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TSA Week in Review: Portland Passenger Puts Pistol in Potted Plant

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Friday, June 29, 2012
Knives

Due the upcoming holiday, this Week in Review covers June 22nd through June 27th.

Items in the Strangest Places - It’s one thing to forget you had a prohibited item in your bag, but when you intentionally try to sneak it past us, you could wind up being cited or even arrested by law enforcement. Here are a few examples from this week where passengers tried to sneak items past our Officers.

  • A passenger at Portland (PDX) remembered they had a loaded .22 caliber pistol in their carry-on bag prior to going through the checkpoint. After speaking with a TSO, they were directed to the baggage counter where they could declare the firearm and check it as luggage. Well, a few moments later, he was spotted by our Behavior Detection Officers placing the gun in a potted plant and walking back toward the checkpoint. Needless to say, he was arrested by local law enforcement before reaching the checkpoint.
  • A passenger at Tampa (TPA) tried to conceal a knife by placing it inside a sock stuffed into an envelope with dolls.
  • A passenger at Greensville/Spartanburg (GSP) had a knife concealed in a can of loose tobacco.
Inert Grenade Lighter

Passenger Divests Grenade - A passenger at Las Vegas (LAS) truly didn’t know that grenades were a problem because they placed itin a divesture bowl out in the open for all to see. The passenger stated that he uses the item as a paper weight. Another passenger at Newark (EWR) had a novelty grenade torch lighter in their checked baggage. While I know that inert grenades are cool conversation pieces and make great paperweights, read here and here on why inert items cause problems at checkpoints. We don’t know they’re inert until we check them out and checking them out can often inconvenience your fellow passengers.

Plastic Knife

Body Scanner Discoveries This Week - There were a total of 9 illegal/prohibited items discovered this week with the body scanners at: HTS, OGG, MLI, PBI, FAT, 3 at SFO, and ATL. Among these finds was a passenger at Moline (MLI) who had a 4” knife concealed in his sock.

Stun Guns - 7 stun guns were discovered in carry-on bags at checkpoints around the nation at: BNA, 2 at SFO, ATL, HSV, JAX, PHL

People Say the Darndest Things - Here is an example of what not to say at the airport. Statements like these not only delay the people who said them but can also inconvenience lots of other passengers if the checkpoint or terminal has to be evacuated:

  • During a bag search at Baltimore (BWI), a passenger stated: “I have a bomb in my bag.”
  • During checkpoint screening at Orlando (MCO), a passenger stated: “I have a bomb in my shoe.”

Miscellaneous Prohibited Items - In addition to all of the other prohibited items we find weekly, our Officers also found firearm components, realistic replica firearms, stun guns, brass knuckles, ammunition, batons, and oodles of knives.

Firearms - Here are the firearms our Officers found in carry-on baggage since I posted last Friday.

4 loaded firearms.
4 loaded firearms.
3 loaded firearms.
3 loaded firearms.
4 loaded firearms.
23 guns discovered. 18 were loaded.

You can travel with your firearms in checked baggage, but they must first be declared to the airline. You can go here for more details on how to properly travel with your firearms. Firearm possession laws vary by state and locality. Travelers should familiarize themselves with state and local firearm laws for each point of travel prior to departure.

Unfortunately these sorts of occurrences are all too frequent which is why we talk about these finds. Sure, it’s great to share the things that our officers are finding, but at the same time, each time we find a dangerous item, the throughput is slowed down and a passenger that likely had no ill intent ends up with a citation or in some cases is even arrested. This is a friendly reminder to please leave these items at home. Just because we find a prohibited item on an individual does not mean they had bad intentions, that's for the law enforcement officer to decide. In many cases, people simply forgot they had these items.

Bob Burns
TSA Blog Team

If you have a travel related issue or question that needs an immediate answer, you can contact us by clicking here.

Comments

Submitted by TSA = Wasted $$$ on

I'd love where the TSA gets the authority to stop people from carrying on or preventing people from traveling with checked items just because it checking them might inconvenience the TSA.

I can understand the TSA having issues with full replica grenades because that could look the same before x-raying and/or hand checking but a lighter will clearly not show up like a real weapon. Please use some common sense.

Submitted by RB on

Body Scanner Discoveries This Week – There were a total of 9 illegal/prohibited items discovered this week with the body scanners at: HTS, OGG, MLI, PBI, FAT, 3 at SFO, and ATL. Among these finds was a passenger at Moline (MLI) who had a 4” knife concealed in his sock.
.........................
9 items found by Strip Search Machine of how many passengers screened?

