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TSA Top 10 Good Catches of 2011

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Thursday, January 05, 2012
Snake, bird, inert landmines, stun phone, C-4 explosives, guns, knives in book, tactical spike.

Our officers have had some good finds this year at our checkpoints and we wanted to share our top 10 good catches with you. Some are dangerous, some simply look dangerous and can cause major delays, and others are just plain weird. Click on the links to read more about each good catch.

Top 10:

10) Snakes, turtles, and birds were found at Miami (MIA) and Los Angeles (LAX). I’m just happy there weren’t any lions, tigers, and bears...

9) A science project shut down a checkpoint at Omaha (OMA). I wonder if mentioning the shutting down of the checkpoint added enough flare to his presentation to score him some bonus points?

8) An artfully concealed non-metallic martial arts weapon called a “Tactical Spike” was found in the sock of a passenger at Pensacola (PNS) after being screened by a body scanner. The only thing I keep in my sock is my foot.

7) Inert landmines were found at Salt Lake City (SLC). I always travel with mine, don’t you???

6) A stun gun disguised as a smart phone was found at Los Angeles (LAX). Not very smart to travel with this stunning device.

5) A flare gun with seven flares was found in a passenger’s carry-on bag at Norfolk (ORF). Hmmm... pressurized cabin + 7 live flares = no good can come from this.

4) Two throwing knives concealed in hollowed out bookwere found at Washington National (DCA). Killer book...

3) Over 1,200 firearms were discovered at TSA checkpoints across the nation in 2011. Many guns are found loaded with rounds in the chamber. Most passengers simply state they forgot they had a gun in their bag.

2) A loaded .380 pistol was found strapped to passenger’s ankle with the body scanner at Detroit (DTW). You guessed it, he forgot it was there...

1) Small chunks of C4 explosives were found in passenger’s checked luggage in Yuma (YUM). Believe it or not, he was brining it home to show his family.

If you’re interested in reading about more finds such as these, be sure to read our weekly “TSA Week In Review” blog posts, posted every Friday.

Honorable mentions:

13) Invisible Space Aliens were detected at numerous checkpoints nationwide.

12) Five inert grenades were found in passenger’s bag at Newark (EWR).

11) 240 live fish were found swimming in 4 checked bags at Los Angeles (LAX).

Bob Burns
TSA Blog Team


Submitted by TSM on

And yet the majority of these people were allowed to fly. Bob, how about an accounting of total fines levied this year for prohibited items?

Submitted by Anonymous on

Where are the "bad" catches? Like the cupcake?

Submitted by RB on

So did TSA in North Carolina miss 2 pounds of C4 when they screened a person?

Submitted by Anonymous on

and the cupcake? Where did that rank?

Submitted by Anonymous on

Still waiting on an answer as to why a cupcake is a security threat.

Submitted by Anonymous on

Bob, Bob, Bob, you forgot a few:

The cupcake.

The gun a TSA screener brought to work.

The vibrator a screener found, and left a note for: "Get your freak on, girl"

The marijuana that a screener DIDN'T confiscate, but left a note for: "C'mon son".

Do I need to continue??

Submitted by The Dave on

So of the top 10, 3 aren't even weapons. Fabulous!

Submitted by Anonymous on

Where is the Cupcake Incident of 2011 on this list? Surely that is the essential layer of the multi-layer scheme?

Submitted by Anonymous on

And just think, those Top 10 Finds only cost us, the lowly taxpayer, what $8.1B? Good God, think of the good that could have been done with that money compared to employing a bloated, undereducated work force whose Top 10 Finds don't amount to a hill of beans.

Add this pathetic look at the successes to the scorching information released by Congress and you see that we're paying a lot for little to nothing.

Submitted by Anonymous on

Aaaaaannd.... wait for it.... a cupcake!

Submitted by Anonymous on

But Bob, seriously, what do ANY of these things have to do with terrorism? Did TSA manage to disrupt a single terrorist plot last year? Sure, you found some criminals, and some criminally dumb people, but nothing on your list says you had any sort of success in preventing terrorism. And that, good sir, is your purpose, no?

Submitted by Anonymous on

And yet, none of these items were carried by anyone who intended to harm any flight. How come you always refuse to mention that, Curtis, and why do you keep hyping items carried by stupid people who didn't mean to cause anyone any harm?

Submitted by Anonymous on

What about the cupcake?

