TSA Confiscates Pudding, Misses Knife

Ah, the dangerous liquids ban. We’re all so much safer because of it.

Reader Porter says he accidentally left his Swiss Army knife in his backpack as he went through the TSA check point, an all too common mistake.

Thankfully, the TSA agent spotted his package of pudding and confiscated it, missing the knife completely.

I was passing through Sacto airport security checkpoint. I sent my carry-on backpack through the Xray machine. The operator found something, and raised her hand for assistance. Another TSA person came over and pulled my bag out of the machine and commenced with a hand search. Inside he found a package of unopened Hunts Pudding Snacks in my lunch. He confiscated the pudding “it’s a liquid” and sent me on my way. Absurd, but forgettable. However later in the day I had a layover, and was going through my backpack looking for a pen and came across my Swiss Army Knife with a 4″ locking blade. I had been camping and had inadvertently left it in my backpack. I was stunned that the moron TSA agent had confiscated my pudding, but missed my knife.

I am left wondering if the X-ray person ordered the hand search because she saw my knife on the xray, but the hand searcher got thrown off his game by the delicious, and apparently dangerous pudding. If so the lack of communication between the Xrayer and hand searcher indicates a serious weak spot in their protocol.

After I discovered the knife, I took a cell phone shot of it in the airport bathroom, and a shot of it as I was LEAVING the secure “sterile” area of the airport.

Well, that’s depressing. Is pudding a liquid?



Edit Your Comment

  1. humorbot says:

    It is when I’m through with it.

  2. Pelagius says:

    Maybe he thought your 4″ blade was half a pair of scissors?

    Seriously, 4″ pointed scissors are allowed, but they will confiscate a swiss army knife with a 2″ blade.

  3. Sequential_Combo says:

    Liquid or not, it’s a fact that pudding kills more people than knives and guns combined.
    Delicious, and deadly!

  4. DojiStar says:

    Oh those wacky TSA agents!

  5. Lin-Z [linguist on duty] says:

    pudding: just one more household good that you can terrorize with.

    oh the possibilities!

  6. bigTrue says:

    TSA people are morons. Literally, they don’t think at all, and just push through a lot of crap. We’re not any safer with what’s going on, it’s just a lot more aggravating. I’m sure there will be at least one paranoid fool lambasting me and my opinion, but it’s an honest one. The liquid ban is based on the idea that you can make a binary explosive out of two seperate liquids. The Ask The Pilot column in Salon linked to an article in The Guardian right after the liquids ban took place. The Guardian article explained how to make the binary explosive you’d have to mix highly sensitive chemicals for over an hour (drop by drop, so you don’t combine too quickly and cause a premature explosion with too little force to cause the damage you want to) and not have anyone notice your prolonged use of said bathroom or the fact that one of the chemicals is an acid with a terrible oder. In addtion, you have to swipe a source of ice (in the article, they talked about flying first class, ordering champagne, and swiping the ice bucket into the bathroom) and not have anyone notice you taking that into the restroom for the hour+ time frame. So, right off the bat, the liquid ban is bullshit. (I can’t find a link to the article, but if you know the one I’m talking about, I’d love it.)

    Awhile after the liquid ban I flew from Detroit. I remembered the ban and tossed the last 1/4 ounce of my shaving balm into my pack. When I get there, the guy tells me I can’t have it since the bottle size is .5 ounces over the limit (it was 3.5, or 4.5, I can’t remember). I explained, I know the bottle is bigger, but you’re holding it, and there’s barely any left. He refused to think like a human being, and simply began reciting verbatim a canned response. These people are idiots and I don’t understand how we can be entrusting them with our safety.

  7. Antediluvian says:

    Well, at least you got to keep your knife. Those are great knives. I’ve got the same (or similar) version in red and love it.

    Question: was the pudding really over 3oz in volume?

  8. clodia says:

    He refused to think like a human being, and simply began reciting verbatim a canned response.

    Not to invalidate anything else you said, for I find many of these regulations ridiculous, but at my work, there are many policies that I myself find stupid or don’t agree with. However, I can’t go against them because they are policy and it’s not worth my job. In those cases, I usually end up doing what this person did – stay to the script, repeat the policy until I’ve made it clear that there is nothing that I can do. It’s easier than trying to reason with someone most of the time, and safer for my job too.

  9. enm4r says:

    @bigTrue: I explained, I know the bottle is bigger, but you’re holding it, and there’s barely any left. He refused to think like a human being, and simply began reciting verbatim a canned response. These people are idiots and I don’t understand how we can be entrusting them with our safety.

    Even better, if the bottle doesn’t have a size marked on the outside, they don’t do anything about it. I was bringing sunscreen and lotion through and was flagged over for extra search, and they took out my little bag with both the sunscreen and the lotion. He takes a look at the sunscreen, which is like 6-8oz or something, and proceeds to cite the fact that he needs to take it. I explain and show theres barely any left, and he doesn’t care. His answer “It says 8oz.”

