Grandmother Busted By The TSA For Trying To Sneak A Bread Knife Past Security

Cecilia Beaman is a 57-year-old grandmother, a middle school principal and part-time terrorist. She was busted by the TSA for attempting to sneak a 5 1/2 inch bread knife with a rounded tip and a serrated blade onto an airplane.

Luckily, the TSA foiled Granny’s hijacking attempt.


On the trip home, screeners with the Transportation Security Administration at Los Angeles International Airport found it deep in the outside pocket of a carry-on cooler. Beaman apologized and told them it was a mistake.

“You’ve committed a felony,” Beaman says a security screener announced. “And you’re considered a terrorist.”

Beaman says she was told her name would go on a terrorist watch-list and that she would have to pay a $500 fine.

She says screeners refused to give her paperwork or documentation of her violation, documentation of the pending fine, or a copy of the photograph of the knife.

“They said ‘no’ and they said it’s a national security issue. And I said what about my constitutional rights? And they said ‘not at this point … you don’t have any’.”

That’s right, Granny. You’re busted, You have no rights. That’s what you get for trying to hijack a plane with a bread knife. By the way, using the 37 school children you were “escorting” as a cover for your terrorist ways just isn’t right. —MEGHANN MARCO

‘This Is Not Right’ [KOMOTV]


Edit Your Comment

  1. The Bigger Unit says:

    Glad I didn’t get this treatment when I got “busted” trying to “hijack” a plane with my souvenir nail clippers I forgot I owned during the screening process.

  2. kelmeister says:

    The weird thing about this story: following a Google search, the story’s actually two years old, and apparently hasn’t been updated with new info in these past two years.


    Editor’s note: This archive story was originally published…

    So why republish this now? Also: Zero-Tolerance payback’s a bitch.

  3. cparker says:


    The exact thing happend to me, but with far less dire consequences. I was going on a one day trip for a job interview from Greensboro, NC to Washington, DC (Reagan). I took my computer bag with me, it usually goes back and forth to work with me. I thought I inspected it and removed any offending materials. I got to the airport screening and they pulled me aside. They looked in my bag, and I too had a butter knife, similar to what was described, except maybe longer. The Agent then TOLD ME I COULD HAVE IT. I said I didn’t need it and it was perfectly OK for her to take it. Then she JOKED – “You may need it to butter your bread.” I was flabbergasted, left, and threw the knife away in the nearest trash receptacle. I was certain the security at Reagan would not have been so understanding. Mind you, this was in APRIL 2002.

  4. 160medic says:

    Way to go grandma……Butter them to death

  5. MaximuM_MayheM says:

    Whether it is from two minutes or two days, it still shows how ridiculous the TSA’s policy is. She should have gotten at least some kind of appeal. I’m not saying we should let people get away with trying to take ‘dangerous’ objects onto a plane, but it seems like the TSA is now in paranoia overdrive.

  6. faust1200 says:

    What are the circumstances that lead to someone putting a bread knife in their pocket?

    -Found on the ground, lucky bread knife?

    -You are a bread critic traveling to your next swanky bread junket?

    -You fear that you will be attacked by giant man-eating loaves of bread?

    -You heard packing a bread knife gives you ‘street cred.’


  7. MikeB says:

    Strange, I heard this story on the radio a couple days ago. I wonder if something similar happened recently.

  8. MikeB says:

    @faust1200: On the trip home, screeners with the Transportation Security Administration at Los Angeles International Airport found it deep in the outside pocket of a carry-on cooler.

    I believe that the need to start holding a common sense class for the TSA agents.

  9. fredperry2 says:

    According to the TSA website, rounded nosed butter knives are allowable carry on items. Must be a slow news day.

  10. MaximuM_MayheM says:


    oops, I meant “two years”, not “two days”

  11. Sinflux says:

    @faust1200: I used to carry a bread knife around with me to open my mailbox after I lost the key.

