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Travelers, brace yourselves for the latest indignity

Thinking about flying?  Well, in addition to "enhanced" searches and the risk that your privates may be photographed and stored by Transportation Safety Administration screeners, travelers now have one more woe to add to their litany of complaints.

According to the Daily Mail TSA agents at the Columbus, Ohio Airport have been subjecting travelers to random seizures/inspections of their drinks at the gate to "check for explosives".  

Of course, these drinks all were presumably were sold by the airport vendors, as any drink-size liquid containers are supposed to be seized by the bag screeners at the security checkpoint -- a policy that has been in place since 2006.  So at first blush it's somewhat unclear exactly why the TSA agents felt it necessary to screen passengers' Starbucks and soft drinks.

The incident has been leaked onto YouTube (of course):

Ryan Mauro, a national security analyst, told the Daily Mail, "They're worried someone could bring an ingredient past security and then mix it with a drink that turns into something else - a poison or something else."

TSA drink screening
Airport screeners test passenger's Starbucks coffee to make sure he isn't a terrorist.
[Image Source: YouTube]

In June, the U.S. reportedly thwarted an attempt to blow up an airliner by a Yemen-trained, Norwegian citizen who was a member of the militant fundamentalist Islamic group al Qaeda.  Despite the potential terrorist's plot failing, national security officials are reportedly alarmed about the fact that his spotless record and lack of inclusion on no-fly lists could have allowed him to escape scrutiny, were it not for the tips.

In a statement the TSA confirmed it might now be seizing people's drinks as a precautionary measure, commenting, "TSA employs multiple layers of security throughout the airport where passengers may be randomly selected for additional screening.  One measure may include testing liquids that are in a passenger's possession."

Is that a coconut water or a bomb?  Let's find out. [Image Source: YouTube]

TSA agents "examine" the beverages using a special security screen, which appears to involve taking a small dropper or swab sample of the beverage, then testing it on a slide with some sort of reagent mix.

Some say that the policy goes to far, though.  The person who captured the incident on video told the Daily Mail:

I couldn't help but notice the two TSA women that were 'testing' any and all liquids that people had in their hands.  Now remember that this is inside the terminal, well beyond the security check and purchased inside the terminal ... just people waiting to get on the plane. 

My wife and son came back from a coffee shop just around the corner, then we were approached. I asked them what they were doing. One of the TSA ladies said that they were checking for explosive chemicals (as we are drinking them). I said 'really..inside the terminal? You have got to be kidding me.'

I asked them if they wanted to swab us all. She responded with something like, yes sometimes we need to do that. I then asked if she wanted a urine sample.

The TSA is way out of control. I understand that my ranting to one of these $11.00 per hour TSA goons probably does nothing, but you have to say something. Whats next...perhaps the TSA will come to your home prior to your drive to the airport? The police state of the U.S. is OUT OF CONTROL!

Indeed, as the list of indignities grows at a pace proportional to the would-be terrorists' increasingly imaginative plots, one has to wonder where the line must be drawn.

Sources: YouTube, Daily Mail

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RE: Not about chemicals
By mocyd on 9/5/2012 1:18:06 PM , Rating: -1
A note about TSA measures:

You're stepping into a government owned facility (paid by taxpayer funds) and walking on to a commercially (privately owned) method of transport.

The government has to protect taxpayer funds invested in the facility, and the commercial entity must protect their private investment in extremely expensive modes of transit.

If the government didn't make you submit to scans/searches- the commercial entities would likely make it a part of the contract of sale for the ticket that you submit to their own screenings. Given that airlines kick people off of flights for what shirts say, I think we can deal with drink testing. The commercial screenings would likely have disparate requirements, between airlines, and would make travel a greater hassle than it already is. I much prefer that the government have one common set of security guidelines so that I know what to expect to get through security quickly. If they swab my drink- I'm ok with it.

We have bigger problems with air travel than TSA screening measures- we have no fly lists that are arbitrarily constructed and prevent us from exercising the more practical liberty of transit.

Let's not get into meaningless slippery slope debates about drink testing and let's talk about real practical limits on our liberty and real practical violations of privacy that actually impact our lives- especially when there's a demonstrably worse alternative in having the commercial entities perform security.

