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Science%2520Project

On the TSA blog:

You may have heard in the news recently about how a college student unintentionally closed down a TSA checkpoint with his science project. He had shipped it to Omaha, but decided to travel with it on his departure. Let’s be clear, it was completely innocent. He had no way of knowing his improvised mint tin would look like an improvised explosive device (IED) on our X-ray monitor. Most people wouldn’t realize it and the purpose of this post is to inform folks that homemade gadgets (however cool they may be) can look like improvised explosive devices to our officers on the X-ray monitors.

So when you pack your bags for a trip, you may want to think about what items you are placing next to others to avoid the hassle of unintentionally creating an X-ray image which could cause TSA to conduct a further inspection of your carry-on and checked bags.

A couple things to mention before we all debate in the comments:

  • The TSA closed down a TSA checkpoint, not the student.
  • It’s a mint tin, it’s not called an “improvised mint tin”.
  • This item was in the student’s *carry on* not checked in baggage.

“Further inspection” is understandable, but that’s very different than sending in the FBI and BOMB SQUADS.

Based on what is reported here I don’t see any reason why the terminal was shut down.

If you have something the TSA wants to look at something in your carry on, they pull you aside and look at it, swab it, x-ray it. The person can explain what something is as it is being inspected (and the TSA can verify what they are saying with explosives testing equipment). I don’t see any reason why this would cause a shutdown of terminals based on how the TSA usually operates. “Further inspection of your carry-on and checked bags” is totally fine (and encouraged!) the FBI and bomb squad coming in?

There must be some missing information here, maybe the student got past the check point and they reviewed the x-rays later? If so, this makes more sense. They could also have a new policy that we do not know about where the TSA will pull everyone off a flight if they are holding someone because of a “device”. I’ve emailed the TSA blog contact and asked them to participate here on MAKE.

The Omaha Police Department’s bomb squad was called after a suspicious-looking item was found in a carry-on bag shortly before noon at the airport’s north checkpoint in Terminal B.

Screening operations were suspended, and the B concourse was evacuated. Operations were not disrupted in Terminal A, according to a Transportation Security Administration official.

The item was cleared and airport operations returned to normal about 2 p.m. Breault said the device was harmless, “but it did trigger the proper response due to its suspicious appearance.”

The item in question (above) – wires, battery, mint tin – yah, it looks like almost every single electronic project featured here on MAKE. The TSA knows people make and travel with electronics, they have tests for whether something is an explosive or not.

All that said, the TSA does say “Let’s be clear, it was completely innocent”. I’m posting this for the same reason the TSA did, to raise awareness when things like this happen. The TSA isn’t an enemy, they can do better, we all need to know what to expect when we travel with electronics, policies will change – I do think they’re doing the best they can and we as makers can help them do a better job.

Phillip Torrone

Editor at large – Make magazine. Creative director – Adafruit Industries, contributing editor – Popular Science. Previously: Founded – Hack-a-Day, how-to editor – Engadget, Director of product development – Fallon Worldwide, Technology Director – Braincraft.


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Comments

    1. Anonymous says:

      @facebook-585017094:disqus i’ve traveled with dozens of project like that and never had any problems, more screening but never fbi and bomb squads.

    2. Anonymous says:

      @facebook-585017094:disqus i’ve traveled with dozens of project like that and never had any problems, more screening but never fbi and bomb squads.

  1. Bryan Aultz says:

    Of note, less than a week later they shutdown again for a “home made firework.” They are now saying it was welding material wrapped in electrical tape. Here is that story:
    http://www.ketv.com/r/28817169/detail.html 

  2. Bryan Aultz says:

    Of note, less than a week later they shutdown again for a “home made firework.” They are now saying it was welding material wrapped in electrical tape. Here is that story:
    http://www.ketv.com/r/28817169/detail.html 

  3. David C Dean says:

    Shutting down the airport is a bit much.  But honestly that thing is indeed… suspicious looking.  I’d expect an abundance of caution, and never would’ve taken it in my carry-on.

    So while I’m normally pretty critical of their procedures, TSA gets a pass on this one from me.  The guy who went through security with it… not so much.

  4. David C Dean says:

    Shutting down the airport is a bit much.  But honestly that thing is indeed… suspicious looking.  I’d expect an abundance of caution, and never would’ve taken it in my carry-on.

    So while I’m normally pretty critical of their procedures, TSA gets a pass on this one from me.  The guy who went through security with it… not so much.

    1. Anonymous says:

      @davidcdean:disqus yah, i emailed the TSA to ask why this would qualify for a FBI and bomb squad visit (and shut down). the student went through the usual check point, the device showed up on x-ray with him there. it should have just been screened there with their usual equipment that tests for explosives right?

    2. Anonymous says:

      @davidcdean:disqus yah, i emailed the TSA to ask why this would qualify for a FBI and bomb squad visit (and shut down). the student went through the usual check point, the device showed up on x-ray with him there. it should have just been screened there with their usual equipment that tests for explosives right?

    3. Sean says:

      I agree, that thing is ridiculously suspicious looking. If I saw it go through the x-ray scanner, I’d pull the dude aside, wave my red flag and press the giant red “I THINK THIS IS A BOMB” button and get the hell outta there.

      I wouldn’t want to start poking at it, or even questioning the guy about it immediately. If it were a bomb, you’d up the chances that he’d just blow it then and there because he thinks he’s getting bagged.

      A single mint tin with enclosed electronics and no big friggin’ box with leads going to it, sure, question that guy and find out what it is, but I’m with the TSA on this one.

      1. Anonymous says:

        @yahoo-FHEUQEVV6LLQQCXBDCTDA275TM:disqus *all* electronics are suspicious looking. trained professionals know this mint tin science project isn’t a bomb and they have screening procedures for this.

        someone up to no good would likely make something appear very “professional” or part of something else. i recall there were printer cartridges or something with devices in them?

        again, i am wondering why the fbi and bomb squad and a shut down happened. it never made it past the check point and the student was always there.

        1. Sean says:

          I’ll withhold judgement without seeing the x-ray. I never underestimate the stupidity of people, especially someone who’s up to no good. Sure there are pro’s out there, but there are also ignorant and overly cocky imbeciles who might try and luck their way through.

          And they didn’t shut down the whole airport, just one of their terminals for a couple of hours. I’m with the Marine quoted in the linked article:

          “Sean Callen, a former Marine from Nebraska who now lives in Texas,
          wasn’t too put out by the delay. He said he had to sit on his plane
          about 25 minutes after landing before passengers were allowed off. ‘I’d rather them look and not find anything than not look and wish they had,’ he said. “

        2. Sean says:

          I’ll withhold judgement without seeing the x-ray. I never underestimate the stupidity of people, especially someone who’s up to no good. Sure there are pro’s out there, but there are also ignorant and overly cocky imbeciles who might try and luck their way through.

          And they didn’t shut down the whole airport, just one of their terminals for a couple of hours. I’m with the Marine quoted in the linked article:

          “Sean Callen, a former Marine from Nebraska who now lives in Texas,
          wasn’t too put out by the delay. He said he had to sit on his plane
          about 25 minutes after landing before passengers were allowed off. ‘I’d rather them look and not find anything than not look and wish they had,’ he said. “

        3. Sean says:

          I’ll withhold judgement without seeing the x-ray. I never underestimate the stupidity of people, especially someone who’s up to no good. Sure there are pro’s out there, but there are also ignorant and overly cocky imbeciles who might try and luck their way through.

          And they didn’t shut down the whole airport, just one of their terminals for a couple of hours. I’m with the Marine quoted in the linked article:

          “Sean Callen, a former Marine from Nebraska who now lives in Texas,
          wasn’t too put out by the delay. He said he had to sit on his plane
          about 25 minutes after landing before passengers were allowed off. ‘I’d rather them look and not find anything than not look and wish they had,’ he said. “

        4. Sam Pratt says:

          ptorrone – I don’t agree with that at all. They’re not all suspicious looking. An organized project (circuit board, etc) is far less likely to trigger real suspicion than that. Whatever that project is, it could not have been better designed to arouse suspicion. A wooden case with two pens stuck in it? It looks like a movie prop — just jam some pens with wires sticking out of them into a block of something, and hey presto, you’ve got a bomb. I’ve also traveled with mint-tin projects through TSA checkpoints, but I removed it from my bag, put it on the bin by itself to allow the x-ray a clear shot, and I was ready to just mail it ahead if necessary. The bomb squad seems like the right call to me. Allowing the student to touch it again (and I understand that it was innocuous) would be a mistake if he didn’t mean well. It seems like, while this was certainly an inconvenience, trying to swab or otherwise tamper with a project like like this could be a real mistake. As someone who enjoys electronics, I can’t even venture a guess as to what that does without further reading. That’s why I agree completely with the caution used by the TSA agents here. It might be small, but I wouldn’t want to be around if it really were an IED. 