  12. Decados says:

    @ faust1200
    “On the trip home, screeners with the Transportation Security Administration at Los Angeles International Airport found it deep in the outside pocket of a carry-on cooler. Beaman apologized and told them it was a mistake.”

    Journalism may not be perfect, but it still does help to read the story.

  13. urban_ninjya says:

    I’m sorry, but bread knives are pretty damn long. The Grandmother is asking for it. Hasn’t she heard of sliced bread!!!

    Here’s how a bread knife looks like btw:

  14. Amsterdaam says:

    @faust1200: It clearly states that she had it deep in a pocket of her carry-on cooler.

  15. faust1200 says:

    @Dec: Oh snap!

  16. Black Bellamy says:

    I shot a man with a butter knife once, just to watch him bleed.

  17. kelmeister says:


    I made my comment because this isn’t the first place I’ve read this story in the last few days. It’s strange that it’s popping up all over the place (including MSM) and there’s nothing indictating that the incident is two years old, or supplying an update as to what’s happened since. Was she fined? Was it quietly worked out?

    And I agree it was a total overraction on the TSA’s part: they couldn’t have tossed it in the box with all the 4oz containers of shampoo and sent her on her way? But I also love the juicy irony of a school principal feeling the icy sting of weapons paranoia.

  18. Fuzz says:

    I accidentally did this in 2000 with a steak knife flying from Thailand to India. They took the knife, and said I could get it in India. I didn’t care, but they insisted, so when i got to India and was waiting for my baggage, there was a guy walking around the carousel saying “I have somebody’s knife. Who’s knife is it?” I claimed it, and he was very happy. It was all rather humorous. Can’t imagine it would work that way these days.

    /miss the good ol’ days

  19. Amsterdaam says:

    @Black Bellamy: When I hear that whistle blown’, I butter my bread and cry.

  20. dbeahn says:

    The TSA is full of rejects that can’t get jobs as mall security. Of course they get very self-important when they get to use terms like “National Security”. Deep down they know they’re working shitty, dead-end jobs and that they aren’t qualified to do anything more skilled than asking if someone would like fries with that.

  21. MercuryPDX says:

    I really have a hard time feeling sympathy for her. If you know you’re getting on a plane, and you know what items you can and cannot bring on a plane, is it so hard to check and make sure that you’re not carrying any of those items (either accidentally or on purpose) BEFORE you leave for the airport?

    I’m not saying the TSA isn’t oppressive or paranoid, or defending their “right” to give Grannies a FCBS when they accidentally bring knitting needles on the plane, but you have to put some responsibility on the passenger.

  22. crackblind says:

    Steven Levitt, the Freakonomics author, was in a similar situation with a much different outcome.


  23. Joe_Bagadonuts says:

    When sliced bread is outlawed, only outlaws will have bread knives.

  24. Wormfather says:

    Oh that’s why the securty level went orange.

  25. Negative says:

    I believe the reason we haven’t heard anything about this lady or her case since the incident is because she is now being held in Gitmo with the other dangerous terrorists.

    I can just picture her now. Knitting prayer rugs for the other detainees.

  26. Amsterdaam says:

    @faust1200: Get back to the forums, you’ve been told! ;-)

  27. ChrisC1234 says:

    This is just what happens when you have incompetent employees who flunk out of MCState. They are probably too stupid to know the trouble they’ve caused this poor woman, and too lazy to care.

  28. Buran says:

    @Black Bellamy: I doubt even Johnny Cash can manage to shoot someone with a knife … unless he were to shoot it out of a cannon.

    Then again, who knows what kid of stuff ghosts can do these days?

  29. Buran says:

    @MercuryPDX: I guess you never forget you put something somewhere? Better get that memory checked out — perfect memories are scientifically fascinating these days.

  30. tedyc03 says:

    Overzealous TSA agent.

    That’s what it boils down to being.

    While they likely followed procedure (confiscating the item, taking a photograph, writing a report, collecting her information) they certainly didn’t do it very well.

