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Lady Gaga’s Handcuffs & The TSA Permitted/Prohibited Items List

Wednesday, September 22, 2010
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You may have heard about Lady Gaga recently being permitted to take handcuffs through a checkpoint at LAX. Some assumed handcuffs were prohibited, and were very surprised to find out they’re not. Why not, you might ask? They’re not a threat. You can’t do any real damage with a pair of handcuffs and if you really wanted to tie someone’s hands behind their back, there are many other ways you could do it. I’m sure you’re thinking of a few right now. Speaking of tying things together, I’d like to tie the prohibited items list into this post. It’s one of the most popular TSA related searches out there, so I thought I’d let you in on our cool new mobile/web tool.

Our new MyTSA App (Available as an iPhone App or Mobile Web App) amongst other great features has a “Can I Bring My...” tool. You can type in the name of the item you’re curious about and it will tell you if the item is permitted or not. If it’s not included in the list, you have the option of submitting it to us for addition. We even added “tatting shuttle.” Yep, we had to Google it too and they are permitted)

Just so you know, you don’t have to have a mobile device, “Can I Bring My...” is also on the web.

Here are a few tips to keep in mind when using “Can I Bring My...”

  • Don’t type the brand name of the deodorant - but do type if it’s roll-on or stick.
  • Don’t type “food” - type what type of food - brownie, Jell-o, apple, pudding. Food is too generic.
  • Type “disposable razor,” not “2 disposable razors”

And sorry, the tool doesn’t give answers for mother-in-law, screaming child, wife, or ex-husband.

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Bob Burns
TSA Blog Team

Comments

Submitted by Ayn R Key on

I think you could hurt someone a lot worse if you whacked them with the handcuffs than if you whacked them with a 4 oz bottle of water.

Submitted by Michelle on

I noticed a lot of questions on Quora about what you can and can't bring. You guys should check it out and consider answering a few of them.

Submitted by Anonymous on

I am a law obiding citizen with no intention of ever harming a soul, much less an airliner. Do not construe any comments as threats,

However, your logic that "handcuffs can't harm" is ridiculous. Ask anyone in law enforcement why they double lock their S&W handcuffs: because you can use the locking arm as a knife. If handcuffs can't harm, then neither can knives, or dare i say, box cutters. The entire security process is nothing more than kabuki theater and we all know it. America has had one successful hijacking in the past 20 years, and with locked cockpit doors (not to mention the dismissal of "appease and land" policies) means we are spending far too much to mitigate the smallest of risks.

Submitted by Anonymous on
You can’t do any real damage with a pair of handcuffs and if you really wanted to tie someone’s hands behind their back, there are many other ways you could do it.

You can't do any real damage with many things that are prohibited.

Water, for example.
Submitted by Anonymous on

Toothpaste is not a threat either. Nor is water. Yet, we aren't allowed to take it with us.

Submitted by George on

How is this "cool new mobile/web tool" actually useful, given the inconsistency that has become synonymous with the TSA? A passenger can be meticulously conscientious about researching and complying with the available rules, but still end up "voluntarily abandoning" an item because of a particular TSO's "interpretation" of the rules. That's one reason people come to hate the TSA.

So does the "Can I Bring My...." tool include whatever "interpretation" of the rules that happens to be in effect at this airport, at this checkpoint, by this TSO, at this time? If it doesn't, it's not merely useless to the passenger, but likely to compound the frustration for everyone.

Submitted by Anonymous on

You can't do any damage with a 20oz bottle of water either, yet it's not allowed on the flight if brought in from the land side of the airport.

Submitted by Anonymous on

I am sure the flight attendants are just going to absolutely adore this.

Submitted by Anonymous on

Is Clear Care brand contact lens cleaner permitted or not?

Submitted by Anonymous on

No matter what the website says about an item being permitted, the TSA has always maintained that a TSA screener can always refuse to allow any item past the checkpoint if he/she feels it might be dangerous.

So what's the point of checking to see if an item is permitted? A screener can disallow it, and the passenger HAS NO RECOURSE! Do you think they care what the website says?

(In most cases, the supervisor at the checkpoint will simply back up the screener, rarely overturning their decision!)

Submitted by Anonymous on

Handcuffs are not a threat, and they are not prohibited. Water and toothpaste are not threats either; when will they be removed from the prohibited items list?

It's been over 4 years; it's far beyond time for this insanity to end.