And seriously, the science project? Touting TSA's ability to false alarm on harmless objects is just plain weird. Just like the custom battery packs and other custom electronics you have confiscated over the years, "out of an abundance of caution," in spite of clearing the item and passenger of any wrongdoing.

As an electrical engineer and ham radio operator, I find TSA's consistently inconsistent reactions to electronics that don't come from Walmart or Best Buy quite alarming.

In my opinion, if you want to deny an item passage through the checkpoint, your screeners had better be willing to swear out a criminal complain against the passenger, press charges, testify in court, and personally face charges of filing a false statement if they are shown to have overreacted. Unless the passenger is arrested/charged, the items should not be confiscated. If the passenger is not convicted, the screeners/supervisors involved should be charged. There has to be some semblance of accountability even in TSA's screwed up mindset.

Submitted by Mr Gel-pack on

Why are these "good" catches?

Preventing small animals and science projects from traveling is somehow a good justification for the TSA boondoggle?

Maybe sensationalizing these non-threats is good PR in some security theater sense.

Submitted by Pankywitz on

The republican candidates bring up cutting government spending frequently. TSA is a part of this government spending. Does anyone else fear that if a republican becomes president they will decrease the amount of money going to the TSA?

Submitted by Anonymous on


Submitted by Anonymous on

Your list includes zero terrorists. Was it worth strip searching grandmothers for this?

Submitted by Make Toreno on

So a science project shut down the checkpoint because the TSA doesn't fire people who are too lazy and inattentive to pay attention to what they were looking at. And this is one of the top 10 good catches of 2011?

Submitted by Anonymous on

Unless you have some evidence that the TSA was responsible for actual terrorists being arrested locked up I'm not impressed. Anything less is just wasting money and annoying passengers.

Submitted by HMA VPN on

except the good catches , we also need the bad catches not just some turtles and birds

Submitted by Anonymous on

Y'all do realize that "INERT" means they don't work? INERT means deficient in active properties. INERT means: dead, inactive, inoperative...

INERT grenades & mines are less reactive than the cupcake...

Submitted by MRFLIGHT on

OK im not a TSA fan but some of the comments are stupid. "what do any of these things have to do with terrorism?"

Really? thats your argument? I'am pretty sure TSA "mandate" is to protect the aircraft and passengers.

TSA isnt just looking out for terrorist, there looking for stupidity too.

Im sure that Army fellow who brought explosive material in his bags meant no harm, STILL he is an idiot and brought explosive material(something TSA is suppose to find)

Submitted by Anonymous on

All of these items have NOTHING to do with threats to the aircraft or "terrorists"! What a stunning waste of time, energy and taxpayer dollars while violating our Rights and assaulting innocent citizens.

Submitted by Anonymous on

So this is what we violate all of our civil liberties for... did you stop ONE terrorist? Were any of these people incarcerated for terrorism?

Submitted by Anonymous on

Did you guys manage to find my dignity yet? I know I had it before entering TSA screening and then I couldn't find it afterwards.

Submitted by Anonymous on

What about the lightsaber? Master Yoda thanks you personally for that one. I heard he even sent you a cupcake.

Submitted by RB on

What was the TSA Security issue with Snakes, Turtles, and Birds?

This is really in the top ten of TSA's Good Catches?


Submitted by Anonymous on

I will have to admit the 2011 was a big year for the TSA. The reputation of your organization sank to new lows after routine reports of wrongdoing within the TSA workforce. Most depictions of your organization in the media are equated with some sort of illicit activity.

Congratulations on a job well done! The TSA became the poster child of government incompetence in 2011. Hopefully, things will go better in 2012; your organization's reputation can not sink much further.

Submitted by Tramky on

The readers of this TSA blog should well know by now that the purpose & objectives of the TSA have very little to do with terrorism. The TSA has become the search-and-seizure agency representing EVERY law enforcement & regulatory agency of the Federal government--and nothing less than that. The TSA is also the search-and-interrogate arm of every state government and of every local government.

As has been pointed out, very little of the stuff reported here as 'good finds' by TSA have anything to do with terrorism, and everything to do with other issues, most of which have no impact on safety & security of airline travel.

Hidden cash? What does that have to do with the price of eggs? Inert or fake 'munitions'? Nothing to do with airline flight security & safety. Unloaded handguns? Nothing to do with safety & security. 'Gels'? Give us a break!

The TSA should be eliminated altogether. It is now unionized, which is a real clue as to its real purpose--and it has nothing to do with safety & security, and everything to do with increasing union membership so union dues can be collected in higher & higher amounts.

