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Official website of the Department of Homeland Security

Transportation Security Administration

Response to Passenger’s Arrest at the Philadelphia International Airport (PHL)

Thursday, February 05, 2015
Discovered a capped PVC pipe on the bottom is an actual pipe bomb

On an average day at 450 U.S. airports, our officers screen nearly 1.8 million travelers, 4.5 million carry-on items and 1.2 million checked bags in order to keep the traveling public safe. Every day, our officers come across suspicious items that require additional inspection and/or law enforcement intervention. This was the case at Philadelphia International Airport (PHL) on January 26, 2013.

Our officers examining the X-ray of a passenger’s carry-on bag saw a PVC pipe capped at both ends with unidentified items, including something that looked like a watch, placed inside. They also saw batteries and an unidentified organic mass in the same bag. Components of a possible improvised explosive device? If you were the officers, what would you do? Based on the items in the carry-on bag and interaction with the passenger, they contacted the Philadelphia Police Department.A responding PPD officer decided to place the passenger under arrest. TSA screening personnel do not have the legal authority to place any passenger under arrest and they did not do so in this case.

The capped PVC pipe on top is the item that was discovered at PHL on January 26, 2013. The capped PVC pipe on the bottom is an actual pipe bomb.

Passengers are subject to a robust security approach that employs multiple layers of security, both seen and unseen, including: intelligence gathering and analysis, thorough screening at the checkpoint, random canine team screening at airports, Federal Air Marshals, Federal Flight Deck Officers and many others. In combination, these layers provide enhanced security creating a much stronger and protected transportation system for the traveling public.

The threat to the aviation system persists more than a decade following the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001. We continue to face a real and persistent threat, against actors adept in the design, construction and concealment of explosives, including non-metallic improvised explosive devices. Our officers work relentlessly each and every day to stop commercial airplanes from being turned into weapons used against us and our way of life.

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 Anonymous on

Oh, you're taking about the person who was arrested because he wanted to file a complaint? And instead, had the cops called... After being determined to NOT being a threat? And that your TSAgent perjured themselves under oath? Yeah. Not buying your story.

Submitted by Anonymous on

If everyone was so afraid this man had a bomb, then why weren't the checkpoint and terminal evacuated?

Why did the judge dismiss the case after hearing only your supervisor?

Submitted by Susan Richart on

Really, Bob, you expect us to believe that you removed the alleged PVC capped pipe from the gentleman's bag and then photographed it next to an actual pipe bomb?

You've reached a new low in trying to prove the TSA's worth.

screen shot/DHS OIG statement

Submitted by SSSS For Some Reason on

You did your job so why are you asking for a gold star. Gold stars are reserved for those who go above and beyond their jobs.

And, again, as journalists and bloggers you fail even more.....

You found what looks likes an improvised explosive device (using the technology that existed pre-September 11 by the way) and turned it over to the Local Law Enforcement.... but what happened next? Was it really an IED? Was the person responsible arrested? Can you not provide even a link to the local news story?

For 8 Billion a year we expect much more from you TSA. Improve or we will replace you.

Submitted by Anonymous on

If your screeners truly thought this was a bomb, why wasn't the checkpoint evacuated? This still doesn't explain why the TSA supervisor lied under sworn testimony that the passenger was agitated and in an aggressive manner, when the video shows a calm passenger.

It looks like the TSA supervisor abused his power and caused a passenger to get arrested for no reason other than he didn't think the passenger respected his authority.

Submitted by Anonymous on

"We continue to face a real and persistent threat, against actors adept in the design, construction and concealment of explosives..."

This particular "threat" does not appear to have been "adeptly" concealed if it was so easily recognizable on the baggage x-ray (a pre-TSA technology, by the way).

Submitted by Anonymous on

If your screeners thought this really were a bomb, shouldn't the checkpoint have been cleared immediately? After all, isn't a checkpoint filled with dozens or hundreds of closely packed passengers, each carrying unscreened bags, the perfect target of a suicide bomber? A series of coordinated attacks on checkpoints would shut down US aviation as quickly as any attack on a plane itself.

Submitted by Anonymous on

Bob,

Thank you for showing that the TSA supports employees who will lie under oath in a Court of Law.