        5. Sam Pratt says:

          ptorrone – I don’t agree with that at all. They’re not all suspicious looking. An organized project (circuit board, etc) is far less likely to trigger real suspicion than that. Whatever that project is, it could not have been better designed to arouse suspicion. A wooden case with two pens stuck in it? It looks like a movie prop — just jam some pens with wires sticking out of them into a block of something, and hey presto, you’ve got a bomb. I’ve also traveled with mint-tin projects through TSA checkpoints, but I removed it from my bag, put it on the bin by itself to allow the x-ray a clear shot, and I was ready to just mail it ahead if necessary. The bomb squad seems like the right call to me. Allowing the student to touch it again (and I understand that it was innocuous) would be a mistake if he didn’t mean well. It seems like, while this was certainly an inconvenience, trying to swab or otherwise tamper with a project like like this could be a real mistake. As someone who enjoys electronics, I can’t even venture a guess as to what that does without further reading. That’s why I agree completely with the caution used by the TSA agents here. It might be small, but I wouldn’t want to be around if it really were an IED. 

        6. Sam Pratt says:

          ptorrone – I don’t agree with that at all. They’re not all suspicious looking. An organized project (circuit board, etc) is far less likely to trigger real suspicion than that. Whatever that project is, it could not have been better designed to arouse suspicion. A wooden case with two pens stuck in it? It looks like a movie prop — just jam some pens with wires sticking out of them into a block of something, and hey presto, you’ve got a bomb. I’ve also traveled with mint-tin projects through TSA checkpoints, but I removed it from my bag, put it on the bin by itself to allow the x-ray a clear shot, and I was ready to just mail it ahead if necessary. The bomb squad seems like the right call to me. Allowing the student to touch it again (and I understand that it was innocuous) would be a mistake if he didn’t mean well. It seems like, while this was certainly an inconvenience, trying to swab or otherwise tamper with a project like like this could be a real mistake. As someone who enjoys electronics, I can’t even venture a guess as to what that does without further reading. That’s why I agree completely with the caution used by the TSA agents here. It might be small, but I wouldn’t want to be around if it really were an IED. 

        7. Sam Pratt says:

          ptorrone – I don’t agree with that at all. They’re not all suspicious looking. An organized project (circuit board, etc) is far less likely to trigger real suspicion than that. Whatever that project is, it could not have been better designed to arouse suspicion. A wooden case with two pens stuck in it? It looks like a movie prop — just jam some pens with wires sticking out of them into a block of something, and hey presto, you’ve got a bomb. I’ve also traveled with mint-tin projects through TSA checkpoints, but I removed it from my bag, put it on the bin by itself to allow the x-ray a clear shot, and I was ready to just mail it ahead if necessary. The bomb squad seems like the right call to me. Allowing the student to touch it again (and I understand that it was innocuous) would be a mistake if he didn’t mean well. It seems like, while this was certainly an inconvenience, trying to swab or otherwise tamper with a project like like this could be a real mistake. As someone who enjoys electronics, I can’t even venture a guess as to what that does without further reading. That’s why I agree completely with the caution used by the TSA agents here. It might be small, but I wouldn’t want to be around if it really were an IED. 

      2. Anonymous says:

        @yahoo-FHEUQEVV6LLQQCXBDCTDA275TM:disqus *all* electronics are suspicious looking. trained professionals know this mint tin science project isn’t a bomb and they have screening procedures for this.

        someone up to no good would likely make something appear very “professional” or part of something else. i recall there were printer cartridges or something with devices in them?

        again, i am wondering why the fbi and bomb squad and a shut down happened. it never made it past the check point and the student was always there.

      3. Anonymous says:

        @yahoo-FHEUQEVV6LLQQCXBDCTDA275TM:disqus *all* electronics are suspicious looking. trained professionals know this mint tin science project isn’t a bomb and they have screening procedures for this.

        someone up to no good would likely make something appear very “professional” or part of something else. i recall there were printer cartridges or something with devices in them?

        again, i am wondering why the fbi and bomb squad and a shut down happened. it never made it past the check point and the student was always there.

  5. Anonymous says:

    cpurious – i removed your comment, please email me to discuss if you’d like. or just post again without the cursing, etc. thanks!

  6. Anonymous says:

    cpurious – i removed your comment, please email me to discuss if you’d like. or just post again without the cursing, etc. thanks!

    1. Anonymous says:

      sigh… how about this then?

      It is annoying to be constrained by what you can bring on a plane, I often find myself leaving things at home that I would like to bring on a trip. But if the airport security is to be useful at all then they really need to stop someone if they see something like this in their bag. It seems hard to argue that this wouldn’t look like a bomb on an x-ray.

      Given that security sees this on an x-ray and that it looks like a bomb, it makes sense to me that they would call the bomb squad. I certainly wouldn’t want to poke around with something that I think could explode in my face, and I would want to get everyone else away from it as quickly as possible so that they are not hurt either.

      Swabbing bags and checking for explosive residue makes sense if there is some suspicious container that could hold explosive material (or other similar scenarios). There is no need for a large disturbance then, just a quick extra check. But for something that appears to be a fully prepped and possibly armed bomb, more caution is required.

    2. Anonymous says:

      sigh… how about this then?

      It is annoying to be constrained by what you can bring on a plane, I often find myself leaving things at home that I would like to bring on a trip. But if the airport security is to be useful at all then they really need to stop someone if they see something like this in their bag. It seems hard to argue that this wouldn’t look like a bomb on an x-ray.

      Given that security sees this on an x-ray and that it looks like a bomb, it makes sense to me that they would call the bomb squad. I certainly wouldn’t want to poke around with something that I think could explode in my face, and I would want to get everyone else away from it as quickly as possible so that they are not hurt either.

      Swabbing bags and checking for explosive residue makes sense if there is some suspicious container that could hold explosive material (or other similar scenarios). There is no need for a large disturbance then, just a quick extra check. But for something that appears to be a fully prepped and possibly armed bomb, more caution is required.

      1. Anonymous says:

        this is fine, thanks.

        i emailed the tsa to ask why this shut down the airport and wasn’t just screened for explosives.

        lots of makers travel with mint tin projects, my goal is to raise awareness for us and for the tsa.

        there isn’t any reason to curse or be rotten to each other :)

        1. Anonymous says:

          Sorry for the sarcasm. I just feel like the TSA gets a lot of scrutiny for their security measures, and often rightfully so, but this time I can’t find any fault in what they did. This procedure makes sense to me to keep people safe. 

          And for the record, there was only one curse, and it was not directed at you, only at not wanting to be blown up ;)

        2. Anonymous says:

          Sorry for the sarcasm. I just feel like the TSA gets a lot of scrutiny for their security measures, and often rightfully so, but this time I can’t find any fault in what they did. This procedure makes sense to me to keep people safe. 

          And for the record, there was only one curse, and it was not directed at you, only at not wanting to be blown up ;)

        3. Anonymous says:

          Sorry for the sarcasm. I just feel like the TSA gets a lot of scrutiny for their security measures, and often rightfully so, but this time I can’t find any fault in what they did. This procedure makes sense to me to keep people safe. 

          And for the record, there was only one curse, and it was not directed at you, only at not wanting to be blown up ;)

          1. Anonymous says:

            @cpurious:disqus thanks for re-posting!

            i wrote “All that said, the TSA does say “Let’s be clear, it was completely innocent”.
            I’m posting this for the same reason the TSA did, to raise awareness
            when things like this happen. The TSA isn’t an enemy, they can do
            better, policies will change, I do think they’re doing the best they can
            and we as makers can help them do a better job.”

      2. Anonymous says:

        this is fine, thanks.

        i emailed the tsa to ask why this shut down the airport and wasn’t just screened for explosives.

        lots of makers travel with mint tin projects, my goal is to raise awareness for us and for the tsa.

        there isn’t any reason to curse or be rotten to each other :)

      3. Anonymous says:

        this is fine, thanks.

        i emailed the tsa to ask why this shut down the airport and wasn’t just screened for explosives.

        lots of makers travel with mint tin projects, my goal is to raise awareness for us and for the tsa.

        there isn’t any reason to curse or be rotten to each other :)

    3. Anonymous says:

      sigh… how about this then?

      It is annoying to be constrained by what you can bring on a plane, I often find myself leaving things at home that I would like to bring on a trip. But if the airport security is to be useful at all then they really need to stop someone if they see something like this in their bag. It seems hard to argue that this wouldn’t look like a bomb on an x-ray.

      Given that security sees this on an x-ray and that it looks like a bomb, it makes sense to me that they would call the bomb squad. I certainly wouldn’t want to poke around with something that I think could explode in my face, and I would want to get everyone else away from it as quickly as possible so that they are not hurt either.