RE: Not about chemicals
By SPOOFE on 9/5/2012 1:32:35 PM , Rating: 5
If the government didn't make you submit to scans/searches- the commercial entities would likely make it a part of the contract of sale for the ticket that you submit to their own screenings.

No, because if that were true, we'd see it manifest in countries where the security is not as draconian (the same companies that operate here also operate there).

The truth is even simpler: It's a clumsy attempt to use massive amounts of completely unskilled labor to create the impression of a robust security force.

RE: Not about chemicals
By mocyd on 9/5/12, Rating: -1
RE: Not about chemicals
By geddarkstorm on 9/5/2012 1:56:05 PM , Rating: 5
In my argument- I actually suggested a practical alternative to critiquing drink testing- challenging the no fly lists.

How is that an alternative? They are different issues entirely. Trying to distract form an issue by saying "look over there!" is not a valid form of argument; you are simply sidestepping the case under discussion.

Remember that
Before the September 11, 2001 attacks, airport screening was provided by private companies which were contracted with the airline or airport.

And was it liquid vendor sold drinks that caused 9/11? No, it was physical people with physical box cutters who physically controlled the planes to fly into things. A very different security issue than liquids sold by security screened vendors behind security gates!

RE: Not about chemicals
By mocyd on 9/5/12, Rating: -1
RE: Not about chemicals
By geddarkstorm on 9/5/2012 2:31:25 PM , Rating: 5
Given that it is fairly easy to create explosives from household cleaning products (that are likely located at airports by the vendors themselves, along with other staff), it is not inconceivable that a maniac might try to assemble one after they've passed the gate, concealed in regular containers.

Mocyd, you are forgetting what we are even talking about. No one is going to be hiding liquids in containers; those are screened at the security gates. The liquids under discussion here were BOUGHT by the people at the vendors inside the terminal (vendors do not sell household cleaning agents, or anything of the type needed to make explosives). There's no household cleaning agents, there's no explosives, there's no personally brought liquids beyond the 3 ounces allowed and already screened for explosives or explosive combination potential by the TSA at the gate.

The commercial airlines didn't fail to look at security aspects that lead to 9/11; they were not aspects of security in anyone's mind at the time. It wasn't as if someone knew and then it wasn't done. The entire culture was naive.

But there comes a point of diminishing returns, where the invasion of privacy far outweighs any damage that could be done through exploiting that privacy. Not only is this current drink swabbing irrational, redundant to the extreme, and unnecessary (nothing liquid a passenger is drinking that made it into an airport could explode a plane; if it was a liquid explosive, it would kill/harm that person to drink, would give off tell tail chemical scents which would be immediately detected, and what would be the source of ignition?), but it distracts from legitimate security concerns. Why are those TSA officers not paying attention to the real security points they need to be evaluating?

We live in a day where a person will gun down several people and shoot themselves in the head after they're done. There's no telling what a crazy person might try next, let alone a terrorist.

No, we don't. We don't live in a day where suddenly that is a thing. It has -always- been a thing. Are we cowards, who live our lives trembling in fear over what "might be done", or are we the land of the brave?

Argument from Probability ("that something could happen means it will happen") is a logical fallacy, by the way.

RE: Not about chemicals
By x10Unit1 on 9/5/2012 4:43:37 PM , Rating: 3
Sorry dude, there is no guarantee to life regardless of how many restrictions and/or safe guards you put into place.

I would like you to look at it from a different perspective:

What are you willing to give up to be safe? We are basically being told, "You will be safe if you are willing to give up xxxxxxx" That list of what you give up keeps growing and will continue to grow. It also cost lots of money(which is wasted) and expands government power(which is abused).

They are testing drinks now, so when are they going to start testing food in the airport? I am sure someone could figure out how to hide some c4 in a snickers bar. *rolls eyes*

And your "we live in a day" statement shows how naive and/or scared you are and I can't tell which is worse. If using fear to manipulate is terrorism then let me ask you this...who is the terrorist(s)?

