I’m really scratching my head on this one. I know that we can all be a little forgetful when we travel. I have a mental checklist when I get ready to leave home for a trip that will put me in several airport terminals in the space of three or four days. I usually travel with two bags: my roller-board suitcase and a compact duffel-tote bag. With these two bags, I can pack up to six days’ worth of clothing and sundries to meet just about any situation.
I pack my own bags. I don’t have hired help, or even my mother to help me out the door with all that I need. So I am well aware of every item that I carry with me when I head for the airport.
The public demand for airline travel has grown exponentially over the last 30 years. This fact alone indicates that there will be a much larger swath of the public who will travel because it is cheaper than bus, car or rail. It also most assuredly guarantees that among that plethora of people and personalities, there will be those who have no idea what they are doing, or those who will try anything to bend or break the rules when it comes to air travel.
Still, I find it disturbing that the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) continually discovers an interesting assortment of “contraband” in travelers’ luggage as they try to get through airport security lines across the country. Their latest blog continues to reveal the items that are found around the system on a daily basis! You’d be stunned to hear what exactly people are trying to bring aboard airplanes these days. Here are a few recent highlights:
- In August of this year, a female passenger in Rochester, NY was detained at a TSA checkpoint when the screening agents thought they saw a knife concealed inside the woman’s cane. It turned out to be a 19” double-sided sword!
- An Egyptian man from Baltimore was arrested after a TSA screener found 13 knives concealed within the liner of his luggage. The man, who has lived in the USA for seven years, claimed he was a knife collector, had just purchased the knives, and was booked on a flight to Minneapolis that day. He faces a number of charges, including carrying a concealed dangerous weapon and interfering with airport security procedures.
- A 22-year old man from Tennessee, on his way to Las Vegas, was slapped with federal misdemeanor charges for trying to bring knives, tactical and police batons, brass knuckles and four inert grenades in his tote bag.
What puzzles me is that the two most common replies that TSA, ATF and the FBI get when questioning these folks is either “I didn’t know they were in my bags,” or “I forgot they were there.” Seriously???
The truth of the matter is that in this day and age, after just recognizing the tenth anniversary of the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, why are these folks being given what appears to be a “pass” on these issues? Misdemeanor charges? Being questioned and then released with the banned items confiscated? Am I sounding too alarmist here?
I work on an airplane. It’s my job, and not only do I enjoy my work, but I have a reasonable expectation that I will get from one airport to the next without the need to call in the SWAT team simply because someone who left their wits back at the security checkpoint was lucky enough to slip one past the guardians! And in one instance, they had help from an airline employee!!!
Personally, the logical part of my brain asks, “Where have these people been hiding? Under what rock were they living?” Unfortunately, as it IS the public we are dealing with here, I learned long ago that when it comes to the General Public, you’ll have to throw out logic just to get your mind wrapped around what these people were (or perhaps not) thinking when they got up that morning, knowing that they were going to the airport, needed to pack a bag or two for the journey, and would be subjected to an intensive search of their belongings at the security checkpoint!
The cynical side of me says that these people knew exactly what they were doing and were trying to circumvent the system to accommodate their own idea of civil freedoms. I just can’t fathom how law enforcement can accept the “I didn’t know” excuse or the “I forgot it was there” defense. Plato said “Good people do not need laws to tell them to act responsibly, while bad people will find a way around the laws.”
As long as bad people continue trying, we’ll continue to need the security countermeasures that the TSA is continually trying to improve.