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Blogger Roundtable at TSA HQ with Secretary Chertoff and Administrator Hawley

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Tuesday, November 25, 2008
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On November 17, several bloggers gathered together at TSA Headquarters for a roundtable chat with DHS Secretary Michael Chertoff and TSA Administrator Kip Hawley.

The following bloggers accepted the invitation and participated in the roundtable:

Rich Cooper – Security Debrief

Jonah Czerwinski – Homeland Security Watch

Barbara Peterson – Conde Nast Traveler & Daily Traveler

Matt Phillips – Wall Street Journal & The Middle Seat Terminal

Tom Smith - ACI-NA

Benet Wilson – Aviation Week & Towers and Tarmacs

Chad Wolf – Security Debrief

You can read the entire transcript of the roundtable by clicking here.

Thanks,

Bob

EoS Blog Team

Comments

Submitted by Anonymous on

Pretty much softball questions and fully processed horse food answers. Not much has changed.

Submitted by Al Ames on

So what do we have? More propaganda and not a seriously hard question asked by a blogger. How controlled was this roundtable? Why weren't any hard questions asked? How come Michael Boyd was invited? He's analyzed TSA a great deal and is actually a recognized leader in the aviation consulting industry.

Where are these "focus" groups? Are critics invited?

Propaganda Village is alive and well.

Al

Submitted by RB on

I read the full transcript. Why were the names of the questioners not posted since they were identified as participants?

I noted that the BDO program works because they find money. When did the carrying of any amount of money within the United States become a crime?

Just how long did it take to get the brown stuff off your noses?

Pathetic!!

Submitted by Anonymous on

When did it become illegal to carry cash within the US (domestically)? I know for international travel, $10,000 and over must be declared - however, for domestic, there's no limit at all whatosever.

Plus, what does drugs have to do with aircraft safety, anyway?

Come on, answer my question. Don't avoid this, please.

Submitted by Anonymous on

It would have been nice to see who asked the questions. On the other hand kudo's to Bob for stating he is known as "Blogger Bob" on line.

Eric
One of the 5 or 6

Submitted by Bob on

Al Ames said... So what do we have? More propaganda and not a seriously hard question asked by a blogger. How controlled was this roundtable? Why weren't any hard questions asked? How come Michael Boyd was invited? He's analyzed TSA a great deal and is actually a recognized leader in the aviation consulting industry. Where are these "focus" groups? Are critics invited? Propaganda Village is alive and well. Al November 25, 2008 8:27 PM

----------------------

Al, I’m glad to see you enjoyed the transcript. The roundtable was not controlled at all. Just contact any one of the bloggers who attended and I’m sure they will tell you the same.
Some of our highest profile vocal critics were invited. We can’t control whether they attend or not.

----------------------

RB said... I read the full transcript. Why were the names of the questioners not posted since they were identified as participants? November 25, 2008 10:17 PM

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RB, The person who transcribed the round table did so from a recording. They weren’t able to see the faces. For any future roundtable, I’ll suggest that bloggers introduce themselves prior to asking a question so it will show up on the recording and transcript.
FYI, I intend on making future roundtables into podcasts.

---------------------

Anonymous said... When did it become illegal to carry cash within the US (domestically)? I know for international travel, $10,000 and over must be declared - however, for domestic, there's no limit at all whatosever. Plus, what does drugs have to do with aircraft safety, anyway? Come on, answer my question. Don't avoid this, please. November 25, 2008 10:40 PM

-------------------

Anon, we are not avoiding this. We have answered it before. It is not our mission to find drugs or currency, but we are mandated to report it once we find it. Wouldn’t it seem odd if a Federal Security Officer found drugs in your bag and simply said “Oh, it’s just cocaine, they’re good to go. “ “Nevermind, it’s just a stack of childporn.” The cash scenario might seem odd, but red flags pop up when passengers try to carry certain amounts of undeclared currency overseas. We have to report it.

--------------------

Anonymous said... It would have been nice to see who asked the questions. On the other hand kudo's to Bob for stating he is known as "Blogger Bob" on line. Eric One of the 5 or 6 November 26, 2008 9:50 AM

--------------------

Hey, I got a kudos! I'll take it!