RE: Not about chemicals
By jeffkro on 9/6/2012 12:30:30 AM , Rating: 2
Yup even with terrorist trying to blow up planes the plane trip is still far safer than the car trip to the airport

RE: Not about chemicals
By tastyratz on 9/6/2012 8:05:46 AM , Rating: 2
Yup even with terrorist trying to blow up planes

But really they aren't, that's the thing. The media would like you to believe anyone evil wants to target a plane - so much so that it's become a self fulfilling prophecy even with the relatively small number of attempts. Consider the number of people who have actually attempted to stage an attack. Then compare that number to gunmen in theater/mall/school/etc. settings. Let's be honest - the point for many is really doing the most damage to large crowds. You can't protect every group of people from every risk, and a plane is just another group of people. It's also incredibly hard even with basic security never mind draconian. in "risk vs reward" it's far easier for someone to just go to a concert/mall/gathering of some sort.

"terrorism" is the most misunderstood media sensationalism in the usa and it's crap. Osama bin ladin did NOT do what he did to make us live in fear of flying, he did it to make the American people question "why me?" and investigate further, educating themselves on the usa's involvement in foreign policy and doing things like helping Israel where the casualties are their women and children over there. I by no means am siding with him or anything like that - but understand his goal was to reduce our military force and involvement in the middle east - it backfired as we heavily increased our presence. The terrorists did not "win" with their goals. The tsa and government sure does like to terrorize us and capitalize on the situation though.

RE: Not about chemicals
By Digimonkey on 9/6/2012 6:14:54 PM , Rating: 2
Terrorists do like to target planes. It's not about the people inside of them, it's about the dangerous weapon they become when full of fuel. Terrorists don't need to completely blow up a plane, and they in fact probably have no desire to do that. They want to incapacitate and have it crash in a heavily populated area.

RE: Not about chemicals
By tastyratz on 9/7/2012 9:46:16 AM , Rating: 2
consider statistics. I bet the number of actual plane hostile takeover and true threads stopped is under a dozen. Terrorists have a good reason to target planes for their goals, but they are far more likely to be successful by other means. If your house has a dog and an alarm, it's easier to rob the neighbors.

It's kind of like shark attacks. Everyone is afraid but the number of them that happens every year can probably be counted on your hands.

RE: Not about chemicals
By MrBlastman on 9/5/2012 2:29:07 PM , Rating: 2
I prefer a personal attempt. Let me pack heat like I do elsewhere. Let the people protect themselves. If we see something wrong, let us do what we the people do best.

"An armed society is a polite society.

- Robert A. Heinlein.

I have no desire to sacrifice any more liberties. Enough is enough. Time to stop living in fear, people.

RE: Not about chemicals
By croc on 9/6/12, Rating: 0
RE: Not about chemicals
By tastyratz on 9/6/2012 8:10:28 AM , Rating: 3
"your kind" ?
A gun owner?
Sometimes someone ccw could save your life. Regular citizens with a firearm are hardly a security risk because the bad guys can always get and find guns. You want that man who carries for self protection in your house, your city, country, because someday he might save YOUR ass.

RE: Not about chemicals
By Ahnilated on 9/6/2012 11:39:49 AM , Rating: 2
by croc on September 6, 2012 at 1:34 AM

I might point out that R.A.H. was a writer of science-fiction, not a philosopher, not a statesman...

As long as you keep your 'heat' off of any transportation that I am on, we're cool. And please don't even THINK about bringing it into my house, my city, my country... As a matter of fact, just stay away. We don't need your kind around here.

You are kidding me, right? It is NOT your city or YOUR country nor is it your transportation if you don't own it. Get a clue and stop spreading this type of crap. If someone carries heat into a theater where some whack job goes into try and murder everyone they could take him out before he kills everyone in the place. Most people that get permits to carry concealed weapons also learn how to use them correctly and can hit what they shoot at.

RE: Not about chemicals
By Dorkyman on 9/6/2012 12:45:20 PM , Rating: 2
Hey, Croc, I usually carry a small .22 in my pocket when out and about. If/when you ever get to Portland, look me up. You'll be far safer walking around with me than with someone else. If you'd look up the stats you'd see that.