Submitted by Anonymous on

Really, Why hasn't TSA caught a terrorist?
Maybe because terrorists don't walk around everyday through airport security trying to get on planes.
Do you really believe TSA is going to catch someone everyday. If that is what you believe prepare to be dissapointed. Terrorists will wait years before they try something.
TSA is there for the next terrorist attack. Can anyone predict when that is going to be? Didn't think so!
Yes, TSA pats down children and grandparents and everyone else who comes through security. Can anyone tell me what a terrorist looks like? Didn't think so!

Headlines 2012 - TSA stops patting down senior citizens!
Headlines 2013 - 74 yr old carries explosives on airplane and kills 280 passengers.
Headlines 2014 - Victims families sue TSA for not doing enough.

Careful What You Ask For! You Might Just Get It.

Submitted by Anonymous on

"Did you guys manage to find my dignity yet? I know I had it before entering TSA screening and then I couldn't find it afterwards."

Oh, you must be one of those old people who actually expect that the TSA won't require you to remove your medical device. Don't you realize that we only tell people that as one of our "layers?"

Submitted by Anonymous on

"And yet the majority of these people were allowed to fly. Bob, how about an accounting of total fines levied this year for prohibited items?"

TSM - you should know that information is SSI. How better to disincentivize people from doing these things than to hide what happens when they do?

Also, the number is extremely small, as you well know.

Submitted by Anonymous on

so how about the cupcake.....

Submitted by Anonymous on

MRFLIGHT said...
"Really? thats your argument? I'am pretty sure TSA "mandate" is to protect the aircraft and passengers."

That's nice, but is the cost justified by the benefit?

I would guess that using the billions spent on the TSA to instead put more real police officers on the street would produce a much larger benefit to our safety. The TSA only protects you for a few hours, your local police are protecting you 24/7.

Submitted by Anonymous on

All these people "forgot" they had weapons in their carry-ons or on their bodies? If they are that stupid and irresponsible, they should automatically lose their right to own a weapon since they have proven they do not have the mental capacity to use one responsibly.

Submitted by Anonymous on

I am actually in support of TSA. With a world full of bad and crazy people, I don't trust that 74 year old man with a gun strapped to him. Or anyone else with a gun trying to board a plane. I'm fine with being patted down and searched if it means a safer flight. We can all complain about tax money funding TSA and be annoyed by their silly mistakes.. But had that cupcake actually had something hidden in it and had it made it past TSA and caused harm to people, you would all be complaining about how they didn't stop the cupcake. I think we should all be grateful for people out there trying to make a safer world and also for the thousands of jobs that TSA creates.

Submitted by AlexM on

My mother once packed three cans of hair mousse and hairspray bound together into a bundle with duct tape inside a ziplock. I had no idea that she did this and was totally surprised when they wanted to search the bag. It must have looked like a bunch of sticks of dynamite in the x-ray machine!

Submitted by Anonymous on

imagine what some people will take on an airplane if the tsa were not there, i do not mind a little humiliation if i am going to be safe at 30,000 feet in the air. Alan.

Submitted by Anonymous on

In the interest of full disclosure, I submit the following list (not at all comprehensive) as:

"The Peoples' Top 24 Good Catches of 2011" -- Part 1

1. Jan 27: A Transportation Security Administration agent has been charged with theft after attempting to steal a laptop at Memphis International Airport.
Ricky German, 48, was charged Wednesday with theft of property over $1,000 but less than $10,000. The incident occurred Dec. 20; it's uncertain why it took so long for charges to be filed.

2. Feb 16: Two employees with the U.S. Transportation Safety Administration (TSA) have been arrested and are facing charges after allegedly stealing tens of thousands of dollars from checked baggage at John F. Kennedy Airport in New York. WNBC-TV reported that Coumar Persad, 36, and Davon Webb, 30, are expected to each face felony charges of grand larceny, conspiracy and possession of stolen property. They are also expected to face a misdemeanor charge of official misconduct.

3. Feb 16: An Indianapolis Transportation Security Administration employee was arrested on a battery charge after scuffling with a gift shop employee at Indianapolis International Airport's parking garage on Tuesday. told officers that the TSA employee, later identified as Michael Merriman, 59, of Mooresville, approached the driver's side door of his car, shook an angry fist at him and said, "You'll never do that to me again."

