International air travel security question

Wondering what you think might have been the purpose for some airport security we recently experienced.

We flew back from Costa Rico to Chicago. We went through the initial security screening. Then, at the gate, a series of Costa Rican security individuals set up tables between the boarding pass check and the jetway. After we submitted our boarding passes to the gate agent, these persons checked everyone’s carry on bags.

These people were not armed, but at least at one point there was one armed individual who seemed to be associated with them. They were wearing some “uniform appearing” light blue shirt over dark blue pants. I did not see their insignia, but they were wearing flourescent vests with a logo on the back with “K-9” in the center. No dogs were present.

I guess I can imagine they were looking for contraband - maybe currency, drugs, I don’t know what else. But what i thought curious was that they made everyone discard any drinks. I had a disposable water bottle that I had filled from the fountain after the initial security - they made me pour it out. Another guy was really pissed - he had bought a smoothie and 2 sealed juices after security - which he had to toss.

I’m not at all a fan of so much of what I consider to be “security theater” that takes place at airports, but I am unfamiliar with international travel. Not that security personnel feel any obligation to provide any semi-rational justifications for their actions, but what do you suppose might be any reasons for making me empty a bottle of water, or making the other traveller toss something he had just bought from a vendor past security?

(Figured this might well be the better forum than GQ)

I think it’s a requirement of the US government for flights going to the US. I’ve one through something similar at Sydney Airport, after already having been screened once. It seems that the US government does not trust some other countries’ security measures.

This is why. The US requires more onerous security that foreign airports have to go through. I’ve seen it in numerous overseas airports.

Curious. So you feel that the US requires that airports in foreign countries provide staff to provide this additional screening? They don’t trust the Costa Ricans to screen the food products sold near the gate?

If this is a US directive, I would imagine it would apply to all flights to the US originating in foreign countries. Or is it applied randomly to keep us would-be terrorists on our toes? Has anyone recently flown to the US from a foreign country and NOT undergone this gateside screening?

Assuming this is a US directive, what would they suspect was in my water bottle? US domestic flights allow such water bottles. Or does the US feel the initial security screen in CR would have allowed me through with a filled bottle?

Sure would have been nice for the vendors to post a sign - or the airline at the gate - stating that drinks could not be brought on the plane.

Not the vendors’ job to keep track of US law, and presumably not all flights from that terminal are US-bound.

Pulled this up from the UAL site:

Stupid, stupid shit.

Let’s just back up one more time – there are numerous airports all around the world that have security procedures that don’t come near to meeting US standards. In order for these airports to have flights that go directly to the United States, they have to provision additional security screening measures on top of the lousy ones that apply to other flights.

To use a stark example, there is no damn way that Sharm el Sheikh airport in Egypt would meet US security standards. Even the Cairo airport is a mess. If there were interest in having a direct Sharm-New York flight (or whatever), they would have to provide additional screening to meet US standards. I remind you that the Russian airliner that was recently downed over the Sinai originated from Sharm.

You can get water on the airplane.

Had the same experience on a flight back from Jamaica to the UK, so it’s not just confined to flights going into the US.

I’ve experienced this a few times. I don’t have insight into how they decide where, but I’d guess it’s based on assessing local processes as well as any existing known risks. It’s with remembering that bombs aren’t the only things that people try to smuggle.

It makes sense that you can’t bring your drinks in. If the existing security isn’t considered adequate, then before the secondary up-to-par screening, you are essentially behind the perimeter.

It’s a Costa Rica thing.

US Domestic flights do not allow large bottles through primary security. They typically allow bottles bought within the secure area, because they know those bottles have already undergone more intensive screening-- akin to what happens to your checked luggage.

Since the Costa Rican security process apparently wasn’t considered adequate, the more thorough gate-side security check can be considered primary security. Before you’ve undergone that, you haven’t undergone a security check that is considered acceptable to enter a US bound plane. Hence, the same standards that accompany state-side primary security.

People take all kinds of wacky flight paths. They can’t assume everyone on the flight started out in Costa Rica. You don’t want to get on a flight with the accumulated security lapses of every crappy airport in the world.

Just flew out of Cambodia via Korea then back to Canada. Faced the taking of my beverage at each spot. In journey, and out.