      Swabbing bags and checking for explosive residue makes sense if there is some suspicious container that could hold explosive material (or other similar scenarios). There is no need for a large disturbance then, just a quick extra check. But for something that appears to be a fully prepped and possibly armed bomb, more caution is required.

  7. Anonymous says:

    The two pens in the block of wood make it look less like a normal project and more like electronics connected to a chunk of explosives via two detonators. While I normally abhor the overreaching policies of the TSA, this doesn’t have anything to do with them — I would’ve expected airport security to “Shut. Down. EVERYTHING.” even before 9/11 if this went through an x-ray machine.

    Regarding bringing in a bomb squad, I’m going to have to agree with cpurious.. But in a less sarcastic tone. If they honestly think something is a bomb, they’re going to need special equipment (bomb suits, robots, whatever) to safely test it. If they don’t get very many situations like this, it doesn’t make financial sense to have the equipment themselves. It might cost the airport in delayed response time, but it probably saves the government money in decreased equipment and training costs.

    I commend the TSA in their reasoned response to this, as long as the student got everything back in good order. I just wish they’d be more reasoned when it came to 4th amendment violations.

  8. Anonymous says:

    The two pens in the block of wood make it look less like a normal project and more like electronics connected to a chunk of explosives via two detonators. While I normally abhor the overreaching policies of the TSA, this doesn’t have anything to do with them — I would’ve expected airport security to “Shut. Down. EVERYTHING.” even before 9/11 if this went through an x-ray machine.

    Regarding bringing in a bomb squad, I’m going to have to agree with cpurious.. But in a less sarcastic tone. If they honestly think something is a bomb, they’re going to need special equipment (bomb suits, robots, whatever) to safely test it. If they don’t get very many situations like this, it doesn’t make financial sense to have the equipment themselves. It might cost the airport in delayed response time, but it probably saves the government money in decreased equipment and training costs.

    I commend the TSA in their reasoned response to this, as long as the student got everything back in good order. I just wish they’d be more reasoned when it came to 4th amendment violations.

  9. Anonymous says:

    The two pens in the block of wood make it look less like a normal project and more like electronics connected to a chunk of explosives via two detonators. While I normally abhor the overreaching policies of the TSA, this doesn’t have anything to do with them — I would’ve expected airport security to “Shut. Down. EVERYTHING.” even before 9/11 if this went through an x-ray machine.

    Regarding bringing in a bomb squad, I’m going to have to agree with cpurious.. But in a less sarcastic tone. If they honestly think something is a bomb, they’re going to need special equipment (bomb suits, robots, whatever) to safely test it. If they don’t get very many situations like this, it doesn’t make financial sense to have the equipment themselves. It might cost the airport in delayed response time, but it probably saves the government money in decreased equipment and training costs.

    I commend the TSA in their reasoned response to this, as long as the student got everything back in good order. I just wish they’d be more reasoned when it came to 4th amendment violations.

  10. My father told me a story where, back in the mid -80′s an Engineer from the company he worked for was carrying a portable gas pressure recorder on a flight.  Shut down the entire Minneapolis airport for a day. 

    This tool is used for commercial gas oven debugging to look for natural gas pressure drops over time (hours to days).  Unfortunately, under X-Ray inspection the device looks suspicious with a windup clockwork, many gears, and a couple of batteries.  Maybe shutting down the airport was a bit much, but when in doubt…

  11. My father told me a story where, back in the mid -80′s an Engineer from the company he worked for was carrying a portable gas pressure recorder on a flight.  Shut down the entire Minneapolis airport for a day. 

    This tool is used for commercial gas oven debugging to look for natural gas pressure drops over time (hours to days).  Unfortunately, under X-Ray inspection the device looks suspicious with a windup clockwork, many gears, and a couple of batteries.  Maybe shutting down the airport was a bit much, but when in doubt…

  12. My father told me a story where, back in the mid -80′s an Engineer from the company he worked for was carrying a portable gas pressure recorder on a flight.  Shut down the entire Minneapolis airport for a day. 

    This tool is used for commercial gas oven debugging to look for natural gas pressure drops over time (hours to days).  Unfortunately, under X-Ray inspection the device looks suspicious with a windup clockwork, many gears, and a couple of batteries.  Maybe shutting down the airport was a bit much, but when in doubt…

  13. orvtech says:

    I travelled this past week to Brazil with my arduino uno in a mint cant, the USB cable and a bag with some leds, resistors, etc.. (a starter kit). while they didn’t stop the flight, they did open my bag tough, they left no paper or notification what so ever inside explaining that they were the ones who open the bag or even why they did it. 

    Now i have to return in tow weeks any recomendations regarding this? should I carry it on my hand luggage?

  14. orvtech says:

    I travelled this past week to Brazil with my arduino uno in a mint cant, the USB cable and a bag with some leds, resistors, etc.. (a starter kit). while they didn’t stop the flight, they did open my bag tough, they left no paper or notification what so ever inside explaining that they were the ones who open the bag or even why they did it. 

    Now i have to return in tow weeks any recomendations regarding this? should I carry it on my hand luggage?

  15. orvtech says:

    I travelled this past week to Brazil with my arduino uno in a mint cant, the USB cable and a bag with some leds, resistors, etc.. (a starter kit). while they didn’t stop the flight, they did open my bag tough, they left no paper or notification what so ever inside explaining that they were the ones who open the bag or even why they did it. 

    Now i have to return in tow weeks any recomendations regarding this? should I carry it on my hand luggage?

  16. Scott says:

    Let’s think logically for a minute here. *IF* it was truly an IED, why on earth would TSA want to bring it out of the x-ray machine to where the bad guy could get his hands on it? It’s far safer to leave it in the x-ray until the people trained in IED’s are able to clear it. That means bomb disposal experts (something the TSA is NOT) would need to be called in. Just from looking at the picture of that thing above I don’t see how anyone can be criticizing the TSA over this. It looks incredibly suspicious in real life, much less than how it would look on an x-ray.

    Unfortunately, due to the actions of people like Tim McVeigh and other US citizens who have befriended Al-Qaeda we are all subject to the same scrutiny. I would imagine that there were other factors involved in having the FBI brought in as I can’t imagine that would be standard protocol for something of this nature.

    Saying that the “airport” was closed is disingenuous on your part. It wasn’t the airport, it was one terminal out of the two, the other terminal was operating normally throughout.

  17. Scott says:

    Let’s think logically for a minute here. *IF* it was truly an IED, why on earth would TSA want to bring it out of the x-ray machine to where the bad guy could get his hands on it? It’s far safer to leave it in the x-ray until the people trained in IED’s are able to clear it. That means bomb disposal experts (something the TSA is NOT) would need to be called in. Just from looking at the picture of that thing above I don’t see how anyone can be criticizing the TSA over this. It looks incredibly suspicious in real life, much less than how it would look on an x-ray.

    Unfortunately, due to the actions of people like Tim McVeigh and other US citizens who have befriended Al-Qaeda we are all subject to the same scrutiny. I would imagine that there were other factors involved in having the FBI brought in as I can’t imagine that would be standard protocol for something of this nature.

    Saying that the “airport” was closed is disingenuous on your part. It wasn’t the airport, it was one terminal out of the two, the other terminal was operating normally throughout.

    1. Anonymous says:

      @yahoo-HPUHZMYA6UHY2EBKNBYTFTZDRE:disqus i updated the title to be more clear “TSA Closes Terminal Over Science Project In Mint Tin” when i first saw this i thought it did say the airport was shut down.

      do you think that is more accurate now?

      1. Scott says:

        Definitely more accurate now, thank you.

        As you’ve mentioned, you’ve traveled with DIY tins and never had much of a problem. I would suspect that those tins you’ve traveled with didn’t have all of the additional wires and mass connected to them.

        1. Anonymous says:

          @yahoo-HPUHZMYA6UHY2EBKNBYTFTZDRE:disqus that’s correct, usually my projects look a little more “finished” than that and i always make sure i have something printed out either from MAKE or from the kit documentation saying what it is. i also usually carry a copy of MAKE in both bags and usually check a bag in.

          in the past i’ve given TSA folks copies of MAKE and some later even showed up at maker faire to say hi, one was a maker himself!

          i posted about this so makers can be aware and for the TSA to also know we think about these things here at MAKE as well.

