSA is wrong about liquids and scrapping the rule.

Isn't that right, Christopher? Isn't that right, Chance?


Two years ago I was briefed that no liquids, gels, creams and aerosols are allowed period. After that they made a limit just to make passengers happy because a lot of them complained about this rule. I understand all the rules from TSA are very "ridiculous, stupid" as you all describe them. But the question is why do TSA do that? Is that for everybody's safety. I know you think that you don't feel safe and secured because TSA has to take away you $2 worth of toothpaste and $54 worth of hairsprays and creams. But why do TSA do that? Because of what happened in London? There is always a "reason for everything" and why these so called stupid and ridiculous rules are being made. What government is perfect? I know this is a free country but we all know our limits. Yes, there are some screeners that are irritating because their customer service is unacceptable but try to deal with more than 10,000 passengers (in our airport) a day. With that number probably 1 screener deal with 10-20 irate passengers per shift. It's because they did not read the signs at the ticket counter, the signs before you go through the security checkpoint and the video that "tells them what can be brought inside the checkpoint and what could speed up the screening process". Does anyone bother to read, it only takes a few seconds of your time to read the signs around you to help you speed up the process and for you to not bring "prohibited items in your carry on bag". And then, life is good.

Submitted by Anonymous on

They're not going to answer any of the hard questions. They're not interested in a dialog with the public, they're interested in providing the illusion that there's a dialog with the public. They're probably building watch lists from our IPs. It's a shame really. Think about how much time and dedication it must take to get into a high-ranking position in any kind of government security department, then think about how when they're asked tough questions they stick their heads in the sand and pull answers and statistics out of their asses. You know what's really scary? Not that terrorists might blow up a plane but that people who can't answer basic common sense questions posed by people who aren't security professionals are the ones supposedly charged with "protecting" us. I sure feel safe without my drink and toothpaste! Thanks a lot guys! Really excellent work!

Submitted by Courtney on

Why can't terrorists just combine their minimum liquids? I'll tell you why... they're muslim. And muslims are from the middle east where they have terrorists. You see, terrorism is everywhere. And we're fighting terrorism. America has to fight this new battle with new tactics. Terrorism, america, fight them, 9/11.

Thank You.

Submitted by Mister Mxyzptlk on

I usually check the bag that has my dopp kit with its various liquids and gels. But on a recent trip I forgot I was carrying it on and did not remove those items and put them in a ziploc bag. My carry-on passed screening; no problem. On the return trip, I remembered about the liquids and did the right thing.

My question is: What good is this rule about liquids if it is dependent on voluntary compliance?

Submitted by Anonymous on

I understand that TSA is trying to prevent tragedies like 9/11 from ever happening again, but as a breastfeeding mother who had to travel for business without my infant I found it disheartening to find that I was not allowed to fly with my own pumped milk in the cooler bag that is part of my pump kit. Having to dump my milk down an airport drain was disappointing.

Submitted by Ayn R Key on

Anonymous, March 4th

There is always a "reason for everything" and why these so called stupid and ridiculous rules are being made.

Yes, the problem is the reason is ridiculous, which is why the rule is ridiculous. That’s what I’m trying to get the TSA to admit in this ignored blog entry. The reason is that some unaccountable bureaucrat made a decision based on inaccurate information, and the rules were changed only because it inconvenienced so many people that congressmen were unable to ignore it.

I know this is a free country but we all know our limits.

What limits, pray tell, are you referring to? Surrendering our constitutional rights because we wish to conduct the private transaction of purchasing an airline ticket?

Does anyone bother to read, it only takes a few seconds of your time to read the signs around you to help you speed up the process and for you to not bring "prohibited items in your carry on bag". And then, life is good.

And when the TSO gets a wild hair up his ass and bans something on the approved list, and there is no redress, no checks, other than to risk a more extensive screening because you dared to complain and possibly miss your flight because you dared to complain, when the TSOs themselves often don’t know the rules and make up rules, and the rules themselves don’t make sense in the first place?

Your solution: blind obedience. Sorry, I prefer to live in the free country you referenced earlier.

Submitted by Anonymous on

I was happy to collaborate the new security measure in the beginning but I am much more skeptical about the process now.

I just came back from Switzerland and my chocolate spreads was confiscated during the "security" control. It didn't occurred to me that chocolate spread will be liquid but it does belong to cream category.

How much longer do we need to sacrifice our daily lives for this inefficient security measure? Isn't it obvious that it's chocolate spread?

Liquid rule is an obvious failure, it's as dumb as saying all the red colored items are potential bombs.

Either they need to come up with smarter detection method or stop this security measures which became more bureaucratic process which is waste of time and resources than any help on national security.

Submitted by Anonymous on

My story is regarding to airport security system in general rather than just about liquid screening.

I checked in my bag with two new Iphone packed within other things and they were stolen.

After talking to the airline people, I learned that TSA have full authority to go into our items without supervision or cameras after screening our bags.

Though it's impossible to know who stole it, I can't imagine other method to detect iphone hidden in my bag without XRAY.

I feel truly ripped off of my basic rights for my belonging. And back-stabbed by the system which suppose to protect us from dangers.

