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Artful Concealment?

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

So, what exactly is artful concealment? Prior to working for TSA, I had never heard the term before. I used the term in a blog post a couple of months ago and based on the responses I got, many of our readers didn't seem to be too familiar with the term either.

So what does it mean? Does it mean to artfully conceal something you need to have Bob Ross paint a happy little tree on it so we won’t see it? Nope…

Let me give you a few examples, and then I’ll give you a definition.

A sword in a cane. A gun umbrella. A derringer belt buckle. A cell phone stun gun. A crucifix knife. A hollowed out bible with a gun inside. A gun taped to the bottom of a steel plate. I could give many more examples, but I don’t really want to give folks any ideas.

So basically, artful concealment is when you disguise an object by modifying its natural form to the form of something that will conceal it. This can be done by modifying the object to look like a permissible object, or it can be done by hiding the object in a belt, or shoe, bag lining etc. An artfully concealed item can also be an item that has been intentionally shielded by another object to hide its view from the x-ray.

In many cases, folks go through a lot of trouble concealing something with an item our x-rays can see right through. It’s sometimes comical to see the things that people think will fool an x-ray.

Here are some of the artfully concealed items that came through various checkpoints around the country just yesterday.

• A passenger was arrested after an officer found 19 rounds of .38 caliber ammunition hidden in their carry-on bag. The ammunition was taped together, wrapped in aluminum foil, and placed inside the handle of his carry-on bag.

• An artfully concealed 3-inch bladed belt buckle knife was detected in the carry-on bag of a passenger. The passenger surrendered the knife and was allowed to continue on their flight.

• A 2-inch pocketknife was hidden inside a laptop. The knife was located between the keyboard and the laptop screen. The passenger stated he knew the knife was in the laptop and that it was a prohibited item. Law enforcement officers issued a summons to appear in court and allowed the passenger to continue on the flight.

• A cane with an 18-inch sword blade was found during checkpoint screening. The police responded, confiscated the cane and interviewed the passenger who stated she did not know the cane (which was given to her by her husband) contained a sword. Law enforcement officers allowed the passenger to continue on the flight.

• A passenger was arrested after an artfully concealed 4½-inch knife was found inside a Santa Claus ornament. Police responded, confiscated the knife, and interviewed the passenger who stated she received the item as a gift and did not know there was a knife inside.

• A concealed pocketknife was detected during checkpoint screening. The passenger alarmed the metal detector and said that he had metal implants in his left hip. The passenger again alarmed the metal detectors and was referred to secondary screening. During hand wanding procedures, the passenger alarmed on his right side. The passenger produced a utility knife with a 2½-inch blade and wooden handle from his right pocket. State Police responded, confiscated the knife and arrested the passenger on the state charge of attempting to circumvent security screening.

• A 2½-inch knife was found inside a passenger’s belt buckle. The County Sheriff’s Department responded, took possession of the knife, and interviewed the passenger. Law enforcement officers allowed the passenger to surrender the prohibited item to a non-traveling family member and continue on the flight.

There are also a few blasts from the past I’d like to mention. We’ve had a gun in a teddy bear and a diaper bag, a knife in a baby carrier, and too many cane-swords to mention. Many of these canes are hand-me-downs or were purchased at an antique store or yard sale and the passenger had no idea whatsoever that there was a sword inside.

So what’s the moral of this story? It’s not worth getting arrested or delayed in your travels to sneak a small knife on a plane. And before you leave for the airport, double check your bags, belt and pocket for items that could cause you trouble at a checkpoint.

Bob

EoS Blog Team

Update 12/17/08 1846: This happened after our blog post went live, but we wanted to share it with you anyway. After noticing a piece of metal in a shoe on the x-ray monitor, a passenger was caught artfully concealing a crack pipe under their shoe insert.

Bob
EoS Blog Team


Update 12/26/08 1500: Five rounds of .38 caliber ammunition were detected artfully concealed in a deck of cards in the carry-on bag of a passenger. The deck of cards were glued together and had five individual bore holes drilled out in order to hold the five rounds. Police responded and interviewed the passenger, who stated he “wanted to keep the bullets out of the reach of his kids.” Police arrested the passenger on the State Charge of Unlawful Possession of Ammunition.