--------------------

Happy thanksgiving everybody. I’m going home for the Thanksgiving holiday and will be out until December 8th. I’ll try to chime in every now and then.

Thanks,

Bob

EoS Blog Team

Submitted by Jonah Czerwinski on

Wait a minute.

That some of the comments here take issue with the tone of the roundtable is probably no surprise if you have never participated in one. As a frequent attendee and sometimes host of such roundtables in the past, I want to clarify the purpose of these gatherings. They are for finding and follow up questions. They are not for arguments or confrontations.

If readers here are frustrated with the apparent politeness of the bloggers, chalk it up to professionalism. If you read our posts -- I can only speak for mine -- you'll see an even handedness that most would call critical. Take a look at HLSwatch.com

Moreover, note that the roundtable began with Secretary Chertoff calling me out specifically for a post of mine in which I criticized his portrayal of risk assessment.

Chertoff was referring to my 29 OCT 08 post entitled "Chertoff Addresses the Beta," in which I suggest that he described risk assessment in his speech to the Wharton School in such a way that could trigger either extremes of excessive caution or excessive spending.

Jonah Czerwinski
www.HLSwatch.com

Submitted by George on

Bob: It is not our mission to find drugs or currency, but we are mandated to report it once we find it. Wouldn't it seem odd if a Federal Security Officer found drugs in your bag and simply said “Oh, it’s just cocaine, they’re good to go. " "Nevermind, it’s just a stack of childporn." The cash scenario might seem odd, but red flags pop up when passengers try to carry certain amounts of undeclared currency overseas. We have to report it.

That's fine. Report it just as you're mandated to do. I don't think any of us have a problem with that. What we do have a problem with is the TSA's insistence on calling such reports "successes" that (supposedly) demonstrate the effectiveness of your TSOs and BDOs. The way we perceive it, self-congratulatory press releases about finding drugs, money, or inappropriate military jackets can only mean you're not finding enough actual threats to aviation to justify your policies and procedures. Either you're failing to detect those threats or (more likely) such threats are fewer and further between than you'd like to admit. Either way, it's not a "success" in accomplishing your mission to protect aviation.

Fishermen use the term "by-catch" to refer to creatures and objects that they aren't fishing for but turn up in their nets. They throw "by-catch" away and certainly don't count it in measuring their hauls. The drugs, money, child pornography, or fake military jackets that you find at checkpoints is all "by-catch." By all means report it to the relevant authorities as you're required to do, but don't count it as a "success." Crowing about it indicates desperation or incompetence rather than effectiveness, and only exacerbates our mistrust of the TSA.

Submitted by Anonymous on

I request a simple, non-whishy-washy, answer on one question and one question only from the TSA:

Can a person traveling domestically (Within the territorial boundaries of the United States of America) carry more than $10,000 in cash on their person when passing through a checkpoint? Please cite legal statutes and regulations in support of your answer.

Based on your above answer, with the systems currently in place, how can you verify, based on the offered boarding pass and their identification only, that the above person is travelling domestically? Answer is: You can't. It doesn't matter what your answer is to the first question. EPIC FAIL!

Submitted by Yangj08 on

"The cash scenario might seem odd, but red flags pop up when passengers try to carry certain amounts of undeclared currency overseas. We have to report it."
Even when a passenger is leaving from a small airport that doesn't fly to any international airports?

Submitted by RB on

Jonah Czerwinski said...
Wait a minute.

That some of the comments here take issue with the tone of the roundtable is probably no surprise if you have never participated in one. As a frequent attendee and sometimes host of such roundtables in the past, I want to clarify the purpose of these gatherings. They are for finding and follow up questions. They are not for arguments or confrontations.

If readers here are frustrated with the apparent politeness of the bloggers, chalk it up to professionalism. If you read our posts -- I can only speak for mine -- you'll see an even handedness that most would call critical. Take a look at HLSwatch.com
....................................
It is not a question of politeness but from my reading of the transcript no hard questions were asked at all.

All I got out of it was some chest thumping by Chertoff and Kippy Boy.

Why not ask the hard questions? Question the current procedures in place that do nothing for security. Push for some real answers on the obvious displeasure of the flying public with TSA and it's policies.

I see an opportunity presented and wasted by the roundtable!