    Certainly they’re not going to give her a report on the spot any more than a police officer gives you a police report on the spot. Number, maybe. Report? No.

    But the case must first be reviewed by a United States Attorney before charges (including fines) can be leveled. And she DOES get a day in court…if she wants one.

    Give it up for overzealous, power-hungry TSA agents ruining the good name of all the others who just want to stop terrorists.

    (FULL DISCLOSURE: I worked for the Department of Homeland Security as an intern. I do not have any other connections to the TSA.)

  31. HeySuburbia says:

    The thing I don’t get about all these ridiculous stories is that people don’t realize that if someone wants to hijack a plane they’re going to hijack a plane regardless of what rules are in place about what you can and can’t bring on a plane. All these ridiculous rules are just making it inconvenient for all the other travelers.

    For instance, I was coming back from Vegas a few months ago and without thinking about it packed a souvenir beer glass that I got there in my carry on and that made it through security fine, so what’s to stop someone from just bringing on a glass, breaking it, and stabbing people with it? People can make weapons out of anything so all these rules are just basically wasting time and money.

  32. chimmike says:

    If you’re not supposed to bring it on a plane, DO NOT BRING IT ON THE PLANE.

    That means knives, grandma. I don’t care how innocent you are. DO NOT BRING IT ON THE PLANE.

    Simple rules people. Simple rules. Follow them. They aren’t going to give you special treatment.

  33. aishel says:

    This is why we need to institute “racial” profiling.

  34. MalichiDemonos says:

    Random Cavity serches for everyone!!! YAY :(

    Bend over granny and grab your socks. Prepare for a roggering of a lifetime.

  35. @Fuzz: I was presented with a similar option while returning from Korea to LAX when I was ~15 years old.

    When departing Incheon, I was told that my totally rad souvenir gun-shaped cigarette lighter (it even had a holster!) would need to fly in the cargo hold, and that it would be waiting with the rest of our luggage.

    Unfortunately, US customs pulled my mother and I aside in LA to inform us that I could not have the lighter because it didn’t have the orange-tipped barrel required in the US for all replica firearms.

    Note that I certainly didn’t smoke at that age, and had no use for the thing. It was just so amazingly cool. I was convinced it would help me be a secret agent or something.

    I got the classic options – forfeit the item or have it seized. Being mildly upset with the whole situation (and a bit of a brat) I opted to have them seize it. Since then, I’ve always been a bit bitter towards customs agents, and airport security in general.

    Bonus: I got to keep the holster, which has served as a constant and unfulfilling reminder of what could have been.

  36. MalichiDemonos says:

    @aishel: I > U

  37. Skiffer says:

    @HeySuburbia: Exactly – all these rules are just making it harder for normal travelers. If you wanted to hijack a plane, you’d find a way to do it, no matter what.

    How was the liquid explosives terror plot stopped? Wasn’t it intelligence and surveillance? The explosives weren’t found at a security checkpoint, were they?

    And “3 oz or less…in clear ziploc baggies”? Do you really think that would prevent someone from sneaking on liquid explosives if they really wanted to?

    Give me a real story, about a real terrorist, getting stopped at a security checkpoint, then maybe I’ll start to believe all these rules serve a purpose…

  38. Chaosium says:


    “So why republish this now? Also: Zero-Tolerance payback’s a bitch.”

    It’s a shame that the people calling for Zero-Tolerance with crime, security, and our schools so rarely feel the full brunt of it.

  39. alpha says:

    On a mostly related noted,

    I find it insanely humorous that scissors…sharp, pointy scissors, with a length up to (some number) inches (that I’m too lazy to look up) are allowed. And yet, seemingly, any sort of other sharp implement, or heaven for bid, a tiny swiss army knife (who’s blade could easily be shorter than the length of scissors allowed) is superbly against the rules.

    You can stab someone just as easily with scissors.

  40. jeffj-nj says:

    Well, I feel safer.