Bob

EoS Blog Team

Comments

Submitted by Sandra on

So - are we supposed to be impressed?

Submitted by Anonymous on

Wow! I had to look pretty far down that list of "concealed items" to actually find someone who missed a flight! I love TSA touting that it found all these "concealed items" and then turning around and allowing the passenger to fly! Why shouldn't someone attempt to get something past the checkpoint when we (Yes, "we" - I work for the TSA) then allow them to fly?
We had to deal with this all the time. Find a prohibited item then allow the passenger to basically thumb thier nose at you while they get on thier plane. Amazing!
No wonder passengers think so little of us. We have absolutely no enforcement powers. I had to be actually assaulted by a passenger (knocked down) in front of the LEOs who would have let the passenger board the flight. It was only the air carrier who told the passenger they couldn't fly.

Submitted by Anonymous on

I think you have other problems if somebody can still take down a plane with a 2" knife.

If we keep up worrying at this rate, soon buff men won't be allowed on flights because those muscles are prohibited!

Submitted by Zayin on

What can we do to get toothpaste on the flight so we don't have to buy it when we land? What about water for the longer flights so we don't dehydrate?

Submitted by Anonymous on

I've got a story for you. To put things in context, this took place before 9/11. A well respected, elderly, computer lecturer had taken his laptop bag with him on a hunting trip. He stuffed his loaded .44 magnum in his laptop bag one night and forgot about it. Phone rings, and his wife summoned him home because her mother had died suddenly. He drives home, collects the wife, and heads straight for the airport. You can guess the rest. He was caught during the x-ray, of course, and arrested. Despite his obvious circumstances and upstanding reputation, he was prosecuted and had to plead guilty to a felony to avoid jail time. If it had been after 9/11 he'd probably still be in Gitmo, so I guess he should count himself as lucky. A few days after 9/11 my future wife flew from Miami to Frankfurt with a huge can of Mace in her purse and nobody noticed until I spotted it at the hotel and nearly had a heart attack!

Submitted by Anonymous on

That's pretty interesting. Any statistics on how many of these kinds of incidents there are per day, or per passenger, or per airport? I'm glad you guys exercise some common sense and don't punish the people who had no idea they were concealing something. I'll be honest, I look down on the TSA for many invasions of civil rights but at least in this case you guys are doing the right thing. I look forward to you using this common sense in more situations.

Submitted by Anonymous on
I could give many more examples, but I don’t really want to give folks any ideas.

Yes, because all the "Evil Doers" (tm) come to the TSA blog to get their ideas for things to hide from the TSA.

Um, buh?! REALLY? You actually really THINK like that?
Submitted by Andy on

Don't forget to pat yourself on the back for seizing all those dangerous liquids that have been artfully concealed as beverages and personal care products.

Submitted by Roger D Parish on

re: 2-inch pocketknife concealed in laptop. I thought short-bladed pocketknives were now permitted? Or is it the fact that a legal knife was "artfully concealed"? The story doesn't say that the knife was confiscated.

Submitted by Anonymous on

Is there anyone on this blog who would feel threatened by someone waving a classic Swiss army pen knife? I mean other than by their obvious stupidity?

Submitted by Robert Johnson on

So Bob, if 4 inch scissors are allowed on board and can do as much damage as any of the knifes of equal or lesser length, why are 4 inch scissors allowed but a 2" pen knife not allowed?

Doesn't make any sense, but then again, not much TSA does either.

Robert

Submitted by Gunner on

So how many guns or knives or atomic bombs were hidden in 20 ounce bottles of water?

Submitted by Anonymous on

I wonder how long till the repeat questions and accusations start?

Submitted by NoClu on

Thanks for posting this new and informative story. Could you please update the comments from previous columns as well.

Thanks,

Submitted by Anonymous on
Posted by Bob:
A concealed pocketknife was detected during checkpoint screening. ...