RE: Not about chemicals
By bull2760 on 9/7/2012 8:11:16 AM , Rating: 1
Unless you live outside the US, and with the exception of a few states, we can bring out damn guns anywhere we want. As long as your are licensed there is no problem. It's also the second amendment that gives us the right to bare arms. So if you don't like it pack up and move out! Let's get this straight GUNS don't kill, people kill. So weather some crazy nut has a gun, knife, pipe, whatever it maybe in his hands, they are all at that point in time a weapon. Now should that nut come into my area while I'm packin god help him cause I'll put a bullet right between his/her fucking eyes!

RE: Not about chemicals
By Natch on 9/6/2012 8:13:42 AM , Rating: 2
Why not just pass out stun guns to every passenger, as they board the plane?

"Welcome on board, here's your stun gun, your seat is 22F."

First fool to start something gets lit up like a Christmas tree! Win!!

Let's face it....the DHS (Department of Homeland "Security"), and it's obnoxious little brother, the TSA, have learned how to assure their own job coming up with new security "threats", that they then have to "protect" us from. The more they cow the average Joe into thinking that he's "safe", the more likely they are to continue getting massive funding, year after year.

And the sheeple keep going along for the ride!

RE: Not about chemicals
By SPOOFE on 9/5/2012 5:02:18 PM , Rating: 4
Demonstrate specifics to me. If you're talking about a country where security is already undermined for other reasons (ie- it doesn't make sense to enhance security at the gate because the airfield is accessible and unprotected), or it's not a country as threatened by terrorism as the US, then you don't really have a point.

Israel. Their security measures are A: not nearly as all-encompassing, B: far more effective, and C: not crippled by the need to satisfy political correctness.

Unless you think Israel isn't threatened by terrorism...?

So you prefer no attempt?

Yes, because then at least people will be aware of how insecure they are and can then make an educated choice about flying or not. Why do you prefer absurdist theater instead?

RE: Not about chemicals
By geddarkstorm on 9/5/2012 1:36:25 PM , Rating: 3
I think you are forgetting what life was like before 2001, before the TSA. Commercial screening was not any of the things are you trying to claim it would be, history already disproves your point.

This isn't a meaningless slippery slope. We've been plummeting off this TSA built cliff for awhile now; not so subtly and not so slippery. The 4th amendment still exists.

RE: Not about chemicals
By mocyd on 9/5/12, Rating: 0
RE: Not about chemicals
By geddarkstorm on 9/5/2012 2:22:53 PM , Rating: 2
Inadequate commercial screening resulted in airplanes crashing into buildings.

But that wasn't the claims you were making about commercial screening. Suddenly changing your tune to the exact opposite of your claims is invalid. And once again, it wasn't inadequate screening of liquids; box cutters slipped through since their blades were so small, but it turns out people could use them to intimidate anyways. Why? Because back in that day, hijacking meant ransom, not being converted into a missile. As soon as the fourth plane knew the real purpose of the hijacking, they revolted. The passengers of the other three allowed it to happen, more or less, again because back then hijacking was just a ransom deal, and people were told to deal with it no differently than they would a mugger.

It was a mindset of the day, and in accordance with that mindset, commercial screening was exactly as expected. The changes that happened immediately after 9/11 were all that were necessary to prevent that exact situation from happening again. But we've gone so, so much farther after that.

Sure, southwest is being arbitrary there, but there are other airlines, and that is simple commercial competition. That has nothing to do with what the TSA is doing nor commercial security screening. Again, you are distracting from the topic at hand, which is not a valid argument strategy.

Drink testing is not arbitrary. These are not arbitrary drinks. They are already TSA approved drinks already screened before vendors can even sell them. This is a humiliation, a contamination of the drinks by the TSA handlers, and an invasion of legally bought property in the name of... what? What security is being enhanced when you buy something already screened by the TSA from vendors behind the security gates? If an airline wants a dress code more or less, fine, get another airline; but to be forced to have your drink screened (on the punishment of what, if you refuse?) is not "less arbitrary" nor is it not as important -- it is way more so as it is a direct invasion and tampering with your property.

RE: Not about chemicals
By Solandri on 9/5/2012 6:01:55 PM , Rating: 2
Inadequate commercial screening resulted in airplanes crashing into buildings.