    So he picks up the lotion, which is in a generic plastic bottle that I bought at Target or something, to fill myself. It was the exact same size as the sunscreen bottle, but no sticker or anything. It was about half full, he looks around it and tosses it back in the bag.

    So I ask, you’re going to take my sunscreen with barely any left but let me keep the lotion? His answer “it doesn’t have the size marked, it’s good.” It blew me away that not only could an individual be this idiotic, but it was reflected up the chain.

    • TheRedDuke says:

      @enm4r: I fly constantly and my MO is to remove the labels from any not obviously gigantic bottles and write “3 oz” on them with a Sharpie. The onus is on the processors to prove it’s a different volume and they haven’t the equipment–I’m including common sense here . . .
      (Although I still always end up in protracted solid v. liquid debates. I stood firm on my cottage cheese. “I eat it with a fork.”
      Oh, and no one tell me I need to change my diet for the further convenience of the incompetent and impatient, as I’ve recently been advised to exchange all my bras for wireless and I’m not ready for more lifestyle alterations at the hands of the people processors just yet.)

      @wassup: It’s difficult to predict what’s banned, my frantic little friend. Also, we are hardly safer. I’d just bomb the damn security line. That’s where all the people are. Or avoid the airport altogether and go for the rush-hour subway. shite.

      @RISwampyankee: RIer here! Can’t believe Del’s Lemonade (though I adore it) beat out coffee syrup.

  10. SaveMeJeebus says:

    Mmmm… forbidden pudding…

  11. DadCooks says:

    The TSA folks were cooperating with each other.

    It was getting close to break time and the TSA folks were looking for a snack.

    Now they just needed some bananas and vanilla wafers for a real party.

  12. acambras says:


    That’s weird, because at the airport in Gulfport, Mississippi, the screener made a big stink about how my generic plastic toiletry bottles didn’t have the size marked, so she couldn’t tell if they were over 3 ounces (they weren’t).

    She threatened to confiscate the bottles. I was on my return trip, so I didn’t care, and I told her as much. She ended up grumbling and letting me keep the bottles and their contents. But the line had been held up because this woman wanted to pick a fight. Seeing as how she could make me miss my flight, I chose not to argue with her, even though she was wrong.

    Not only was she an incompetent idiot — she was an incompetent idiot on a powertrip.

  13. Nemesis_Enforcer says:

    @Lin-Z: If you have even seen any of the German sex video’s you would know just how dangerous pudding can be….

  14. DashTheHand says:

    I think the liquids ban is fucking insane. 4oz is apparently enough of something to cause enough damage to an airplane to cause detrimental harm? But like in the SNL sketch, what if a a bunch people all bring 3oz each and combine it later?

    I think the biggest cause of the insane paranoia is because of Die Hard with a Vengeance. That was the one where they have the two liquids that mix with each other and instantly and suddenly become a huge explosive liquid.

  15. Sockatume says:

    Pudding’s probably a colloid. Or maybe a gel.

  16. boandmichele says:

    yeah i think it is a colloid

  17. missjulied says:

    Speaking of incompetent idiots on a powertrip, last time I had to change planes at LAX, the screener told me that I couldn’t bring my toiletries through because the generic plastic bottles I put them in DIDN’T HAVE ANY TEXT ON THEM. I started to argue, but was worried that we were going to miss our plane (and we were headed home anyway).

    So, clearly, if I would have put my sunscreen in a sample bottle from, say, aveda shampoo, it would be perfectly safe, but having it in an unmarked bottle is dangerous. Idiot. It’s not like she could read anyway.

  18. RossMcD says:

    (and Lin-Z)

    don’t forget about Barry & Lavone’s $240 worth of pudding… [www.youtube.com]

  19. timmus says:

    Kudos for the pictures showing a juxtaposition of the knife and a secure area. Not too many people would think to capture a picture in that way (though I might have chosen an airplane sitting at the boarding gate thru the window in the background).

  20. Consumer-X says:

    Liquids and gels have been used by Al-Queda to kill people on planes before.
    (read [en.wikipedia.org])

    Liquids and gels can blow an entire airliner right out of the sky. Terrorists armed with knives, while dangerous, do not pose the same threat level.

    To those who claim liquid explosives are figments of the imaginations of Hollywood and the TSA, I suggest you put a vial of nitroglycerin in your car and safely transporting it along with yourself and your family from now on. Imagine how cool you will be to prove the TSA wrong.

    • Anonymous says:


      It’s exactly that kind of mentality that causes the insane situations we see at airport security.