Submitted by McKeay on

So when will we see Kip on the West Coast? Secretary Chertoff made it out here a few weeks ago to talk to us, I'd love a chance to talk to Administrator Hawley for an hour as well. I'd probably be asking some of the same softball questions that are being complained about above, but that wouldn't be the point. As a security professional, a blogger and a podcaster, I want him to come out to to the San Francisco Bay Area so we can get some of the access the bloggers in the DC area have.

Martin

By the way, you can listen to our talk with Secretary Chertoff

Submitted by Irish on

Blogger Bob said: "It is not our mission to find drugs or currency, but we are mandated to report it once we find it. Wouldn’t it seem odd if a Federal Security Officer found drugs in your bag and simply said 'Oh, it’s just cocaine, they’re good to go.' 'Nevermind, it’s just a stack of childporn.' The cash scenario might seem odd, but red flags pop up when passengers try to carry certain amounts of undeclared currency overseas. We have to report it.

Here's the difference, Bob: posessing cocaine or child porn is illegal everywhere in the U.S., posessing cash (in any amount) is not. I am still interested in why the TSA would report cash (in any amount) to anyone if a traveler is booked on a domestic flight?

Irish

Submitted by Anonymous on
Here's the difference, Bob: posessing cocaine or child porn is illegal everywhere in the U.S., posessing cash (in any amount) is not. I am still interested in why the TSA would report cash (in any amount) to anyone if a traveler is booked on a domestic flight?

The most likely answer is that the TSA's procedures require them to report anyone they find carrying a large amount of cash to the appropriate authority (e.g., the local police, the BATF, the DEA, or the FBI). If the officer or agent determines that the passenger is not attempting to export the cash illegally, the passenger and the cash are free to go. Unless the officer or agent decides to seize the cash according to their own policies and procedures. The very act of carrying a large amount of cash is often associated with drug trafficking or money laundering, so this "civil seizure and forfeiture," and is an important tool in fighting the War on Drugs (and also for funding the Warriors without raising taxes).

The passenger might be able to get the cash back if he files suit in the appropriate court, and then submits evidence to the judge that proves beyond any doubt that the cash was carried for entirely legitimate purposes and is not connected in any way with any sort of illegal activity. This is a civil rather than a criminal action, so the burden is on the plaintiff (passenger) to prove that the agent seized the cash inappropriately, according to whatever standard the judge decides to set. Depending on how you look at it, civil asset seizure and forfeiture is either a vital tool for Victory in the Wars on Drugs and Terror or an invitation to abuse (since the agency gets to keep whatever they seize). It's probably both; but politicians are understandably reluctant to interfere with the Warriors on Drugs and Terror, especially if it would mean raising taxes to make up for the lost revenue. But that's not really relevant here.

The relevant point here is first that anyone who carries large amounts of cash probably deserves what he gets if the TSA or a law enforcement officer catches him with it. Carrying large amounts of cash is effectively a "criminal" act, for which the (civil) penalty is automatic forfeiture of the cash. And second, if a TSO or BDO is the one who finds the cash and reports it, it's only a "success" if the passenger and the cash are part of a terrorist plot involving aircraft. If it's an abusive seizure, or even if it's connected to drugs or something other than terrorism involving aircraft, it's merely a false positive that has nothing to do with the TSA's mission.
Submitted by Anonymous on

"I request a simple, non-whishy-washy, answer on one question and one question only from the TSA:

Can a person traveling domestically (Within the territorial boundaries of the United States of America) carry more than $10,000 in cash on their person when passing through a checkpoint? Please cite legal statutes and regulations in support of your answer.

Based on your above answer, with the systems currently in place, how can you verify, based on the offered boarding pass and their identification only, that the above person is travelling domestically? Answer is: You can't. It doesn't matter what your answer is to the first question. EPIC FAIL!"

What World Of warcraft server do you play on? Lol

Submitted by Anonymous on

Anon, we are not avoiding this. We have answered it before. It is not our mission to find drugs or currency, but we are mandated to report it once we find it.
................................
Bob, would you please give a pointer to the mandate that says TSA must report people who are carrying certain amounts of currency on domestic flights.

I would like to read that directive and also see who signed it!

