TSA plants baggie of white powder in traveller's bag

A TSA agent at the Philadelphia International Airport slipped a baggie full of white powder into an unsuspecting passenger's baggage, then terrorized her when he "found" it, before announcing that he was just kidding. When she complained to airport security, she was dismissed because "the TSA worker had been training the staff to detect contraband."
Then he pulled a small, clear plastic bag from her carry-on - the sort of baggie that a pair of earrings might come in. Inside the bag was fine, white powder.

She remembers his words: "Where did you get it?"

Two thoughts came to her in a jumble: A terrorist was using her to sneak bomb-detonating materials on the plane. Or a drug dealer had made her an unwitting mule, planting coke or some other trouble in her bag while she wasn't looking.

She'd left her carry-on by her feet as she handed her license and boarding pass to a security agent at the beginning of the line.

Answer truthfully, the TSA worker informed her, and everything will be OK.

Daniel Rubin: It was no joke at security gate (Thanks, Masturbating Bearcub!)

(Image: I love to fly and it shows)


  1. Wait. If he was “training” other TSA agents to catch contraband, then wouldnt it have been a different TSA agent that would have found it? Or did they just suck and not find it?

    Either way, this is super…SUPER uncool.

  2. When we all asked the TSA to lighten up, this is not what we had in mind. Glad to see from the article this inspector is no longer employed. Maybe they should revamp the little rules on a loop recording to say, “Passengers AND STAFF should avoid making jokes about airport security or possible threats.”

  3. Happy to see this update: “Ann Davis, the TSA spokeswoman, said this afternoon that the worker is no longer employed by the agency as of today. She said privacy laws prevented her from saying if he was fired or left on his own.”

    1. Yes, I’m glad to see they guy is already gone, but am compelled to point out that many in Congress wanted the TSA to be unionized. It’s a good thing it’s not or this guy would now be “on paid leave pending the results of an investigation.”

  4. so basically, if I joke about having a bomb while in an airport, I can go to jail. But a TSA employee actually planting false evidence on a person, then joking about it just gets fired? that is the *real* joke here.

  5. “She said privacy laws prevented her from saying if he was fired or left on his own.” Privacy Rules? Since when is the TSA concerned about anyone’s privacy?
    And the it was a joke thing? Try making a “joke” while you are passing through the security theater the next time you are at an airport, see what happens.

  6. hahaha,”I’m just kidding.” what a prankster. I think next time I’m at the airport, I’ll bring a bag of fine, white powder and when they find it, I’ll say “gotcha!”

  7. Didn’t we just go through this exercise last year when the TSA was strongarming somebody for having too much suspicious cash? Why is the TSA looking for any kind of contraband other than explosives? IT’S NOT THEIR JOB!

  8. I was reading an old essay today, following its logic a lot more of our society’s(I mean america mostly) problems are being caused by the removal of the ‘duel of honor’ than we might think. Would that jackass have done that if the lady could have challenged him to glocks at dawn??

  9. If they do that to me I think I’m going to faint. That should give them something to worry about…

  10. I have a nine hour drive ahead of me tomorrow to Gdynia (the north of Poland). When someone asked why I wasn’t flying – it would be a 75 minute flight – I just laughed and said it wasn’t worth the hassle.

  11. Well, I feel better about having taken the train from Philly to Orlando and back last week now. The only security check from the TSA was a perfectly reasonable thing where they swiped the outside of my bags with a piece of paper, and stuck it in a machine that can detect explosive residue. No invasion of privacy, no long lines.

  12. JoshP, I think you might be onto something there. Of course, I’m not sure what glockenspiels at dawn would accomplish. :-D

    1. “I’m not sure what glockenspiels at dawn would accomplish.”

      It would wake everybody within earshot up, for one thing. Maybe the duel would be decided according to which participant had the greater amount of rotting vegetables and old shoes thrown at them.

  13. A few years ago a TSA agent told me they were supposed to be looking for weapons and bombs, not drugs, but that if they happened to come across drugs that had to report them to the police. Has this changed and now they are training agents to look for drugs?

  14. I’m pretty such the privacy laws referred to is, at a minimum, the Privacy Act. Under the Privacy Act, the TSA would be barred from disclosing the man’s name and what disciplinary action was taken against him without his permission except under the circumstances listed in the Privacy Act and under the agency’s own rules for their Privacy Act Systems of Records. Telling the press his name would be considered a deliberate disclosure and if the now ex-employee sued, he would be entitled to a potentially 5 figure or more payout and probably attorney’s fees. I think we’re all in agreement that the creep should not profit from his sick joke.

  15. The usual story – has nobody told these guys they’re supposed to *stop* terrorists, not *be* terrorists?

    1. From the article: “Whether or not Schneier is correct, it’s hard to argue with his assertion that the ultimate solution will be found in technology such as the sophisticated 3-D X-ray machines and explosives sniffers that are in place at only a handful of airports.”

