Thursday, March 17, 2011

TSA Key West Epic Security Fail

As most readers know my real job is that of a yacht captain and that means low pay, terrible hours but the view out the office window is always amazing. So after a 10 day trip I decided to catch a flight out of Key West to spend the weekend at home in Charlotte.

I have to admit I carry a lot of "gear" two laptops one for personal use another ship's use. Handheld GPS, foul weather gear, charts hand held radios etc. Boat people have knives, much like Navy seals have knives, you never know when an emergency will happen so on a boat we wear these things like a watch.

The Knife In Question

And so I completely forgot to leave the knife on the boat, its not a long knife only about eight inches open, but razor sharp. Into the security line I go, along with my friend a former CMPD officer who is busted right away since he has his knife clipped to his belt. Upon being called out he offers up his knife with out a fuss. Checked baggage is not an option so it goes into the "dangerous confiscated items" display at the TSA office.

A major score for the Key West TSA and I suspect this small victory emboldened them, so now that we are suspect they are all over us. I'm wearing flops, Ray Ban's, an US NAVY ball cap, cargo shorts and a plain white t-shirt.

The TSA agent demands that I open my computer bag, remove both laptops and place them in separate plastic bins, my VHF handheld radio is examined and sent down the conveyor belt along with my back pack and my knife held in the side mesh pocket, clearly visible to all.

I attempt the first pass through the metal detector and the rather attractive 40 something TSA agent on the other side is playing her role to the max. "Back Up"..."You'll need to remove your shoes" she barks, I'm wearing flops, so now my bare feet are on the cold floor, she barks at me again put your watch, sunglasses and any coins in a tray. "Empty your pockets" I don't have anything in my pockets, because I hate things in my pockets. But because they are cargo shorts my pockets look like I'm loaded with contraband.

I make a lame attempt to show her my pockets are empty and she is totally unamused.

I go through the metal detector and the alarm goes off. At this point I'm hoping for a pat down. Pat down denied, I'm told to step back again!

I try to raise a smile, she'll have no part of that and waves my back through the narrow uprights and the alarm goes off again. She notices my belt, an it too goes into the plastic bin. Now I'm down to cargo shorts and a t-shirt. The alarm goes off a third time. If I wasn't sans boxers I would had offered up my cargo shorts since they have a number of metal buttons I suspect was setting of the alarm. Alas I'm denied a free groping and she waves me though.

Meanwhile my backpack has breezed through the x-ray and contents search. My friend the CMPD officer who helped me bring the boat south is watching the rubber gloved TSA agents go through his FBI Academy sports bag. His stuff is everywhere. In all eight TSA agents are looking us over. He too is denied the pat down.

We gather our "stuff" and down to the gate we go.

It's not until we arrive in Charlotte I notice the knife in the side mesh pocket. After all the inconvenience the TSA cranks out they can't spot a knife that could have be used to commandeer an aircraft.

So Epic Fail award goes to the TSA in Key West.

I travel a lot, flops or loafers are a must for the silly response to the "shoe" bomber attempt. I pack light and carry as little as possible but the demands of the job mean I have a lot of wires and electronic components that could easily be explosive devices.

I really don't mind the hassle, I always thank them for the job they do and offer a lot of I'm sorry and "no trouble" when they want to look something over.

Yet I'm pretty damn pissed that the TSA can't spot the most simple of weapons.

The TSA has become so obsessed with rules and procedures that common sense has gone out the window. It's called tunnel vision and it can be deadly.

Cedar's Note: Let me state this clearly, I at no time had any idea the knife was on my person, and I did not knowingly or purposely try to slip the knife pass the TSA to make a point it was a simple oversight.


Anonymous said...

I had a somewhat similar incident with the TSA. I flew out of Charlotte to Indianapolis last March. At the time, I had a small Buck knife that is about the size and shape of a silver dollar. It flips out a 1/2" blade and the rest of the circular knife is a bottle opener. I had the knife for several years after recieving it as a Christmast gift from a friend and loved it. I kept it on my key ring. As I passed through the TSA checkpoint in Charlotte, I put the keys in the box just as asked, no problem. I never even notice that they completely missed it until four days later when I am flying back to Charlotte from Indianapolis and the TSA at the airport in Indy spots it on the ring and asks if I want it confiscated or mailed home. As we are running extremely late for the flight, I say confiscate it. But I'm ticked because had they caught it in Charlotte, there would have been plenty of time for me to have them mail it back. Thanks, TSA

Anonymous said...

Cedar that's a pretty big knife for them to miss. I'll assume that it was folded shut while in your backpack?

But you say it was in a mesh pocket? Maybe you should take a photo of it in the pocket.

Sounds like it was pretty much out in the open.

Just saying...