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8Oct
2009
TSA = Totally Stupid Agents?

I've run into, and commented on, TSA stupidity and ignorance before. But, this one is a contender for the #1 spot ...

My 13 year old was just stopped when walking through the metal detector at LAX because he was holding a Rubik's Cube. It was in his pocket originally, and while in line he took it out and started playing with it. The TSA agent told him "now that you've shown it to me, it has to go through the machine" (exact words). They made him go back, place it on the belt, and then go through again.

So, in TSA logic this means that you can carry non-metal stuff that fits in your pocket, so long as it is actually in your pocket and out of sight. But if you carry it in the open ... Wow, I feel safer already!

Hey, maybe next time I'll have him put it in a quart sized bag first!

[Updated]

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Comments (22)



  • David Fekke

    A pilot told me that TSA actually stands for They Stand Around.

  • Alirio Boquin

    I can't believe!

  • Murray

    That doesn't really seem that unreasonable to me. Is there some reason that Rubik's Cubes should be exempt from normal screening procedures? They could easily conceal a hidden blade, or be stuffed full of plastic explosive.

    #3Posted by Murray | Oct 8, 2009, 05:58 PM
  • Ed

    The next time you take a flight an waiting in line at checkpoint. Stop an think Why this is Dumb Ass .

    #4Posted by Ed | Oct 8, 2009, 07:00 PM
  • Andy

    Sorry Ben... I have to agree with with Murray on this one.

    #5Posted by Andy | Oct 8, 2009, 07:38 PM
  • David

    To be fair Ben, I think this is partly an expectations problem - the primary qualifications for TSA security officers is 1)Be a U.S. Citizen and 2) Be able to lift 70lbs. For that you get a badge, a uniform, authority and $18/ hour. That formula doesn't scream "Critical Thinking Skills" to me.

    #6Posted by David | Oct 8, 2009, 11:17 PM
  • Ben Forta

    I originally made this post from my phone, which is why it was a little short on specifics. But, I just update the post with a little more detail and context in case you are interested.

    --- Ben

    #7Posted by Ben Forta | Oct 8, 2009, 11:19 PM
  • Sebastiaan

    I agree with Ben that it's quite silly to first judge something as dangerous when you see it instead of asking up front if there are any specific items in your pockets, if so, please put them on the conveyer. I recently had a similar experience in the Netherlands, flying to Norway. A guy in front of me nicely put his laptop in a conveyer box to be screened. As with all laptops they open them up after having been screened and then, lo and behold, a piece of paper was revealed. The security officers when bonkers and accused the man of hiding possible incriminating stuff and asked why he hadn't told them up front of this piece of European sized paper (A4), folded in the middle a top his keyboard. The man was to dumbfounded to come up with a plausible answer, looking at me with a thought like: "Is this really happening? This isn't just a really bad moviescript???" Eventually, after some 10 minutes he was allowed to keep his piece of paper, but had to promise always to declare such a thing up front the next time he went flying...

  • Paul Carney

    I am with Ben and don't agree with Murray and Andy. As a very frequent flyer, I often have things in my pocket that are non-metalic and go through the walk-through xray machine fine. There is never the expectation that I have to remove all items from my pockets.

    Using the TSA logic, they should be required to have you pull everything out of your pockets, which would be absurd.

    #9Posted by Paul Carney | Oct 9, 2009, 12:12 PM
  • Alan McCollough

    I'll go out on a limb and say they did the right thing. And then some. I only hope they do similar things for any particular passenger, with no rhyme or reason. Be unpredictable. If they have a little kid run his Rubik's cube through the scanner, then shake down an old Middle-Eastern guy, then pester a pregnant Lithuanian lady, then bug a couple more little kids who look, oh, Chinese, they become upredictable. Being unpredicatble makes it more difficult for the truly evil out there to gamble on how the screeners will act. Their actions should be like going a round with the Magic 8-Ball.

  • john Zhu

    I just want to say that, I checked in my bag 1.5 hour at counter before flight and proceeded to security-line, which took me 5 minutes of walk to reach the end of line.

    After being very patient in suggesting to any TSA agents who walk by in saying that, this is not going to look good for me, eventually, an agent allowed about 10 of us -- on the same flight, to move in front of the line.

    But by now, and by the time that I went through security, I am the last one to get on the plane as the gate shutting behind me, stranding 3 passengers (out of the 10) behind.

    So, great job, TSA.

    Whatever you guys are doing, are excellent ...

    #11Posted by john Zhu | Oct 9, 2009, 02:30 PM
  • john luopa

    It was cool to finally see someone I new at the airport. Thanks for letting me take you picture Ben.

    #12Posted by john luopa | Oct 9, 2009, 03:32 PM
  • Randy

    @Ben and Everyone else bagging on TSA:

    Be glad that you are not one of the people on one of the aircraft that crashed on 9/11. Ben, you are a smart guy. So you should know that no process is perfect. And the fact that you work for Adobe means that you know it well. I have been on hold with Adobe sales and tech support for about 20 hours in the last month. However, I digress. Of course, there will be inconvenience with security procedures. That is the point! And you also know that sometimes people are just doing their jobs. They don't make up the rules. Ben, you are way out of line by making a derogatory comment about these people who are just trying to keep you and I safe. Show a little more class than that.

