What you can and can’t carry on — is unknowable

In a recent Huffington Post article called “What You Can (And Can’t) Carry Through TSA Checkpoints,” Dana Steele Green implies that travelers should be able to predict with perfect accuracy which objects the TSA will claim are “banned” on the day they travel. However, we have seen countless times that TSA procedures are as capricious as they are irrelevant to our safety.

99% of confiscated items are known by everyone involved to be harmless. The TSA confiscates larger-than-3-ounce containers of shampoo, toothpaste, and perfume because these items supposedly might be liquid explosives, and then tosses these potentially explosive items into a huge unsecured bin right there at the checkpoint. If the TSA knows these liquids are harmless, then passengers should be allowed to take them; and if the TSA thinks these liquids might explode, then they are endangering themselves and the traveling public by their careless handling.

What about empty breast milk bottles? How are those a threat to the aircraft? One TSA screener found empty breast milk bottles so threatening that he forced young mother Amy Strand to pump her breasts in a dirty public bathroom to satisfy his power trip. Or there was the six-inch plastic toy hammer that mentally disabled adult Drew Mandy had carried for 20 years as a comforting constant, until the TSA senselessly stole it from him. Cupcakes might actually be liquids, depending on the mood of your screener. Sterile bags of saline might be ruined at the checkpoint, as cancer sufferer Michele Dunaj experienced. Jean Weber had to remove her mother’s adult diaper on the say-so of the blueshirts.

The point of this run-down is that none of us can predict what will be banned at the checkpoint on any given day.

Yet Dane Steele Greene believes that travelers deserve the blame for this broken system. We could have prevented all these incidents, he says, if we had “TAKEN FIVE EXTRA SECONDS” (emphasis his) to guess what newly invented secret rule we are about to break at the checkpoint.

I want to pose another question to Dane Steele Green: What exactly are all these confiscations accomplishing? They sure as heck aren’t keeping weapons off planes, because TSA screeners miss box cutters, twelve-inch razor blades, clearly labeled blocks of C4, and loaded guns, all of which have been carried on to airplanes recently.

It’s time we stopped this massive over-investment in security theater. The TSA’s procedures don’t work! Luckily, they don’t have to, because air travel is the safest form of long-distance transportation known to man – and it always has been, even without the TSA boondoggle.

(Photo: Flickr Creative Commons/Practical Hacks)

  • Dana Steele Green also implies that the stuff the TSA steals from passengers magically goes off into the ether. Twice in the past two days I’ve tried posting a comment pointing out that those items end up being sold at state government surplus stores. So far HuffPo hasn’t allowed that comment to appear.