The passenger produced a utility knife with a 2½-inch blade and wooden handle from his right pocket. State Police responded, confiscated the knife and arrested the passenger on the state charge of attempting to circumvent security screening.


Uh, Bob, how is having a POCKET knife in one's POCKET artful concealment? That's the natural place to carry such a tool, and in spite of TSA's paranoia, many of us still carry such tools in our pockets on a daily basis. (And prior to TSA's paranoia we even carried them when flying.) When you go banning ordinary everyday items, you are going to have people innocently forget where they are.

And I thought you didn't refer pocket knives to law-enforcement unless they were 4". This guy had a 2.5 inch blade, which is a small-medium pocket knife. What gives?

And also, of the artful concealment cases you mentioned in your post where passengers were allowed to continue to their flight, how many of those passengers later received a fine in the mail? Were those passengers told that they would be fined at the checkpoint? Your administrative extortion fines that can only be contested in a far-off Kangaroo court are a disgrace. I notice you've also added artful concealment of liquids and gels to the list of finable-offense. You people have a lot of gall to fine someone for carrying an item that is not a threat to aviation and is only an issue because of TSA's irrational paranoia and technological ineptness at differentiating between nitroglycerin and water.
Submitted by Anonymous on

When is the TSA blog going to stop artfully concealing my posts? None of the four I posted this week have shown up.

And for that matter, how can a small knife hamper security on an airplane now that cockpits are locked and passengers have learned to fight back? How is this small knife better than the many other was of getting sharp cutting objects on board (for example, broken bottles, metal pieces from bathrooms, etc)?

Submitted by George on

This is, for once, a post about the TSA actually doing the job they're supposed to do. And if passengers face sanctions as a result, it's in no way a violation of anyone's civil liberties. The TSOs have done their job and caught violations of rules that are clear, obvious, rational, and definitely not secret. Isn't that exactly what we all want?

So why all the criticism of an entirely straightforward and sensible post? Some people possibly can't accept the TSA even when it's actually doing good work and providing effective security. But I don't think that's the case here. The TSA does so many things that are arbitrary, absurd, incomprehensible, and dubiously connected with security (at least to ordinary mortals who aren't privy to the mysterious secrets that necessitate and justify the apparent lunacy) that it destroys the credibility of even sensible posts like this one.

The criticism just shows that the TSA hasn't made much progress in solving the credibility and public relations problems that this blog was (apparently) intended to address. Whoever succeeds Kip really needs to examine the TSA's policies and procedures (including TSO training and interaction with the public) with an eye toward regaining public trust and confidence. That trust and confidence is vital for effective security.

Even if the TSA has the best of intentions, by the time the Homeland Security bureaucracy grinds the "robust intelligence" into the sausage of rules and procedures at airport checkpoints the result may be more harmful than beneficial when people perceive it as pointless, intrusive, and offensive. When that happens, even genuinely effective measures are perceived in the same light as the liquids, shoes, and nipple piercing. And that undermines whatever good the TSA actually does. I can only hope the new administration will provide an environment in which the TSA can improve its credibility with the public, and thus its effectiveness.

Submitted by John Mc on

Same question as other commentors. I thought the restriction on small pocket knives was lifted??