    From one who general enjoys reading your blog.

    #13Posted by Randy | Oct 11, 2009, 12:09 AM
  • Demian Holmberg

    I'm totally with you Ben. The TSA is terrible, and from the flying I've done, no where is the 'experience' worse than at LAX.

    I had to fly out of LAX three times last year, and each time the TSA did some other terrible time wasting exercise.

    @Randy, I understand what the TSA is supposed to provide, however, seeing as the level of 'security' is worst in airports that need it most (O'Hare, LAX, SFO, etc.) and best at places that never likely to provide a threat (Champaign IL, Buffalo NY, etc.) the system is far from perfect, it is just broken.

    Of course we NEED security at airports, but how about something that really works?

    Just my two cents.

    #14Posted by Demian Holmberg | Oct 11, 2009, 10:58 AM
  • Mike

    I've pretty much given up flying - even changing my job to one where I rarely leave the office let alone travel to other countries, and only taking vacations at places I can drive to.

    The final straw was the security staff (UK, not TSA) that couldn't understand why my wife and I were a little concerned when they wanted to take our four year old daughter "away" for special scanning after she'd walked through the security gate and it had beeped. They were unhappy that we insisted that one of us would accompany her.

    Turned out to be no big deal and everyone calmed down. Traveling with small children is never fun, irrational security measures and obdurate staff don't make it any easier.

    If the terrorists haven't won, they've certainly come close, because we in the west have let the security nutters out of their boxes to dominate everyday life.

    #15Posted by Mike | Oct 11, 2009, 06:03 PM
  • Bill

    I can beat your story Ben.

    I was coming back from Florida and had a small carry-on cooler with some Stone Crab claws and Ice. After it went through the X-Ray machine they told me I
    had to dump the ice and start again from the back of the line.

    TSA Agent: "You can't bring liquids through security."
    Me: "I'm not, all I have in there is crab claws and ICE"
    TSA Agent: "Ice is a liquid"
    Me: "Did you take science in school?"

    :-)

    #16Posted by Bill | Oct 12, 2009, 08:23 PM
  • Dr.TSA

    Well I know from much experience that TSA is a joke!! Not for many of the reasons you may think. As far as the cube goes an agent should not even need to look at it, it should just be sent through the x-ray and anyone wearing pants baggy enough for the cube to hide in is to be sent down for extra screening. As far as becoming an agent you need a little more than a citizenship and to be able to lift 70 pounds. You would be amazed at the people they do turn down. No doubt they should be increasing standars instead of lowering it. Of course if they acted like they wanted to keep good agents with actual raises and promoted based on performance instead of who paid someone else the most to fill out their application the best perhaps they would retain some of the good people they actualy do have but no one in their right mind stays at this joke of an agency. The agency is run like a government agency as it is one, complete retards are at the top (can't fire them lets promote them) that's no joke look into to it if you think I'm wrong. As far as $18 an hour I am positive most airport screeners make far less than that with the exceptions of Alaska and Hawaii.

    #17Posted by Dr.TSA | Oct 13, 2009, 05:03 AM
  • Simon Horwith

    The only things I can think of that could justify making someone run an object through the X-Ray that they already caried through the metal detector in their pocket would be:

    a. it might contain dangerous liquid(s)
    b. it has moving parts - and therefor may be concealing (or be able to be turned into) sharp points

    If something like that happens again, I'd be curious to know whether or not my theory as to why they'd make you scan it are accurate or not?

    Of course, the easy fix here is to buy your kids clothing with smaller pockets :)

  • Alfio

    Ben,
    It's horrible how those TSA agents are.

    Leaving Boston a TSA agent took shaving gel from my bag.

    On my return trip from Japan and Costa Rica, I went thru 6 security check points including the checkpoint where they go thru everything very thoroughly and yet I was able to bring 2 5oz bottles of Costa Rican Hot Sauce in the country that I had in my pockets which I was intent on getting back home. Even got a fantastic photo of TSA agents slacking off while perople wait to get inspected.

    #19Posted by Alfio | Oct 19, 2009, 10:51 PM
  • Allen

    That's actually a smart move on the TSA agents part. But that's because of bureaucracy and the overbearing need for CYA . It has nothing to do with making anyone any more safe.

    #20Posted by Allen | Oct 20, 2009, 12:08 AM
  • Doug

    As it appears no one has checked with TSA to determine what the proper procedure is for passengers. Are you upset because the agent said "now that you've shown it to me, it has to go through the machine" and not "Please, put it through the machine." or are you upset because your son was inconvenienced?

    There must be more to this, as someone who travels for a living, this seems to be nothing more than an minor annoyance with a purpose.

    #21Posted by Doug | Oct 23, 2009, 11:04 AM
  • Larry

    Hey Ben / Maybe U should consider a different mode of transportation next time, like a bus maybe? They're only there to try and help U from falling out of the sky the hard way

    #22Posted by Larry | Oct 20, 2010, 08:37 AM