      Do you even know how nitroglycerin works, Consumer-X? Nitroglycerin explodes if it stays still too long and is so much as suddenly nudged. It also explodes if stirred too vigorously. You’d have to walk around the airport constantly and gently stirring a cup, walking EVER SO CAREFULLY. Also, no matter how brave you are, you’re still gonna be slightly nervous when there’s an extremely volatile liquid about a foot and a half from your face. There’s no way to accomplish this walking through an airport TO security without looking like an extremely suspicious moron, much less trying to walk THROUGH security while attempting to keep holding and gently stirring your explosive liquid, which the TSA doesn’t allow anyone to go through holding pretty much anything other than your boarding pass.

      Oh, and I suggest no one but the person who wrote the comment I’m replying to (Consumer-X) try the nitroglycerin + car idea. Simply backing out of your driveway would set the explosive off. But Consumer-X, you should try it. That would get rid of annoying fear-mongers like you.

  21. ZzFDKzZ says:

    I work for TSA. For those calling us morons most of us are ex-military and just using this job as a entry level to be in a higher paying goverment job. I’m currently working part-time and I’m a full-time student working on getting my Bachelor in Criminal Justice.

    @bigTrue: “I explained, I know the bottle is bigger, but you’re holding it, and there’s barely any left. He refused to think like a human being, and simply began reciting verbatim a canned response. These people are idiots and I don’t understand how we can be entrusting them with our safety.”

    As stupid as this rule sounds, we don’t want to risk getting fire from a government job just so that you can have your 1oz left of shaving lotion.

    You guys want to blame us for not catching these stuff you guys should see the machines we have to work with. These 70’s-80’s machines are really outdated and most of the time we have to guess what the items are. Thank god we are getting new machines sometime next year.

    @DADCOOKS “The TSA folks were cooperating with each other. It was getting close to break time and the TSA folks were looking for a snack. Now they just needed some bananas and vanilla wafers for a real party.”


  22. STrRedWolf says:

    I initally thought it was “Knives with blades under six inches.” TSA’s website says “Any knife except for plastic or butter knives”. Okay… I guess a TSA employee didn’t get the memo that day.

  23. RossMcD says:

    @Consumer-X: “Terrorists armed with knives, while dangerous, do not pose the same threat level.”

    We’re looking at the same data, but I draw the opposite conclusion.

    According to the wikipedia link you pasted, the Bojinka plot was only a *plot* and never actually materialized. So, zero casualties.

    The hijackers on 9/11 used boxcutters – essentially knives – to seize control of the planes. Around 3,000 people killed.

  24. Buran says:

    I guess he thought the pudding was made in China and had lead in it.

  25. RvLeshrac says:

    @Consumer-X: You’ve been watching entirely too much Die Hard.

    Nitroglycerine is not feasible as an incendiary because it is HIGHLY UNSTABLE. You are more likely to blow up on the way to the airport than you are to blow up AT the airport. Furthermore, there are NO LIQUID EXPLOSIVES that are safe or reliable enough to be transported to or through airports.

    The few explosive compounds which can be mixed as liquids have very little power in the small amounts required during mixing, and have a high likelihood of blowing up while being mixed, killing none but the attempted suicide bomber, and causing at MOST a very minor amount of damage to the intended target.

  26. Buran says:

    @ZzFDKzZ: I love how “I was just following orders” keeps popping up as an excuse. Disgusting. You’ve got a brain, you know.

  27. LiC says:

    I’ve gotten away with carrying a insect-bite gel in my carry-on through international security. I’d forgotten it was in there, honest.

    When I traveled with Greyhound a few years ago, my bus got picked out for the random security screening and those guys didn’t find my mace spray. Of course they didn’t seem to be to well trained either.

  28. Joe_Bagadonuts says:

    Awww yeeaah! I always knew that there had to be another Barry & Lavone fan out there, and somehow I’m not surprised I found them on the Consumerist. Awwww yeah!

  29. buck09 says:


    ZzFDKzZ has a brain. His brain is working. Like this: Take some schlub’s pudding, or lose my paycheck. I love to see how vociferously people stand on principles from the comfort of their armchairs.

  30. FLConsumer says:

    Personally, I’d feel safer if there was *NO* screening at this point than what the TSA does. A false sense of security is far worse than no security.

    The liquid ban makes no sense whatsoever. Worse, is that they allow LIGHTERS onto a plane, but not a bottle of water? WTF? What the TSA is forgetting is that everything you need to hijack/crash a plane is already on the plane.

    If we’re not willing to pay for quality, security PROFESSIONALS, let’s just get rid of the rent-a-cops and make everyone’s life easier (and safer!).

  31. CaptainConsumer says:

    You are now flying armed and delicious

  32. howie_in_az says:

    I wonder what would happen if one was to hide a bomb in the backpack and toss in a few puddings to throw the hungry TSA agents off…

    “Hello, we have some pudding, everyone stay calm”.

  33. Bill Brasky says:

    TSA: Too Stupid for Arby’s.

  34. FLConsumer says:

    @Consumer-X: Chemistry wasn’t your favourite subject, was it?