Submitted by TrackerNeil on

I, too, am concerned about this TSA mandate to report/seize large amounts of cash. This is a classic example of "scope creep", in which the purported mission slowly by surely expands to a size not envisioned at the outset. I always thought the job of the TSA was to make sure nobody blew up or hijacked planes, and unless I am mistaken nobody ever did that with cash or drugs

Truth be told, I don't care if my seatmate has cocaine, heroin, and a wad of 20s wrapped in child pornography. As long as he doesn't have a gun, knife or bomb, I'm satisfied.

Submitted by Irish on

Anonymous said: "The most likely answer is that the TSA's procedures require them to report anyone they find carrying a large amount of cash to the appropriate authority . . . ::snipped:: . . . Depending on how you look at it, civil asset seizure and forfeiture is either a vital tool for Victory in the Wars on Drugs and Terror or an invitation to abuse (since the agency gets to keep whatever they seize). It's probably both; but politicians are understandably reluctant to interfere with the Warriors on Drugs and Terror, especially if it would mean raising taxes to make up for the lost revenue. But that's not really relevant here."

You're right; the whole Mind Police issue is a larger one -- however, in terms of "why they do it", your first observation is probably the most salient. They do it "because". They are just following orders.

Anon said: "The relevant point here is first that anyone who carries large amounts of cash probably deserves what he gets if the TSA or a law enforcement officer catches him with it. Carrying large amounts of cash is effectively a "criminal" act, for which the (civil) penalty is automatic forfeiture of the cash."

If your point is that stupidity is its own reward, I may have to concede the point. On the other hand, if your point is, knowing the rules, I (or any member of the travelling public) should follow them without question or protest, I don't concede the point. First, there are no "rules" -- at least as far as I can determine. There is a set of arbitrary "advisories" which may or may not be applied, depending upon the whim (or perception) of the individual TSO one happens to encounter. Second, I have this Pollyanna-ish wish to see my tax dollars applied furgally, fruitfully, and appropriately. To that end, I will question any practice or policy (including, in other venues, the whole "Mind Police" issue) smacking of pointless waste. Third, I have this quaint memory of my 7th grade civics class, wherein the rights and privileges of the people were explained to me, as well as my duties and responsibilities as a citizen. I recall a duty and responsibility to be a law-abiding citizen; as such, I don't recall any duty or responsibility to kowtow to a federal agency without question because "it's good for me".

Anon concluded: "If it's an abusive seizure, or even if it's connected to drugs or something other than terrorism involving aircraft, it's merely a false positive that has nothing to do with the TSA's mission."

Conceded. That they get away with it is a sad commentary upon the critical thinking ability of our citizens. The sorry state of education today is probably another topic for another venue. < g > I just didn't want Bob to continue to try to get away with comparing apples to oranges. But, I doubt I'll stop him.

Irish

Submitted by Anonymous on

Bob, would you please give a pointer to the mandate that says TSA must report people who are carrying certain amounts of currency on domestic flights.

I would like to read that directive and also see who signed it!

December 1, 2008 2:31 PM

Is TSA and it's staff ignoring this request?

Surely there is a directive signed by a person stating the requirement to report cash amounts over a certain limit.

Submitted by Anonymous on

No response so asked again!
..............................
Bob, would you please give a pointer to the mandate that says TSA must report people who are carrying certain amounts of currency on domestic flights.

I would like to read that directive and also see who signed it!

December 1, 2008 2:31 PM

Submitted by Anonymous on

The liquid threat is a danger!

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/7607043.stm

The public blames TSA for the liquid ban. This video has nothing to do with the TSA.

Submitted by Anonymous on

Bob, would you please give a pointer to the mandate that says TSA must report people who are carrying certain amounts of currency on domestic flights.

I would like to read that directive and also see who signed it!

Asked and repeated. Censors hard at work avoiding real ON TOPIC questions. U.S. Government employees engaging in violation of constituion, freedom of speach.

When TSA answers I will stop asking!

Copy forwarded to US Senate and House of Representatives officials.

Submitted by Anonymous on

No response so asked again!
..............................
Bob, would you please give a pointer to the mandate that says TSA must report people who are carrying certain amounts of currency on domestic flights.

I would like to read that directive and also see who signed it!