  41. shertzerj says:

    I’ve accidentally taken my Utili-key (which is always on my keychain) onto airplanes too many times; I always forget. When opened, it’s around 5 inches long. I wonder how long it’ll be until keys are banned from airplanes, too.

  42. HeySuburbia says:

    @ alpha

    Exactly. Why have scissors that are up to four inches in length be OK? You could do WAY more harm with those than with a lot of the other stuff they ban.

    On another note, I find it very funny that at []

    they make it a point to say that “toy transformer robots” are OK to be carried on the plane. The even funnier thing is that they list transformers under “special needs devices.”

  43. Crazytree says:

    why not have an old lady act as the weapon mule until she gets on the plane and then she can hand off the weapon to the hijacker?

    if she gets caught she can plead ignorance and post her story to Consumerist. ;p

  44. TheBigLewinski says:

    Hey guys, sometimes shit happens. Two years ago, I was going through airport security with my backpack and I forgot to remove my Swiss Army knife. The TSA folks were cool about it and gave me three options:

    1. Leave it and proceed to my flight.
    2. Go back to the counter and check my backpack.
    3. use the USPS Priority Mail service outside the gate to mail the item back to my home.

    Since the item had sentimental value, I selected options 3.

    I think the key point in dealing with TSA is: Don’t cop an attitude!!!

  45. bostonmike says:

    The incident happened two years ago, there’s been no follow-up, it should be obvious that the passenger wasn’t actually fined or added to any watch list. It was just some sadistic screener playing head games with a passenger.

    Two separate airport employees (check-in agent and a screener) told a friend of mine on one trip that he was going to be strip-searched. That’s how they keep themselves entertained, apparently — arbitrarily trying to scare passengers. In a sane country, people like that would be fired.

  46. Godz says:

    When I would walk through the security checkpoint at the airport in my USMC uniform I would always be hassled because I was obviously a danger to everyone on the plane.

  47. chimmike says:


    Uh, buddy, that’s not how it works. My mother in law is a TSA screener. It’s not “for fun”. They do it based on requirements that have to be met.

  48. mandarin says:

    Must be a stolen from Country Kitchen Buffett….

  49. rmz says:


    Well, next thing you know, they’re going to start making Transformers that transform into bread knives, and then we’re all doomed.

  50. Bye says:

    Oh, chimmike, that’s really cute.

    Tell “Mom” ‘hi’ for us.

  51. acambras says:

    I accidentally did this in 2000 with a steak knife flying from Thailand to India. They took the knife, and said I could get it in India.

    Yeah, that’s something that comes in handy in India — a STEAK knife. ;-)

  52. Skiffer says:

    wow – you can bring knitting needles, rounded butter knives, and scissors 4-inches or less in your carry-on … but only 3 oz of personal lubricant…guess i’ll have to change my in-flight plans…

    But why does the personal lubricant entry go right into talking about “eye drops”? Guess I need to brush up on my German internet porn…


  53. WhatsMyNameAgain says:

    When granny hijacks the plane with her deadly weapon, I would definitely be the one who would tackle her.

    I’m takin that bitch down.

  54. MercuryPDX says:

    @Buran: Oh please… is it so hard to remember to check your bags and pockets before you leave for the airport? You remembered your tickets right? Wallet? Passport/ID?

    How about a little forethought then? Gee, should I store this item I know I’m not supposed to fly with in my carry-on bag?

    Memory has nothing to do with it.

  55. infinitysnake says:

    @MercuryPDX: I had my very first run-in with these guys yesterday. (Last time at the airport for me was fifteen years ago) They wouldn’t let me go toi the agte with my husband to meet his daughter, so I waited at the exit gate. Each and every time I peered down the corridor to see if I could spot them, he ran over and clipped the little ribbon barrier on, like I was planning to make a run for it. When an exiting passenger stopped to ask him a question, he panicked and screamed so loud security peole came running…turned out he had her ticket, was supposed to give it to her, but he couldn’t just tell her pass through and come around, he had to go to defcon four. I can’t believe people aren’t rioting at the airport.