What were the other 8 items found? Was it WEI or drugs and other items that are not a security threat? Regardless the knife would have been found by WTMD at a much cheaper cost.

There are reportedly 1.5 million people flying each day so it is clear that the Strip Search Machines are not cost effective or even needed.

Submitted by Anonymous on

>> Well, a few moments later, he was spotted
>> by our Behavior Detection Officers placing the
>> gun in a potted plant and walking back
>> toward the checkpoint.

Well thank goodness those BDOs had received such extensive training. Because without such training, they surely would have thought nothing of a passenger putting a gun into a plant.

And even if they'd missed it, it would have been found anyway in the x-ray bag scanner.

The TSA: saving the world one BDO at a time.

Submitted by Anonymous on

I am glad I can feel like the TSA has safely screened all the illegal items as well as "look alike items" that people try to get on planes. I don't understand why the officers take so much heat in these comments. Just one terrible incident would make them change their tune, especially if a loved one were on a flight that was blown up or crashed due to one of these devices. I thank the TSA for their work- I wish we didn't have to go through these checkpoints. I remember walking right onto the plane and even buying my ticket onboard, but I'm not complaining because the world is a lot more complicated now.

Submitted by Anonymous on

I don't want to be a passenger in a plane with another passenger carrying a knife in his sock.I wish the TSA could prevent people from going on their flight if they are found to be concealing a weapon. It is well know, that weapons are not allowed on one's person or in their carry on. The fact that they are concealing/hiding their weapon is ground enough for me to conclude they know they are doing something wrong, i.e,they are not innocent or ignorant.

Submitted by Anonymous on

I am so sick and tired of all this "comment belly-aching" and frankly I don't give a darn if the throughput is slow as molasses (come to the darned airport earlier). Israel has proven the worth of BDOs, and if only 1 gun is found out of a million passengers, that's potentially 1 gun I don't have pointed in my face as I rush a nut or terrorist onboard - Get 'er done, TSA!

Submitted by Anonymous on

Anonymous said...
"I am glad I can feel like the TSA has safely screened all the illegal items as well as "look alike items" that people try to get on planes."

Well it's nice for you that you can feel like the TSA has screened *all* illegal items.

The reality however is that they miss a lot.

They only catch the easy stuff. Someone who really had plans to do something bad isn't going to be stopped.

Submitted by Anonymous on

Anonymous said...
"I don't want to be a passenger in a plane with another passenger carrying a knife in his sock."

How do you manage to survive the other 99.9999% of your life where people aren't screened for knives?

Submitted by Anonymous on

Anonymous said...
"I am so sick and tired of all this "comment belly-aching""

I am so sick and tired of people that want to just give away the rights that so many Americans have fought for and even died died to protect since this country was founded.

Maybe on this Independence day you might want to do some research into history of this country and the principles on which it was founded.

Submitted by Anonymous on

And out come the TSA employees and family members.

Submitted by TJ on

"Needless to say, he was arrested by local law enforcement before reaching the checkpoint."

Needless to say, they should have waited until he went through the checkpoint to arrest him. A judge may well find that since this guy never actually tried to cross the checkpoint (which is the only point where guns are prohibited), he didn't commit any crime.

Every schmuck who works at a retail store is trained to wait until the crime (shoplifting) was fully perpetrated before apprehending the suspect, but TSA and the PDX police seem to have failed at the same simple responsibility.

Submitted by Anonymous on

Anonymous said...
I don't want to be a passenger in a plane with another passenger carrying a knife in his sock.

Did you know that the TSA allows scissors (up to 4 inches!)? And scissors are basically nothing but two hinged blades? Thus, anyone can walk onto a plane with knives.

...and no one has been cut or killed yet!

Sorry, but your fear of knives is irrational.

Submitted by Anonymous on

Anonymous said...
I am so sick and tired of all this "comment belly-aching"

And the rest of us are sick and tired of sheeple who roll over and beg at the slightest sign of authority.

if only 1 gun is found out of a million passengers, that's potentially 1 gun I don't have pointed in my face as I rush a nut or terrorist onboard

On the other hand, if everyone had a gun, the nut/terrorist would be facing the guns of every other passenger on the plane.

Submitted by Anonymous on

Let's see..... all the scanners in all the airports throughout the United States found nine (9) "illegal/prohibited items" last week. One of them was a four-inch knife, that presumably would have been found with an old-fashioned metal detector. Bob didn't bother to say what the other eight "catches" were, so presumably they're the usual drugs and toothpaste.