Submitted by Bob on

Sandra said... So - are we supposed to be impressed? December 16, 2008 5:57 PM
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Sandra, while I expect to impress some, I could never expect to impress you. 
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Anonymous said... Wow! I had to look pretty far down that list of "concealed items" to actually find someone who missed a flight! I love TSA touting that it found all these "concealed items" and then turning around and allowing the passenger to fly! Why shouldn't someone attempt to get something past the checkpoint when we (Yes, "we" - I work for the TSA) then allow them to fly? We had to deal with this all the time. Find a prohibited item then allow the passenger to basically thumb thier nose at you while they get on thier plane. Amazing! No wonder passengers think so little of us. We have absolutely no enforcement powers. I had to be actually assaulted by a passenger (knocked down) in front of the LEOs who would have let the passenger board the flight. It was only the air carrier who told the passenger they couldn't fly. December 16, 2008 6:16 PM
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Anon, if you truly work for the TSA, you should realize that it’s up to the Law Enforcement Officers on whether the passenger flies or not in situations such as these.
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If we keep up worrying at this rate, soon buff men won't be allowed on flights because those muscles are prohibited! December 16, 2008 6:24 PM
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Darn, I guess I’m going to have to stop working out. ..
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Zayin said... What can we do to get toothpaste on the flight so we don't have to buy it when we land? What about water for the longer flights so we don't dehydrate? December 16, 2008 6:30 PM
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Zaylin, simply buy travel size toothpaste in tubes of 3.4 oz. or less. As far as the water, you have a couple of options. You can buy water from a vendor after you pass through the checkpoint, or you can request water on your flight from an attendant.
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Anonymous said... That's pretty interesting. Any statistics on how many of these kinds of incidents there are per day, or per passenger, or per airport? I'm glad you guys exercise some common sense and don't punish the people who had no idea they were concealing something. I'll be honest, I look down on the TSA for many invasions of civil rights but at least in this case you guys are doing the right thing. I look forward to you using this common sense in more situations. December 16, 2008 7:45 PM
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I don’t have the number broken down, but all of the events that were in bullet points happened the day before yesterday. We only had one artfully concealed item yesterday, but it was a good one. It was a crack pipe in a shoe.
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Anonymous said...Bob Said “I could give many more examples, but I don’t really want to give folks any ideas.” Yes, because all the "Evil Doers" (tm) come to the TSA blog to get their ideas for things to hide from the TSA. Um, buh?! REALLY? You actually really THINK like that? December 16, 2008 8:16 PM
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Yes.
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Roger D. Parish said... re: 2-inch pocketknife concealed in laptop. I thought short-bladed pocketknives were now permitted? Or is it the fact that a legal knife was "artfully concealed"? The story doesn't say that the knife was confiscated. December 16, 2008 9:58 PM
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Pocketknives and box cutters of all sizes are still prohibited.
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Anonymous said... Is there anyone on this blog who would feel threatened by someone waving a classic Swiss army pen knife? I mean other than by their obvious stupidity? December 16, 2008 10:18 PM
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Hmmm… I guess it depends on who you ask? The flight attendants and the person sitting next to the individual would probably mind. Even if the passengers jumped the individual, somebody is probably going to get cut. Hope it’s not an artery…
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Anonymous said... Next, why don't you define what a permitted "round bladed butter knife" is? December 16, 2008 10:53 PM
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A permitted round bladed butter knife has no serrated edges.
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Anonymous said... Posted by Bob: Uh, Bob, how is having a POCKET knife in one's POCKET artful concealment? December 17, 2008 10:43 AM
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If it was truly an accident, this wouldn’t have been artful concealment. However, the individual knowingly tried to sneak the knife through security by lying about having a hip replacement.

Bob
EoS Blog Team

Submitted by Anonymous on

 

 

Posted by George:
This is, for once, a post about the TSA actually doing the job they're supposed to do. And if passengers face sanctions as a result, it's in no way a violation of anyone's civil liberties. The TSOs have done their job and caught violations of rules that are clear, obvious, rational, and definitely not secret. Isn't that exactly what we all want?

So why all the criticism of an entirely straightforward and sensible post?

My criticism (10:43 post) derives from TSA touting its big-catches of artful concealment of items that aren't really a threat. Many of the examples involved blades under 3 to 4 inches, which in my opinion are not a credible threat.

Oh, and TSA has in fact added artful concealment of liquids to the fine-able offense list. That they would fine people for concealing something that they know is not a threat (TSA wouldn't throw it in the trash if it were suspected to be a threat) is a sign of how big of a power trip they are on.

Why couldn't they stick to stories of TSA catching large blades, ammunition, guns, etc.? I'm all in favor of TSA catching those items, and referring the offending passengers for arrest and prosecution under the existing criminal justice system which requires due process, open courtrooms, presumption of innocence, opportunity to present evidence, etc.