Submitted by Anonymous on

And will the list be obeyed by the TSO at the gate? Or will he/she invent a reason for my scissors with blunt tips and less than 3 inch blades needs to be confiscated?

Submitted by Anonymous on

Like when you enter "Ice" (the frozen kind) and get back "Service Dog"! - Try it yourself
Need a better search engine!

Submitted by Anonymous on

I fail to see the use in this app when each TSA checkpoint is allowed to increase the items denied at will. For instance, I had flown for months with freezer packs to keep food cold, but on fateful evening at MDW, the TSA agent (and his supervisor) forced me to either throw them out or check my bags -- in spite of them being specifically on ths list of "allowed substances".

Submitted by Anonymous on

Maybe you should make your app smarter as opposed to telling people what not to type?

Do they type "food"? Then list all food items in the database.

Do they type "2 razor blades"? Then list "razor blade"

If the TSA was in charge of software development, we would all still be using DOS.

Submitted by Anonymous on

anon said:
"A screener can disallow it, and the passenger HAS NO RECOURSE"
im sure that the screener gave you some options, like checking a bag with the item in it. so you do have recourse.

another anon asked:
Is Clear Care brand contact lens cleaner permitted or not?
in your checked luggage im sure its allowed. how large of a container are you asking about?

yet another anaon:
No matter what the website says about an item being permitted, the TSA has always maintained that a TSA screener can always refuse to allow any item past the checkpoint if he/she feels it might be dangerous.

perhaps but ask for your options, it doenst mean that you have to lose it.

Submitted by HappyToHelp on

@ Ayn R. Key
Agreed. After you through the bottle, they may die of laughter when you pull out your tiny key chain Swiss pocket knife.

Tim
TSA Blog Team

Submitted by HappyToHelp on

@ Michelle
Thanks for the hot lead.

Tim
TSA Blog Team

Submitted by HappyToHelp on

@ Anonymous September 22, 2010 5:32 PM
You can take toothpaste, and water past the checkpoint. LGA’s are restricted. Please read about 311 on our website (www.tsa.gov). The total ban was lifted a long time ago (depending on your definition of “a long time ago”).

Tim
TSA Blog Team

Submitted by HappyToHelp on

@ George
So to help travelers get the information they might need quickly and easily, we launched the MyTSA mobile web app and iPhone app to put the information you need right at your fingertips.

Tim
TSA Blog Team

Submitted by HappyToHelp on

@Anonymous September 22, 2010 7:51 PM
Not true. You can bring a frozen 20oz water bottle through the checkpoint. Passengers bring frozen LGA’s daily at my airport (not the aerosols.. which is a wise decision).

Tim
TSA Blog Team

Submitted by Barnes on

So, do you have to put the handcuffs in the checked baggage or can you put it in your carry on?

Submitted by Jim Huggins on

HappyToHelp: please give one TSA web page which affirms that I, as an able-bodied passenger, can bring a frozen 20oz water bottle through a checkpoint.

(The only web page I've seen on the issue only discusses ice in the context of medical needs.)

Submitted by Anonymous on

"You can take toothpaste, and water past the checkpoint. LGA’s are restricted."

Why are they restricted when they present to threat to anyone?

Submitted by Anonymous on

Tim,

Liquid water is no threat to aviation. Why can't I bring liquid water? Did you ever consider that it might be a little difficult to have frozen water at hand on a connecting US flight after an overnight flight from abroad? Did you also know that we can fly with liquids in foreign countries, and planes don't fall from the sky?

Submitted by Anonymous on

"Did you also know that we can fly with liquids in foreign countries, and planes don't fall from the sky?"

Nor do we have to take our shoes off. Why, I took an international flight to the US earlier this year and did not have to take my shoes off. In fact, the professional, well-trained security screener rolled his eyes when I asked. TSA is a laughingstock everywhere, it seems.

Submitted by George on

@Tim: So to help travelers get the information they might need quickly and easily, we launched the MyTSA mobile web app and iPhone app to put the information you need right at your fingertips.

Tim, thank you for taking the time to address my comment with an utterly useless non-answer that looks like it's copied from an official press release.

Does the app somehow read the mind of the TSO who is screening a traveler, to provide information about the rules in effect at this checkpoint, for this TSO, at this moment? If it can't do that, the app fails to do what you say it does. While it's surely useful to know the official published guidelines, it does no good if the TSO who is screening you at that moment decides that an officially permitted item is (for some unknowable reason) prohibited.