All the other items Bob mentions are metallic objects that also could have been found with the x-ray machines, metal detectors, and procedures in place before the TSA.

I don't know what Bob is trying to prove with these posts. To me they sound like very cogent arguments for getting rid of the $150,000 scanners, the "intimate" patdowns, the War on Liquids, the uniformed federal "officers" whose concept of "professional courtesy" is "Do you want to fly today?", and the billions dollars spent on an arrogant and unaccountable bureaucracy.

Submitted by Jared on

Again, TSA blog moderators: Do you realize how easy it is to spot that you are writing comments in support of yourself? You really need to hire better writers. I recommend someone who worked on Lie to Me. The show was great and you seem to get most of your views on terrorism and safety from primetime television shows. Maybe 24? It's a perfect fit.

Submitted by Mark Brown on

So we're supposed to be completely relaxed and secure knowing there are 130 firearms onboard?? Are you really serious? If so you have some major paranoia issues!

Submitted by Mark Brown on

I'm not locked in extremely tight quarters for hours for the other "99.9999%" of my life.

Would everyone get some common sense on here and stop your angry rants about "needing" to threaten those who are intimidated by guns, like 99% of the world is!!!

Submitted by Mark Brown on

Completely agree!

Submitted by Anonymous on

Can you please explain why you need a behavior detection officer to catch a gun in a potted plant? If anyone within the TSA without BOD training sees someone putting a gun in a potted plant, aren´t they smart/independent enough to do something? And if no one saw him do it, isn´t it ridiculously easy to spot in the X-ray?

Behavior detection is voodoo science, a total waste of money. Stop trying to sell it as useful.

Also, your whole body scanners found 9 items in the whole country? Nine? Really? Including everything illegal (but not dangerous, like drugs)? To me that just proves they make us less safe. I am sure more than 9 people across the country forget they are carrying knifes or guns and are caught in th metal detectors every week.

Submitted by Anonymous on

@TSA = wasted $$$
TSA allows passengers to bring lighters on their flights. There are specific lighters that are not allowed because these lighters can be ignited and left on, which could burn a hole into the body of the aircraft or start a fire in the cabin. Would you want to be on one of these flights where a fire starts in the cabin? You can always go to the TSA website and see which lighters are allowed and which ones are not.

Submitted by Anonymous on

@Anonymous,
"The reality however is that they miss a lot.They only catch the easy stuff. Someone who really had plans to do something bad isn't going to be stopped".

And how do you know this statistic? Does the TSA tell you everything they catch and don't catch? Does the FBI or the local police tell you every criminal they are tracking and every crime they prevented without you knowing? No they don't, so what makes you think the TSA hasn't prevented something worse from happening in America; I guess because they didn't tell you right! So that means it isn't happening.

Submitted by Anonymous on

"I am so sick and tired of all this "comment belly-aching" and frankly I don't give a darn if the throughput is slow as molasses (come to the darned airport earlier). Israel has proven the worth of BDOs, and if only 1 gun is found out of a million passengers, that's potentially 1 gun I don't have pointed in my face as I rush a nut or terrorist onboard - Get 'er done, TSA!"

I am so sick of an agency that misses 70% of the weapons and then acts as if it is doing a good job.

I am so sick of 90% of baggage handlers and mechanics NOT being screened on any given day.

I am so sick at sheeple who act like security theater is meaningful. Next time you need an operation, I will have the surgeons pretend to perform the surgery. You might feel better for a while but the underlying issue remains unaddressed.

Git'er done, TSA? The TSA hasn't even started providing security yet.

Submitted by Anonymous on

"I don't want to be a passenger in a plane with another passenger carrying a knife in his sock."

You're afraid of a 4 inch knife? Really? Do you realize that passengers are allowed to have knitting needles? 4 inch scissors? Are you afraid of everything?

How sad for you. People like you could never have founded a wonderful country such as ours. As it is, you're willing to trade our precious freedoms for the illusion of security and, I suspect, a job with the TSA.

Submitted by Anonymous on

"Well thank goodness those BDOs had received such extensive training. Because without such training, they surely would have thought nothing of a passenger putting a gun into a plant."

Good to know that 32 hrs of BDO training made him/her so observant!

Submitted by Anonymous on

"Well thank goodness those BDOs had received such extensive training. Because without such training, they surely would have thought nothing of a passenger putting a gun into a plant."