      Wait, when did Bruce Schneier say anything like that? Schneier himself writes that for years he’s been saying “Only two things have made flying safer [since 9/11]: the reinforcement of cockpit doors, and the fact that passengers know now to resist hijackers.”

  16. a few years back, i had a security supervisor drop what looked like a big wad of masking tape on top of my bag just before it went into the x-ray machine. I though it was odd and then the employee watching the screen’s eyes got very wide. the supervisor quickly calmed him and told me to come look at the screen, the xray revealed the distinct silhouette of a grenade in my carry-on bag.

    he said he was training the employee, retrieved his tape-wrapped grenade and sent me on my merry way. the employee was still trying to catch his breath

  17. The same sort of thing happened in Slovakia a while ago. Several people had contraband planted on them, as part of a training exercise. But they didn’t catch one guy, who had explosives planted on him, and he was allowed to go on to Dublin before getting stopped.


    Why would they do this, exactly? Can’t they train their people outside of the actual airport environment?

  18. Hmmm not that I really needed it, but now I have another reason to avoid flying if I don’t have to.

  19. EH @22, I’m not sure it is legal. I’m sure it shouldn’t be.

    The TSA agent should be required to put it on record that he’s going to do this training exercise, what it’s intended to accomplish, who’s being trained, and the exercise’s limits and variables. He should not be the only one who knows about it.

    A system where a TSA agent can randomly drop a baggie of white powder into anyone’s luggage, scare the bejesus out of them, and claim afterward that it was meant as a training exercise, is way too open to abuse.

  20. I don’t get it. Wasn’t there just a M.A.J.O.R debacle involving the planting of explosives on passengers that led to unjust arrests and unjustifiable harassment of innocent passengers?

    Were these TSA agents not briefed on the incident and the PR debacles they inevitably lead to?

  21. So if the government wanted somebody arrested and out of the way all they have to do is wait for them to go to the airport?

  22. Reminds of the scandal at Narita in Japan last year where a security official planted 5 ounces of Marijuana on a passenger to test a security dog and never recovered the drugs, which carry a 5 year jail term in Japan.

  23. PapayaSF, having a union at TSA might have prevented this sort of fiasco in the first place, as unions also have been a leader in ensuring employees get the training they need in the first place. So please, spare us your urban myths.

    Unions serve a vital purpose, and that is making sure the guys doing the work, the employees, can deal fairly with the guys putting up the capital, the owners. Otherwise it’s far too easy for owners to divide and conquor and walk off with insame profits.

    TSA was created because security was a McJob at so many airports. It was the sort of job that you did only if you couldn’t get anything better, not the sort of job you took because it was something you could be proud of. Too many TSA employees are holdovers from that era, and hold those old resentments. It will take time for them to lose that sense of entitlement, and they need to have a reason to take pride in their job.

    1. Those generalities about training and fairness sound nice, but that’s not often the way it works in the real world, where unions tend to reflexively and doggedly defend indefensible behavior by members, and where contracts forbid any swift action under any circumstances. In San Francisco some years back, a city bus driver took exception to two guys kissing on his bus, so he stopped and assaulted them. For committing a gay bashing on the job, he was put on paid leave pending the results of an investigation, which took some weeks or months. (Sorry, I’ve forgotten exactly how it ended.) Yeah, it’s just an anecdote, but there are lots more like that. I don’t want to run afoul of moderation rules, so that’s it for now.

  24. From my observance of the behavior of many TSA employees, it’s my opinion that they’re working for TSA because they haven’t the requisite intelligence to be real police officers. They remind me quite a bit of the Gammorhean guards that provided security for the palace of Jabba the Hutt (insofar as their overall intelligence and demeanor).

  25. From the original story…
    Update: Ann Davis, the TSA spokeswoman, said this afternoon that the worker is no longer employed by the agency as of today. She said privacy laws prevented her from saying if he was fired or left on his own.

  26. The prospect of Olympics tourists coming to the US and being harassed by the TSA and DHS was one of the reasons Chicago was voted down as a host city. The terrorists are winning and the Repugnicans are loving it. This is another example of abuses you must suffer in the name of security.

    What’s wrong with a little respect for others? If you wanted to train some people, why not ask a few passengers for permission to use their baggage as a test?
    Give em a few bucks even. If she knew, she wouldn’t flip out, and, if the student doesn’t catch it, she knows its there.

  27. After the attempted bombing on Christmas, Homeland Security is saying that it was because people were complaining about the ‘No Fly list’. Can we REALLY trust anything that these people say?!

  28. My worry: that the next time, the drugs will be real, and the passenger will be run in for possessing them.

    Or the bomb-making components will be false, and the passenger will be run in for a “hoax device.”

  29. Americans are paranoid about anyone visiting there ,why dont they just shut down all flights to there and stop anyone visiting then see how good they are ,(NOT)

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