    2. Tim Allison says:

      >I don’t see how anyone can be criticizing the TSA over this

      Scott I’m reposting this from above: You may think some of us are engaged in some sort of “Monday morning quarterbacking”, but I’m not just saying this was idiotic just
      because I disagree with the situation on some theoretical grounds. There
      are real world implications and consequences for the TSA agent’s
      response in this. Now apply some critical thinking to this please: these
      actions by this TSA agent(s) actually expose a grave weakness here that
      terrorists can exploit. How this situation is made more
      critical by a poor response is if this guy was actually out to cause
      harm by working along with other terrorists as a decoy on this day.
      Thus, by calling in the bomb squad for a simulated bomb, without proper
      diligence on the agent(s) part, the TSA are wasting the time of a key
      resource so if a real threat happens will greatly delay necessary
      response times to deal with it. We just seen this play out in Norway
      where the suspect supposedly exploded the bomb to give him more time on
      his shooting spree, so it isn’t purely a hypothetical issue. So with
      this in mind there isn’t any criticism and/or critic making it harder
      for them, it is their own bad judgments and reactions that make it more
      difficult for them to do their mission. Not only that, but their poor
      decisions put others at risk making it harder for all of us in this,
      that’s why we need trained professionals in these key authority
      positions and us critics watching over their shoulder.

      1. Scott says:

        @Tim Allison  – You answered your own question in your statement. As soon as you refer to a “simulated bomb” you derail your own argument. A simulated bomb, by definition, looks like a real bomb and therefore would require the exact same response as a real bomb would. Any TSA agent(s) looking at this thing on an x-ray machine can’t sit there and second-guess themselves by asking “is this really a bomb or is it a diversion?”. They have to look at what they see in front of them and deal with that, right there, at that time. If there is an item that just looks suspicious, running it out of the x-ray to be swabbed would seem to be ok, but if there’s something that looks like a completely assembled IED running it out to where the bad guy could possibly get his hands on it would be asinine.

        Having armchair quarterbacks who have absolutely NO knowledge of the policies, procedures, technical training and what an IED looks like on an x-ray second guessing what someone trained in all of the above is doing is laughable.

  18. Scott says:

    Let’s think logically for a minute here. *IF* it was truly an IED, why on earth would TSA want to bring it out of the x-ray machine to where the bad guy could get his hands on it? It’s far safer to leave it in the x-ray until the people trained in IED’s are able to clear it. That means bomb disposal experts (something the TSA is NOT) would need to be called in. Just from looking at the picture of that thing above I don’t see how anyone can be criticizing the TSA over this. It looks incredibly suspicious in real life, much less than how it would look on an x-ray.

    Unfortunately, due to the actions of people like Tim McVeigh and other US citizens who have befriended Al-Qaeda we are all subject to the same scrutiny. I would imagine that there were other factors involved in having the FBI brought in as I can’t imagine that would be standard protocol for something of this nature.

    Saying that the “airport” was closed is disingenuous on your part. It wasn’t the airport, it was one terminal out of the two, the other terminal was operating normally throughout.

  19. Arno Brosi says:

    My two cents:I think it was very naive of the person to expect this wouldn’t trigger all the red flags in the TSA handbook(especially with the battery).I have traveled with electronics and old alarm clocks,but never put together in such a way that it could be looked at as a explosive device.

    1. Anonymous says:

      @facebook-706691123:disqus i posted about this since this is different than what usually happens (more screening, swabbed at check point, etc). fbi and bomb squad and shutting down terminals could be a new policy? many here have traveled with mint tin electronics and this has not happened it seems.

    2. Anonymous says:

      @facebook-706691123:disqus i posted about this since this is different than what usually happens (more screening, swabbed at check point, etc). fbi and bomb squad and shutting down terminals could be a new policy? many here have traveled with mint tin electronics and this has not happened it seems.

    3. Anonymous says:

      @facebook-706691123:disqus i posted about this since this is different than what usually happens (more screening, swabbed at check point, etc). fbi and bomb squad and shutting down terminals could be a new policy? many here have traveled with mint tin electronics and this has not happened it seems.

  20. Arno Brosi says:

    My two cents:I think it was very naive of the person to expect this wouldn’t trigger all the red flags in the TSA handbook(especially with the battery).I have traveled with electronics and old alarm clocks,but never put together in such a way that it could be looked at as a explosive device.

  21. Timothy Gray says:

    Remember kids, better safe than free.

    1. ReACTIONary says:

      Little Timmy, That sort of extremist equivocation works with kids, not adults. Let’s try to have an adult conversation.

    2. ReACTIONary says:

      Little Timmy, That sort of extremist equivocation works with kids, not adults. Let’s try to have an adult conversation.

  22. Timothy Gray says:

    Remember kids, better safe than free.

  23. Anonymous says:

    Ptorrone, I appreciate your efforts in your
    attempt to educate TSA on the sorts of things that the members of the ever
    growing maker movement are building. As I see it this is a very tough issue to
    get around. As an avid maker I’ve felt some subdued outrage in hearing about
    projects that I consider to be obviously innocuous causing massive hoot-nanny
    at the airport. To me just about anything in a mint tin should be considered ok
    as there are many projects in this format out there right now, but these folks
    are possibly not makers. To complicate things further I myself have made things
    in black-plastic project cases that unintentionally look downright insidious when
    I’m finished with them. As an example check out this blue-tooth joystick I
    build:

    http://blog.wodilog.com/2011/02/project-1-diy-bluetooth-joystick.html  (scroll to the end for photos)

    Even as the maker if I saw the control box for
    this project sticking out from the fender of my car I would call the bomb-squad
    too (right after pooping myself in mid-stride as I ran to get away from it).

    Perhaps to avoid the complications of having
    to train every TSA agent with the ability to discern the nature of every sort
    of homemade project it would be better to declare that you are carrying some
    kind of ‘weird’ thing in advance. Although I have never tried I hear that you
    can travel with an unloaded gun in your checked baggage as long as you let the
    airline know it is there when you check it. Maybe there can be some kind of
    analogous “I’ve got this innocent but possibly insidious looking thing in my luggage
    form” you can fill out when you check your luggage or had to the TSA agents?
    Just a thought.

     

    1. Anonymous says:

      thanks! that’s the goal, makers knowing what to be aware of and for the TSA to know a lot of people make things and travel with them.

  24. daryl newmann says:

    I am “Bomb Squad” and what is pictured would look like every x-ray interpretation power point presentation that they are given on the subject.   I commend them for actually id’ing something that looks like what they are trained to spot. 

    1. Anonymous says:

      @google-896e8b5cc7cbbad1653f268a05f8e49c:disqus thanks! what is the usual procedure after this is spotted? from what i’ve always seen and experienced it’s more screening a getting your stuff swabbed.

      is there a new policy for carry on that requires calling the FBI and bomb squad?

      1. daryl newmann says:

        I cannot speak for TSA’s procedures as I am not affiliated with them. But in general, further interrogation after spotting that would be the bomb squads lane of responsibility.  Clearing the area of passengers and personnel would be their responsibility. Swabbing is not for suspected devices. It is just a tool they can use to test for explosive residue transferred from hand/device/environment to the bag.

        1. Indeed. From what I’ve seen, bags that might be suspicious (but not overtly) or have too much in them to get a good look (ie loaded-up pro- or semi-pro camera bag), will get a secondary inspection as an extra security measure.

          If they see something like this that blatantly looks suspicious, I’d imagine they’d bump straight past secondary and go to Plan B: Call a supervisor.

          Supervisor would say “Yeah, that looks nasty.”, but neither of them being bomb experts (though having been trained well in the finer points of detection) call in someone who is.

          If I couldn’t mail it to myself, and *had* to take it with me, I’d dismantle it to the best of my abilities (non-destructively), ie remove battery and wire headers, etc., and put it in checked luggage along with a document explaining what it is, schematics, photos, etc… I’d imagine he might have made a better impression if he had:
          a) Dismantled it to the best of his ability (and bringing no battery with him)
          b) Put it in its own x-ray tray, completely open to view
          c) Had documents he could present the TSA agents stating what it was, with schematics/photos/parts list/whatnot

          Even then, I’d still ship it. FedEx/UPS Overnight if it was urgent.

          1. ReACTIONary says:

            Yes, ship it. And even then, dismantle it. Only an idiot would try to bring this contraption on an airplane. Only a COMPLETE idiot would put it in carry on. This was a serious lack of judgement on the part of the traveler, and it is the that needs advice (like, grow up) rather than the TSA.

          2. ReACTIONary says:

            Yes, ship it. And even then, dismantle it. Only an idiot would try to bring this contraption on an airplane. Only a COMPLETE idiot would put it in carry on. This was a serious lack of judgement on the part of the traveler, and it is the that needs advice (like, grow up) rather than the TSA.

        2. Indeed. From what I’ve seen, bags that might be suspicious (but not overtly) or have too much in them to get a good look (ie loaded-up pro- or semi-pro camera bag), will get a secondary inspection as an extra security measure.

          If they see something like this that blatantly looks suspicious, I’d imagine they’d bump straight past secondary and go to Plan B: Call a supervisor.