December 1, 2008 2:31 PM

December 3, 2008 10:07 AM

Submitted by Anonymous on

Anonymous said...
No response so asked again!
How many times will I have to ask this question before someone at TSA responds?
..............................
Bob, would you please give a pointer to the mandate that says TSA must report people who are carrying certain amounts of currency on domestic flights.

I would like to read that directive and also see who signed it!

December 1, 2008 2:31 PM

December 3, 2008 10:07 AM

December 4, 2008 10:16 AM

December 5, 2008 9:12 AM

Submitted by Anonymous on

No response so asked again!
..............................
Bob, would you please give a pointer to the mandate that says TSA must report people who are carrying certain amounts of currency on domestic flights.

I would like to read that directive and also see who signed it!

December 1, 2008 2:31 PM

December 3, 2008 10:07 AM

December 4, 2008 10:16 AM

December 5, 2008 9:12 AM

December 9, 2008 CENSORED and NOT POSTED

and again today, December 10, 2008

Submitted by Anonymous on

With recent news reports stating that major banks could soon completely FAIL - causing a run on banks that the U.S. Government has already drawn up plans to limit cash withdrawals to limited amounts per day - I keep thousands of dollars in cash on my person - and the rest in my safe - as I no longer trust banks & where this country is going - with my 401K dropping off so quickly this year..

So it sounds like if I travel through TSA checkpoints - I WILL LOSE THAT $$$$ - even though I'm not a drug dealer, terrorist or money-launderer???

Submitted by Bob on

For the Anon who keeps asking about cash, please read.

Also, just to show you that traveling domestically with large amounts of currency is OK, please note the "Traveling With Special Items" section at the bottom. We actually advise you to let a TSO know, so we can screen you in private if desired. (So nobody else sees your cash or valuable items)


Currency Reporting

It is legal to transport any amount of currency or other monetary instruments into or out of the United States. However, if you transport, attempt to transport, or cause to be transported (including by mail or other means) currency or other monetary instruments in an aggregate amount exceeding $10,000 (or its foreign equivalent) at one time from the United States to any foreign place, or into the United States from any foreign place, you must file a report with U.S. Customs. This report is called the Report of International Transportation of Currency or Monetary Instruments, Customs Form 4790. Furthermore, if you receive in the United States, currency or other monetary instruments in an aggregate amount exceeding $10,000 (or its foreign equivalent) at one time which has been transported, mailed, or shipped to you from any foreign place, you must file a CF-4790. These forms can be obtained at all U.S. ports of entry and departure.

Monetary instruments include:

U.S. or foreign coins and currency;
Traveler checks in any form;
Negotiable instruments (including checks, promissory notes, and money orders) that are either in bearer form, endorsed without restriction, made out to a fictitious payee, or otherwise in such form that title thereto passes upon delivery;
Incomplete instruments (including checks, promissory notes, and money orders) signed, but with they payee’s name omitted; and
Ssecurities or stock in bearer form or otherwise in such form that title thereto passes upon delivery. However, the term "monetary instruments" does not include:
Checks or money orders made payable to the order of a named person which have not been endorsed or which bear restrictive endorsements;
Warehouse receipts; or
Bills of lading.

Reporting is required under the Currency and Foreign Transaction Reporting Act (PL 97-258, 31 U.S.C. 5311, et seq.), as amended. Failure to comply can result in civil and criminal penalties and may lead to forfeiture of your monetary instrument(s).

U.S. Customs Service

1300 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W.

Washington, D.C. 20229

Telephone (202) 927-1520

Traveling with Special Items

Currency, Coins, Precious Metals, or Valuable Jewelry

If you are carrying valuable items such as large amounts of currency, coins or jewelry, we recommend that you ask Security Officers to screen you and your carry-on luggage in private. This will maintain your security and avoid public scrutiny.

We suggest that you ask to speak with a TSA screening supervisor before you are screened. Tell the supervisor discretely that you would be screened in a private location.

TSA operating procedures require a witness to be present during private screening. The witness may be another TSA Security Officer or someone that is traveling with you.

If cleared, you and your valuables will be allowed to enter the sterile side of the airport.

Private screening is also available to individuals randomly selected for screening at the airline gate.

We recommend that you carry these items with you at all times.

Currency Reporting: For international flights, you must report the transport of $10,000.00 USD or more to the U.S. Customs Service.