Submitted by Anonymous on

OK, just to put this all into perspective. I used to be in the navy and work for Naval Special Warfare .(Navy SEALS, not one myself) but anyway, we deploy most times on commercial carriers to get us atleast to Kuwait.
that being said, and considering that a war is going on. Numerous times, myself and fellow service men who use the same backpacks in the field that we do while traveling. we often, inadvertantly leave some "battlefield" items in our bags in our rush to pack up and 'Get Home'. Needless to say, these things get overlooked in the madness of searching for nuclear toothpaste bombs.
these items usually make a much bigger boom then my hair gel. spend more time getting qualified, english speaking screeners with common sense then banning harmless liquids.

Submitted by Concerned Citizen on

You say that people wouldn't be able to mix their things. What if 20 people made a plastic explosive that felt like shampoo and hid it in shampoo bottles per person. Then someone could mix 60 ounces of liquid in a bag and with a remote detonator or a clockwork detonator, set a timed fuse that would go off at any point.
Also, just because someone uses a steak knife in a murder doesn't mean the police come around confiscating EVERYONE'S steak knifes. So why, if some people are going to blow up a plane, should the MILLIONS of people who travel throughout U.S. airports with no plan to blow up anything be punished. Don't think that I agree that your "bend over and cough" ID procedure is good either. You should have the right to not show ID. You never broke the law, you aren't trying to buy age restricted purchases. THIS IS AMERICA! The "show your papers" is not what I think of when I think America. Punishing everyone does not STOP the few who are bent on this. Well, I guess tortur- I mean "tickle fuzzy hug" that goes on in Gitmo isn't what I think of when I think America. Or unilaterally starting actual wars to stop something that has been around forever and probably won't ever go away. Yeah, welcome to AMERIKA! Please bend over so Anti-Terrorist Bot can search you, even though you are almost guaranteed to not be up to anything. And if you refuse, we'll "tickle fuzzy hug" you in Cuba!

Submitted by Anonymous on

The worst part is that the major inconvenience created to the vast majority creates enough of a distraction that the serious terrorist can still do what they want slipping by the net:

ceramic or plastic knives
glass bottles of high alcohol beverages
liquids in ziplock bags

If they happened to get caught it would be obvious how they did it, but more likely they would succeed until the TSB stopped planes carrying passengers.

Submitted by Anonymous on

In Aust and NZ, implementation of the liquids policy permits us to buy alcoholic beverages within the restricted zone and carry them on board (max 2.25L/person). But we can't take them through the screening point. I read the original Molotov cocktail was made from Finnish vodka. Does the TSA permit alcohol in bottles to be carried on board? (Presumably it does on flights ex-Aus/NZ?)

So you can have 3 bottles of vodka confiscated, walk a few metres and buy more and security has done a great job.

Submitted by Anonymous on

Just curious to know - how much dangerous liquid can a terrorist bring in a small "camelback" undetected by the metal detector??

The battle between law enforcement and terrorists is no different to the battle between humans and germs - "peaceful coexistence and occasional unpreventable disasters".

Submitted by Anonymous on

What I can't figure out is why all my expensive Aveda products were confiscated by a screener at Pearson airport from my *CHECKED* baggage to DCA....and all my other liquids and gels (toothpastes, hairspray, etc.) were allowed to remain.

When one flies from YYZ to DCA, one must carry his checked bag to a screener who both x-rays and hand checks the contents of the checked bag. Remember, I am not talking about carry ons, but checked bags. Once the screener has done her job, the bag is put on a belt for the baggage handling part of the trip. Then passengers go through the normal carry on/passenger check point.

On my last trip to DCA, though, the screener claimed that my Aveda fulls sized products (shampoos and other goops) were not allowed in checked baggage because they didn't have TSA-compliant labels, whatever those are. My toothpastes, hairspray, boring cosmetics, etc. were left in the bag.

When I spoke to a supervisor, carefully for certain, I was told that this sort of decision was totally up to the screener.

I went on my way because one cannot argue or debate national security issues anymore, but I was livid. I know when I've been mugged, and I got the pleasure of doing so in broad daylight, with hundreds of people around and no one could help.

Submitted by Anonymous on

I disagree with the liquids policy.

However, since I must deal with it in my capacity in traveling for a different government agency (I am a DoD civilian), are there any rules I can site to a TSO if I try to bring on a 100ml bottle of cologne in my carry on baggage to ensure it does not get confiscated? If I am at the whim of whatever officer is screening, and to avoid an abuse of authority by the screener, I decide to check said bottle in my bags, what recourse do I have if it is stolen during the unseen screening process that checked baggage goes through?

On one hand, we (the public) have to for one reason or another, travel to another destination, and we have to leave our checked baggage unlocked, so that it may be screened. There is a certain amount of concern that items that we value may not make it either through the screening process of checked baggage, or through the increasingly unreliable nature of baggage making it to our destination. So we pack our valuable items often in a carry on bag. On the other hand, there is the risk that the screener may, either through abuse or ignorance, confiscate an allowed item. In reality, my experience is that the supervisors will always back their workers, no matter how wrong they are.

My concern is that in my experiences in flying since the TSA took over airport security, one does not always get consistent TSOs. I have had TSOs that are professional, courteous, and thorough. I have also had TSOs that are forgetful, rude, and distracted. The DoD purchases one way airline tickets. That means I get the extra special search nearly every time I travel in my official capacity, since one way airline tickets are a security flag (I am a DoD civilian, so I do not get to skip the special searches like AD military does). So, I would say I have a "thorough" experience with the TSA, and mainly, just wish it would be consistent, follow its own rules, and treat me and my other fellow citizens with the professionalism and courtesy that I am sure you at least try to train them to have.

Thank you for posting this blog to voice our concerns, and thank you for any reply you make to my post.