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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 Anonymous on

Anonymous said...
"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."

Do you believe that terrorists will spend years planning then be so stupid that they will be easy to catch?

The TSA only catches careless or stupid people. Someone who is smart and plans carefully won't be stopped by the TSA security theater.

Submitted by Anonymous on

People... there was airport security at airports before TSA. TSA is not just for terrorrist. It is for security period. A man who brings a gun to a checkpoint is a crminal. You bring a gun inside of a bank you area criminal. You bring a gun inside a post office, you are a criminal. Some places, guns and other weapons are not allowed perid. Sometimes it feels like people are trying their best to turn positives into negative as far as TSA is concerned. What you mad they took your snow globe? Get over it

Submitted by Anonymous on

11. Cupcake.

Submitted by Kimm on

Anonymous said...
Really, Why hasn't TSA caught a terrorist?
Maybe because terrorists don't walk around everyday through airport security trying to get on planes.

So, do you want to live in fear all of your life? Remember, when you go to the mall, cross the street, stop for gas, go to the grocery store, none of those people have been screened for potential terrorism.

Perhaps if you're that worried, you need to also think about all of the above, then just lock yourself in your home and live out your life looking out the window. That is unless someone breaks in.....

Personally, I don't want to live like that, and refuse to be that paranoid. (And I HAVE been the victim of a crime!)

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."

Security does not require humiliation. So you're really just being humiliated with no increase in security. If you're into that, great but keep your preferences away from my liberties.

Submitted by Anonymous on

"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."

Nope, not at all. The TSA does very little - particularly relative to its cost - to increase safety. You need to understand that you feeling safer has little to do with actually being safer. Leave security to the professionals. Everyone will be better off that way.

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. "

Well, there's the problem. See, I don't trust you and need you to stay off airplanes. You're not a threat? Sorry, security is based on feelings and I'm still unwilling to allow you aboard. Sorry.

"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."

Why don't we have them sweep up the streets and patch potholes? The traveling public will be every bit as safe, the traveling public will be as safe and at least I'll be getting something meaningful for my tax dollars.

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."

See? That's the problem. People do not lose rights in America "automatically." We are on the road to a police state when people believe tripe such as this.

Submitted by Anonymous on

Okay, so the TSA needs to "approve" my comment before posting.

I should have figured.

Submitted by Anonymous on

Why did you censor my three-part post about the 24 screening clerks arrested for various felonies and misdemeanors in 2011? Everything I posted came from public-domain newspaper articles.

I believe I called my post "The Peoples' Good Catches of 2011."

I'll check on Monday to see if you changes your mind. If not, my screen captures are on their way to the DHS IG.

Submitted by TSM on

"See? That's the problem. People do not lose rights in America "automatically." We are on the road to a police state when people believe tripe such as this.

January 6, 2012 8:09 PM"
Really, you mean like losing your driver's license for DUI? Or a mandatory year in jail for an unregistered handgun or any number of other laws with mandatory sentences...?
You bring a weapon through a checkpoint, you should lose your permit. How is that out of line with any other mandatory sentences?

Submitted by Anonymous on

mad you guys never hear about all the drugs that come through the airport from various cities everyday or the dry runs that terrorist are planning. People this is real. weapons are found on a daily basis. you would really be surprised. i wish there was a way you could experience on a day to day basis what our tsa personnel have to go through and yes there are some people that tsa should but for the most part tsa should be commended

Submitted by Unknown on

What is funny to me is the fact that the majority of you people posted anonymously. I often wonder what many of you do for a living that makes you so bitter. Do none of you actually take the time out of your busy low-life schedule to think of the big picture? I don't see any of you actually doing anything about all of your complaints. Does anyone here have half a brain to understand that you are flying on a plane and it should be secure? What, pray tell, can anyone here offer as a solution? Should we fly with no security and simply go on our hopes and beliefs in a monotheistic god? Should we go fly with the arrogant attitude that "nothing will happen this time". In my opinion, those who bash this system are very uneducated and lack the proper information to form an educated thought that makes sense. It saddens me that many people are so negative about something that helps protect them. Until I see anyone come up with a better idea on how to secure transportation, I suggest we take what we can get.

Submitted by Anonymous on

Make Toreno said...
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?
I was there Mike. I saw the xray image, I know what it looked like, and what I was looking at. You don’t know what you are talking about. Like another poster said a little while back, “Get an education”.

Submitted by Amy Alkon on

The TSA has accomplished something -- getting us to politely and docilely hand over our civil liberties. I wrote about this, and how Americans need to stand up for our civil liberties, in an op-ed that Pravda ended up publishing when all the large mainstream American outlets I sent it to rejected it (the erosion of civil liberties in America seems of little interest to many):

I'm cross-posting this comment on my blog, along with the notion that it may not be approved here. Free speech is not something the TSA condones. In fact, as I mention in the piece, the TSA puts a chill on free speech with, for example, a sign, in Denver International Airport, offers the vague warning that "verbal abuse" of agents will "not be tolerated." Not surprisingly, few seem willing to speak out and risk arrest.