Does the app perhaps give passengers more leverage with TSOs who (for some unknowable reason) decide that an officially permitted item is prohibited? Or will an attempt to use the app in that situation be punished with a dump search, an "enhanced pat down," or other retaliation that's officially not supposed to happen? The app surely was well-intentioned, but as usual whoever was keen on deploying it failed to consider the full impact.

The TSA seems to have a fetish for technology nearly equal to its fetish for secrecy, regardless of whether the technology is useful or effective. I suspect that both fetishes are inept attempts to cover up their systemic inability to do anything consistently or competently.

Submitted by HappyToHelp on

@ Barnes
Both carry-on and checked baggage is okay.

Tim
TSA Blog Team

Submitted by HappyToHelp on

@ Anonymous September 24, 2010 4:25 AM
You are absolutely right. Water is not a threat to aviation. However, we have blogged many times why LGA’s are restricted. This is getting off topic so feel free to look up our blog posts in the search bar. If you want to comment further, you can comment in those blog posts or the off comment blog post.

Thanks,

Tim
TSA Blog Team

Submitted by HappyToHelp on

@ Jim Huggins
All 311 exemptions’ are listed on the 311 for carry-on page. We have discussed this before. You can either except that ice is allowed for ALL passengers, or…. don’t. However, passengers of all walks of life are taking advantage of this.

Tim
TSA Blog Team

Submitted by HappyToHelp on

@ Anonymous September 24, 2010 10:43 AM
A well trained security screener does not roll his eyes at a passenger, when a passenger is only asking a security related question. That would have made me mad, not come to the conclusion that TSA is the laughing stock of the security world. However, people take input differently, and this is one of those cases.

Tim
TSA Blog Team

Submitted by Jim Huggins on

HappyToHelp:

Excuse me? TSA's 311 Webpage says absolutely nothing about ice. Neither does TSA's 311 Brochure.

The only mention I can find of this is on an obscure webpage which only grants the right to frozen materials if the passenger has a medical need. There is nothing there indicating that the right is extended to all passengers.

Care to read the web pages for yourself and prove me wrong? Or are TSA's webpages wrong on this issue?

Submitted by Anonymous on

I have had ice (the SOLID state of matter for water for those TSA agents w/o a H.S. diploma) confiscated by TSA. I would suffer food poisoning as my packed sandwhiches (about $3 for a 20+ hour trip (airport food would have cost me nearly $30)) rotted. I have had a sealed can of macaroni and cheese confiscated by TSA becasue apparently "MAC+CHEESE is a liquid." I went hungry as weather delays turned a 4 hour flight into nearly 12 hours at the airports.
Bottom Line : TSA agents are subjective and rule sets can not be relied upon.
p.s. a few years ago I saw a kid's toy (plastic) handcuffs tossed by TSA.

Submitted by Anonymous on

"However, we have blogged many times why LGA’s are restricted."

No, you haven't. You've never been able to justify your liquid hysteria nor point to a single piece of independent, peer-reviewed research that supports your fantastical claim that 3.5 ounces of shampoo can destroy a jetliner.

Submitted by Anonymous on
This is getting off topic so feel free to look up our blog posts in the search bar. If you want to comment further, you can comment in those blog posts or the off comment blog post.

Thanks,

Tim
TSA Blog Team

How is it off topic? The title of the post says ".... &The TSA Permitted/Prohibited List"

So discussing permitted /prohibited items is off topic in a thread titled "...&The TSA Permitted/Prohibited List"
Submitted by Anonymous on

"You can either except that ice is allowed for ALL passengers, or…. don’t."

Or you could post a link to the page you claim exists.

Submitted by George on

@Tim: A well trained security screener does not roll his eyes at a passenger, when a passenger is only asking a security related question. That would have made me mad, not come to the conclusion that TSA is the laughing stock of the security world. However, people take input differently, and this is one of those cases.

I suspect that the (anonymous) person to whom you're referring was being sarcastic in calling the eye-rolling TSO a "professional, well-trained security screener." The TSO apparently was neither professional nor well-trained.

For that matter, why is being mad mutually exclusive with concluding that "TSA is the laughing stock of the security world"? I think they go together. We should indeed be outraged that an agency that's consuming so much of our tax dollars and our privacy can't train their people to implement absurd and arbitrary rules with any consistency. We should be outraged that they can't their screeners to treat passengers courteously even when they don't understand the absurd and arbitrary rules-- which we're not supposed to understand anyway because the rationale is a "national security" secret.

