Sunday, September 26, 2010

The Needle in the Haystack

In a follow-up to a previous post on airport security measures (, I'd like to share another anecdote:

Three weeks ago, my wife and I met a friend and his nine year-old son in St. Louis to go to a Cardinals game. My friend has taken his son to several different major league baseball parks and buys him one of those small souvenir bats at every ball park. Our flights home left at about the same time, so we all went to the airport together. Because it was only a weekend trip, none of us had checked bags. As our carry-on bags are being x-rayed, the TSA agent decides that the long cylindrical object in my friend's bag (the souvenir bat) could be a weapon and can't go on the plane. My friend is told he must go check that bag before coming through security. His son passed through and waited for him with my wife and I.

After several minutes, he returned with the bag. They did an open bag search just before checking it (a different TSA agent) and found nothing suspicious. They found nothing, because the bat was in his son's bag and after x-raying the bags, the TSA agent picked up the wrong one for him to check and handed the bag with the "suspicious object" back to his son and let him through the security checkpoint!

The story is absurd on two levels. First, the notion that a nine year-old boy can't take a small souvenir bat in a carry on bag is absurd (and would be eliminated by screening for terrorists instead of for weapons). Secondly, even if the object in question had been a weapon, the TSA agent subsequently handed the bag with the "weapon" back to be carried through security and pulled the wrong bag to be checked. If you thought the TSA was making you safer, think again.

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