The Agency must be proud.....

Submitted by Ronnie Polaneczky on

Btw, the capped pipe used by Mr. Vanderklok was cut from a longer pipe he picked up at a construction site he was visiting in his role as the site architect. The pipe is commonly used for plumbing jobs. Mr V asked a worker to cut an 8-inch piece of pipe because he noticed that it would be a perfect receptacle in which to store an expensive Garmin athletic watch and heart-monitoring device he had just received as a gift. He didn't want it the items damaged in travel. If you google the ASTM numbers on the pipe, you will see that it is commonly used in plumbing jobs. The pipe is a harmless item that has been appropriated by terrorists for use in bomb-making; it is not a BOMB-MAKING device that was appropriated by Mr. V to make his own bomb.

Submitted by RB on
"We continue to face a real and persistent threat, against actors adept in the design, construction and concealment of explosives, including non-metallic improvised explosive devices."

BULL HOCKEY!!

If that statement was true there would be arrests and trials of these individuals.

The real truth is that TSA has never identified any person engaged in terrorists activities.
Submitted by Anonymous on

That doesn't explain why your TSA Supervising agent LIED under oath in a court room about the actions of an innocent man.

Submitted by Anonymous on

Curtis, why did your supervisor lie under oath about the innocent passenger's behavior?

Why was the passenger arrested after the item in question was shown to be completely and utterly harmless?

Submitted by Anonymous on

Bob, this may very well be the most deliberately dishonest and misleading thing you've ever posted here. I suppose congratulations are in order.

Submitted by Susan Richart on

From the complaint against the TSA filed by Mr. Vanderklok:

"After a thorough check of his bag, and after TSA personnel were sure that there was nothing improper, dangerous or illegal in his bag, the TSA supervisor gave Mr. Vanderklok his bag back...."

So, Bob, if the bag was given back to the passenger, how did the TSA get the capped pipe in your picture to photograph it?

screen shot/DHS OIG statement

Submitted by Anonymous on

Why hasn't TSA filed charges against this TSA supervisor who not only filed a false witness statement against the passenger but went on and committed perjury in a court of law?

Doesn't TSA have any ethical standards?

Submitted by Anonymous on

Does anyone working at TSA have any ethics?

A TSA lies in court and is hailed by TSA's public relations team.

Amazing...

Submitted by Anonymous on

In the complaint filed by the passenger, it states:

"After a thorough check of his bag, and after TSA personnel were sure that there was nothing improper, dangerous or illegal in his bag, the TSA supervisor gave Mr. Vanderklok his bag back...."

At the trial, the judge dismissed all of the criminal charges against the passenger after hearing only the TSA supervisor's testimony. The defense basically did nothing and the case was dismissed. The video showing the calm passenger was never even shown. How bogus were these charges if the case was dismissed that quickly?

The TSA screeners violated this passenger's rights and the public's trust.

Submitted by TSORon on

Anonymous said...
[[Hmmm....By the time TSA called the PPD, they knew that the items in the carry-on bags were absolutely harmless.]]

Actually Anon, no. If we suspect an explosive device of some kind we call for the experts and don’t touch it. Period. So no, they didn’t know that the contents were harmless until the experts told them so. And the local airport cop is not exactly an expert in the area of explosives.

Yes, the individuals version of the story is out there, but I suspect that there are some embellishments in his version.

Submitted by Anonymous on

Now explain why your TSA officer lied to the police and the judge about how the passenger behaved at the check point.

The TSA employee should be fired and a clear message sent that this will not be tolerated.

Submitted by Anonymous on

Do you really think they're saying that? They simply put the two photos together to illustrate the similarities.

Submitted by CleanUp PHL on

TSA supervising screener [NAME REDACTED] of PHL lied and made a false police report.

TSA supervising screener [NAME REDACTED] of PHL lied under oath when appearing in court as a witness in the trial based upon his false police report.

TSA supervising screener [NAME REDACTED] of PHL was such a bad witness, the judge threw out the case against the innocent American citizen who was falsely accused by TSA supervising screener [NAME REDACTED] of PHL for requesting a TSA complaint form.