I am completely against TSA's "administrative" fines, which can only be contested in a kangaroo court and are an end run around the justice system that allows them to punish people for non-offenses like "non-physical interference with screening" (i.e., disagreeing with a screener) and "artful concealment of a liquid" (i..e, having a water bottle). TSA should leave enforcement/punishment to the cops and the courts, and stick to searching for weapons, explosives, and incendiaries as it is permitted to do by law.

It is likely that many of the passengers cited in the examples received fines in the mail even though the TSOs involved in their incidents who diligently collected their address information almost certainly made no mention of the possibility of fines. That's dishonest and equivalent to a police officer pulling you over for speeding, telling you that you are getting a warning, and then sending you a ticket in the mail later.

 

Submitted by Tomas on

Perhaps this would be a good place to allow my previously blocked/censored comment about how after surgery in Philly I was on my way back home to the west coast, and being doped up forgot my 30 year old, limited edition, numbered small single bladed collector's edition $600 pocket knife was in my pocket (I've carried a pocket knife since I was a boy scout in the early '50s).

Not wanting to miss my flight, and certainly not wanting to lose my valuable, treasured property to picayune non-sensical rules, I artfully concealed my 2.5 inch blade pocket knife by ______ __ __ _ _____ _______ ___-___ ___ ___ __ ______ __ _____ _____ ______ _ ___ ________ ___ ____ __ _______ ___ __________ _______ ________.

Then again, maybe not...

Tom (1 of 5-6)

Submitted by Trollkiller on

I just wonder how many things the TSOs miss because they are too busy running illegal ID verifications.

Stick to looking for the weapons, explosives and incendiaries that you are legally restricted to, and give up the illegal ID sham.

Speaking of that, I would like an entry explaining the new law that is to take effect on the 28th and how the TSA thinks that gives them the right to force an ID verification seeing how the TSA is not covered aircraft operator.

Submitted by Anonymous on

Listen folks, you're not keeping the big picture in mind. The machine must be fed, and in this case the machine is the legal-law enforcement-prison industries, the 2000's version of the military-industrial complex that is now so effective at hovering up YOUR tax dollars.

The goal of law enforcement and the legal system is to keep those numbers up. 1:100 ratio of citizens/imprisoned citizens is only just enough to keep the money flowing upstream, so they keep lowering the bar for what will get you 'into the system'. Everyone has to do their part! Right now the US is slacking, with 5% of the world population you're only at 25% of the worlds convicts - c'mon, you want to be #1 don't you?

Submitted by Tomas on
Blogger Bob wrote...
Zayin said... What can we do to get toothpaste on the flight so we don't have to buy it when we land? What about water for the longer flights so we don't dehydrate? December 16, 2008 6:30 PM
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Zaylin, simply buy travel size toothpaste in tubes of 3.4 oz. or less. As far as the water, you have a couple of options. You can buy water from a vendor after you pass through the checkpoint, or you can request water on your flight from an attendant.

Bob, I see that no one has answered a related question of mine that I (and others) have asked several times... Since the "ounce" markings on a tube of toothpaste are in weight, not fluid measure, which allows the manufacturer to put a larger number on the tube (good for sales), why do TSOs insist on rejecting tubes of toothpaste that WEIGH more than 3.4 ounces, but are LESS than 3.4 FLUID ounces?

Even if you can't fix that problem, will you at least address the question?

Thanks,
Tom (1 of 5-6)
Submitted by NoClu on

Blogger Bob, I'm confused...
You write about the frequent discovery of "artfully concealed items" but your own TAS website provides the following statistics:
Oct 27-Nov. 2: 2 artfully concealed prohibited items found at checkpoints
Nov 3 - 9: 1 artfully concealed prohibited items found at checkpoints
Nov 10 - 16: 2 artfully concealed prohibited items found at checkpoints
Nov 17 - 23: 1 artfully concealed prohibited items found at checkpoints
Nov 24 - 30: 6 artfully concealed prohibited items found at checkpoints
and
Dec. 1-7: 2 artfully concealed prohibited items found at checkpoints.

