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

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Thursday, February 5, 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.

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