    Having degrees in chemistry, engineering, and electroincs, and have conducted had many nefarious experiments in high school and also in college (nitrating tolulene was one of my favs), I can assure you, RVLESHRAC’s got it right on this one. Anything explosive easily brought on in an airplane cabin isn’t likely to take down a plane. Anything that really could cause that much damage is probably not going to be stable enough to carry onto the plane, nor would you have the time & equipment necessary to make it happen.

    Do you happen to remember the Aloha Airlines flight 243? Total failure of the fuselage with a safe & admittedly scary landing. The airframe of a plane is quite strong. It’s quite amazing how much of a plane you have to damage to send it down. The engineering is quite amazing, probably some of the best-designed and most thought-out creations man has ever done.

    I still say, until they are willing to inspect the cargo that goes on the plane (not what the passengers check-in, I mean the actual cargo that just about every flight has on-board), there’s no reason to bother with the passengers. Sure, there’s talk of bomb-proof shipping containers, but they’re not widely used. It’s down near the cargo where the vulnerable parts of a plane are (electrical, hydraulic lines, etc)

  35. not_seth_brundle says:

    I usually carry an empty water bottle through security and fill it from a water fountain once I’ve gotten through. Last time I went through security, though, I had forgotten to empty the bottle and there was a small amount of water in it (maybe 4-6 ounces).

    Of course, the TSA guy found it and told me I couldn’t take it through. I admitted that I meant to bring it through empty and asked if I could drink what was left in the bottle and then go on. He said no, I couldn’t do that in the security area, but if I wanted to I could leave the security area the way I came, drink the water and then come back.

    Considering the line I’d finally made it through, I elected to hand over the bottle instead (it’s about a $15 bottle, not a huge deal)… but WTF?

  36. ZzFDKzZ says:

    @Buran: “I love how “I was just following orders” keeps popping up as an excuse. Disgusting. You’ve got a brain, you know.”

    Only way to keep the cash flowing.

  37. RossMcD says:


    Huge fan! I think The State was the best sketch comedy since monty python, hands down. UCB got pretty good in the 2nd & 3rd season but wasn’t at the level of the state.

    Supposedly they’re releasing it on DVD in september. This page was linked to from the offical state web page: [www.myspace.com] I haven’t seen anything about it on amazon, but I hope it’s for real!

    The stella episodes from comedy central are also out on DVD, I’ve been meaning to check that out too.

  38. dfellars says:

    The ridiculous part of it all, is that if you really want to bring something on an airplane… just put it in your pocket. I am a smoker and hate having to scrounge around for a lighter after a long flight. As such, my “banned” plastic ‘Bic’ lighter goes in my pocket and I stroll right through security. When its in the bag, they can see it. When its in your pocket, it doesn’t exist.

  39. alexengel says:

    My favourite is when the news in Ecuador reported on the atrocious state of airport security in the U.S. The TSA did a test by putting a water bottle and a fake bomb in several suitcases. Most times the water bottle was confiscated but the fake bomb wasn’t.

  40. not_seth_brundle says:

    @dfellars: You can bring lighters on now, openly and notoriously:


  41. Nighthawk Foo says:

    @dfellars: Ordinary lighters like that aren’t banned anymore.

  42. edjusted says:

    @howie_in_az: Good job. Now you’ve given all the terrorists that read the Consumerist a near perfect plan. Good thing you didn’t specify which flavor of pudding to use, or else I’d have to call you a traitor.

  43. mattbrown says:

    TSA just confiscated my starbucks coffee, but missed a lighter i had forgotten was in my carry-on. They didn’t even offer to “hand-inspect” the coffee. oh well…

  44. Consumer-X says:

    To my dear friends ROSSMCD, RVLESHRAC, and FLCONSUMER:

    ROSSMCD said:
    “According to the wikipedia link you pasted, the Bojinka plot was only a *plot* and never actually materialized. So, zero casualties.”

    RVLESHRAC said:
    “Furthermore, there are NO LIQUID EXPLOSIVES that are safe or reliable enough to be transported to or through airports.”

    FLCONSUMER said:
    “Anything explosive easily brought on in an airplane cabin isn’t likely to take down a plane. Anything that really could cause that much damage is probably not going to be stable enough to carry onto the plane, nor would you have the time & equipment necessary to make it happen.”


    The test:
    “On December 11, 1994, Yousef built another bomb, which had one tenth of the power that his final bombs were planned to have, in the lavatory of an aircraft. He left it inside the life jacket under his seat, 26K, and got off the plane when it arrived in Cebu. Yousef had boarded the flight under the assumed name of Armaldo Forlani, using a false Italian passport. The aircraft was Philippine Airlines Flight 434 on a Manila to Narita route, stopping partway at Cebu. Yousef had set the timer for four hours after he got off the aircraft. The bomb exploded while the aircraft was over Minami Daito Island, near Okinawa, Japan. A Japanese businessman named Haruki Ikegami was killed after the bomb detonated. The Boeing 747-200 safely made an emergency landing in Naha, Okinawa. None of the aircraft’s other 272 passengers or any members of the crew were killed, although 10 passengers in front of Ikegami were injured. Yousef then planned which flights to attack for Phase I.”

