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beyond the Kuiper Belt, over the sea

Airport observations

March 19th, 2009 by Kit

So, I forgot to take my liquids out of my carryon, not that it would have made much difference, given that I am traveling with only once piece of carryon and no checked luggage.  So this time that I forgot to remove them, unlike the other n times, the TSA noticed it.  Or, sort of.  The guy took out two of the three liquids/gels I had.  He missed my deodorant.  But he took out a small bottle of aloe, totally unlabeled, and my toothpaste.

Here’s where it becomes total farce: the aloe was small enough to be acceptable, so he just says “next time, put this in a clear plastic bag.  But this is too large,” meaning the toothpaste.  If you were concerned about potentially dangerous gels, which would catch your attention?  A small unmarked container (which he never asked me to even identify) of clear odorless gel, or a toothpaste tube, which you could easily confirm contained toothpaste, which you know to be non-dangerous?  Of course, he didn’t give the aloe a second thought, but took the toothpaste.  The only way this makes sense is in the context of Bruce Schneier’s interview with Kip Hawley, in which Hawley basically says that there is an Office for Annoying Air Travelers.

In other, unrelated news, chewing gum is one of the most incredibly obnoxious actions that doesn’t actively impinge on those around you.

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  • alex

    they really just care if it fits the size requirement. thanksgiving of junior year, i was flying home, and needed to bring some bourbon along to make pie. i did not have any water-tight containers of the appropriate size, so grabbed a couple of new, unused 50 ml centrifuge tubes from chem lab, filled them with bourbon, and put them in a ziplock bag. the TSA did not give me any trouble, even though i had unlabeled brown liquid in test tubes. also, i was under 21 at the time.

  • kit

    See the interview with Hawley. He claims that the TSA’s research indicates that there is no danger from multiple people carrying liquids through and combining them into something past the size requirement. This is obviously false on the purely physical level, and I can only assume he means that the behavior of people mixing together their liquids would be too obvious to pass unnoticed. However, the number of ways to hide this activity fairly trivially (for example, does anyone ever look at what someone else is doing in a men’s bathroom?) seem many. So it’s supremely unlayered security, his many claims to the contrary notwithstanding. You get past the first strong point, and then there’s… nothing.

    Of course, Schneier also has some keen insight into the reasons the TSA really can’t change most of its behaviors, but despite what Hawley would have us believe, those reasons are basically because it has to maintain security theater.

  • Rachel

    This reminds me a bit of a time (many years ago, now) when my carryon was searched by hand. Inside, I had a paper bag with a bagel, a little tub of cream cheese, and a plastic knife. They confiscated the plastic knife. On the other side of security, I went into a restaurant and got another one.

  • Viva

    Huh, I was wondering if they still check for liquids… I’ve been forgetting to remove my shampoo and such recently and they haven’t seemed to notice.

  • kit

    That’s classic.

  • kit

    It’s very erratic.