          Supervisor would say “Yeah, that looks nasty.”, but neither of them being bomb experts (though having been trained well in the finer points of detection) call in someone who is.

          If I couldn’t mail it to myself, and *had* to take it with me, I’d dismantle it to the best of my abilities (non-destructively), ie remove battery and wire headers, etc., and put it in checked luggage along with a document explaining what it is, schematics, photos, etc… I’d imagine he might have made a better impression if he had:
          a) Dismantled it to the best of his ability (and bringing no battery with him)
          b) Put it in its own x-ray tray, completely open to view
          c) Had documents he could present the TSA agents stating what it was, with schematics/photos/parts list/whatnot

          Even then, I’d still ship it. FedEx/UPS Overnight if it was urgent.

      2. daryl newmann says:

        I cannot speak for TSA’s procedures as I am not affiliated with them. But in general, further interrogation after spotting that would be the bomb squads lane of responsibility.  Clearing the area of passengers and personnel would be their responsibility. Swabbing is not for suspected devices. It is just a tool they can use to test for explosive residue transferred from hand/device/environment to the bag.

      3. daryl newmann says:

        I was reading the rest of the comments and i left out something.   This, as far as that TSA screener is concerned, that is an IED. And whether or not it was verified by a supervisor, that device on an x-ray would warrant bomb squad and the FBI to be called. Did we ever find out what the device was? i was thinking some kind of counter or sensor. Maybe a light source on one end and a photocell on the other.

      4. daryl newmann says:

        I was reading the rest of the comments and i left out something.   This, as far as that TSA screener is concerned, that is an IED. And whether or not it was verified by a supervisor, that device on an x-ray would warrant bomb squad and the FBI to be called. Did we ever find out what the device was? i was thinking some kind of counter or sensor. Maybe a light source on one end and a photocell on the other.

      5. daryl newmann says:

        I was reading the rest of the comments and i left out something.   This, as far as that TSA screener is concerned, that is an IED. And whether or not it was verified by a supervisor, that device on an x-ray would warrant bomb squad and the FBI to be called. Did we ever find out what the device was? i was thinking some kind of counter or sensor. Maybe a light source on one end and a photocell on the other.

    2. Svella Voom says:

       uuum, no. our training is much more extensive than a power point side. perhaps on the preliminary orientation of a gate agent, but true inspectors go through a much more intense recital of identifying threat levels. in fact, much of the coursework involved covers looking for items which do **not** look like threats…. and you would not believe the strange things in traveler’s baggage.
      this looks like a fluke, and an over reactive executive decision

      1. Anonymous says:

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      2. Anonymous says:

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      3. Anonymous says:

        @facebook-100000125976104:disqus thanks for the info!

      4. Anonymous says:

        @facebook-100000125976104:disqus thanks for the info!

      5. Anonymous says:

        @facebook-100000125976104:disqus thanks for the info!

      6. Anonymous says:

        @facebook-100000125976104:disqus thanks for the info!

  25. MadGravity says:

    I don’t know about anyone else here but if I was responsible for checking X-Rays of bags and stuff and I saw this thingy connected to that box the way it’s pictured here, I’d immediately shut down the terminal (maybe not the airport) clear everyone out of the area, call the bomb squad  be it FBI or local (it takes time for them to get there and setup) and go for cover until they arrive! It’s not like you got all day to figure this out- if it is a bomb you have to act quickly or the whole place blows up and people die- if it’s not you get posted about on blogs like this and criticized or commended on your actions. 

    1. Anonymous says:

      @yahoo-S5BVQN65AGKYRAFS62WVQWZTFQ:disqus i think i was clear saying more screening for an item like this is good and totally makes sense. usually the fbi and bomb squad are not called in, is that a new policy?

      1. MadGravity says:

        @ptorrone:disqus I think you were very clear, I was commenting on some of the other comments here; like what would you do if you were in charge and finding this.
         As for the bomb squad being called in; we don’t know if there was some kind of alert out that they want to keep quiet or some such.
        It’s good that you bring this to light so that other gadgeteers don’t make the same mistake and are prepared when the go to an airport :)
         

      2. MadGravity says:

        @ptorrone:disqus I think you were very clear, I was commenting on some of the other comments here; like what would you do if you were in charge and finding this.
         As for the bomb squad being called in; we don’t know if there was some kind of alert out that they want to keep quiet or some such.
        It’s good that you bring this to light so that other gadgeteers don’t make the same mistake and are prepared when the go to an airport :)
         

    2. Anonymous says:

      > if it is a bomb you have to act quickly or the whole place blows up and people die

      If it’s really a bomb, then the person trying to bring it through security is ready for the possibility that you’ll see it, and if his plan is to detonate it if caught, he’ll make sure he can do so immediately no matter how quickly you shut the place down.

      1. MadGravity says:

        Maybe the bomb is on a timer, maybe it is not in the person’s possession as it is X-rayed and he can’t detonate it.
        That’s the problem; you don’t know it is a bomb or not. But you have to act quickly like I said.
        What would you do Dougmctx if you were the security person who saw this?

        1. It would be pretty obvious that it had a battery and a manually-operated switch, and no other real control mechanism (I’m guessing that there isn’t really anything outstanding in the box). This would not necessitate swift terminal closure, but out of an abundance of caution, I would expect them to take it to a large, cordoned-off outdoor area (if possible) to await the bomb squad.

          1. MadGravity says:

            What I’ve been try to say all along is to put yourself in the person’s shoes who is responsible for the safety of others. You found something that looks like what is pictured above; take a better look at it. And you would be the one to carry it ‘to a large, cordoned-off outdoor area’?
            Nope I’d get everyone out of there and have the bomb squad handle it…

          2. MadGravity says:

            What I’ve been try to say all along is to put yourself in the person’s shoes who is responsible for the safety of others. You found something that looks like what is pictured above; take a better look at it. And you would be the one to carry it ‘to a large, cordoned-off outdoor area’?
            Nope I’d get everyone out of there and have the bomb squad handle it…

        2. It would be pretty obvious that it had a battery and a manually-operated switch, and no other real control mechanism (I’m guessing that there isn’t really anything outstanding in the box). This would not necessitate swift terminal closure, but out of an abundance of caution, I would expect them to take it to a large, cordoned-off outdoor area (if possible) to await the bomb squad.

        3. It would be pretty obvious that it had a battery and a manually-operated switch, and no other real control mechanism (I’m guessing that there isn’t really anything outstanding in the box). This would not necessitate swift terminal closure, but out of an abundance of caution, I would expect them to take it to a large, cordoned-off outdoor area (if possible) to await the bomb squad.

  26. Anonymous says:

    And this is exactly why I did not take my remote photo trigger through TSA…

  27. Anonymous says:

    And this is exactly why I did not take my remote photo trigger through TSA…

  28. Aaron Worley says:

    My brother works as a customs agent , and catches illegals and terrorist as they try to get in, quite successfully I might add. His agency is one of the few federal level agencies that have concealed carry cards for planes and terminals. He told me a story about a kid that wore a homemade “Digg Button” shirt (think circuit board taped to a t-shirt) to the airport to pick up a friend. The kid was stopped before he got far into the airport by a local cop who was there to pick someone up also. He told the kid that if he went much farther the security guys would get him for sure. My brother told me standing policy is if they had seen the kid they would have immediately shot him on the spot. No, discussion no warning no nothing. If it looks like a bomb treat it like it is a bomb. Not fondle it and swab it and poke it. Treat it like an alarm clock strapped to dynamite.

    1. Anonymous says:

      @google-cb025533ed1e23adfa8c2bcc4cf53f23:disqus wait, you’re saying a custom agent would shoot *a kid* in *passenger pick up area*?

    2. Anonymous says:

      @google-cb025533ed1e23adfa8c2bcc4cf53f23:disqus wait, you’re saying a custom agent would shoot *a kid* in *passenger pick up area*?

    3. Anonymous says:

      @google-cb025533ed1e23adfa8c2bcc4cf53f23:disqus wait, you’re saying a custom agent would shoot *a kid* in *passenger pick up area*?

    4. Anonymous says:

      @google-cb025533ed1e23adfa8c2bcc4cf53f23:disqus wait, you’re saying a custom agent would shoot *a kid* in *passenger pick up area*?

    5. your brother must have misuderstood something because there is no way in hell that would fly and if that’s true then the countries worse off then I thought.

    6. Tim Allison says:

      This is ridiculous, and doesn’t hold up to historical precedent for how law enforcement deals with people armed with explosives. Think about the people that had the explosive collars on a couple years ago, they weren’t shot dead. Why this is idiotic is that shooting someone doesn’t make the explosive also dead, it’s still there and very much active. Plus some one armed with explosives may have a dead-mans switch so shooting them could make it explode upon death thus stopping nothing. Security is there to neutralize any threat, not assure it is realized. Also the fact that the cop in this story realized this was not a threat, thus giving a warning, but magically it becomes one to agents or other security if he would have proceeded? So your basically saying that airport security and your brother have less intelligence then this cop, good on calling your bro an idiot. Hope he doesn’t read this and shoot you. . .