Bob

EoS Blog Team

Submitted by Bob on

Anonomous Said: All I want and have repeatedly asked is for TSA to show me what directives they are operating under that requires them to refer anyone to additional screening/interrogation because the traveler has a large amount of cash and who the official is that signed this directive. Nothing more.
------------------------------

OK. Below are two items. One is an excerpt from the "A Word From Our Lawyers Blog Post" from TSA's Chief Counsel, Francine Kerner. The other is the Operations Directive you have been asking for.

As far as passengers traveling domestically being referred to a supervisor for having $10,000 + of currency, this didn't happen back when i was a TSO. We only referred international passengers. Things may have changed, so I'm doing some research to get you an official answer. I also just e-mailed about 200 of my contacts from various locations around the country to see what's happening at their airports. Stay tuned...

2.21.2008 (From A Word With our Lawyers" Blog Post)

I see that at least one person was troubled by the fact that TSA's screening of airline passengers sometimes yields evidence of crimes not directly related to aviation security. Our responsibility and focus in the airport screening process is to prevent a terrorist attack involving aircraft. In the course of carrying out our mission by screening for weapons and explosives, however, we sometimes incidentally discover illegal items unrelated to transportation security. Federal law and policy require that we refer such items to law enforcement officers for appropriate action. See, for example, United States v. Marquez, 410 F.3d 612, 617 (2005). Francine Kerner – TSA Chief Counsel

Discovery of Contraband During the Screening Process OD-400-54-2 May 9, 2005

Expiration– Indefinite

Summary - This directive provides guidance to ensure nationwide consistency in the appropriate referral or initiation of civil enforcement actions for incidents involving discovery of contraband during TSA screening procedures.

Procedures - When TSA discovers contraband during the screening process that is not a TSA Prohibited Item, the matter should be referred to the local Law Enforcement Officers as appropriate. An Enforcement Investigative Report should not be initiated.

Examples of such contraband include:

- Illegal Drugs
- Drug Paraphernalia
- Large Amounts of Cash(10,000.00)

The OD was signed by TSAs Chief Operating Officer at the time, Jonathan J. Fleming

For the rest of the document, (contact numbers and e-mails) please use the FOIA process for OD-400-54-2

Thanks,

Bob

EoS Blog Team

Submitted by Phil on

Bob at TSA wrote (empasis added):

"It is not our mission to find drugs or currency, but we are mandated to report it once we find it. [...] The cash scenario might seem odd, but red flags pop up when passengers try to carry certain amounts of undeclared currency overseas. We have to report it."

Someone repeatedly asked:

"would you please give a pointer to the mandate that says TSA must report people who are carrying certain amounts of currency on domestic flights."

In response, Bob eventually wrote:

"For the Anon who keeps asking about cash, please read."

Bob then went on to quote some TSA tips for travelers regarding the carrying of cash, including a requirement that people who wish to carry more than $10,000 into or out of the country must file a report with U.S. Customs. He did not cite any authoratative source for this information, instead referring to TSA's known-inaccurate (and admitted by Bob and others) Web site.

Bob, you still haven't answered the question. You told us that you at TSA are required under certain circumstances to report money found in people's belongings when you search them. Where can we read this requirement?

It seems to me that the only time this would be warranted is if you saw what was clearly more than $10,000 and had good reason to believe that a report had not been filed. In other circumstances, you would be wasting time that should be devoted to your job of keeping weapons, incendiaries, and explosives off of airplanes. If this was really important, then CBP should set up more unconsititutional warrantless search stations to search all the honest people in search of the few dishonest ones.

--
Phil

Submitted by Phil on

Sorry, Bob. I missed your second response before submitting my comment.

I'm curious how, given that you're not looking for things like illegal drugs, drug paraphernalia, and quantities of cash exceeding $10,000, you could come across something that looks like it might fall into one of those categories, then become sufficiently confident that it is one of those to feel compelled to report it.

It seems to me that once you determine that something is not a dangerous item, you'd move on to looking for other dangerous items rather than waste time -- possibly letting dangerous items slip through in the process -- investigating further whether what you dug out of someone's belongings during your warrantless search is indeed contraband.

Isn't that the job of law enforcement, not of TSA's bag checkers? You are looking for dangerous items, not simply using your searches as a dragnet, right?

--
Phil