The system worked: TSA security officers respond to threat in Huntington

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Local Press Release
Friday, August 18, 2006

HUNTINGTON, W.Va. - Two Transportation Security Administration (TSA) security officers acted swiftly and responded appropriately when two containers of liquid in a carry-on bag brought by a passenger at the Huntington Tri-State Airport (HTS) tested positive for explosive residues. At 9:15 a.m., Thursday, August 17, Transportation Security Officers (TSOs) Joshua Messinger and Clifford Barker discovered the residues while screening bottles filled with liquid substances. Last week, TSA banned liquids and gels on commercial aircraft.

“From the smallest regional airport to the largest hub, our security officers, using their training and technology, are the key to ensuring we protect the flying public,” said TSA’s Assistant Secretary Kip Hawley. “I applaud officers Messinger and Barker not only for their technical expertise but for the professionalism they displayed in managing this situation. While it appears that these items were ultimately not a threat, these officers did everything right and exemplify the skill and talent of our excellent workforce nationwide.”

In the hands of a terrorist, many common household items can be a threat. TSA’s security officers are trained to use the latest technologies to detect these items and make sure that no materials that can do harm to the aircraft or passengers are able to get onboard. All travelers are asked to do their part and check TSA’s website prior to departure and ensure that they are not carrying any prohibited items. Many everyday items are fine for use at home or outdoors but are not appropriate for the cabin of an aircraft.

The officers noticed the prohibited liquids inside a traveler’s carry-on bag during screening at the checkpoint. The bag was opened and the contents tested with an Explosives Trace Detector. The items tested positive for explosive residues and a retest confirmed the results. At that point, local law enforcement was notified and an explosives detection canine team arrived to provide further confirmation of the presence of explosive material. 

The explosives detection canine team positively identified the substance as having explosive odors and at 11:25 a.m., to ensure the safety of the traveling public, West Virginia State Police, the Tri-State Airport Authority and TSA agreed to evacuate the terminal. Later that afternoon, the terminal was reopened and Officers Messinger and Barker were back on the job ensuring all passengers departing from HTS reach their destination safely.

More than 31,000 Security Officers at the TSA have received specialized training to detect the presence of improvised explosive devices, commonly known as IEDs, or explosives in baggage.In today's threat environment, TSOs are a viable layer of security to defend against the threat of terrorism.

Law enforcement is concluding its investigation.