TSA supervising screener [NAME REDACTED] of PHL is still employed by the TSA.

(This is the second version of my comment, with the name redacted in case this blog's moderator decides that mentioning TSA supervising screener [NAME REDACTED] of PHL's name violated the screener's privacy. Never mind that TSA supervising screener [NAME REDACTED] of PHL violated the rights and freedom of the passenger he had falsely arrested.)

Submitted by Anonymous on

Hope you suspend that TSA office pending an full investigation. Otherwise, you are just protecting your own.

Submitted by @SkyWayManAz on

I read your post several times and can only conclude for legal reasons you are choosing to limit this to a "how not to pack" post. I agree that if I was running the X-Ray I'd think that was suspcious. Most of us understand that. I think even the passenger would agree in hindsight that may not have been the best way to pack. That said the elephant in the room is why is this a story two years later? I find it amusing that you don't address that in any way. Usually these posts are put up immediately saying the screeners followed all proper procedures no matter how obvious it is they did not. It is rather revealing you aren't standing behind the action of this supervisor by mentioning it any way. The public needs to be reassured that this kind of abuse of power will not be tolerated by your employees. I await your response but know better than to hold my breath.

Submitted by Anonymous on

You wrote: " If you were the officers, what would you do?"

After determining the device is neither a bomb nor dangerous, I'd ruin that passenger's day by calling the cops and lying to them in order to get him arrested.

But then, I'm not a very nice person.

Submitted by Dave on

How about commenting on allegations that this TSA employee committed perjury? Is it true that this man was only arrested after he stated he wanted to file a complaint?

Submitted by Anonymous on

What? You're afraid to post the comments to this story?

Submitted by Anonymous on

In all fairness to the TSA agent.....who caps PVC and puts it in their bag? Why didn't he just walk through the check point with an open box cutter? Duh! Also, if an opinion is worded in a way that poses a threat then it is the TSA agents job to call in any possible threat to the police. The police arrested him not TSA. It's funny how the media calls the agent a liar, but didn't get all the facts before reporting. There is not any footage of the man being taken in the back for questioning, therefor, no one knows for sure what was said. The media keeps asking why the TSA agent still has a job in all their reports. Not only are they reporting the facts incorrectly, but now they are threatening the TSA agents lively hood. If you ask me, the TSA agent should sue the media for defamation of character.

Submitted by Anonymous on

Susan Richart said...
Really, Bob, you expect us to believe that you removed the alleged PVC capped pipe from the gentleman's bag and then photographed it next to an actual pipe bomb?

You've reached a new low in trying to prove the TSA's worth.

screen shot/DHS OIG statement

February 6, 2015 at 7:43 AM
------------------------
What are you talkig about? Those are obviously two distinct pictures. See the heavy black line around them? See how the background is different? The actual item is the top pic. A SECOND ENTIRELY DIFFERENT picture is below it showing a comparison with an actual pipe bomb.
Man, talk about reaching.

Submitted by Anonymous on

"Improve or we will replace you."

Never going to happen.

Submitted by Anonymous on

Let's see . . . The bag was inspected and cleared, the pax was inspected and cleared, the pax was allowed to leave but before he did he asked for a complaint form, the TSA guy then called the PD, the PD then arrested the guy.

Is the capped PVC pipe photo you posted "the" pipe found by the TSA guy in PHL? If so, why not also show a photo of the stuff in it, if you even took one?



Submitted by RB on

Wondering if the lack of pertinent facts provided by Blogger Bob might be considered libelous?

Perhaps more names should be added to this lawsuite.

And isn't odd that TSA is commenting on pending legal matters?

Submitted by Susan Richart on

Some anonymous person wrote: "The media keeps asking why the TSA agent still has a job in all their reports. Not only are they reporting the facts incorrectly, but now they are threatening the TSA agents lively hood. If you ask me, the TSA agent should sue the media for defamation of character."

Then why did the judge acquit the passenger?

Submitted by Anonymous on

The actions of this TSA Supervisor who clearly falsely attacked a citizen and then perjured himself in a court of law demonstrates why no TSA screener can ever be trusted and any thoughts of LEO status for screeners can be readily discounted.

