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05/27/2007 Archived Entry: "TSA Inspection Targets, or "Why Am I Not Surprised?""

TSA INSPECTION TARGETS Debra here. The last time I flew was September 20, 2001 (we had expensive, non-refundable tickets that even the horrific events a week earlier couldn't dissuade me from using). But recently, a 2-week cross-country training class for my new job at Globex required me to brave the gauntlet.

I won't go into the well-documented security procedures (except to note that all the TSA agents wore blue latex gloves. "Two by two, hands of blue..."). I wasn't pulled aside for any special attention, even after I committed the grievous faux pas of placing both my notebook computers (one personal, one business) in the same gray plastic bin.

Upon arrival at my hotel room, I unpacked my suitcases (which had been checked through airline baggage), and found a card in one stating that it had been selected randomly for TSA inspection. Having a deep and abiding streak of cynicism (especially of all things government), I began comparing the two bags for clues on what could have prompted one to be inspected and not the other.

There were, I decided, three possible reasons for the inspection: external appearance, contents, or true random chance.

The difference in appearance between the two suitcases could not be more pronounced. The inspected bag, Bag A, is a relic -- a cheap nylon monster (circa Kmart 1983) that has seen better days. Bag B is one of the new rolling styles with a handle, high-quality, well-maintained and professional-looking.

Both Bag A & B had nearly identical contents -- clothing, accessories, books, costume jewelry and the like. There was, however, one article in Bag A that did not have a similar counterpart in Bag B.

On the return trip, I made sure this item was placed in Bag B while leaving the remaining contents the same. My hypothesis was that if Bag A was again inspected on the return trip, then the differentiating factor was external appearance. If Bag B was inspected on the return trip, then the suitcase contents had triggered alarms. And if neither bag was inspected, then it was indeed completely random. (While I do realize that either bag could be inspected on the return trip and still be random, I felt it was statistically unlikely).

I unpacked this morning. Buried deep in Bag B, I found a TSA inspection notice. As I suspected, the contents -- in this case, a small battery-operated gadget -- were apparently what triggered the "random" inspections. For Your Safety, of course.

The terrorist device in question?

A vibrator.

Posted by Debra @ 01:54 PM CST

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