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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 2:03:22 PM , Rating: 0
Commercial screening was not any of the things are you trying to claim it would be, history already disproves your point.

Inadequate commercial screening resulted in airplanes crashing into buildings.

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

Please tell me this is not arbitrary. I've seen women flying showing more cleavage than that.

I'm not suggesting there aren't meaningful issues to fight with the TSA (no fly lists). I'm saying drink testing is arbitrary, and compared to being kicked off of a plane for cleavage (one of God's greatest gifts to man), is not as important.

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.

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