    The bomb:
    The “Mark II” “microbombs” had Casio digital watches as the timers, stabilizers that looked like cotton wool balls, and an undetectable nitroglycerin as the explosive. Other ingredients included glycerin, nitrate, sulfuric acid, and minute concentrations of nitrobenzene, silver azide (silver trinitride), and liquid acetone. Two 9-volt batteries in each bomb were used as a power source. The batteries would be connected to light bulb filaments that would detonate the bomb. Murad and Yousef wired an SCR as the switch to trigger the filaments to detonate the bomb. There was an external socket hidden when the wires were pushed under the watch base as the bomber would wear it. The alteration was so small that the watch could still be worn in a normal manner.
    Yousef got batteries past airport security during his December 11 test bombing of Philippine Airlines Flight 434 by hiding them in hollowed-out heels of his shoes. Yousef smuggled the nitroglycerin on board by putting it inside a contact lens solution bottle.

  45. catskyfire says:

    Rather than bitch about TSA drones, why not take your complaints where they belong? Management of TSA and Homeland Security? THAT is where the decision on liquids and semi-liquids were made. I can guarantee that most TSA people don’t care about your water or starbucks, but have been told ‘stop them’ and that is their job.

    I read somewhere, and don’t recall where, that a good portion of TSA’s purpose is to make people feel that -some- effort is being taken when, in reality, there’s not a lot that can be done in some situations. (I recall that some flights leaving California on 9/11 were found to have box cutters taped to the bottom of seats, suggesting inside job, not just passengers sneaking on weapons.)

    At least you’re still allowed a carry-on or two. After the liquid issue in Britain, British airlines banned carry-ons entirely for awhile.

  46. VashTS544 says:

    I think that a terrorist could make a much more effective bomb out of Lithium Ion batteries. But, those most of the time just burst into flames. Hell, if he could produce the heat, he could just burn salt and create a chlorine gas cloud (I know it takes a lot of heat, more than he could possible produce on a plane.). Why is it that we are all worried about airlines? More people are killed in car crashes in a year than that are killed on a plane. I’m more worried getting hit in a car accident than of a terrorist attack. If you want a secure flight, no clothes, every cavity searched, all cargo carried in the hold, and only water and bread served. All crew is naked and searched as well. That is secure. Actually, you could use those little cameras doctors shove up your butt to find cancer to find anyone who tries to put a string of cherry bombs up there. I will never fly, unless my job demands it of me. If I want to go intercontinental, I’ll sail. You are more likely to win the lottery or get hit and killed by a meteorite than get attacked by a terrorist (in the US, or many of the EU nations). This is all fear mongering. If you look up the definition of ‘terrorism’: 1. the act of terrorizing; use of of force or threats to demoralize, intimidate, and subjugate, esp. such as use as a political weapon or policy 2. the demoralization and intimidation produced in this way. (Source; “Webster’s NewWorld Dictionary; Second College Edition 1986 [I know its old]”
    Basically I could call the TSA terrorists since they use FEAR to incorporate all the idiotic bans.I could call our government that too. It fits the definition. Use fear to make people scared of the terrorist boogie men and give up our right guaranteed to us in the Bill or Rights.

  47. RoadKing99 says:

    The TSA and that entire system is run by imbeciles. I went thru the same security area (Sacto) and they flagged my briefcase for hand search. They didn’t even look at my cell phone, GPS, or anything else, but they confiscated my 3 1/2 oz tube of SUNBLOCK. I couldn’t believe it, but I held my tongue and didn’t argu with them because they can make your life totally miserable… and they know they can.

  48. Angiol says:

    @Consumer-X: So… thousands dead from terrorists with boxcutters vs. 1 dead, 10 injured by a guy with liquid nitro? You’re not helping your case.

  49. MrEvil says:

    I think what’s hilarious is people think we’re winning the war on terror. The terrorists don’t want us all dead. They want us to live long lives looking over our shoulders and second guessing everything we do. All this rediculous security at airports is what they WANTED. Every little bit they can do to make our lives that much more inconvenient is their goal.

    The terrorists have already won. King George II has done nothing to make us any degree safer (Osama is still around btw) and has just made our lives a bit more shitty.

  50. SammyDKat says:

    It is absurd, but you’re really asking a lot of the TSA guys. I doubt if any one else could do a better job day after day of sifting through thousands of bags & dealing with annoyed travellers. The truth is that it is impossible to prevent people who are determined to bring dangerous weapons and materials on commercial airlines. Screeners are just there to make you feel a little less utterly helpless & keep you spending money on travel & tourism. Enjoy your flight! Buh bye!