4. Apr 19: TSA Agent in Londonderry, NH Arrested For Rape, Sexual Assault

5. Apr 23: Airport passenger Screener Charged in Distributing Child Pornography

6. May 10: 31-year-old TSA officer Ryan Driscoll was arrested at LAX for allegedly stealing from a traveler’s suitcase.

7. May 18: A Transportation Security Administration worker was jailed early Tuesday after he was arrested at Orlando International Airport. Rynel Delacruz, 25, faces a personal conduct and weapons charge. He was released later Tuesday after posting $250 bail.

8. May 20: A TSA screener jumped aboard a JetBlue flight to the Dominican Republic last weekend without a ticket, the New York Post reported Friday. Carlos Rodriguez, a TSA screener at JFK airport, got an employee pass from a JetBlue employee friend, to board the flight.
The screener, who insisted that he was allowed to sit in a jump seat in the main cabin, caught the pilot's eye 45 minutes into the flight. The pilot turned the flight around and headed back to Kennedy Airport to drop off the screener.

9. Jun 3: A DeWitt man today was denied a reduction in the bail holding him in jail on child molestation charges. David J. Blom, 49, of Radcliffe Road, is being held in jail with bail set at $10,000 cash or $40,000 bond. He is facing two felony counts of second-degree course of sexual conduct against a child. Assistant District Attorney Andrew Tarkowski said Blom is accused of molesting two girls from 1997 through 2006. The victims are now 21 and 20, he said. Blom has been employed in airport security by the Transportation Security Administration for the past eight years and is active in St. David's Church.

10. Jun 3: A former security officer at Orlando International Airport has been accused of stealing computers from travelers' bags. According to the Orlando Sentinel, Elliot Iglesias was indicted on charges of taking four laptops from checked luggage in March.

11. Jun 7: A former Transportation Security Administration supervisor at Newark International Airport was sentenced to 30 months in prison Tuesday for accepting bribes and kickbacks from a coworker who allegedly stole money regularly from passengers during security screenings. Michael Arato, 42 years old, of Ewing, N.J., had previously pleaded guilty on the charges.

12. Jun 10: TSA released a statement announcing that it had identified 30 employees at the Honolulu International Airport for potential termination "following an extensive investigation into allegations of improper screening of checked baggage."

Submitted by Anonymous on

"The Peoples' Top 24 Good Catches of 2011" -- Part 2

13. Jun 18: A week before Yashou was collared, police arrested 49-year-old security agent Karla Morgan at Bush Intercontinental Airport in Houston. Morgan was caught in a sting operation in which an undercover officer gave her a wallet he said he had found with $1,000 inside. Morgan put the wallet in her backpack and walked out of the airport. Officers arrested her in a parking lot, according to local news stations.

14. Jun 25: Another Transportation Security Administration worker was arrested Thursday at Los Angeles International Airport on suspicion of stealing items from passengers’ bags, police said. Members of a task force investigating thefts at the airport arrested Paul Yashou, 37, said Officer Bruce Borihanh of the Los Angeles Police Department.

15. Sep 13: Three Transportation Security Administration officers and two police officers are among 20 people arrested Tuesday on charges of conspiring to distribute tens of thousands of oxycodone painkillers for illegal sale from Florida to Connecticut, according to U.S. Attorney of Connecticut David B. Fein.

16. Sep 18: A high-ranking TSA official has been arrested in connection with the death of 43-year-old Stacey Wright, who was found dead earlier this week inside her D'Iberville apartment.
Investigators said Benitez and Wright both worked for the Transportation Security Administration. Benitez is second in command at Jackson's TSA.

17. Sep 20: A federal judge in New Jersey has sentenced a lead transportation security officer at Newark Liberty Airport to six months of home confinement for stealing money from passengers' bags as they underwent security screenings. Transportation Security Administration officer Al Raimi pleaded guilty in February, admitting he and his supervisor regularly stole money from travelers. He was sentenced Tuesday.

18. Sep 28: A Transportation Security Administration agent was arrested this week on federal charges for her role in an alleged phony marriage scheme that sought to secure U.S. citizenship for her purported spouse, a Lebanon native.
The case against Krista Taha, 34, is, in part, based on information provided by two male TSA agents who told investigators that they dated her while she was reportedly married to Ali Taha

19. Oct 17: The son of a former L.A. city fire chief was under arrest Monday for allegedly bribing a Transportation Security Administration agent at LAX to help him smuggle marijuana onto a flight, authorities said. Millage Peaks, 23, the son of former Los Angeles Fire Chief Millage Peaks, was arrested Sunday on suspicion of bribing a public official. TSA employee Dianna Perez, 28, of Inglewood, also was arrested for allegedly accepting the bribe, said Laura Eimiller, a spokeswoman for the FBI in Los Angeles.

