This was posted on a forum on my GaryNorth.com website.
I will spare you most of them, but when we developed the Federal Flight Deck Officer Program whereby certain airline pilots who volunteered (on their own time and expense) to be trained as Air Marshals ( http://www.tsa.gov/lawenforcement/programs/ffdo.shtm ) could be armed while on duty to help foil incidents that could lead to lethal situations, many incidents occurred with the people at checkpoints that were totally bizarre. By the way, most of the pilots who volunteered to be FFDO (Federal Flight Deck Officers) were former military pilots and officers, already weapons qualified, and who had to maintain that proficiency annually. I felt pretty comfortable knowing many of my former military pilots had carried nuclear weapons safely for many years, so their carrying a 9mm after qualifying as Air Marshal program certainly does not concern me.
Many pen knives and nail clippers were confiscated from armed individuals, as were obvious half-filled tubes of toothpaste that if completely FULL would have exceeded the limit by 0.1 ounce, or any toothpaste labeled “Gel” confiscated because “Gels” (like the cupcake icing over Christmas we heard about) could be an explosive.
On one flight, when a pair of nail clippers were confiscated from an legally armed flight deck officer, the security officer explained that such a “weapon” could be used to hijack the aircraft and cause it to fly to other than the destination, the Captain (rightly) pointed out (in private, in an effort to educate the fellow) that since he was the Captain, he didn’t NEED a nail clipper to direct the course of the aircraft, and that further, asked the security person if he was aware there is a “crash axe” already IN the cockpit* that was far more of a weapon than nail clippers. The security officer immediately had the pilot taken into custody for making “terrorist statements.” As a result, the pilot was relieved of duty, lost his certification, and his life was forever changed.
By regulation, we were required to carry certain “safety” equipment, such as a screwdriver, and a flashlight (specified 2D cells), yet routinely we had those necessary pieces of equipment confiscated (screwdrivers are weapons, and so is a sturdy flashlight) , placing us in the situation of not being technically “legal” to fly, but being prevented from having legal equipment.
On another such flight, the guy ahead of me (I was in uniform) in line was carrying a piece of electronic equipment that was not a commercial piece, but a lash-up with large components the size of which COULD have been anything. When asked to turn it on, the fellow said, being a prototype, it was not operable, and he was allowed to board w/ it, yet I was made to boot-up my laptop. I mentioned discretely to the officer that while probably safe, such a device COULD be other than it appears. His response was, “You know all of this security stuff is just eyewash for the public.” (that is an exact response). Unfortunately, the rest of my crew was then taken aside and given “special” scrutiny , with every paperback novel carried by each flight attendant gone through page-by-page (with one bookmark confiscated as a dangerous weapon). Of course, this shaved the time left for our pre-flight to the minimum.
I won’t even go into the time we, on pre-flight, found live ammunition on board our aircraft at the gate in Portland, and it took 10 minutes to get anyone to respond (during which time the person who been carrying the ammo had left our aircraft and had open access to all of the other aircraft in the concourse with no further security screening for his connecting flights). Even after advising authorities of the serious nature of the security brief, and the potential for having someone with ammo (and possibly a matching weapon) traveling the “system” without ever having to pass through another security check, they said they didn’t want to “delay” flights. Finally, a Portland police officer appeared, and signed for that ammo, telling me that if no one claimed it, if I wanted, they could send it to ME, since I was the one who transferred custody to them. I was dumbfounded, to say the least. Thankfully, nothing came of that dark, rainy night.
I’d like to think these were isolated cases, but talking to associates, I cannot tell you that.
I can tell you that according to Forbes, the TSA has now moving toward being given law enforcement officer status (or LEO), meaning the existing screeners will have equal status to other Federal Law Enforcement Officers. Slowly, we are building that “civilian” army that our president spoke of.