  51. Trackback says:

    Cory Doctorow: A Consumerist reader writes in with this chilling tale of TSA confiscation hijinx — crack anal-probers at the Sacramento airport stole the flyer’s pudding, but left him with his stabby stabby knife. I was passing through Sacto airport security checkpoint.

  52. coss3n says:

    Just bring several 2oz pudding cups and recombine them once you’re past security. Or have the other members of your sleeper cell bring 2oz of pudding.

    Hmm, or maybe bring a packet of instant pudding and make it after getting screened.

  53. Consumer-X says:

    “So… thousands dead from terrorists with boxcutters vs. 1 dead, 10 injured by a guy with liquid nitro? You’re not helping your case.”

    I don’t know about you Angiol, but if I were on a plane post 9-11 and some fool produced a box cutter, I don’t think he would have much luck convincing my fellow passengers and I to sit still and wait for the plane to crash into a building. With a bomb you wouldn’t get the chance to fight back.

  54. Trai_Dep says:

    @RvLeshrac: & @FLConsumer: It would be a tremendous benefit if you guys, with your background, could add a passage to that Wiki article that expresses your learned scepticism. I’ve heard it cited a couple times here, and suspect it’s one of those articles that suffers from a one-sided, quasi-factual, hysterical viewpoint.

  55. autoclavicle says:

    TSA is very hit and miss. I had forgotten my lighter and a pocketknife in my purse when I started working at MSP airport. I discovered that for a week, at one security checkpoint, they both went unnoticed. Each day, different people doing the x-rays, it didn’t matter, they were even looking at it and either didn’t know what they were looking at, or just ignoring it.

    But when I started going through a closer checkpoint on the other side of the airport, they immediately flipped out on me. By this point, I had forgotten what I was even doing “wrong.” They also like to occasionally take my purse aside and swap it for bomb materials, because I bring my digital camera and iPod with me, and they “like to be sure about electronics.”

    City Pages has an interview this week with Bruce Schneier, the man who initially coined the phrase “security theater” back in 2003.

  56. digitalgimpus says:

    A doctor makes an honest mistake and can get sued. A dry cleaners looses a pair of pants, and ends up getting sued. Yet the TSA is immune. Perhaps if they could be personally liable they would do their jobs better?

    Or maybe they would admit that most of this stuff is just to create true job security for themselves at our expense and quit.

  57. ^bump for all the previous work and effort

    seriously…pudding? whiskey tango foxtrot???

  58. Nakko says:

    That TSA was not interested in security matters.
    He was hungwee!!

  59. RossMcD says:


    When the goal of terrorists becomes simply destroying planes, then I would be more worried about bombs. Until then, weapons that allow them to kill other people *without blowing up the entire airplane* are more helpful to a would-be terrorist.

    Here’s why I think so:

    In the past (for what it’s worth), the primary goal of airplane hijackers has not been to blow up airplanes. It was either to return hostages safely for ransom, or to crash the planes into symbolic targets. Blowing up the plane in either case would undermine the primary goal.

    Now that 9/11 happened, passengers may feel that they are just as likely to die whether they accept a hijacker’s demands or not. So in that case, if some crazy dude claims to have a bomb on a plane and will blow it up unless he can fly it … I think a likely scenario is that the passengers call his (potential) bluff. As may have happened on the United flight 93 or whatever that crashed in pennsylvania after passengers found out what had happened to the other flights.

  60. Mr. Cynical says:

    TSA… what will we do with you? I fly just about every week. It always amazes me to see the things they do, the things they take, the things that sneak past them.

    This doesn’t surprise me- not in the slightest. What scares me more is that Chicago O’ Hare is missing something like 4,000 security badges… 4,000!!!

  61. mconfoy says:

    The TSA website says no to pudding unless 3 oz or less. Who would be willing to loose their job over that? You give these guys a hard time, try using your brain. Lighters are permitted. Maybe the rules are dumb, but the people are like you and me, at least I hope like you, and value their jobs.

  62. andymae529 says:

    OK, so food is the big hazard? Apparently so, because I recently flew from San Diego to Boston on “Air Greyhound” (Southwest). Because it took a good part of the day, and we landed in four cities on the way but only got pretzels each time, I brought provisions – apples, a couple of bagels, some cheese. The apples were confiscated because I didn’t have a supermarket receipt to prove they didn’t threaten Med fly contamination (although the threat supposedly is bringing the flies INTO California, not out), but the bagel knife with the 8″ serrated blade (oops!) was fine for me to have with me. I guess they were hungry for fruit, not bread and cheese.

    Not only that, but coming back I had two gallons of coffee syrup that had to be sampled by a gas chromatograph (and tasted!) before they could even be checked through – but I still had the knife!