Submitted by RB on

What was the diameter of the PVC pipe container?

Looking back at the February 2013 post that shows an image of the item it appears to be just large enough for the two wrist watch/heart monitors.

Submitted by Anonymous on

Why were my comments deleted? They conformed with blog rules.

Why is the TSA screener's name, which had been made public through real news sources, not allowed to be stated here?

Submitted by CleanUp PHL on
Bob said, "On an average day at 450 U.S. airports, our officers screen nearly 1.8 million travelers, 4.5 million carry-on items and 1.2 million checked bags in order to keep the traveling public safe. Every day, our officers come across suspicious items that require additional inspection and/or law enforcement intervention — we post many of those items directly on this blog. This was the case at Philadelphia International Airport (PHL) on January 26, 2013. "

The case is that you posted the non-weapon on this blog? We know you go through our stuff, Bob. This paragraph is off-topic.

Bob also said, "Our officers examining the X-ray of a passenger’s carry-on bag saw a PVC pipe capped at both ends with unidentified items, including something that looked like a watch, placed inside. They also saw batteries and an unidentified organic mass in the same bag."

OK, so you saw something you wanted to identify. Got it.

Bob goes on, "Components of a possible improvised explosive device? If you were the officers, what would you do?

Fear mongering and false equivalency, Bob. If the screeners felt that without any inspection that they were viewing a real IED, they should have followed the protocols they were trained in, up to and including evacuating the area and calling in the bomb squad. Trying to force the reader to make a decision without the same training and experience is wrong.
Submitted by PHL Cleaner on
Bob contiues, "Based on the items in the carry-on bag and interaction with the passenger, they contacted the Philadelphia Police Department."

Not according to the video or the falsely-arrested passenger, Bob. The passenger asked for a complaint form. He did not gesticulate, threaten, or in any way violate the law or TSA rules. He asked for a complaint form, as you and your TSA buddies have told flyers to do for years.

Bob states, "A responding PPD officer decided to place the passenger under arrest.

Based upon the false report of threats and terrorism by the TSA supervisor, Bob.


Bob says, "TSA screening personnel do not have the legal authority to place any passenger under arrest and they did not do so in this case."

That is correct, Bob. The TSA employee illegally detained the passenger and made a false claim to the police, leading to the illegal arrest of the passenger.


Bob posts an image and this caption, "The capped PVC pipe on top is the item that was discovered at PHL on January 26, 2013. The capped PVC pipe on the bottom is an actual pipe bomb."

Bob, where did the second image come from? Was it found at an airport by a TSA screener? When and which airport? A random photo that you claim is an "actual pipe bomb" with no further information cannot be taken as truth.

What you are doing again, Bob, is fear mongering and off-topic. No one has said that the screeners should not have x-rayed the item. We are saying that the TSA supervisor was unprofessional, unethical, and had an innocent man arrested AFTER discovering that the man was NOT carrying a bomb.
Bob opines, "Passengers are subject to a robust security approach that employs multiple layers of security, both seen and unseen, including: intelligence gathering and analysis, thorough screening at the checkpoint, random canine team screening at airports, Federal Air Marshals, Federal Flight Deck Officers and many others. In combination, these layers provide enhanced security creating a much stronger and protected transportation system for the traveling public."

Completely off-topic, Bob. In this incident, there was no "intelligence gathering and analysis, canine team screening, Federal Air Marshals, Federal Flight Deck Officers" or anything else. The "thorough screening at the checkpoint" cleared the man and his property. He was not carrying a bomb and made no threats to the screeners. Yet, a TSA employee had the man arrested under false pretense.
Submitted by Clean PHL Up on
Bob finishes up with, "The threat to the aviation system persists more than a decade following the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001. We continue to face a real and persistent threat, against actors adept in the design, construction and concealment of explosives, including non-metallic improvised explosive devices. Our officers work relentlessly each and every day to stop commercial airplanes from being turned into weapons used against us and our way of life.

Such a load of lies and propaganda, Bob! It is sick enough that you so often use the tragic events of over thirteen years ago to justify the continued abuse of flyers and theft of property under color of authority.