    7. Tim Allison says:

      This is ridiculous, and doesn’t hold up to historical precedent for how law enforcement deals with people armed with explosives. Think about the people that had the explosive collars on a couple years ago, they weren’t shot dead. Why this is idiotic is that shooting someone doesn’t make the explosive also dead, it’s still there and very much active. Plus some one armed with explosives may have a dead-mans switch so shooting them could make it explode upon death thus stopping nothing. Security is there to neutralize any threat, not assure it is realized. Also the fact that the cop in this story realized this was not a threat, thus giving a warning, but magically it becomes one to agents or other security if he would have proceeded? So your basically saying that airport security and your brother have less intelligence then this cop, good on calling your bro an idiot. Hope he doesn’t read this and shoot you. . .

  29. Aaron Worley says:

    My brother works as a customs agent , and catches illegals and terrorist as they try to get in, quite successfully I might add. His agency is one of the few federal level agencies that have concealed carry cards for planes and terminals. He told me a story about a kid that wore a homemade “Digg Button” shirt (think circuit board taped to a t-shirt) to the airport to pick up a friend. The kid was stopped before he got far into the airport by a local cop who was there to pick someone up also. He told the kid that if he went much farther the security guys would get him for sure. My brother told me standing policy is if they had seen the kid they would have immediately shot him on the spot. No, discussion no warning no nothing. If it looks like a bomb treat it like it is a bomb. Not fondle it and swab it and poke it. Treat it like an alarm clock strapped to dynamite.

  30. Anonymous says:

    There has been *lots* of discussion in the amateur radio community about carrying radio gear (especially homebrew gear) onto airplanes since Sept. 2001.  The general consensus has been that you give the TSA agents a heads up and be prepared to let them have a good look at your gear (if they ask).

    Good advice for the Maker community.

  31. Anonymous says:

    There has been *lots* of discussion in the amateur radio community about carrying radio gear (especially homebrew gear) onto airplanes since Sept. 2001.  The general consensus has been that you give the TSA agents a heads up and be prepared to let them have a good look at your gear (if they ask).

    Good advice for the Maker community.

  32. Anonymous says:

    There has been *lots* of discussion in the amateur radio community about carrying radio gear (especially homebrew gear) onto airplanes since Sept. 2001.  The general consensus has been that you give the TSA agents a heads up and be prepared to let them have a good look at your gear (if they ask).

    Good advice for the Maker community.

  33. Anonymous says:

    There has been *lots* of discussion in the amateur radio community about carrying radio gear (especially homebrew gear) onto airplanes since Sept. 2001.  The general consensus has been that you give the TSA agents a heads up and be prepared to let them have a good look at your gear (if they ask).

    Good advice for the Maker community.

  34. Anonymous says:

    There has been *lots* of discussion in the amateur radio community about carrying radio gear (especially homebrew gear) onto airplanes since Sept. 2001.  The general consensus has been that you give the TSA agents a heads up and be prepared to let them have a good look at your gear (if they ask).

    Good advice for the Maker community.

  35. Tom Lynch says:

    I think a lot of people are misunderstanding what this object is, its not just the mint box, because thats not really all that suspicious, its the block of wood with a probe sticking out each end making it look like a block of explosives with a pair of detonators of some kind attached to a triggering mechanism in a mint box. 

  36. Tom Lynch says:

    I think a lot of people are misunderstanding what this object is, its not just the mint box, because thats not really all that suspicious, its the block of wood with a probe sticking out each end making it look like a block of explosives with a pair of detonators of some kind attached to a triggering mechanism in a mint box. 

  37. If you think about this, you have what looks very much like a bomb, in a closed bag in a x-ray scanner. If it was a busy time of day you’d have dozens of people queuing to get through the scanners.

    The last thing I’d want is someone without bomb squad training opening the bag and having a prod around. Remember, we are talking about something that based on the appearance of an x-ray has a high probability of being an explosive device. I think they did the right thing in getting everyone out of danger and letting the right people have a look.

    Anyway rather than trying to teach the TSA to differentiate homemade electronics from homemade IED’s I think you should be trying to impress on Makers how not to make their projects look like bombs. The people who look at the X-Rays have seconds to make a judgment call on what they see, why not try to make it easier for them to make the right call in the first place.

    I build rockets as a hobby. In the UK there aren’t that many places to fly high and fast, so I often end up dragging rockets, motor hardware and a lot of electronics out to the US to fly. When we packed we always make sure the electronics is broken down as much as possible, batteries at the opposite end of the case or different case, we even throw in a couple of rocketry magazines so anyone opening the case would get an hint of what they were looking at!

    1. Anonymous says:

      @facebook-566250930:disqus good tips, thanks!

    2. Anonymous says:

      > Remember, we are talking about something that based on the appearance
      of an x-ray has a high probability of being an explosive device

      No, we’re talking about a device that based on the the appearance of an X-ray has a very small probability of being an explosive device.  It’s some wires and a battery in a metal case — oodles of electronic devices look like that, and the vast majority of them are not explosive devices.

      This may look like vaguely like the “classic” movie bomb with some sticks of TNT surrounded by wire and an alarm clock, but let’s not get confused … 99.9% of the time when somebody tries to bring something like this through the checkpoint, it’s not a bomb — it’s totally innocuous.  It’s not a high probability at all.

      It does warrant some extra scrutiny.  The agent could ask the owner to remove it and explain what it is and open it.  But there’s little need to freak out about it once that’s done.

      Of course, what does this tell somebody who really does want to bring explosives on board?  Don’t use any metal.  Use a traditional fuse and a match to ignite it.  Or if you do want to use electronics to trigger it, use a cell phone (that won’t trigger much scrutiny) and keep the few needed wires in your pocket where nobody will notice, then assemble it once you’re past security.

      1. >> Remember, we are talking about something that based on the appearance
        >> of an x-ray has a high probability of being an explosive device

        > No, we’re talking about a device that based on the the appearance of an X-ray
        > has a very small probability of being an explosive device. It’s some wires and
        > a battery in a metal case — oodles of electronic devices look like that, and the
        > vast majority of them are not explosive devices.

        Let’s rephrase that then, that based on the image that the x-ray machine produced there were enough markers present to cause the x-ray machines operator to class it as a credible threat.

        I may look like a classic hollywood bomb, but I very much doubt that the TSA puts any crediability to the chain of thought that the bomber is a cunning bomber, and has therefore made their bomb look like a hollywod bomb because they know the TSA knows that really bombs don’t look like that….

        1. Tim Allison says:

          Stephen I’m glad you’re not a police officer! I expect someone like you to call the police if you see a person walking the streets with what “looks” like a gun, which is fine and all because you’re, repeating myself, an amateur. Why I’m glad you’re not the officer to respond is I get the feeling you may just shoot the person before going through the proper risk analysis and response chain. Hyperbole sure, so lets move on to reality. Now I wonder, would you support the actions of an officer that immediately pulls their gun on someone if they have what appears to be a gun? Sure you may argue about details like what the real object is (is it a metal pipe, or an airsoft gun, or a wallet?), but I’m saying that that’s besides the point for whatever it is it “looks” like a gun in hand. In that case”looks” like is not good enough to roll up on and draw your weapon on someone. Next time you see an officer ask him or her what steps they take when they respond to a person claimed to have a weapon. There is a definite list of steps and commands they both follow and issue to the person before they ever get to pulling their weapon. For me calling in the bomb squad is pulling your gun on someone, the act of a person who should not hold the job they do.

        2. Tim Allison says:

          Stephen I’m glad you’re not a police officer! I expect someone like you to call the police if you see a person walking the streets with what “looks” like a gun, which is fine and all because you’re, repeating myself, an amateur. Why I’m glad you’re not the officer to respond is I get the feeling you may just shoot the person before going through the proper risk analysis and response chain. Hyperbole sure, so lets move on to reality. Now I wonder, would you support the actions of an officer that immediately pulls their gun on someone if they have what appears to be a gun? Sure you may argue about details like what the real object is (is it a metal pipe, or an airsoft gun, or a wallet?), but I’m saying that that’s besides the point for whatever it is it “looks” like a gun in hand. In that case”looks” like is not good enough to roll up on and draw your weapon on someone. Next time you see an officer ask him or her what steps they take when they respond to a person claimed to have a weapon. There is a definite list of steps and commands they both follow and issue to the person before they ever get to pulling their weapon. For me calling in the bomb squad is pulling your gun on someone, the act of a person who should not hold the job they do.