Airport security is security theater. Even taking into account 9/11, you're more likely to die on your drive to the airport (due to random accident), than you are at the airport or on a plane (due to terrorism or random accident).

People just have a skewed sense of the risk from terrorism due to disproportionate media coverage (which BTW is exactly what terrorists want). The TSA, for all its critics, is doing the correct thing with highly public and visible displays of security (aka security theater), regardless of how ineffectual they are.

The problem is, some people at the TSA take their jobs too seriously. They actually think they're providing real security instead of security theater. And consequently trample over our 4th Amendment rights in the process.

Meanwhile, airlines are kicking passengers off for this: today:

Air travel is a bit archaic. Like in the old days of sailing ships, the captain is still the master of his ship. If a captain makes a decision to fly/not fly or to take or refuse certain cargo or passengers, the airlines and even the FAA are very reluctant to overrule him/her. The thinking is that the captain knows his ship best having inspected it personally before the flight, and is putting his life at stake by being aboard and piloting it. If he thinks something is dangerous or inappropriate, his decision carries more weight than some bureaucrat sitting behind a desk who was never on board the plane.

RE: Not about chemicals
By wookie1 on 9/6/2012 1:56:11 AM , Rating: 2
You've failed to support any argument that the TSA screening would have done any better that commercial screening. Remember that the FBI failed as well, since they had all of the information they needed to stop the attacks before they happened. Why do you think that government screening is more effective? The only motivation of government employees is to avoid embarrasing their bosses. Effectiveness is not important, they just need to look like they're really throwing the kitchen sink at the problem. Once it's a government controlled monopoly, there's much less accountability and recourse.

With commercial screening, the company that has poor screening practices will probably go bankrupt if there is an issue that damages their credibility which would drive customers to other competitors. The government does not face this pressure, as the only consequence is a bit of a PR problem that gets solved by throwing more of our money at it and progressively making us all do more crazy stuff where there may not be any additional effectiveness.

RE: Not about chemicals
By Manch on 9/5/2012 3:41:35 PM , Rating: 1
Well, as a God Damn tax payer, they're wasting my hard earned fucking money paying these useless fucks to go around swabbing peoples starbucks that they bought within the fucking gate.

If you like the government having one common set of guidelines, how bout you ask them for recommendations on what to eat, drive, sleep on, live in, and fuck.

What demonstrably worse alternative? If a standard was defined and the commercial airlines ran security, I'd bet money it would be cheaper, quicker, and far more effective than hiring a bunch of job corp fucktards at union inflated price.

Seriously? Have you ever seen the government run anything that wasnt a huge cluster fuck and a waste of tax payer money? How do you expect this to be any different.

Pull your head out of your ass!

RE: Not about chemicals
By TSS on 9/5/2012 3:52:12 PM , Rating: 1
So the government owns you as soon as you step on government property?

Yeah let's not talk slippery slopes. Seems you're pretty much down the hole already.

I'll spell it out for you, since you don't seem to understand. The terrorist watch lists where the *first* step on the slippery slope. This article is just about an event that occurs further down the slope. As with the watchlists at the time i will bitch about this at this time. Because bitching about the watchlists now would be akin to falling out of a tree and trying to reach for a branch at the top. You need to stop your fall first.

RE: Not about chemicals
By Jeffk464 on 9/5/2012 4:28:11 PM , Rating: 4

You're stepping into a government owned facility (paid by taxpayer funds) and walking on to a commercially (privately owned) method of transport.

The government has to protect taxpayer funds invested in the facility, and the commercial entity must protect their private investment in extremely expensive modes of transit.

So when I step into a bestbuy does the store have the right to strip me down naked and feel around in my ass to make sure I didn't put an SD card in there?

RE: Not about chemicals
By ClownPuncher on 9/5/2012 4:51:03 PM , Rating: 2
Buy an added warranty for your bum when you walk in/out and bypass that line

RE: Not about chemicals
By tecknurd on 9/9/12, Rating: 0
"I'd be pissed too, but you didn't have to go all Minority Report on his ass!" -- Jon Stewart on police raiding Gizmodo editor Jason Chen's home

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