My comments on airplane security get wider attention

I can demonstrate airport security is a huge waste of money and have long advocated we spend that money on something worthwhile.  Last month I had another opportunity to demonstrate the inability of TSA to provide security and wrote Bruce Schneier an email in response to his posting about the ban on lighters on planes.  He asked me for permission to use my letter and then published in his monthly letter (do a search for ‘Huffman’ to find my email).

Here is what I said, in case you don’t want to go searching in his web page:

From: Joseph K Huffman
Subject: Lighters Banned on Airplanes

One of my hobbies is explosives. I have a ATFE license to manufacture high explosives. I do so recreationally on a fairly regular basis.

I made the explosives for a recent event wearing gloves. Then had to rework some things later and did that without gloves. A few minutes later I handled a rifle case without cleaning up. On April 13th, three days later, that same rifle case went through airport security at Pasco Washington. I watched a TSA agent wipe down the handle and interior of the case and test them for explosives. Everything passed. The rifle case went with me to Albuquerque, New Mexico. On April 16th, that same rifle case made the return trip and again went through a TSA screening without questions. I have numerous stories of this nature. This is only the most recent.

As near as I can determine, airport “security”, from one end to the other, only exists to make people feel better. It does not represent a deterrent to even a moderately skilled adversary. We are wasting something like $1.8 billion per year on this activity to make some people feel better.


3 thoughts on “My comments on airplane security get wider attention

  1. Recognized by Bruce Schneier? You’ve been officially knighted by the King of Security.


  2. I had a similar airport “security” flop, following the mixing/handling of explosives at a recent recreational explosives event. I touched explosives mixture, then touched firearms case and then, a few days later, that very same case went through a few airports.

    Please note that this incident was not an intentional airport security experiment (nor am I suggesting that Joe’s experience was an intentional airport security test). Rather, the act of moving a firearms case with explosives dust on one’s hands was simply an act of moving and object, while just so happening to have an ingredient on one’s hands. Similar to a baker in a kitchen who moves items from the preparation area into another space, all the while having ingredients on his/her hands.

    Anyway, back to the airport.

    Not only did the firearms case pass through several airports (via connecting flights) with explosives dust undetected, what was most surprising was the clueless customer service assistant who took the case from me, without bothering to contact security personnel so I could unlock it for “security” check. She told me I was good to go, and then she left the counter, taking the case with her, behind a closed door. I even asked her, “Are you sure? That’s . . . it?” She once again, assured me that I was all set to go to my gate.

    Shocked at the lax security, I hesitated to immediately head towards my gate and instead paused, dumfounded, wondering why in the world they hadn’t contacted someone from security, so I could open the case for them. I hung around close to the counter for awhile because their handling of the check-in seemed odd to me.

    Shortly thereafter, a frantic security agent came rushing through the closed door from the back, with my case in hand, in a visible state of concern, saying something like, “Who owns this case? Do you own this case?”

    I said I was the person who brought the case to the counter and obligingly complied by opening it. The agent let out a sigh of relief, and explained that the rep should’ve contacted him immediately after I shared that it was a firearms case.

    Please note that I wasn’t trying to test the system with explosives dust. (I’d forgotten about the explosives dust on the case, only remembering it, due to Joe’s original posting.) What I found to be most unsettling were the airport employees’ failures to stringently abide to their security requirements.

    Again, the case passed through not one, but several airports, with explosives dust undetected.

    This experience clearly illustrates that airport “security” is a joke. The billions of taxpayer dollars spent on so-called airport security is an utter waste.

  3. The last time I flew, I carried on a Leatherman tool with 2 three-inch blades, a lighter, and several other items that would today be confiscated.

    I haven’t flown since 9/11. It’s the longest I’ve ever gone without flying. I laugh when I hear people say that we need to “make people feel safe” on airliners, or some variation thereof. Morons! Don’t they get it? I’d feel perfectly safe to fly. It’s just that I don’t believe I should have to pay hundreds of dollars and then suffer the humiliation and the amazing stupidity of “airline security”. I’d rather drive, or stay home.

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