          1. Anonymous says:

            To me, calling in the bomb squad was just done to get another opinion. What does this have to do with pulling out a gun? Nothing.

          2. So you’re comparing inconveniencing air travellers for an hour, to shooting a person dead?

            I live in the UK so the gun situation is a bit different, but if an office over here see’s a person with what their training tells them is a gun, then they call in SO19, not to shoot the person, but to get people with a higher level of training to evaluate and deal with the situation.

            Here a trained person has seen what their training is telling may well be a bomb, so they called in the bomb squad to evaluate, what’s the difference? 

          3. Tim Allison says:

            Stephen read my statement again, I am very specific in what I’m saying
            and it wasn’t “shooting a person dead”. Unless you’re confusing my
            sarcastic comment about being glad you’re not an officer, which was to
            take the piss out of you to which I even call myself out on, and the
            main
            point I was making. Regardless though, you’re right in that the gun
            example may not work
            for you based of the different countries we reside in, so I’ll move past
            it.

            As I see it you’re making an assumption here, that the acting TSA agent(s) is properly
            trained in bomb detection, but do you know this for certain? I doubt you
            do. I also doubt that they were properly trained for if they were they
            wouldn’t have escalated the situation without further data beyond a
            visual appearance. If this is TSA standard for how to address what
            “looks” like a bomb it is an idiotic one, but I doubt it is their policy for they
            seem a bit apologetic in their reporting of this.

            You may think I’m engaged in some sort of “Monday morning
            quarterbacking” or second guessing, but I’m not just saying this was
            idiotic just
            because I disagree with the situation on some theoretical grounds. There
            are real world implications and consequences for the TSA agent’s
            response in this. Now apply some critical thinking to this please: these
            actions by this TSA agent(s) actually expose a grave weakness here that
            terrorists can exploit. How this
            situation is actually made more critical by a poor response is if this
            guy
            was actually out to cause harm by working along with other terrorists as
            a decoy on this day. Thus, by calling
            in the bomb squad for a simulated bomb, without proper diligence on the
            agent(s)
            part, the TSA are wasting the time of a key resource so if a real
            threat
            happens will greatly delay necessary response times to deal with it. We
            just seen this
            play out in Norway where the suspect supposedly exploded the bomb to
            give him more time on his shooting spree, so it isn’t purely a
            hypothetical issue. So with this in
            mind there isn’t any criticism and/or critic making it harder for them,
            it is their own bad judgments and reactions that make it more difficult
            for them to do their mission. Not only that, but
            their poor decisions put others at risk making it harder for all of us
            in this, that’s why we need trained professionals in these key authority
            positions and us critics watching over their shoulder.
             

          4. ReACTIONary says:

            As a concerned citizen, I’d say what we DON’T need is “you critics” watching over their shoulders. If the TSA followed the “advice” of the “critics” we would have planes being blown up weekly. Get a life. And stop being an impediment to those of us who what to keep and preserve ours.

      2. daryl newmann says:

        dougmctx: “This may look like vaguely like the “classic” movie bomb with some sticks of TNT surrounded by wire and an alarm clock, but let’s not get confused … 99.9% of the time when somebody tries to bring something like this through the checkpoint, it’s not a bomb — it’s totally innocuous.  It’s not a high probability at all.”

        From what I have seen, the “hollywood” bomb runs the gamut from insanely complicated device with hundreds of parts and an lcd screen running a custom os. to a block of clay with a little black box and an antenna.  This whole issue is only polarized because the title contains the initialism “TSA”. You have to remember that the TSA has to be right 100% of the time, while a bomber only needs to be lucky once. And all the parts are there, trigger(with an arming switch)/power source/main charge/what suspiciously looks like detonators inside the main charge.  You can believe they over-reacted if you want, but Im glad they acted the way they did. And had this been a bomb that they did not catch in an x-ray, we would all be having a completely different conversation right now.

        1. Anonymous says:

          > the TSA has to be right 100% of the time

          To be more precise, the TSA can not tolerate any false-negatives when it comes to bomb detection, but it doesn’t seem to mind false-positives at all.

          Electronics don’t usually explode (abused Li-ion batteries can catch fire, but they’re permitted) so totally stopping everything for hours because you see some suspicious electronics seems suspect.  Yes, it was suspicious … so investigate further.  Look at the device.  Ask what it is.  Swab it for explosives.

          And if a terrorist really does want to get a bomb onto a plane, make sure it’s kept separate from any electronics — assemble it later, past security.  Or if this isn’t practical, make sure it looks like mass-produced electronics — the thing somebody did with printers a while back is a great example.

          And yes, had this been a bomb they didn’t catch, we’d have a totally different conversation, because it would be a totally different situation.  (For starters, there would be a bomb!  Normal people bring electronics on a plane.  Normal people *don’t* bring bombs.  Totally different situation.)

        2. Anonymous says:

          > the TSA has to be right 100% of the time

          To be more precise, the TSA can not tolerate any false-negatives when it comes to bomb detection, but it doesn’t seem to mind false-positives at all.

          Electronics don’t usually explode (abused Li-ion batteries can catch fire, but they’re permitted) so totally stopping everything for hours because you see some suspicious electronics seems suspect.  Yes, it was suspicious … so investigate further.  Look at the device.  Ask what it is.  Swab it for explosives.

          And if a terrorist really does want to get a bomb onto a plane, make sure it’s kept separate from any electronics — assemble it later, past security.  Or if this isn’t practical, make sure it looks like mass-produced electronics — the thing somebody did with printers a while back is a great example.

          And yes, had this been a bomb they didn’t catch, we’d have a totally different conversation, because it would be a totally different situation.  (For starters, there would be a bomb!  Normal people bring electronics on a plane.  Normal people *don’t* bring bombs.  Totally different situation.)

        3. Anonymous says:

          > the TSA has to be right 100% of the time

          To be more precise, the TSA can not tolerate any false-negatives when it comes to bomb detection, but it doesn’t seem to mind false-positives at all.

          Electronics don’t usually explode (abused Li-ion batteries can catch fire, but they’re permitted) so totally stopping everything for hours because you see some suspicious electronics seems suspect.  Yes, it was suspicious … so investigate further.  Look at the device.  Ask what it is.  Swab it for explosives.

          And if a terrorist really does want to get a bomb onto a plane, make sure it’s kept separate from any electronics — assemble it later, past security.  Or if this isn’t practical, make sure it looks like mass-produced electronics — the thing somebody did with printers a while back is a great example.

          And yes, had this been a bomb they didn’t catch, we’d have a totally different conversation, because it would be a totally different situation.  (For starters, there would be a bomb!  Normal people bring electronics on a plane.  Normal people *don’t* bring bombs.  Totally different situation.)

      3. daryl newmann says:

        dougmctx: “This may look like vaguely like the “classic” movie bomb with some sticks of TNT surrounded by wire and an alarm clock, but let’s not get confused … 99.9% of the time when somebody tries to bring something like this through the checkpoint, it’s not a bomb — it’s totally innocuous.  It’s not a high probability at all.”

        From what I have seen, the “hollywood” bomb runs the gamut from insanely complicated device with hundreds of parts and an lcd screen running a custom os. to a block of clay with a little black box and an antenna.  This whole issue is only polarized because the title contains the initialism “TSA”. You have to remember that the TSA has to be right 100% of the time, while a bomber only needs to be lucky once. And all the parts are there, trigger(with an arming switch)/power source/main charge/what suspiciously looks like detonators inside the main charge.  You can believe they over-reacted if you want, but Im glad they acted the way they did. And had this been a bomb that they did not catch in an x-ray, we would all be having a completely different conversation right now.

    3. Russell Nelson says:

      Wool-headed describes you well, Stephen. Li-Ion batteries explode very nicely if you short them out. And people are allowed to travel with them without anybody blinking. It’s ABSURD to single out tiny devices as being explosives simply because they’re hand-made.

  38. Steve Hoefer says:

    On a recent flight I packed my electronics prototypes, as usual. (Pretty much for the reason exemplified above. I don’t want to shut down an airport with my innocent devices.)  I also put a note to TSA in my bag with my name, phone number and a simple description of the electronics enclosed.  The always, without fail, search my bag.  (Next time I’m going to put a copy of Soldering is Easy comic for the agent to keep.)  On this flight however the anonymous agent did some manual dismantling of my electronics. Unplugging servos and sensors and the like. Nothing permanent and easily enough put right, but conspicuous.

    If they thought it was dangerous, wouldn’t that have been incredibly stupid to do?  And if it wasn’t a threat, why did they do it?  

    If possible I’m going to ship them ahead from now on.