Now you are using the deaths of three thousand innocent people to justify the illegal detainment and arrest of an innocent man, and throwing in more fear mongering with the "commercial airplanes...turned into weapons" garbage. You know that the TSA admitted in a court of law that no terrorist group is trying to use airplanes as weapons.

It is so grotesque that you are using 9/11/01 as an excuse for the illegal actions of a TSA employee.

He detained a passenger for wanting a complaint form. Unprofessional. Unethical. Against SOP.

He lied to the police by making false claims on a police report. Unprofessional. Unethical. Illegal.

He lied under oath in a court of law while acting in the capacity as a TSA employee. Unprofessional. Unethical. Illegal.

The real tragedy, Bob, is that the TSA never fired the TSA employee who had a man falsely arrested. This TSA supervisor still works at PHL, two years after this debacle started.

The TSA refuses to fire an employee who harassed an American citizen, illegally detained this citizen, filed a false police report, and lied under oath.

Got anything else to say on this topic, Bob? Will your bosses allow you to reply non-anonymously?
Submitted by Watching The TSA on

We know you go through our stuff, Bob. This post avoids the facts of this case of false imprisonment, falsified police reports, and lying under oath by TSA employees.

So your buddies in PHL saw something you wanted to identify. Got it.
If the screeners felt that without any inspection that they were viewing a real IED, they should have followed the protocols they were trained in, up to and including evacuating the area and calling in the bomb squad. Trying to force the reader to make a decision without the same training and experience is

The video shows that the passenger asked for a complaint form. He did not gesticulate, threaten, or in any way violate the law or TSA rules. He asked for a complaint form, as you and your TSA buddies have told flyers to do for years.
The TSA employee illegally detained the passenger and made a false claim to the police, leading to the illegal arrest of the passenger.

Bob, where did the second image of an alleged "pipe bomb" come from? Was it found at an airport by a TSA screener? When and which airport? A random photo that you claim is an "actual pipe bomb" with no further information cannot be taken as truth.

What you are doing again, Bob, is fear mongering and off-topic. No one has said that the screeners should not have x-rayed the item. We are saying that the TSA supervisor was unprofessional, unethical, and had an innocent man arrested AFTER discovering that the man was NOT carrying a bomb.

As you continue your off-topic screed, Bob, remember in this incident, there was no "intelligence gathering and analysis, canine team screening, Federal Air Marshals, Federal Flight Deck Officers" or anything else. The "thorough screening at the checkpoint" cleared the man and his property. He was not carrying a bomb and made no threats to the screeners. Yet, a TSA employee had the man arrested under false pretense.

It is sick enough that you so often use the tragic events of over thirteen years ago to justify the continued abuse of flyers and theft of property under color of authority.

Now you are using the deaths of three thousand innocent people to justify the illegal detainment and arrest of an innocent man, and throwing in more fear mongering with the "commercial airplanes...turned into weapons" garbage. You know that the TSA admitted in a court of law that no terrorist group is trying to use airplanes as weapons. It is so grotesque that you are using 9/11/01 as an excuse for the illegal actions of a TSA employee.

He detained a passenger for wanting a complaint form. Unprofessional. Unethical. Against SOP.

He lied to the police by making false claims on a police report. Unprofessional. Unethical. Illegal.

He lied under oath in a court of law while acting in the capacity as a TSA employee. Unprofessional. Unethical. Illegal.

The real tragedy, Bob, is that the TSA never fired the TSA employee who had a man falsely arrested. This TSA supervisor still works at PHL, two years after this debacle started.

The TSA refuses to fire an employee who harassed an American citizen, illegally detained this citizen, filed a false police report, and lied under oath.

Got anything accurate and about the facts to say, Bob? Will your bosses allow you to reply non-anonymously?

Submitted by Susan Richart on

Ronnie wrote: "Actually Anon, no. If we suspect an explosive device of some kind we call for the experts and don’t touch it. Period. So no, they didn’t know that the contents were harmless until the experts told them so. And the local airport cop is not exactly an expert in the area of explosives."

You probably should have read the link to the complaint, Ronnie, before you put your fingers to the keyboard.

At no time were "experts" called.