  63. Consumer-X says:

    Prior to 9-11 I would have agreed with you. The passengers on flight 93 attacked the hijackers after learning that their plane was likely to suffer the same fate as the other hijacked planes on 9-11. Post 9-11, all airline passengers know that a hijacking is very likely a Jihadist suicide mission rather than a mere political or criminal event. I would not take the chance and trust a hijacker if I were on a hijacked plane. Would you?

  64. jetmore says:

    TSA: Thousands Standing Around

  65. RossMcD says:

    Once again we’re looking at the same premise and coming to different conclusions. Let me try to explain myself more clearly.

    I wouldn’t trust hijackers either. Given the outcome of 9/11, who would? I think nobody.

    That’s why I think that if hijackers were attempting to take over a plane, people would rush them no matter what threats or promises they made. Thus the hijackers would be forced to use any weapons at their disposal to try to secure the plane.

    Scenario 1 – they claim to have a bomb, and will detonate it unless given control of the plane. The passengers rush them anyway. If the bomb is real and they do indeed detonate it and it destroys the plane – then the terrorists would have failed in their primary goal of crashing into some symbolic national or financial monument. If the bomb is fake or if the terrorists don’t explode it, they will probably be overcome by the mob of passengers.

    Scenario 2- they have guns or knives and either take hostages or just directly threaten all passengers. The other passengers rush them, and there is a blood bath. If the passengers win, then the terrorists fail at their primary goal. On the other hand if the terrorists win, then they succeed.

    So as I visualize these scenarios playing out, the only one that ends up with terrorists being able to crash a plane into some big building is #2. If crashing the planes into buildings is their ultimate goal – and not just destroying the planes themselves – then guns or knives would make success much more likely.

    So if hijackers are serious about trying to do another big hit, I don’t think they’ll use bombs on planes. Although I don’t really think they’d use planes again at all. They’ll try some other tactic. Succeed or fail, after that we’ll have more TSA stepped up security somewhere else – on trains, elevators on skyscrapers, whatever. Once again responding to yesterday’s threats.

  66. Megitospk says:

    It’s quite interessting how TSA has so many mishaps when going through to security. I had a buddy who bought somme apple cider and passing the security gate they took it. Him being the stubborn guy, tried to argue about it, resulting in him missing his flight, losing his baggage for a few hours for inspection, and the worst part they took the apple cider which was, the shit!

    Funny though, buddy behind him just bought a 8″knife, it was in a case, conceled in cardboard, duckedtape, and they let him through.
    Another interessting thing, is that there could be a technology out there, either that im not aware of or that doesn’t exist yet, but that can get passed the xray’s; ex: a coat thin as alluminum paper that hides all evidence inside. Sure it’d be suspicious at first if this technology exists…but who knows the future capabilities if it we’re possible.

  67. hi says:

    I think they saw the videos of the diet coke and mentos and got very… very scared. As they should be.

  68. SJActress says:

    I just love this at the TSA site:

    “lighters no longer pose a significant threat”

    So…how exactly have lighters changed that suddenly make them insignificant exactly?

    What? They never actually WERE a threat? Then why didn’t you just SAY that?

  69. polarbear_ak says:

    I have done the same thing actually. I was flying out of Pensencola, FL. I drove a car out there for my brother and was flying home. Not thinking when I came out there i had 2 knives in my backpack. On each side of the backpack there was like a mesh container, like you would store a waterbottle or something in. Well Oddly enough I was storing pens, highlighters, etc as I used them for school. Well I had a knife in each pocket, mixed in with the pens, so you really didn’t even see it, yet it was in plain view. Went through airport security and they only “found” one knife. They were like do you have any knifes in there? I said ohh crap, yes, here it is, pulled it out for them and showed them. It was a cheap like 5-10dollar knife, gave it to them and they took it and let me go on my way, didn’t say anything about the other knife which was a lot more expensive, but still a 4in blade.

    I was like ohh well, that was great security. :)

  70. noguef1 says:

    i deal with those tsa morrons every single day ( i am airline pilot),i make a point to make fun of them every morning but they so stupid they don’t even get it. good think they waste their time searching grandma in the wheelchair and confiscating the milk from a one year old baby bottle.
    tsa: Thousands Standing Around….

  71. RISwampyankee says:

    Last December I was flying out of Milwaukee. The x-ray screener called for a hand check of my backpack. Her associate held up my bag, looked at me like I was Osama himself, and told me that he was going to have to inspect the contents. He pulled out a 2lb brick of a 5 year old cheddar that I’d bought for my dad. Ever-so gently, he carried it to the blast area where he swabbed it down and gave it the “puff test”. Satisfied, he gave it back to me and said, “I think I know what this is.”

    I don’t know what C4 smells like but I don’t think it smells like a ripe cheese. In Milwaukee. In Wisconsin. Moo.

    • klc says:


      Ever wonder why food seems to be the sticking point for screeners looking at X-ray’s of baggage?

      Could it be because both food and some explosives both happen to be dense organic materials? Could it be because the scanners are designed exactly to identify dense organic materials that have the potential of being explosives?