    1. Anonymous says:

      > Next time I’m going to put a copy of Soldering is Easy comic for the agent to keep

      Of course, no agent would keep it, even if it had a big sign that said “This is for the TSA agent to keep” — there’s been too many of them nabbed stealing actual valuables out of people’s luggage for there to not be a policy against that under any circumstances and probably surveillance checking for it as well.

      If they’re going to take something out of your luggage, it’s going to be something good (good enough for the guy to risk losing his job and going to jail over it.)

  39. There’s far more room for explosives inside a laptop, tablet, or smart phone.  

    But minty explosives, those are the worst kind.  

  40. There’s far more room for explosives inside a laptop, tablet, or smart phone.  

    But minty explosives, those are the worst kind.  

  41. Maybe we need some sort of electronics declaration at check in.  I mean something along the lines of customs declaration so they are aware of it at each checkpoint and can know to visually verify quickly and move on.  I don’t know how existing systems work so please don’t yell at me for all the reasons this wont work, its just a suggestion for the future.  I however cant help but think that if he had told them ahead of time that they would have checked it but not reacted so strongly.  I believe they reacted accordingly not knowing what it was and even though a mint tin is a relatively common ingredient for electronics projects these days there is no reason it wouldn’t be perfect for the terrorist trying to pass their bomb off as an electronics project.  I know next time I have to travel with any electronics I will be sure to separate components and probably check the luggage so if they are going to search it, at least it wont cause a wing of an airport to be evacuated.

    1. As we are talking hand luggage, every flight I’ve flown on in the past two years, the agents have made me remove all electrical items from my hand luggage and placed then in one of those trays to be scanned.  If* this device was left in the hand luggage after such a request that would have been a black mark to me.

      I say if as we don’t have any real idea of what happened.

  42. Maybe we need some sort of electronics declaration at check in.  I mean something along the lines of customs declaration so they are aware of it at each checkpoint and can know to visually verify quickly and move on.  I don’t know how existing systems work so please don’t yell at me for all the reasons this wont work, its just a suggestion for the future.  I however cant help but think that if he had told them ahead of time that they would have checked it but not reacted so strongly.  I believe they reacted accordingly not knowing what it was and even though a mint tin is a relatively common ingredient for electronics projects these days there is no reason it wouldn’t be perfect for the terrorist trying to pass their bomb off as an electronics project.  I know next time I have to travel with any electronics I will be sure to separate components and probably check the luggage so if they are going to search it, at least it wont cause a wing of an airport to be evacuated.

  43. I’m sorry they did their job right but in the end their job is more of less pointless.

    All of these scans and pat downs add littler to our safety then it adds to the general dislike of flying. you can only do so much and after that point no matter how much money or liberties you take from people will make it any safer. Then it will be just too costly, restrictive or simple too degrading to fly for more people as it has for many today.

    They’re already talking about people putting bombs in there own bodies so what’s next full body X-rays (real x-rays) every time we fly?

    I’m not saying stop everything but people have to expect the world is not a safe places. There will always be bad people and people will always die but we can’t let that rule our lives. I’d rather live in a world full of risk then a safe world were I can’t do anything.

  44. Personally, I applaud TSA for this one.  Seriously, if you saw this thing and DIDN’T think it was suspicious I don’t want to be on the same plane as you.  People who complain about how annoying the delays are for this sort of thing tend to forget that being blown up is a lot more annoying.

    1. Anonymous says:

      @facebook-639852135:disqus but none of us are experts on what “looks like a bomb” so it’s not really fair for anyone to know how the TSA is trained. if the previous commenter here (who claims to have been trained for this) is correct, a device like this while odd looking and may get a second look isn’t what they’re actually looking for an worried about as much.

    2. Anonymous says:

      @facebook-639852135:disqus but none of us are experts on what “looks like a bomb” so it’s not really fair for anyone to know how the TSA is trained. if the previous commenter here (who claims to have been trained for this) is correct, a device like this while odd looking and may get a second look isn’t what they’re actually looking for an worried about as much.

  45. Tim Allison says:

    For any claiming it “looked” like a bomb something to
    think about: you’re just an amature at best in bomb identification and
    detection. What it appears to be to you and what it appears to be to a
    person who knows about bombs are two vastly different things. Saddly it
    seems that some TSA agents are also amatures at this, but, and here’s
    the rub, they shouldn’t be. They should be well trained in identifing
    hazards, all hazards, and the proper response chain for dealing with
    them when needed. Without further information about this incident I
    think they did overreact to this situation. They have tools and
    protocols to test further to decide what steps to take next in a moment
    like this. Here it sounds like they skipped a bunch of steps, going
    directly into lockdown, based on false assumptions. “Looks like” doesn’t
    cut it for me, these people should be highly trained professionals to
    do this job right, no ifs, ands, or buts. And the idea that someone
    would make something that “looks” supposedly bomb-like yet cover up
    other secondary signatures from detection, like bomb residue exposed by
    swabing the person and their items, is totally absurd (unless you
    believe them to be a bomb making idiot savant). Also it seems many are
    just defaulting to a knee jerk “better safe then sorry” mentality
    without any further critical thinking, and to that maybe TSA has a
    position open for you for it seems that critical thinking isn’t required
    for their agents. So, unless other circumstances come to light, this is
    a TSA fail.

  46. haqn says:

    TSA the enemy? Nah! Why would anyone ever think a police state, or its various elements are anything of the sort? Even if a police state starts off as a necessary evil, it must necessarily become simply necessary.  Like a reversed ouroboros snake, regurgitating itself.  Its been a while since this little snake was born.  It isn’t going away.  Not anytime soon.  It must be necessary.  It must be good.  It must be our friend.  How could be anything else?

  47. When I travel with things like this (BasicStamp education board projects), I tell them in advance so that they’re not surprised, which seems to be key.  Don’t surprise the TSA.

  48. When I travel with things like this (BasicStamp education board projects), I tell them in advance so that they’re not surprised, which seems to be key.  Don’t surprise the TSA.

  49. Anonymous says:

    Sorry, no.  The TSA is the enemy.  They are hell bent on expanding the security theater, and intimidating travelers into compliance.

    Stop enabling these goons.

  50. RoofusKit says:

    The TSA needs a separate kiosk or checkpoint outside of the terminals where you can go to get an item “pre approved” if you have concerns that it might raise suspicions. 

    They could give you a little card linked to an approval file on a computer that the main checkpoints can scan to pull up, view pictures and descriptions of your item written by other TSA agents and then waive you on so the line doesn’t get bogged down or “bomb scared” by things like this.

    Kind of like those security services that let you expedite security checks by giving more information. If you think you have something that might freak out TSA agents in a line, goto the airport an extra hour early, get it checked out by the special TSA guys outside the line, then voila, you get through the main checkpoint smoothly.

  51. Russell Nelson says:

    The TSA shut down the security section of the Burlington airport when I was flying out to Portland for OSCON a few years ago. They thought my bluetooth chording keyboard looked like a “victim-initiated explosive.” Maybe it was the battery; maybe it was the shapelock; maybe it was the switches.

    I missed my flight, but managed to get a later one. I now travel with a printout from the Chordite.com website, and pull it out just like my liquids bag.

  52. Steve Leach says:

    Who is still using air travel?  I mean really.  I would expect the TSA to have made the entire industry extinct by now – anyone with even the slightest shred of human dignity would never allow themselves to be subjected to all of the screenings, threats, and restrictions now imposed on would-be travelers.  Seriously – act like human beings and boycott air travel until the TSA folks are FINALLY kicked back out of the airports!

  53. kevin sexton says:

    there seem to be a lot of comments that this “doesn’t look like a real bomb” but, it’s a combination of electronics+battery+wired to relatively uniform largish block of medium density. That’s going to set off red flags all the way up. If it had no battery, and wasn’t wired up, it likely would just get swabbed, further inspection etc. But with the battery there, and the block wired in(and no easy way to disconnect?) it could be a device set up to blow when the bag is opened.
    Mint tin electronics may get a second look, but powered mint tin electronics connected to a non-metalic block in the same density range as wood/plastic/compacted powdered or plastic explosive is going to get the bomb squad. On xray or other equipment, especially inside a bag, there is no way to tell the difference between a block of wood, a block of paraffin, a block of plastic explosives, or a thin walled plastic box packed with black powder, ampho, etc. On a xray machine, this easily looks like an armed undisguised bomb, maybe one that’s meant to be stopped at the checkpoint, to blow up in the checkpoint.

  54. I am by no means an expert, but closing a terminal would seem to cause more panic with possible injuries resulting than taking a more/less cautious route of swabbing the item for explosive residue.

    Without more information it’s impossible to tell, I wonder if once an evacuation order is given it can’t be reversed, i.e the TSA on the gate decided to play it safe and then everything has to run it course.  I guess not every TSA staff member has seen home build projects.  More training needed I guess.

In the Maker Shed