From the complaint linked above:

"31. At no point during this time period was the Security Checkpoint closed down. Other passengers continued to proceed through the security checkpoint and there was no disturbance at the Checkpoint."

screen shot/DHS OIG statement

Submitted by RB on
"Our officers examining the X-ray of a passenger’s carry-on bag saw a PVC pipe capped at both ends with unidentified items, including something that looked like a watch, placed inside. They also saw batteries and an unidentified organic mass in the same bag. Components of a possible improvised explosive device? If you were the officers, what would you do?"

...................

Well, seems we have learned that if TSA screeners find something that appears to be an ID that the SOP is to continue screening, and returning the bag to the traveler instead of calling for the Bomb Squad.

Does that about sum it up Bob?

Is this really the incident that you want to hang TSA's already poor reputation on?
Submitted by Anonymous on

TSORon said...
Yes, the individuals version of the story is out there, but I suspect that there are some embellishments in his version.
*******
Video doesn't lie Ronnie and the video from the security checkpoint shows the passenger behaving in a calm non-threatening manner. Which is not what the TSA supervisor stated in court.

Submitted by Anonymous on

Mister Burns, according to media accounts the scary items in question were power bars and a watch. Why did your screening clerks call the police after they determined that the items in question were completely harmless? Why did the supervisor clerk lie to police and under oath in a courtroom? Why are your standards so low as to abet a perjurer?

Submitted by Anonymous on

A very good "catch" by the TSA. I will bet that among all of the millions of items they have examined by "X-ray" they have never before seen a fake pipe-bomb in a passenger's luggage. Further, I suspect the judge at trial pressed the TSA to let it ride as a favor to him.

Submitted by RB on

Looking back at the article posted by TSA I noticed that the signature for the post lacks a name. Blogger Bob typically post as such:

Bob Burns
TSA Blog Team

We can see on the post about the Philly Incident that the signature is:

TSA Blog Team

I suspect that means that someone higher up in the TSA food chain, perhaps the TSA's Googgling Lawyer, created the article while letting Bob Burns take the heat for the piece.

If Bob Burns had any personal integrity he would resign from the TSA Blog Team over such tactics.

Submitted by RB on

Anonymous said...
A very good "catch" by the TSA. I will bet that among all of the millions of items they have examined by "X-ray" they have never before seen a fake pipe-bomb in a passenger's luggage. Further, I suspect the judge at trial pressed the TSA to let it ride as a favor to him.

February 9, 2015 at 10:34 PM
...................
Hardly a good catch.

TSA did not find a fake "Pipe Bomb" in incident TSA wrote about.

There is nothing illegal or prohibited by a traveler using a section of a PVC pipe to safely contain small sensitive electronics.

Your last statement that a judge put pressure on TSA "to let it ride" is ludicrous. A judge didn't get involved until the case went to trial where the traveler was found innocent of all charges after the TSA Supervisor perjured himself during testimony.

This particular incident shows the true character of TSA from top to bottom. A TSA Supervisor lodged a false complaint against a traveler, went on to give false testimony in a court of law, and TSA Management has done nothing other than to further attack the traveler.

Nothing has been done by TSA to address the fact that no acceptable level of ethical behavior is being met, not by the individual screener or the agency.

Of course with the current TSA Acting Administrator lack of ethical behavior is not surprising.

Submitted by RB on

Just curious what the official postition on TSA is on restoring a passengers searched baggage is.

Apparently TSA spokesman Nico Melendez doesn't feel that TSA screeners should properly repack a bag after an inspection:

http://sanfrancisco.cbslocal.com/2015/02/03/tsa-making-changes-on-how-it...

“Their instructions are to screen a bag to make sure there aren’t any explosives in it,” Melendez said. “If you want us to take the time and re-pack it properly and re-stow it, your bag probably isn’t going to make the aircraft.”

So is it TSA policy to not properly repack a bag after TSA opens that bag?

It would certainly be my opinion that TSA has at a minimum the responsibility to endure a travelers bags are repacked with care after being opened by TSA.

And TSA can't figure out why the public places so little trust in TSA.

Submitted by Anonymous on

It wasn't a fake pipe bomb. It was a carrying case for a watch and power bars.

When will the TSA admit and apologize for abusing another American citizen?

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