  56. Fuzz says:



    it was a round-the-world trip for University hitting lots of countries. On the list of things to bring, they had knife and fork, just in case the restaurant we went to was dirty. Well, that beingf university days, I had partied for 3 days prior to leaving, and was drunk, packing at 3 in the morning. I saw “knife and fork” on the list, reached into my utensil draw, grabbed ’em and through them in my bag.

    The really funny part is that I made it from Canada to the US to Japan, then to China, then Thailand before they actually caught them on the x-ray. I had totally forgot about them, so I was rather surprised myself when she asked me to remove the knife from my bag. I was all like . . “what knife?” . . . ya, those were the days. :)

  57. VA_White says:

    Procedure should not trump common sense.

    The TSA agents I have encountered are all bumbling monkeys drunk on the drop of power that their ill-fitting uniform grants them.

    When they hassle two year olds over chocolate milk, 90 year old men over their shampoo, and grandmas over butter knives, there is something seriously wrong.

  58. Skiffer says:

    @VA_White: Granted, this was a bread knife (big and sawlike), not a butter knife…but still an over-reaction to an “oops, didn’t realize I had that”

  59. Leohat says:

    Ya’ know, if a 57 year old Grandmother is so BAD ASS as to be able to take over a plane with a butter knife, I’ll go wherever she wants go (Cuba, Egypt, Topeka, etc).

  60. royal72 says:

    is it just me or does shit like this make you want to root for the terrorists? well if there were any… please spare me your fear mongering retort and simply realize that if someone wants to take down an airplane they will. to borrow from a comedic friend… we can’t keep weapons and drugs out of prison and there, they search in your ass. so what makes you think we can stop terrorists?

  61. markedward says:

    If a butterknife is dangerous enough to take over an entire airplane, shoelaces are just as dangerous. Anything and everything is a potential weapon, so them freaking out about a butterknife is just inane. If they overreact about a butterknife, why don’t they just go ahead and ban EVERYTHING? Pens and pencils are just as dangerous as knives. A miniature umbrella, CDs, anything. It’s not the item that makes the person a threat to the plane… it’s the PERSON. Security needs to use more common sense.

  62. Tankueray says:

    A few years ago I was going through security at the Las Vegas Airport and I had forgotten my 3 inch “open assist” (like a switchblade) pocketknife deep in a pocket of a carry-on. I hadn’t carried it on going to Vegas, that’s why I forgot the knife was in there. I was returning from the SEMA auto show and had multiple large bottles of sample carwash and wax in the carry-on as well. Good thing that was before the 3oz. liquid rule. Oh, they were nice about it, I had to show them how to open it and they were like, “What’s a little girl like you doing with a switchblade?” I was like, “I’m from Texas.” They said, “Oooh” and let me mail it back to myself (for a pretty penny, mind you). But there was a guy behind me with some sort of money clip that they deemed dangerous and he made a scene, they confiscated the money clip and held him up at security for a while. It’s more about being respectful of the people and the process. If you try to make a scene, the TSA will always win.

  63. Karl says:

    The article states that it was originally published in 2005. I have no idea why KOMO republished it, especially since the TSA’s web site seems to imply that butter knives are allowed.

    Of course, I’m not sure you can really trust that list. It says that tools under 7 inches are allowed, but signs at SeaTac International say that all tools are prohibited (yet the 7 inch rule is posted at Reagan National).

  64. scarmonster says:

    in 2003 i had a brief layover in atlanta…they confiscated my tweezers!

  65. Landru says:

    How tiresome. She was an old lady and she made a mistake and so what? Confiscate it but don’t treat her like a criminal. Oh, she is a criminal? She shouldn’t be. It won’t be long until we are all criminals, unless we can prove otherwise.

