EHS OutLoud Blog

Is the Word 'Security' in the Name 'Transportation Security Administration' an Oxymoron?

airportsecurity1.jpgA 65-year-old woman from Texas was able to walk on to an American Airlines plane at the Dallas Fort Worth Airport on Wednesday with a .38 caliber handgun in her carry-on bag. The flight already had left the gate by the time Transportation Security Administration (TSA) agents were able to track her down. When I heard about this incident, I felt sick.

The TSA agents at the security checkpoint where she entered claim that the woman grabbed her bag off the conveyer belt before her screening was finished and bolted off. Once the agents realized what they had seen in the scanner, they claim they took off after her. To this I say: “Horsepucky.”

First of all, she’s 65 years old and does not look like someone who could do the 100-yeard-dash in record time. It must have taken the screeners several minutes to analyze what they were seeing on their screens and they obviously waved her through and allowed her to collect her bag and walk off. By the time two or three TSA agents had consulted about what they were seeing on the screen, she was so far down the concourse that she was able to board her plane. By the time they found her and the plane, it was taxiing down the runway and had to be recalled to the gate.

Thankfully, she was not an international or domestic terrorist or your average crackpot. She claims she forgot the gun was in her bag. Normally, to that response, I also would say “horsepucky,” except something similar happened to me a couple of years ago.

My briefcase rarely leaves my office. The only time I take it with me is if I’m leaving on a trip. And often, since I have to carry the bag home anyway, I stuff it with Tupperware leftover from lunches, books and magazines and on one particular day, a large bread knife I’d brought into work to cut a loaf of homemade bread I’d shared with coworkers. This knife has a serrated, pointed blade and is very sharp.

You guessed it: I forgot to take the knife out of the bag before I left for the airport. In fact, I so completely forgot about the knife that it wasn’t until I arrived at the hotel in my destination city that I found it. This knife had managed to make it through TSA security checkpoints AT TWO “INTERNATIONAL” AIRPORTS!! With the wooden handle, it’s at least 14 inches long and has a 10-inch blade. And the only other large object in the soft-sided messenger bag I use as a briefcase is my laptop, which I have to remove from the bag at the checkpoints. I cannot believe that no one noticed the knife in the pocket of the otherwise empty case, but apparently, they did not.

I don’t know about you, but after that experience and the incident in Texas, I have NO confidence in TSA or the training received by its agents. While my large butt is being x-rayed in a full-body scanner, weapons in carry-on bags are being overlooked. TSA can create as many displays of confiscated weapons it wants at airports across the country, but I’m not reassured. It’s the weapons they’re not finding that concern me.

Can we all admit that the TSA model does not work and figure out what does?

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