Yeah, I saw a passenger putting a bomb in a potted plant but, lacking BDO training, I thought nothing of it.

Submitted by Anonymous on

". I don't understand why the officers take so much heat in these comments. Just one terrible incident would make them change their tune, especially if a loved one were on a flight that was blown up or crashed due to one of these devices. I thank the TSA for their work"

Umm. One "terrible incident" would mean the TSA failed in its job, wouldn't it?

Submitted by Anonymous on

"...There were a total of 9 illegal/prohibited items discovered this week with the body scanners at: HTS, OGG, MLI, PBI, FAT, 3 at SFO, and ATL..."

You're loosing your touch Blogger Bob. Even your spin is beginning to show the weakness in the argument that we need the TSA. To wit, of the nine illegal/prohibited items, three of them were found at SFO. SFO has private employees.

8 Billion dollars a year.

NASA only costs an average of 9 Billion a year and they send stuff into space.

The TSA can't even stop their own staff from stealing from luggage.

Election time is near, everyone. Remember that the TSA is 8 Billion of *your* tax dollars at work. And the TSA wan'ts to increase the convenience fee you pay when you fly so they can provide you with even more security.

Submitted by Anonymous on

"The fact that they are concealing/hiding their weapon is ground enough for me to conclude they know they are doing something wrong, i.e,they are not innocent or ignorant."

You would prefer they brandish their nail scissors in your face?

Submitted by Anonymous on

"Again, TSA blog moderators: Do you realize how easy it is to spot that you are writing comments in support of yourself? You really need to hire better writers."

I doubt it's the blog team; more likely it's people like TSORon. I agree, though, that it's a pretty stale formula: Claim to fly frequently, avoid specifics regarding TSA security and use hackneyed phrases like, "I for one am glad." Throw in a lack of proper punctuation and you have the screener's union doing its best to justify the $1M/hour TSA with its thousands of government jobs.

Submitted by Anonymous on

"I can understand the TSA having issues with full replica grenades because that could look the same before x-raying and/or hand checking but a lighter will clearly not show up like a real weapon. Please use some common sense."

You've got to be joking; the TSA can't even tell if a bottle of water is an explosive.

Submitted by Anonymous on

"). Israel has proven the worth of BDOs,"

Yes, Israel has proven the worth of BDOs. The USA doesn't have BDOs, at least not in meaningful sense: The TSA puts excess screeners on BDO patrol with less than a week's training.

Submitted by Anonymous on

In other news, on July 3 two drug couriers pled guilty to conspiracy in a case involving the bribery of TSA screeners at LAX. Between November 2010 and October 2011, they paid screeners $500 for each marijuana-filled bag that got through TSA baggage screening.

The bribery recipients were two TSA screeners, whose charges were "dismissed without prejudice." They advised the smugglers (disclosing SSI information) on how to pack marijuana to avoid an alarm on the baggage screening scanners.

This is entirely separate from the case in April, also at LAX, where four screeners were charged in a bribery scheme to smuggle cocaine and methamphetamine through baggage screening.

It seems the TSA has serious systemic failures at LAX (and perhaps elsewhere). Both of these schemes went on for many months. The one announced in April wasn't uncovered until one of the smugglers became an informant, and the FBI came in. This one continued for almost a year, until someone outside the TSA discovered the marijuana. Whoever is in charge of baggage screening at LAX is either incompetent (by failing to notice what was going on) or corrupt (by either ignoring it, allowing it, or participating in it). And their superiors are also at fault for creating an environment that allowed these schemes to operate repeatedly.

As public relations disasters go, this one is Hurricane Katrina. The revelations of two long-running operations involving bribery of TSA screeners casts serious doubt on the integrity of TSA employees, their supervisors, and the entire agency. Even worse, they serious questions about the TSA's ability to execute a core function of their mission. If drug smugglers can bribe their way past the TSA, might terrorists be able to do the same thing? This is very serious. It goes well beyond the unprofessional conduct that Bob regularly spins here. But Bob has said not a word about it.

I can perhaps understand why. The TSA's repertoire of PR actions is very limited. Bob can't deny that these criminal enterprises went on behind the TSA's curtain of secrecy. He certainly can't defend the screeners, or justify what they did as necessary for "security." And there are no passengers involved, so he can't blame them for what happened or call them liars. The only thing left is to ignore it. And that's apparently what he was directed to do, in the hope that we won't notice.