Submitted by Anonymous on

"The Peoples' Top 24 Good Catches of 2011" -- Part 3

20. Nov 1: An Orange County man faces child porn charges, records show, stemming from images authorities say he possessed while working as a TSA employee at Orlando International Airport. A Transportation Security Administration spokeswoman said that Paul David Rains, 62, no longer works for the agency, as of Monday. He was arrested at his home on Havasu Drive about 1:30 p.m.

21. Nov 20: A Transportation Security Administration employee is accused of sexually assaulting a woman in Manassas. The suspect, Harold Glen Rodman, 52, allegedly was wearing his uniform and displayed a badge to the victim, a 37-year-old woman. He is charged with aggravated sexual battery, object sexual penetration, forcible sodomy and abduction with intent to defile.

22. Dec 1: A Minneapolis man who lost his job with the Transportation Security Administration for an off-duty assault of an elderly Somali man has been sentenced to six months in prison for the hate crime. George Thompson, 64, who pleaded guilty, was sentenced Tuesday in federal court in Minneapolis under the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act. Thompson's case was the first prosecuted under the act.

23. Dec 13: A former employee of the U.S. Transportation Security Administration has pleaded guilty to having thousands of child pornography images and videos on his home computers. Federal prosecutors say 34-year-old Andrew Cheever of Lowell entered his plea on Monday and faces up to 10 years in prison when he is sentenced on March 22.

24. ...and, the highlight of 2011:

A former federal airport security screener was sentenced to two years in prison for helping drug suspects evade security and smuggle money through a New York airport.

U.S. District Court Judge Richard Arcara sentenced Minnetta Walker at the high end of federal guidelines, because of the seriousness of the crime and the importance of airport security.

Walker says she would take back her actions if she could.

Walker was a nine-year veteran of the Transportation Safety Administration, was working at Buffalo Niagara International Airport when she was arrested last March. Investigators say she helped alleged drug suspects get large sums of money past security and to alert suspects that undercover officers were in the building.

Walker pleaded guilty in August to conspiracy to defraud the United States.

(Screen shot made & saved.)

Submitted by Anonymous on
"Hmmm… pressurized cabin + 7 live flares = no good can come from this."

Those Mk 79 flares are standard equipment on a Naval Aircrewman's life vest, which in turn spends most of its time aloft... in pressurized cabins.
Submitted by Anonymous on

A year's work, billions of dollars and this is the cream of the crop? How underwhelming.

My tax return just had a seizure.

Submitted by Anonymous on
Submitted by Anonymous on

Simply amazing. THIS is the best they can report as their top Ten? These are all THINGS, not criminals or terrorists or others intending to do harm. I assume if they had stopped even ONE person subsequently arrested, charged, or convicted, that that would deserve a mention. But no, not one!!! It's all theatre (of the absurd); the French would love it. I can only assume that there were just as many guns, etc. going on board before TSA, as after it. And yet can anyone remember any UNINTENDED gunfire incidents onboard commercial aircraft? Stopping things rather than people is worse than pointless. Clearly the purpose of the TSA is to hassle and disrupt air travel, not protect it.

Submitted by Anonymous on

Re science project: "...added enough flare to his presentation..." Flare? Who wrote this? Probably the same person who thought a cupcake is a terrorist threat.

Submitted by Anonymous on

Your top find of 2011 was a small amount of C4 found in checked luggage, in the posession of a person employed by our armed services.

Congress passes a law requiring the TSA to expedite the screening of people employed by our armed services, because they have been vetted and do not represent the same threat that I apparently do.

The only other reported case of explosives being found at a checkpoint were also being carried by a person employed by our armed services. I am so glad that they will be given expedited screening.

Not Scared of Terrorists

Submitted by Anonymous on

Bob - Could the TSA please start reporting on the number of liquid explosive devices confiscated at checkpoints? Oh, sure, the rest of us call them water bottles but if you can call a hunk of metal a "grenade," we should be consistent.

Submitted by KWT on

I commend the TSA for their catches. Now how about reporting on their top ten screw ups (like the cupcake)?

Submitted by Anonymous on

Anonymous said...
"I am actually in support of TSA. With a world full of bad and crazy people, I don't trust that 74 year old man with a gun strapped to him."

You are next to people like him all the time whenever you are out in public.

What makes being on an airplane so different that you expect perfect protection there but not anywhere else? This makes no sense to me.