Whether or not the TSA is a "laughing stock" is not the issue. The fact is that many people perceive it that way, mainly because of what they've personally experienced. If the public perceives the TSA negatively, it's because the TSA has encouraged that perception through the behavior of the people who represent it.

TSA management doesn't seem to have figured out how to correct that problem effectively, assuming they actually care. For example, the app that is the subject of this post is surely well-intentioned, but it does nothing to solve the problem the TSA created with its inability to apply the rules with any consistency. If anything, it will create more problems whenever a TSO confiscates an item the app clearly says is permitted.

I respectfully suggest that the TSA spend its money on getting its sorry act together rather than on fancy technology that doesn't solve any of the agency's many problems.

Submitted by Anonymous on

I hate doing Tim's job for him, when h it comes to ice here is the link:
http://www.tsa.gov/311/311-carry-ons.shtm

Scroll down, it's about 2/3 f the way down.

As to the new app, it's useless. Since of TSO's can deny any item to pass the checkpoint without cause, even if you can show then the TSA list. Oh and good luck trying to get your checked luggage back to store it there.

Submitted by Anonymous on

anon said:
" No, you haven't. You've never been able to justify your liquid hysteria nor point to a single piece of independent, peer-reviewed research that supports your fantastical claim that 3.5 ounces of shampoo can destroy a jetliner."


so does it have to be one that you approve of? the bbc did a study and video on the effects of liquid explosives on a jetliner on the ground. it was quite destructive on the ground, i can just imagine what it would do at 30000ft. the point is that the tsa cannot take the time to determine if what you have is shampoo or not or the wait times will go on for hours, because one way or another your oversized will have to be checked...

Submitted by RB on

Anonymous said...
I hate doing Tim's job for him, when h it comes to ice here is the link:
http://www.tsa.gov/311/311-carry-ons.shtm

Scroll down, it's about 2/3 f the way down.

As to the new app, it's useless. Since of TSO's can deny any item to pass the checkpoint without cause, even if you can show then the TSA list. Oh and good luck trying to get your checked luggage back to store it there.

September 25, 2010 1:47 PM
..........

As has been pointed out repeatedly that section you refered us to is addressing only some travelers.

Prior to the bullets the sections starts out with these words:

"To ensure the health and welfare of certain air travelers, in the absence of suspicious activity or items, greater than 3.4 ounce (100ml) of the following liquids, gels and aerosols are permitted through the security checkpoint in reasonable quantities for the duration of your itinerary (all exceptions must be presented to the security officer in front of the checkpoint):"

...........
then the bullets follow one of which mentions ice.

So for the regular traveler without any additonal issues ice is simply not addressed.

TSA could make a minor change to the information provided to travelers yet they have not done so, the only conclusion is so that they can not allow ice at any moment for any person.

Submitted by Avxo on

"We even added “tatting shuttle.” Yep, we had to Google it too and they are permitted"

Let me get this straight. You -- the TSA, the people responsible for determining what is and and not permitted on board -- had to Google whether tatting shuttles are permitted on board?

Submitted by Anonymous on

Anonymous said...
So for the regular traveler without any additonal issues ice is simply not addressed.
********
I though the bullet point was pretty clear about ice

"Frozen items are allowed as long as they are frozen solid when presented for screening. If frozen items are partially melted, slushy, or have any liquid at the bottom of the container, they must meet 3-1-1 requirements."

Submitted by Anonymous on

"so does it have to be one that you approve of?"

No, but it must be conducted by independent researchers and peer-reviewed. The "study" you cite was neither.

Submitted by Anonymous on

Anonymous said:
so does it have to be one that you approve of? the bbc did a study and video on the effects of liquid explosives on a jetliner on the ground. it was quite destructive on the ground, i can just imagine what it would do at 30000ft.

And making the terrorists bring the explosives in two 3-ounce bottles instead of one 6-ounce bottle somehow magically... what? prevents it from exploding?

the point is that the tsa cannot take the time to determine if what you have is shampoo or not or the wait times will go on for hours

The TSA doesn't bother to test the 3-ounce bottles people carry through now. Do you really think the terrorists are too stupid to think of pouring their liquid explosive into several 3-ounce bottles, then combing them once they breeze through security??

