March 3, 2008

Airline Security Liquids Restrictions are Pointless
Lima, Peru

The Transportation Security Agency (TSA), like most other places in the world, seems to feel compelled to limit the type or amount of fluids that you can pass through security with and bring on board an airplane. These regulations (below) are absolutely pointless.

  1. All liquids, gels and aerosols must be in three-ounce or smaller containers. Larger containers that are half-full or toothpaste tubes rolled up are not allowed. Each container must be three ounces or smaller.
  2. All liquids, gels and aerosols must be placed in a single, quart-size, zip-top, clear plastic bag. Gallon size bags or bags that are not zip-top such as fold-over sandwich bags are not allowed. Each traveler can use only one, quart-size, zip-top, clear plastic bag.
  3. Each traveler must remove their quart-sized plastic, zip-top bag from their carry-on and place it in a bin or on the conveyor belt for X-ray screening. X-raying separately will allow TSA security officers to more easily examine the declared items.

There are exceptions for baby formula, breast milk, and other essential liquids, gels, and aerosols, including prescription and over-the-counter medicines.

I find it absolutely baffling that anyone would've even approved this song and dance of inconvenience in the first place, let alone for it to become a global standard.

'Backscatter' demonstration scan at Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport

Let me paint this picture for you: Let's say that I've got two odorless chemicals that, when mixed in sufficient quantity, will blow a nice chunk out of a plane at altitude. To store these chemicals, I create a simple container made out of Ziploc sandwich bags, and tape a quantity of them to my thighs—maybe I get a friend booked on the same flight to do the same.

We wear loose-fitting sweatpants, pass our carryon bags through the X-ray machine, and walk through the metal detector, unchallenged. Once in flight—boom.

Guess what: The liquids used—not metallic.

And until you start using a "backscatter" full body scanner in conjunction with this regulation, the value of such a course of action is absolutely zero—nothing more than an annoyance.




March 3rd, 2008

The liquids issue isn't all that's ridiculous about the current screening procedures.

The fact that one can't bring a pair of tweezers on board, but my metal hairclip (which looks like something an evil Bond girl would whip out of her hair and proceed to throw at the hero, pinning him to the wall in the process) makes it through every time. But not the tweezers. Heavens no. I guess there's always the risk that I may shape the co-pilots brows. Wouldn't want that.


Craig |

March 3rd, 2008

I'm going to throw out a term here that some will know, and others won't: Security theater.

Security theater, a component of the culture of fear, are security countermeasures that provide the feeling of security while doing little or nothing to actually improve security. It has real monetary costs but does not necessarily provide tangible security benefits. It typically involves restricting certain aspects of people's behavior in very visible ways, that could involve potential restrictions of personal liberty and privacy, ranging from negligible (where bottled water can be purchased) to significant (prolonged screening of individuals to the point of harassment).


South Africa


March 4th, 2008

I just wonder sometimes - with ever more people flying and as such it becoming ever more difficult to provide 'real' security, won't these kinds of silly control measures become more prevalent?

The United States

Jen Flom

March 4th, 2008

I flew to San Diego a couple of weeks ago and didn't check any luggage because I was only going for one night. On the way back to Phoenix, I forgot to remove my bag-o-liquids from my carry-on and sent the whole thing through the scanner. I realized it once I got through the metal detector, so I told the TSA guy watching the x-ray. He just shrugged his shoulders and said it was fine and off I went. I couldn't believe that they didn't at least make me pull them out after my bag went through the scanner. It is ridiculous.

Another time I was with my 8-month old son and was carrying baby bottles with water in them. I carried the powdered formula seperate and mixed the bottles as needed. They would not let me through security and made me dump the bottles of water out in the garbage. Had I mixed the formula in advance, they would have let me through without hesitation. What a pain in the a**!



March 4th, 2008

I think one of the most interesting things is seeing the different levels of so-called security, depending on which airport you're flying out of.

Vancouver airport, which is one of the largest in the Canada, has what I would refer to as an average level of screening. They will ask you if you have your liquids in a ziploc, but rarely ask to see said ziploc. They will definitely not let you through with larger bottles of liquids if they see them in hand or in the xray. Occasionally I am asked to remove my boots or open my belt, but not every time.

It's when you start to hit smaller airports that the security screening seems to get tighter. Flying out of Kelowna, BC (pop. 123,456), the metal detector was so sensitive that it picked up on my gold toe ring, which then necessitated my not only having to take boots off, but socks too.

Not only did I get the whole liquids/metal shakedown, but my carry-on bag was swabbed for explosives flying out of Cranbrook, BC (population 18, 247), an airport with one gate, for a one hour flight on a plane which carries 14 passengers. Not what I would pick as my first choice for a terrorism attack target.

I'm guessing that the less passengers that the security team has to put through, the more thorough they are. So the places that were probably least likely to be the take-off point of a terrorist attack have the highest levels of screening, and the most likely spots, the lowest. Makes perfect sense, no?

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