      (picture worth a thousand words)

      (thousand words)
      [en.wikipedia.org] [www.technologyreview.com]

      Not to sully the general governmental hate-on that these threads tend to lean towards, but it seems to me that them swabbing/hand checking materials that show up on a scanner as even ‘explosive-like’ isn’t terribly incompetent.

      You know, just saying…

      Oh, and that’s not to say that I tolerate incompetent (the specific ones, not screeners in general) screening staff… Imagine trying to explain that your carry-on swabbed positive for explosives because it had been carrying explosives only a couple days prior (props to equipment sensitivity, btw) You would think that would have been easier considering I was in uniform, and hold much higher clearances then they do – but it definitely made for very touchy conversation.

  72. Sean Et Cetera says:

    Recently for work, I took my laptop with me on a flight. My flights got changed last minute due to weather (surprise) so I was flagged for the special security. When asked if there was anything sharp in the bag, I realized at the last minute that I had a screwdriver set in there, a supposedly banned item. Did he take it out? Nope.

    A month later, my wife and I were flying, and we both had a container of eye drops. It really didn’t matter that it was in the tray, nor did they check out this open container; they just let it through.

    At least it was only two containers of Visine and a screwdriver set. It could have been anything in the bottles and the edges of the screwdrivers could have been sharpened, but ok.

  73. Consumer-X says:

    RossMcD, I agree with what you say, I just think that your assumption that terrorists’ goal to fly a plane into a symbolic target is only partially correct. The Bojinka plot and the Richard Reid shoe bomb plot proved that terrorists will gain great terror value from merely killing a bunch of people and shutting down air travel. Hitting a symbolic building is merely one method of achieving their goals.

  74. ZzFDKzZ says:


    Right… with your grammar mistakes I highly doubt your a pilot.

  75. RISwampyankee says:

    Two gallons of coffee syrup, Andy? You must be a Rhode Islander!

  76. acambras says:

    Right… with your grammar mistakes I highly doubt your a pilot.

    That should be you’re, as in the contraction of “you are.”

    People who live in glass houses…

  77. JenLuc says:

    Technically, pudding is a Non-Newtonian Fluid — somewhere between a liquid and a solid, since it exhibits properties of both. Gels are also Non-Newtonian Fluids, and the TSA does specifically state that “liquids or gels” are verboten. So, they might be idiots, but they’re consistent idiots… at least when it comes to their definition of liquids or gels.

    This isn’t the first anecdote of security folks missing a critical potential weapon while confiscating something inane. Some interesting psychology going on there, I’d wager.

  78. wassup says:

    Shame on all of you! I am a TSA officer and it is only the fault of the complacent, asleep American public that any of this goes on! You should be directing all your comments to your state representative or senator and making a way bigger stink about this than just sitting by complacently and sniggering!!!!! TSA does hire morons…I work with them daily. And I am administered by them daily. And your’re right, there are many missed items. But you come and try it. It isn’t easy at all and we fucntion without alot of things we need as well, not the least of which is competent management and help!! Nonetheless, we do catch substantial things and we are trying to keep your snotty asses from being blown out of the sky. Some of us actually do our job, are good at it and care. What we worry about is being sitting ducks because if we flag something suspicious, do you think that person is going to just sit there and let us take his/her bomb away nicely? (At least at the passenger checkpoints) Who goes up in somke first? Us!!! At least we are trying to do something to make a difference. If you really care about this become an activist and put your money where your mouth is! Petition congress to upgrade TSA and give us modern technology, up the qualifications for officers, weed out the incompetents and then talk to me about pudding. Do you think I like not using my common sense? But we don’t have time to mollycoddle ignorant pilots and passengers who think it is all a joke by personally testing and screening each and every item they carry. There is a ban on stuff? Don’t bring it!!!! And yes the Bojinka bomb did blow a hole in the plane and kill maybe one guy but only because it blew up while still on the ground.

  79. wheezy_baby says:

    When I was coming home from Orlando about a year ago with my then five year old son, I was in a huge rush to get packed and to the airport on time. Without thinking, I threw my toiletry bags into the suitcase I was going to use as a carry-on. Of course, I got stopped. The agent pulled out the first (much smaller) bag, and pulled out a bottle of hair conditioner – expensive stuff, so of course I protested. I think my protests threw off the agent, and he failed to notice that there was still a full bottle of perfume, shampoo, and facewash, as well as a bottle of water, still in the bag. Maybe it’s because my son and I are both blonde haired and blue eyed Americans – but what were they thinking?! So easy for them to miss anything as long as there is a distraction… and you could be on that flight. Geez.

  80. JHerrick79 says:

    This happened to me this morning. TSA missed a small pocket knife that I forgot to remove from my keychain. But they diligently confiscated my dangerous 6oz tub of Yogurt that I was going to eat on the plane.