Oh, and the risk from 'liquid explosives' has been shown to be that much malarkey. The process for combining the two halves of a binary liquid explosive requires a lot of time, an ice-water bath (if the mix heats up, it'll kill the person mixing it, but not cause significant damage), creates horrible fumes, etc. This is not something that can be done on a plane. So Binary liquids are OUT. Other liquid explosives, as I just pointed out, can trivially be brought in in small amounts until enough is gathered.

Once again, There is NO reason for 3-1-1 to exist; it cannot, WILL NOT, keep terrorists from getting explosives on board a plane. It DOES, however inconvenience millions of travelers a year, all for no increase in security.

Submitted by Jim Huggins on

Anonymous writes: "I thought the bullet point was pretty clear about ice."

But the bullet point occurs in a list of exceptions to the 311 rule for passengers with medical needs ONLY. There's absolutely no documented evidence that the rules allow an ordinary passenger to bring un-melted ice through a checkpoint.

Submitted by Anonymous on

avxo said...
"We even added “tatting shuttle.” Yep, we had to Google it too and they are permitted"

Let me get this straight. You -- the TSA, the people responsible for determining what is and and not permitted on board -- had to Google whether tatting shuttles are permitted on board?

September 26, 2010 1:32 PM
********
Unless you are hobbyist who makes lace, everyone would have to search the web to find out what a tatting shuttle is. It is rather a rather obscure tool

Submitted by RB on

Anonymous said...
Anonymous said...
So for the regular traveler without any additonal issues ice is simply not addressed.
********
I though the bullet point was pretty clear about ice

"Frozen items are allowed as long as they are frozen solid when presented for screening. If frozen items are partially melted, slushy, or have any liquid at the bottom of the container, they must meet 3-1-1 requirements."

September 26, 2010 5:10 PM

.............
The bullet you reference is perfectly clear.

Also perfectly clear is that section of information is directed only to people with special needs, not the general public.

If TSA wanted to take a few minutes and clarify the issue they could and this would no longer be a matter of discussion.

Why do you suppose TSA will not take the steps needed to clear up this matter?

Submitted by Ottnott on

Agreed with Anonymous September 22, 2010 4:54 PM:
"The entire security process is nothing more than kabuki theater and we all know it. ...we are spending far too much to mitigate the smallest of risks."

The above captures why the TSA screening process is so frustrating. It is a huge expense and hassle providing very little benefit. The time spent in a typical screening line is sufficient to come up with multiple ways in which a terrorist or even a mentally unbalanced person could pass through screening with dangerous weapons or materials. Imagine what one could do with determination and months of time in which to gather info, test methods, and plan a criminal act?

No amount of public relations and tweaking at the edges of the prohibited list overcomes the impression that TSA is incompetent and uncaring. The fix is to establish systems and procedures that produce safety benefits far in excess of the cost and hassle imposed on the public. Why not learn from other countries that have been dealing with serious threats for much longer than we have?

Submitted by Ottnott on

Agree with Anonymous September 26, 2010 8:06 PM:
"Once again, There is NO reason for 3-1-1 to exist; it cannot, WILL NOT, keep terrorists from getting explosives on board a plane."

Indeed. Because the screening is at the terminal entrance, there is no limit on the number of conforming containers of liquid that could be combined between the screening station and the gate.

And that doesn't include all the opportunities to bring in materials via the terminal service and vendor deliveries and staff.

Here's what the TSA tells us about 3-1-1:
"Please keep in mind that these rules were developed after extensive research and understanding of current threats."

We are to believe that the "research and understanding of current threats" is the reason for requiring a zip-top bag?

We are to believe that the "research and understanding of current threats" is the reason that you can bring 5 3-oz tubes of toothpaste through screening, but you can't bring an almost empty 6 oz tube of toothpaste?

We are to believe that the "research and understanding of current threats" is the reason that you can bring as many 100-ml containers as will fit in a quart bag, but you can't bring 1 or 2 100-ml containers in a gallon bag?

To pretend that these arbitrary rules are somehow threat based is insulting.

Somebody thought it would be good to have uniform and objective standards. That's great practice for assembly lines at GM or McDonalds, where the standards are key to producing a great product at the least cost.

For threat screening, however, it has the opposite effect. The tiny handful of bad guys know exactly what to do to pass through TSA screening, and the security benefit of making all of us good guys conform to 3-1-1 is zero.

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