  66. CapitalC says:

    I’ve accidentally gone thru the security checkpoint at YVR with not one but TWO knives in my backpack (and neither of them was a bread knife). The security personnel asked if it was my bag, asked me if they could search it, located the two knives and asked me if I knew they were in there.

    In all honesty, I forgot when I packed it – I do a lot of hiking and backpacking and neglected to empty my bag before packing for my flight. Fortunately the security team allowed me to mail the knives home – together worth over $100, the “postage and handling” fee was $35.

    It was a simple mistake I’ll never make again, not because I don’t want to raise alarms but because I’d rather not risk losing them. I’m certainly not a terrorist for forgetting to unpack a knife and I’m sure I’m not the first nor 100th person who has done so.

    Why wasn’t grandma treated the same way?

  67. hoo_foot says:

    This woman is a middle school principal. If she is anything like school administrators these days, then she has made a career out of punishing others for petty, zero-tolerance BS rules. Looks like she got a taste of her own medicine.

  68. andrewsmash says:

    Makes me wonder who she voted for. I would laugh my ass off if two years ago she was glad Republicans were being so strict because it “made her feel safe”

  69. IRSistherootofallevil says:

    Security’s a sham, Bush is a Nazi, TSA is utterly incompetent and useless, what else is new?

  70. mattcoats says:

    I think the TSA gets a bad rap. Where else in the country can people with zero life skills gain employment? Especially now that McDonalds is trying to clean up their image of being a glue trap for the blue collar worker. Bless the TSA and their army of incompetence.

  71. eli_b says:

    Maybe she was going to fly United and wanted to hook up some jam muffins for the kids during the wait.

  72. Sudonum says:

    I have carried (by mistake) a small razor knife in my carry on several times since 9/11 and no one caught it. I found it myself a couple years ago by going through my computer bag before a flight to make sure I didn’t have just this kind of “contraband” in there. Kind of suprised me when I realized just how many times I must have gone through security with the damn thing.

    On a similar note, in first class they still use metal knives that match the description of the knife in the article as well as actual glassware. How easy would it be to break a wine glass and use as a weapon?

  73. IRSistherootofallevil says:

    ” Where else in the country can people with zero life skills gain employment?”

    The DMV?

  74. IRSistherootofallevil says:

    Oh I heard the Bush administration’s also hiring.

  75. Trai_Dep says:

    For all those kids expelled for taking aspirin to school, violating their Zero Tolerance policy, or the kids arrested for forgetting a pen knife or baseball bat was in their parked car (again, Zero Tolerance, for weapons), I hope Granny gets the chair.

    Then they can bring her back to life, ask her if she still supports Zero Tolerance, and keep on frying/reviving her until she admits, “No.”

    Then everyone can get together, share cookies and milk, and chuckle over what goofy fun Tough Love is. Now that she’s Scared Straight.

  76. says:

    @TheBigLewinski: The TSA folks … gave me three options:
    1. Leave it and proceed to my flight.
    2. Go back to the counter and check my backpack.
    3. use the USPS Priority Mail service outside the gate to mail the item back to my home.

    People forgetting (or not being aware of) items which are forbidden on board planes is surprisingly common, and it’s extremely rare for such people to go on a terrorist watch list. It’s easier for the TSA and for passengers to deal with the contraband in one of the three ways listed — that’s happened to me, friends, and family members.

  77. I don’t feel sorry for this old woman.

    Regardless how ridiculous TSA’s regulations are, they have been around for years. Every time you enter an airport, the speakers repeatedly telling passengers to remove banned items out.

    She wasn’t born yesterday.

    Incidents and idiots like this would make other travelers’ experience even worse.



  78. nucleotide says:

    @Tian: Why don’t we then just shot people that make mistakes and inconvenience others. Fascist!

  79. snowferret says:

    Don’t you know? Rights are only for the inocent. Once you are suspected of commiting a crime you loose all your rights. You should have thought of that before being suspected of comting a crime!

  80. The Meathead says:

    @hoo_foot: Way to generalize without a shred of concrete evidence.