Submitted by Anonymous on

To the Anonymous person who kept referring a Cupcake.

I'm a CPL in the Marines. My sister works as a TSA at a Airport in Hawaii. I can come up with hundreds of scenarios to everything they listed on the TOP TEN findings. Maybe you should let the people do their Jobs and Protect the Flights and their passengers. Every time you should Fly on a Plane and land at your destination safely, maybe you should thank those who didn't allow someone with a knife sock, cell phone taser or gun strapped to their ankle.

Anonymous Marine Corporal

Submitted by Anonymous on

Any terrorists discovered? You forgot to mention the highly dangerous tube of toothpaste confiscated from me. Of course, after finding this "security threat" in my bag I was then allowed to fly. Surely if I was attempting to smuggle something dangerous onto the aircraft then I should have at least been given the pleasure of a full body search. Maybe you were afraid I would attempt to clean somebody's teeth?

Submitted by Anonymous on

And in these "Top 10" categories, how many did the TSA NOT catch?

This is a "Top 10" list of false positives (i.e. these were not terrorists). How many false negatives (i.e. terrorists) traveled unhindered? How many real terrorists did the TSA catch?

The answers to the last questions are "unknown" (they weren't caught, so they can't be quantified), and "unknown" (there is no list of Top 10 terrorists arrested).

Statistically speaking, how effective is the TSA? We have proof of the blunders. Where is the proof of true success?


Submitted by Anonymous on

So no terrorists yet? Keep up the good work.

Submitted by Anonymous on

So, the TSA caught zero criminals in 2011, but they're very proud of all the innocent people they've harassed.

Submitted by Anonymous on

I'm surprised the cupcake didn't make the top ten list.

Submitted by Jammit on

...And not one terrorist was caught.

Submitted by Facts on
A loaded .380 pistol was found strapped to passenger’s ankle with the body scanner at Detroit (DTW).

Why was a body scanner needed to detect this? Shouldn't the walk-through metal detector pick up a holstered gun -- isn't this the classic scenario they were designed for?

If TSA's metal detectors aren't functioning, this is a huge problem that needs to be addressed immediately.
Submitted by Anonymous on

8.1 billion dollars... what a waste. this blog pretty much sums up TSA's uselessness.

Submitted by Anonymous on

Is this blog meant to justify TSA unnessecary extra security or to make people look stupid?

Submitted by Anonymous on

I'm not seeing any terrorists on this list. Isn't the whole reason we have the TSA to find and stop terrorists at airports? This list just shows how utterly useless the TSA is.

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.

January 5, 2012 3:34 PM

Hey, genius: a bomb is deadly in many places, not just in the air. I assume you shake with fear every time you get on a bus, go to a library, shop in a grocery store etc. etc. After all, no one has been humiliated to calm your paranoia, right?

Submitted by Anonymous on

I'm rather amazed that the top 10 is up and allowed to demonstrate the waste of our tax dollars, and even more amazed that these comments were allowed at all.
Probably part of that robotic like following of rules one usually find in the government.
I've found other means of travelling after the abuse was started, but I would be perfectly willing to have myself and my family at risk for being blown up mid air to save everyone the security theatre. Never mind investing the money into real security enhancements such as good old fashion police work. Which is what has caught all the terrorists to date.

Submitted by Anonymous on

What a waste of resources... So much wrong with this top 10 list I don't even know where to begin

Submitted by Anonymous on

Find any terrorists? Maybe they weren't exciting enough to stick on the list, what with all the science projects and turtles and such.

Submitted by Anonymous on

Unknown said...

"What is funny to me is the fact that the majority of you people posted anonymously."

Irony much?

Submitted by Anonymous on

Unknown said...
"Does anyone here have half a brain to understand that you are flying on a plane and it should be secure?"

Please explain why airplanes need to be much more secure than other public locations.

At most, I would spend less a day a year in airports/airplanes. How does being protected for that small amount of time make a significant difference in my over all safety?

On top of that, the record shows that the TSA's security isn't even that good. All they do is slightly reduce the risk, they don't' come anywhere close to eliminating it.

Submitted by Anonymous on

So far what I read was that the TSA found 10 items that had nothing to do with anyone actually planning to hijack the plane or do anything actually harmful to the other passengers. If this is your Top 10 for 2011 then your entire organization is uselss and I vote that we give up on the TSA and move your almost $1B/year budget back into education of our children.

Submitted by Anonymous on

It makes me sad that someone is paid to write these posts and they try to be funny but that person or those persons fail......Then again they work for the TSA, failure is expected.

Submitted by Anonymous on

TSA is a waste.

Submitted by Anonymous on

lol. it cost $8.1 billion dollars to stop a science project! haha. i'll take this list as the TSA admitting the operation is a joke.

