29 April 2011

Still yet more endless TSA nonsense

Is there any point in continuing to catalogue these egregiously nonsensical events?
As a federal agent, I'm authorized to fly armed, so on one trip, I was clearing through security, the airport cop had checked my ID and paperwork and approved me to pass through the checkpoint, but the TSA guy stopped me and said he needed to inspect my carry-on...

Well, he came up with my Leatherman knife (basically a fancy Swiss Army knife) and said that I couldn't bring it on the plane because knives are prohibited items...

I looked at him like he was insane and said, "Let me get this straight, you're letting me carry a loaded handgun onto the plane, but not a pocket knife? In what conceivable world does that make sense?"

He responded that per FAA rules, I was authorized as a federal agent to carry the gun on board but the rules don't mention knives except as a general prohibition for everyone.

Not wanting to lose a $30 knife, I asked to see his supervisor, figuring this was some low-level zombie unable to exercise basic common sense. But no, the supervisor said the same thing!
Yes, I know, the staff "have to follow strict rules" and can't make exceptions, but...

Via J-Walk.


  1. Until a short while ago they would also take away small pocket knives from the pilots...

  2. You're lucky you were able to ask to see his supervisor...you were only allowed to get away with that because you are a federal agent. The rest of us would have been escorted out of the terminal and flung out onto the curb for even questioning the first asshat.

  3. There was a story a short while ago about a squad of soldiers flying (for some reason a commercial airline) with their weapons.

    The TSAhole confiscated their nail clippers, and let them pass through with their full auto rifles...

    Pure madness.

  4. Kokopuff, I should clarify that it wasn't "me" in the text (I forgot to add the link - fixed now).

  5. This sounds like the system worked to me. If the rules don't say "Federal agents authorized to carry guns may also carry knives" then they aren't allowed. It's not for lower level officials to break rules. If they are told to use their judgement, where does it end. "Oh, you look nice, go ahead, take that knife." I know knives aren't as much of a threat as box cutters once were since cockpits are re-enforced, but the point stands that RULES are RULES. The regulations don't say, "Use your discretion in breaking whichever rules don't make sense." Especially with security, once you start deviating from procedure, you will make bad decisions that have already been made for you.

    Instead of moaning on a blog, write a letter to someone.

  6. Rules are rules is the worst justification in all of history.

    Wear a yellow star? Rules are rules!
    Into the oven? Rules are rules!
    Turn in my parents to the secret police? Rules are rules!

    Laws can be totally immoral, destructive, contradictory, irrational, abusive, and (in this case) counter-intuitive. Rules are rules is like saying the Bible is true because the Bible says the Bible is true.

    Perhaps you think the law keeps you safe? That following every petty rule will protect you? Good luck with that.

  7. Welcome to how the rest of us live, old boy. The inmates are running the asylum, or hadn't you heard?

  8. Yeah, I think people might be missing the boat on this one.

    There are many reasons someone specifically permitted to carry a gun would not be allowed to have a knife. Just because it seems less dangerous does not mean he should automatically be able to carry it. If someone is authorized to transport explosives on a plane, does that mean he should be able to carry fully-automatic assault rifles on the plane... because surely those are less dangerous than explosives?

    I think 'common sense' is leading people astray on this. I would assume being a federal agent means you have a certain level of gun training, but that would not automatically transfer to knife handling.

  9. Congratulations 03215!


    Godwin's law (also known as Godwin's Rule of Nazi Analogies or Godwin's Law of Nazi Analogies) is a humorous observation made by Mike Godwin in 1990 which has become an Internet adage. It states: "As an online discussion grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving Nazis or Hitler approaches 1." In other words, Godwin put forth the hyperbolic observation that, given enough time, in any online discussion—regardless of topic or scope—someone inevitably criticizes some point made in the discussion by comparing it to beliefs held by Hitler and the Nazis.

    Godwin's law is often cited in online discussions as a deterrent against the use of arguments in the widespread Reductio ad Hitlerum form
    Reductio ad Hitlerum, also argumentum ad Hitlerum, (Latin for "reduction to" and "argument to" and dog Latin for "Hitler" respectively) is an ad hominem or ad misericordiam argument, and is an informal fallacy. It is a fallacy of irrelevance where a conclusion is suggested based solely on something or someone's origin rather than its current meaning or context. The suggested logic is one of guilt by association, a classic confusion of correlation and causality, as if to say that anything that Adolf Hitler did, no one else should do, for it will obviously or eventually lead to genocide.

  10. @DubyaD

    I think your argument is structurally sound, but specious at best.

    The justification for airplane's no-knife policy is that they may be used as weapons against the civilian population (or more specifically, pilots). It's an assumption that every person flying could be at least functionally psychotic.

    But if a person is already trusted enough to carry a gun, then the only justification for confiscating their knife evaporates (ESPECIALLY if they're not trained in knife combat).

  11. Anon, I;m not comparing Anon to Nazis or calling them a Nazi; Godwin's law does not apply, and I am well aware of the concept.

    I am using a reductio ad absurdum argument to present actual cases of immoral (psychotic really) laws.

    In any event does Godwin's law mean that nothing can ever be learned from or compared to the statism of the 20th century? Should we then throw out everything we learned and never talk about the dangers of democratically elected tyranny? That strikes me as a very, very bad idea.

  12. @Christian

    Yeah, I'm not saying that this whole situation comes from the brightest individuals, but there might be abstruse reasons for following the rules as they stand.

    The line of thought running in my head would be along the lines of securing the weapon. I'm sure part of the training would be how to secure the gun to yourself and prevent it's removal from your possession.

    Now imagine a yahoo, who is completely certified to keep his gun safe... carries on a knife that someone else easily extracts from him and voila! They have the weapon that they wanted to bring on in the first place. It is simpler and probably safer to know exactly how many and what kind of weapons a person is bringing on. A gun pass should not automatically turn into a hunting knife, laser, sword, cross-bow, nun-chucks pass.

    Its just a case where exceptions will lead down a dark path. The rules need to be reworked for someone to bring on other "dangerous" items with their gun.

  13. Seems that the commenter (like so many officers) thought he was above the rules. TSA workers don't set such policies.

    I'd be very wary of reposting unsourced anonymous comments like this. There's been tons of astroturfing with these kinds of horror stories, because there's an active campaign against public workers, in particularly TSA worker's right to organize.

    The Exiled has a fantastic story on this:

    Republicans have used this playbook before, of course, it’s just that Wisconsin finally made us all too aware. Perhaps the most obvious example — and the least understood — is from last November, when the same basic strategy was used to wage war against the TSA’s 55,000 employees, who have been locked in a savage decade-long battle to gain the same collective bargaining rights that employees of all other federal agencies enjoy. Unlike in Wisconsin, the Republican right succeeded in burying the story about the TSA employees’ struggle for collective bargaining rights underneath a sophisticated, well-PR’d campaign demonizing TSA screeners as modern-day Gestapo agents, rapists and child molesters....

    Did You Fall for It? America's Outrage over TSA Was Right Wing PR to Prevent Workers from Unionizing

  14. I believe the TSA rules are absurd in this case. If a person wants do something stupid, the "legal" firearm would be the most effective means of creating damage. If someone took the knife from the federal agent, he could be shot by the agent with the gun.

    I have a concealed handgun license and I also a lisensed security gaurd as well as a personal protection officer. I am authorized to carry OC pepper spray, an expandable baton, handgun and shotgun. Yet, I cannot legaly carry a switchblade knife! I am not a big fan of switchblades, but feel the law is obsurd.

    I guess we should never confuse the laws with logic.


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