Seems like there is some confusion over reporting or you are blowing the issue out of proportion.

Finally, It seems that the vast majority, if not all of the incidents you are describing were not an attempt to threaten the command/control of an airline, or even to cause danger to others.

Submitted by Anonymous on

Here's one.

1. Passenger asks TSA for a comprehensive printed list of all the rules s/he should follow when traveling by air.
2. TSA says, "That's SSI!"

Now that's "artful concealment".


T-the-B at FlyerTalk

Submitted by Phil on

Tomas raises an interesting point.

Bob, presumably your restrictions are based on volume, not weight. How will your luggage inspectors determine the volume of a tube of toothpaste if the label does not state volume?

More generally, how will your staff determine the volume of any container? Is a label sufficient? What if I made the label? How will your staff determine which labels are accurate?

--
Phil

Submitted by Anonymous on

Anonymous said... Posted by Bob: Uh, Bob, how is having a POCKET knife in one's POCKET artful concealment? December 17, 2008 10:43 AM
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If it was truly an accident, this wouldn’t have been artful concealment. However, the individual knowingly tried to sneak the knife through security by lying about having a hip replacement.

Bob
EoS Blog Team

December 17, 2008 1:38 PM


Come on Bob, it was in his pocket. If he lied about the knife then ok, refer him to a LEO but it was by no means "artful".

How about my question that was not posted, if a permitted item is concealed is the "artful concealment"?

Seems like you and TSA are afraid of truthful answers!

Submitted by Anonymous on

NoClu said...
Blogger Bob, I'm confused...
You write about the frequent discovery of "artfully concealed items" but your own TAS website provides the following statistics:
Oct 27-Nov. 2: 2 artfully concealed prohibited items found at checkpoints
Nov 3 - 9: 1 artfully concealed prohibited items found at checkpoints
Nov 10 - 16: 2 artfully concealed prohibited items found at checkpoints
Nov 17 - 23: 1 artfully concealed prohibited items found at checkpoints
Nov 24 - 30: 6 artfully concealed prohibited items found at checkpoints
and
Dec. 1-7: 2 artfully concealed prohibited items found at checkpoints.

Seems like there is some confusion over reporting or you are blowing the issue out of proportion.

.............................
Bob, you sticking by the incidents you reported or is this another example of TSA stating one thing on the Official Web Site and different information being posted here?

Who are we to believe?

Submitted by Joe on

When are you guys going to start answering some of the legitimate questions that the regular posters keep asking? This blog has become a joke - it's a speakhole of TSA propaganda.

Blogger Bob,

Your suggestion about water forgot one option, the person can declare the water as medically necessary and get it through your checkpoints. Stop withholding information from people. We are tired of it.

Submitted by Bob on

Check this post for an update.

Bob

EoS Blog Team

Submitted by Phil on

Bob from TSA updated the post with:

"After noticing a piece of metal in a shoe on the x-ray monitor, a passenger was caught artfully concealing a crack pipe under their shoe insert."

Hey, nice work, guys. If your hawk-eyes weren't out there, man, we'd have crack pipes in shoes on airplanes. I'll sleep better on my next flight.

Bob, why do you even care about this? Why are we wasting all this money under the guise of providing security so that you can bust people for things that probably don't hurt anyone and definitely don't endanger fellow passengers?

Are you confident that what you found is a crack pipe? Was there cocaine in it that you detected with your checkpoint cocaine detector? I can't see it very well, but it could be a meth pipe. It could also be a cannabis or tobacco pipe, but those usually aren't made of clear glass, and this one looks like it might be. Did you guys find anything illegal in this pipe, or just take it away and call it a crack pipe so you could put it on your blog?

Great! TSA is really cracking down on ID fraud, carrying of concealed smoking accessories, and... I forget what else you guys have trumpeted, but it's yet to be anything related to safety.