Submitted by Jim P on

The TSA was not needed one hour and one minute after Tower II was hit!

The paradigm, the norm, the expected, what everyone was taught to do was to sit down, shut up and wait for the plane to land and the negotiations happen. That was the model from Entebbe onward.

The passengers on board did not really know what was about to happen on September 11, 2001 at 8:46:30 when Flight 11 struck Tower I.

Even the passengers on Flight 175 probably didn't realize what was about to happen when they struck Tower II at 9:03:02.

The Pentagon crash of Flight 77 at 9:37:46 may have been still a matter of ignorance.

At 10:03:11 on September 11, 2001, United Airlines Flight 93 crashed after the brave souls counter-attacked and caused the hijackers to crash the plane.

The time difference is 60 minutes and 9 seconds from Tower II being struck to the crash of Flight 93.

The shoe bomber and panty bomber were taken down by passengers as well. Additionally how many times have you heard of passengers' concerns, restrained passengers and diverted flights? This has all been done by the flight crews and fellow passengers. The Theater Security Agents were nowhere in sight.

I had a recent bunch of BS dumped on me for wanting a hand scan for a 10 ml container of liquid. Note that the typical shot glass is 44.4 ml.

The TSA is and has always been a joke, no make that a total stupidity, that has wasted our country's fortune going down a rabbit hole.

Submitted by Anonymous on

Billions of dollars wasted.
Erosion of civil rights.
Harassment of innocent civilians.

What a joke.

Submitted by Anonymous on

#1 on this list should be the liberty and freedom the TSA stole from us.

Submitted by Anonymous on

" Every time you should Fly on a Plane and land at your destination safely, maybe you should thank those who didn't allow someone with a knife sock, cell phone taser or gun strapped to their ankle. "

Well, Corporal, you should realize that none of those items resulted in prosecution so the chance of any of them being in a terror attack was zero.

Nope, I won't be thanking the TSA for keeping us safe until they start implementing security in a meaningful way.

Submitted by Anonymous on

"Until I see anyone come up with a better idea on how to secure transportation, I suggest we take what we can get."

This blog has been full of suggestions on how to improve security. Here's a start:

1. Hire a prefessional workforce. Non-HS grads don't cut it.

2. Realize that the threat is not water bottles, gun-shaped jewelry or cupcakes but explosives.

3. Profile, profile, profile. Yes, there's a chance that the 84 year-old grandmother is carrying a bomb in her back brace but the threat is not senior citizens. Pious spouting of "profiling is wrong and doesn't improve security" is wrong on both counts.

Submitted by Mike Toreno on

"I was there Mike. I saw the xray image, I know what it looked like, and what I was looking at."

So did you get fired for harassing a passenger when you knew his property was harmless. Because that's what you were looking at, a harmless piece of property.

Or are you just not telling the truth here - that you were too lazy and inattentive to know what you were looking at?

Submitted by Anonymous on

I think its funny that the blog doesn't mention how those handguns could have been caught just as easily pre-9/11, and even before the Christmas bombing attempt.

I also think its funny how they say "you don't have a right to fly". They are right, too. You can drive. Next, there is going to be an attack on a bridge or tunnel system, and when they start doing full searches of cars on the highway, they are going to say "you don't have a right to drive". Don't mind me though, I'll just be home, curled in the fetal posistion in a corner, scared.

Is this what America has come to these days? I was shocked to learn that TSA agents only go through 2 weeks of training...terroists go through months, if not years. Who do you think is going to win?

Submitted by Tailhooker on

I bet Samuel L Jackson is pretty darn happy that the snakes were confiscated.

Submitted by Anonymous on

Call me crazy, but am I the only person who does feel safer knowing that on my plane, there isn't someone with knives in their books, guns on their ankles and spikes in their shoes? You get me at a vulnerable 30,000 feet, and I don't want anything sharper than a q-tip in the hands of some of the crazies I see flying. And what if someone did conceal a gel-type explosive as a cupcake and the TSA missed it? Who would get the blame then? Surely not all the people who whined about them taking it in the first place. It's a lose-lose job to be in- you take something you get ridiculed, you miss something, you get that and much worse. I respect their job and while it is a 5 (maybe 10) minute hassle, I would rather spend that time in line than the alternative.

Submitted by Ayn R Key on

Anonymous wrote:
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.

According to the super secret policy, dignity is a very dangerous item that passengers must never be allowed to carry onto an airplane.

Submitted by Anonymous on

1.2 billion spent on airport screening, and this list is the best that they could do....

Submitted by Anonymous on

lol. not sure who is more incompetent the DMV or homeland security/TSA

Submitted by Anonymous on

Bob, you forgot to post the cupcake of terror!!!

Submitted by Lostalaska on

Weird that no one seems to remember that airports before the TSA still had xray scanners for carry ons and metal detectors and they found people carrying guns and large knives all the time....

Why do people instantly jump to the conclusion that without the TSA we wouldn't have any security at the airport?