My bags contained "traces" of an explosive substsance: My TSA story.

I’m at LAX yesterday morning. I have a large hard-cornered case. In it are a few laundry bags of dirty or clean laundry, a few battery chargers, and a consumer-grade Sony camcorder that is bolted to a length of steel. The steel is about 14 inches long, 3 inches wide and about an inch thick.

The steel made my case look funny to them, so they opened up the case and looked around. They swabbed the camera/steel plate, and checked the swab in the machine. It came up positive, with traces or residue from an unknown explosive. I didn’t panic or anything. They took my driver’s license info and ticket info, and let me go on my way.

The woman said the information would be stored by TSA but not passed along to the airlines. ( I think she was lying. ) When I finally landed near home, the case had not been cut open again.

Should I wonder about the next time I fly? Oh, I know ( or I think I know ) why the residue was detected. I spent a part of last week with the LAPD’s Video unit and we trained at a facility that had a gun range.

People’s hands transmit the particles as they touch doorways, shake hands, etc.
Anyone have this happen to them?


I do troubleshooting in petrochemical plants and have to wear steel toed boots when I go into them. I picked up something on my boots (I guess) and got it in my carry on bag. I always carry on since I am under intense timetable pressure and just cannot afford lost or delayed luggage. Anyway, I was travelling on a pleasure trip (no boots!) and had the detectors flag my bag. They had to run a swab around in my bag and take everything out of it (socks, underwear, toothbrush, you name it) to test it completely. I’ve never carried anything explosive in my bag, residue from my boots is all I can think of that might have set them off.

You’re on the list now buddy. Do you have a Flowers By Irene van parked outside of your house?

No, it has not happened to me, but it is possible. I’ve had my bag swabbed twice for explosives (at random, I’m guessing) and while it passed both times, I have used that carry on back a few times for taking my guns and ammo to the shooting range. I called the TSA and asked them about this. I wanted to know what would happen if they found something with this test. They didn’t tell me ( but now I know, thanks to Cartooniverse) but did suggest that I use a different bag for shooting. I took this advice.

I used to use the same backpack for travelling as I used when riding my motorcycle. This motorcycle has used a bit of oil ever since it was new. The mechanic said consumption was normal considering how many miles I rode it. (Average was something like 7,000 miles per year, so I’d expect to have to add oil more frequently than someone who didn’t ride as much.) I always carried a quart of oil in the rear pocket in case the annunciator light came on. Even though I kept the oil in a large Zip-Loc bag, some oil eventually made its way onto the fabric of the backpack.

When I went through the security checkpoint one time (pre-9/11), they took my bag and swabbed it for explosives.

I was an infidel once.

Very briefly.

Flying to or from Germany, I had made the critical mistake of not wearing a shirt with a pocket inwich to keep gum and whatnot.

So, rather than constantly digging into my pcoket or having it fall deeper down into my purse or get lost in the front pocket thingie, I just put the pack in my bra strap.

When I was wanded through security somewhere ( Amsterdam, I think) my boob buzzed.

I grinned and showed my dentyne pack.

And there you have my Titty of Mass Destruction story.

<snerk> :smiley:

Shirley, you are too funny!!

There’s enough foil in a package of Dentyne to set off the metal detector?

Even small amounts of foil set off the detector. The foil on the outside of one breath mint will do it – yes, I found this out the hard way.

Swabbing the handles of ones carry-on is fairly common, and seems to be a standard (though sometimes random) procedure. It’s when the swabbed sample indicates the presence of a particular chemical that they investigte further.

I want to know why the camera is bolted to a 14" x 3", inch-thick steel plate. Why carry around the extra 15 lbs.?

Or possibly cheese:

That was back in 2002, but apparently, it’s still true in 2005: The Whole World is Laughing at (the TSA)

IIRC, Parmesan is the major offender.

Going to Las Vegas earlier this year-I’m wearing Teva sandels and a denim dress/mumu. At security I forget to un-shoe and point out the sandles and the TSA person says,“Okay go ahead.” Then the person behind me wanted a pass too because he was wearing sneakers and they waved him thru too. Hello? Richard Reis and the shoe bomb? remember? My feet were nearly naked and there ain’t much to a sandel.

I read once (sorry, no link) that a random check of paper money in the average U.S. citizen’s pocket will test positive for drugs, since sometime in its lifetime, especially old and 100-dollar bills, it has been in close enough contact with genuine drug money that DOES have drug traces on it.

Could be an urban legend, but it doesn’t sound too far-fetched to me. I guess it depends on how sensitive the scanners are and how much they want to get you.

No offense, but a visual here might help me believe this one.
:smiley: ( she knows I love her, destructive titties or no destructive titties )
Sensitive? I must have had the Alan Alda of detectors. As I said, I have not been in direct contact with explosives. It ain’t my thing. Lots of people I was near, and people who touched things I touched were in a position to having had fired a gun recently.

The metal detectors at LAX went off on me, and I had no metal at all on me. I had some cheap, plastic framed glasses with polarized lenses (not mirrored even!) that were the culprits. Took them off and went right on through.

Gotta watch out for them Curdish terrorists. (It’s not just Turkey.) Curds are often found working with HAMas, too.


I pity anyone trying to bring one of these through.

Buzzzz “Oh, be careful with that, please. It’s a bo–”

Traveller’s chin makes sudden contact with the tiles as 500 pounds of collective security falls on them like a ton of bricks :smiley:

If someone walked through the airport at that, the security guards would have to beat me to it!

(Curdish, Turkey? Thank you for that. :D)

Err, with that.

A few weeks ago it occurred to me that it would be possible to create absolute havoc at an airport by dusting door handles, elevator railings, luggage carts, and other frequently-touched surfaces with a substance that would create a strong positive reading on these sensors. It would be extremely easy to do without attracting any attention: bulb in the pocket, hose up and out the end of the opposite sleeve. Walk around in the public areas for an hour or two, casually dust a bunch of surfaces by innocuously putting a hand on them as part of regular use and then gently squeezing the bulb in the other pocket, and walk out. Result: chaos. Risk of getting caught: zero.

I can’t decide whether a stunt like this would be more likely to be perpetrated by bored mischief-makers like college students or by actual terrorists probing the facility’s security grid.