TSA should start checking pet licenses at airport checkpoints, too. There are probably illegal unlicensed pets out there, and they're going to come through your dragnet sooner or later. That could be one more TSA success story, right?

Seriously -- which is a bigger threat to airline security and/or more important to you to notify the police of: A) an unlicensed kitten, or B) piece of glass that looks like it could be used to smoke something, tucked away in some guy's shoe? Honestly: can you say which you consider a bigger deal? I can't say that either is more significant to a flight but I guess someone who doesn't chip in on funding for animal shelters (which is where your municipal pet licensing fees tend to go) is kind of mean to animals who need our help, so I guess missing or expired pet licensing is probably a bigger deal than pipe smuggling.

--
Phil
Add your own questions at TSAFAQ.net

Submitted by Jim Huggins on

Bob ... forgive the snarkiness here ... but where in the list of permitted and prohibited items are crack pipes covered? If the same passenger had not artfully concealed the item, would there have been any TSA issue?

I'm just wondering if, when I hide an extra $20 in my shoes to keep in case of emergencies, I'm inviting some sort of trouble at a checkpoint ...

Submitted by Sandra on

Bob, please explain to us how a crack pipe is a threat to an airplane.

No, I didn't think you could explain that.

Please stop tooting your own horn over incidents that are NOT a threat to aviation. Nobody takes you seriously when you do that - like the boy who cried wolf.

Submitted by Anonymous on

Bob, please explain how a crack pipe poses any threat whatsoever to a jetliner.

Submitted by Anonymous on

How did the crack pipe threaten the safe operation of a commercial aircraft?

Good job protecting the travelers from such a threat!

Submitted by TSO Tom (PHL) on

Roger D. Parish said...
re: 2-inch pocketknife concealed in laptop. I thought short-bladed pocketknives were now permitted? Or is it the fact that a legal knife was "artfully concealed"? The story doesn't say that the knife was confiscated.
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Knives are NOT permitted regardless of length, unless they are a round bladed non serrated butter knife, which I also disagree with, because a butter knife can still cut you regardless of the blade.

Submitted by Phil on

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

Submitted by Andy on

About your update,

How do you know it was a crack pipe instead of a tobacco pipe or a marijuana pipe? Do you have the results of laboratory tests that prove the pipe was used to smoke crack? Did you find and crack with the pipe?

Did the owner admit to smooking crack with the pipe? If so, was the owner in TSA or police custody at the time? Was the owner charged with possession of drug paraphernalia? Was the owner allowed to continue with his/her flight?

Submitted by MarkVII on

Hi Bob -- Your post starts with an interesting comment:

"So, what exactly is artful concealment? Prior to working for TSA, I had never heard the term before. I used the term in a blog post a couple of months ago and based on the responses I got, many of our readers didn't seem to be too familiar with the term either."

Fundamentally, the flying public doesn't necessarily speak the TSA's jargon, and this goes back to my prior posts about "operational definitions".

Like a lot of organizations, the TSA uses a lot of jargon in its communications. While jargon can be a useful form of shorthand among insiders, using jargon when dealing with outsiders causes confusion. I like the fact that "artful concealment" is now defined in layman's terms and with examples. Unfortunately, I have to ask "what took so long"?

If you want another interesting example of internal catchphrases vs. operational definitions, consider the discussion over what constitutes "liquids, gels or aerosols" -- especially when dealing with gray areas like lipstick, lip balm, and peanut butter. I notice some good operational definitions are in place now, but again "what took so long"?

Now here's a term that's never been defined operationally -- making "non-verbal contact", for which a passenger can be fined. How do you make "non-verbal contact"? The Force? (I thought the Sith had been taken care of at this point.)

In all seriousness, catchphrases without definitions lead to "gotcha" situations, and can fuel the perception of arbitrary and capricious application of the rules. It wouldn't hurt to comb through the TSA web site to make sure that all the catchphrases are defined in layman's terms.

Thanks for your efforts on the blog, and happy holidays....

Submitted by Anonymous on

Too lazy to go after the fruit on the higher branches, TSA declares victory on a pocket knife in a pocket and summons the local police.