The only conclusion from the deafening silence is that, as usual, the TSA will do nothing to correct their agency's systemic failings that allowed smuggling and bribery operations to continue for months right under their noses, not just once but twice. I can only wonder how many similar things (or worse) are going on that haven't yet come to light.

An organization whose culture emphasizes secrecy and lack of accountability invites corruption, incompetence, waste, and abuse. These incidents show that's exactly what's happening in the TSA. (And I wonder if the TSA pressured prosecutors to dismiss charges against the screeners, to avoid a trial where damaging revelations about TSA corruption and incompetence might become public.) The agency's consistent refusal to acknowledge their failures only compounds the problems, since it precludes the possibility of correcting them.

The TSA's silence about these serious incidents speaks most eloquently about everything that's horribly wrong with their agency.

Submitted by Anonymous on

Video of crematory remains episode, please.

Submitted by Anonymous on

i have to say......no wait...if I say it i wont be able to fly today because the "FEDERAL TSA OFFICER" will take it PERSONAL!!! and yet again abuse his authority.... but you are still not getting my 25 dollar lipstic cuse it dont fit on a zipploc!!

Submitted by Anonymous on

Thank you TSA for keeping us safe.

Submitted by Anonymous on

Anonymous said...
"And how do you know this statistic? Does the TSA tell you everything they catch and don't catch?"

No because the TSA if afraid to publish their actual performance statistics.

We do however have many published examples of stuff that got past the TSA. Just read the news.

Submitted by Anonymous on

Anonymous said...
"There are specific lighters that are not allowed because these lighters can be ignited and left on, which could burn a hole into the body of the aircraft or start a fire in the cabin."

That's a stupid rule. A piece of tape will keep any lighter on. Pretty much what we expect from the TSA.

Submitted by Anonymous on

The TSA Agents are probably one of the hardest working Govt Agency out there, thank you TSA for the great job you do everyday.

Submitted by Osiris on

Geez people. I agree. Why are the officers getting so much flack in these comments?

Trust me, I find the TSA to be generally annoying and invasive too. I also think that if the TSA is stopping people for these kinds of items and handling the situation as they did, then it's not such a big deal.

It's when they carry on about nonexistent threats and ridiculous procedure that I get frustrated with them. Doesn't this story seem like nothing compared to the kind of hassle TSA is known for?

Submitted by Wintermute on

Anonymous said...

"And how do you know this statistic? Does the TSA tell you everything they catch and don't catch?"

We know that the TSA has an approximate 70% failure rate because there was a leaked report some time back which said as such. Also, a Nov 2011 report states that the failure rate has changed little over time. From these two pieces of information, we can logically conclude that the TSA has an approximate 70% failure rate. (You'll note that no one has ever disputed the 70% failure rate's accuracy, just it's timeliness. The Nov 2011 report makes it impossible to continue to dispute the timeliness.)

Submitted by Anonymous on

I travel a lot and I'm glad that TSA are doing a good job in finding prohibited items. How pin-heads can those people be by carrying illegal weapons or items expecting that the authorities will believe what they say, they must be mentally sick. I've carried minor prohibited items, and I don't complaint when TSA tells me the items are not allow. But would never carry weapons, large knifes, grenades or anything that can harm the entire airplane or passengers.

Thanks TSA.

Submitted by Anonymous on

I'm going to be flying to Europe and another state in the US in the next several months. I will submit to any proceedure the TSA sees fit to use. I will arrive early enough so that there is no anxiety about missing my flights. I will not take any prohibited items with me in either checked or carryon baggage. I will support the TSA's efforts. I will be polite and cooperative with TSA employees. I will have nothing to hide but I will recognize that people who might wish to do me harm may be hiding something. I will acknowledge that while flying I surrender my right and ability to protect myself to authorities I do not entirely trust but I believe I have less to fear from the TSA than someone who tries to smuggle contraband on board my flight. I understand that the TSA's intent is to protect me while someone breaking the law may intend to harm me. Does all this make me unhappy? Yes, but I can't drive to France and I don't want to drive to Arizona. I also recognize that those who complain most about the TSA's proceedures will be the first to blame them if they miss something critical.

Submitted by Wintermute on

Anonymous said...

"I also recognize that those who complain most about the TSA's proceedures will be the first to blame them if they miss something critical."

This argument has already been debunked. Besides the logical fallacy, the TSA misses items about 70% of the time.

Submitted by Government Jobs 2016 on

Thanks to The TSA Blog for sharing the helpful resources all the time.