You guys sure the Monty Python crew isn't ghost writing these posts?

Submitted by Anonymous on
Knives are NOT permitted regardless of length, unless they are a round bladed non serrated butter knife, which I also disagree with, because a butter knife can still cut you regardless of the blade.

So can an ordinary #2 wooden pencil, a cheap plastic ink pen, a crafted stryofoam cup, a paper mache knife, a glass shard from a bottle and keys.

TSO Tom, do you confiscate any of the above items because they may be used as weapons?
Submitted by Anonymous on
Bob, I see that no one has answered a related question of mine that I (and others) have asked several times... Since the "ounce" markings on a tube of toothpaste are in weight, not fluid measure, which allows the manufacturer to put a larger number on the tube (good for sales), why do TSOs insist on rejecting tubes of toothpaste that WEIGH more than 3.4 ounces, but are LESS than 3.4 FLUID ounces?

Even if you can't fix that problem, will you at least address the question?


I've brought up the same question about weight vs volume measurements and have been ignored by Blooger Bob as well. If they admit they were wrong about one thing then their house of cards might collapse under its own weight.
Submitted by Anonymous on
No wonder passengers think so little of us. We have absolutely no enforcement powers. I had to be actually assaulted by a passenger (knocked down) in front of the LEOs who would have let the passenger board the flight. It was only the air carrier who told the passenger they couldn't fly.

Your organization answers to no one. It is out of control and deserves being reined in. Knocked down? Did they pummel you or did they accidentally bump into you? Were you screaming at them in a faux rage?
Submitted by Custom Patches on

I do not understand why people will go through many lengths just to conceal an item that they can probably purchase at their destination. As far as the crack pipe, while I do agree with the above posters that it is not necessarily a direct threat to security, it is nonetheless illegal to possess. I think the point of the poster was to show how creative people get to conceal items that could possibly be a threat to passengers. While at times airport security is an inconvenience, I would much rather have them watch out for things like this (even if it's not a threat, in this case a crack pipe, which the screeners probably didn't realize until they manually inspected the shoe) than to risk a drunk, drugged or aggressive passenger pull out a blade at 35,000 feet.

Submitted by Anonymous on

Bob,

Why is the crack pipe considered dangerous? Is this just because it was concealed? I can't understand why you would make a big deal about it (or any deal at all). Was the pipe added to the official TSA concealed items list? If these are the kind of items the we are paying millions of dollars to be found twice a week, you are certainly justifying the immediate end of your organization.

Submitted by Anonymous on

Bob,

When you first boasted about the crack pipe I thought it was some kind of explosive that I did not know about, and stepped back a little thinking you actually may once in a while do something useful.

Today, having found out it is an actual pipe to smoke crack with, you are back down to zero on the useful scale.

Are crack pipes the "artfully concealed" items the TSA site so proudly boasts to find a couple of times every week? Is this what we want our money spent on?

Submitted by Anonymous on

Bob,

Why don't you just admit that the reason TSA insists on x-raying all shoes, is to look for drugs, drug paraphernalia, cash, etc.?

If you really wanted to screen out weapons and explosives, clearing a metal detector and an ETD or ETP would clear the shoes. But what you really care about is setting up a dragnet for people who are trying to hide something. And in many cases, what they are trying to hide (i.e., cash on a domestic flight) is perfectly legal. Yet you harass them anyway.

You should all be ashamed of yourselves for setting up this un-Constitutional dragnet that grossly exceeds the scope of your permitted administrative search for weapons, explosives, and incendiaries.

Submitted by HappyToHelp on

Came across this recently

H. Res. 1150
"Urges TSA to give special attention to school transportation systems by working with school administrators, state and local law enforcement, and other representatives in the school transportation industry to keep children safe from terrorist attack."

What is TSA doing in regards to school transportation? What is the way forward on school transportation?

I know this is just a urging from the House of Representatives and holds no power over TSA but it would be nice to know what HQ is doing on this issue.

source:H. Res. 1150

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