TSA official slipped white powder into fliers' bags, told them they'd been caught with coke and were under arrest

A TSA bomb appraisal officer in Philadelphia International Airport repeatedly "pranked" fliers by slipping a bag of white powder (creatine, a nutritional supplement, being used in equipment testing) into their luggage and then threatening them with arrest. Though his colleagues saw him pull this stunt, he was not removed from duty or reported -- merely told "don't do that," by another TSA worker. It wasn't until he reduced a woman to tears that he was disciplined. It's not clear whether the officer -- whose name has been redacted from the TSA memo that was released under a Freedom of Information Act request -- was fired, or quit, though reportedly he isn't working for the TSA any longer.

You know how the TSA has all those signs saying you can be arrested for joking or "making remarks" about bombs? One law for them, another for us, apparently.

After first confirming that the items in front of him belonged to the pair, the TSA employee asked the women, "Do you have anything in your bag that you're not supposed to?" After the passengers answered, "No," the worker again displayed some purported cocaine. While a TSA memo notes that the white powder was in a vial, Solomon has said that she was shown a plastic baggie filled with powder.

"Did this come out of your bag?" he asked. "The passengers replied, 'No way. I don't even know what that is,'" according to a TSA report. The worker "concluded with, 'I'm just checking. I know it didn't come out of your bag, it belongs to me. You seem way too nice. Have a good flight.'"

"You almost had me," one passenger is reported to have responded, according to a TSA memo.

Solomon, crying, eventually approached an airline worker to lodge a complaint about the TSA worker. Referring to "the things that are going on in the world today," Solomon said she did not consider the cocaine prank a "funny joke." She added that airport security workers "should be taking our jobs seriously."

Two other passengers quoted in the TSA records told officials that they saw the bomb appraisal officer showing the women a bag of white powder that appeared to have been removed from a bag. One witness said that she felt bad for the women after subsequently learning that they were the target of a prank. She added that if the officer "had played that joke on her then we (TSA) would still be hearing her hollering and something would have to be done right then and there."

Memos Detail TSA Officer's Cocaine Pranks (Thanks, Master Pokes!)

(Image: TSA Logo, a Creative Commons Attribution (2.0) image from 25911255@N06's photostream)



  1. What a tool.
    Would have been funny, though if someone had stuck their finger into the baggie, wiped the powder on their gums and said, “this isn’t cocaine.”

    1. sdmikev, there is a pretty easy test for cocaine: take a small part of it on your index finger, and then slightly touch your thumb to it. What disappears is cocaine, what remains is cut. Of course, if you are cutting with something like Lidocaine, you can’t tell the difference, but substances like vitamin B12 are popular for cutting.

      Don’t ask how I know that.

  2. I might consider an exception to the ‘no contact info’ rule for this one. Surely this is as jailworthy as filing a false police report.

  3. “Though his colleagues saw him pull this stunt, he was not removed from duty or reported”

    The Smoking Gun post says that he was “canned for falsely claiming to have discovered cocaine in the luggage of travelers”, and the supporting documents show that one fellow TSA worker reported him to his supervisor. In addition, 3 passenger statements were taken, so it seems like in this case the system took care of its bad apple.

    1. Did he go to jail? No? Then it’s still a double standard.

      Try this: plant a suspicious white powder in the bag of another passenger, and then after they are caught let you a big laugh about what a funny joke it was. Now, do you sleep in your bed that night, or are you wearing an orange jumpsuit? If the latter, it’s a double standard.

  4. It seems to me it’s always PHL in these stories. Are the goons there worse than average, or do they just get caught more often?

    1. I must be really lucky, because I fly through PHL each time I visit the USA from Europe. Every TSA employee I’ve ever interacted with there has been exceptionally helpful and friendly to me. I have to wonder if all the assholes are working the domestic security checkpoint.

  5. I keep thinking that for my next flight I want to wear a kilt and pack my bag full of sex toys so I can opt out of the x-ray machines and make a scene of it. That is, unless they’ve already change the rules to not allow sex toys on flights.

  6. One law for them, another for us, apparently.

    Umm…where have you been the last several thousand years?

  7. the officer — whose name has been redacted from the TSA memo

    I wonder if they tried copying and pasting the text under the black bars in the PDF. Government agencies are notoriously bad at redacting sensitive documents.

  8. Hmmm…I wonder if I would have the presence of mind to risk going to jail for kicking a TSA officer in the balls because he admitted to playing a practical joke involving fake drugs?

  9. Okay, how about this? Conservatives will go along with closing Gitmo if we also close the TSA? People can argue whether Gitmo makes us safer or not but I can’t imagine anyone not working for the TSA arguing it makes us safer in the slightest.

  10. TSA – Cocaine in your bags! Just kidding! I get off with a slap on the wrist and come back to work the next day.

    Everyone else – THERES A BOMB IN THE TERMINAL! Just kidding! I get thrown in jail and treated like a 2nd class citizen.

    Glad I only visit the country once a decade..

  11. Just curious, but is TSA tasked with finding illegal drugs, or just things that can be used to threaten airline security?

    For example, do they have to verify that you have prescriptions if they find pills when searching your bags?

    1. I don’t know if they’re “tasked” with that, but if they see evidence of a crime, I should think that they would do their duty.

  12. I’m an ex-TSA employee. We’re not supposed to look for drugs but when we find some it’s up to the individual. Usually we call the airport police because that makes us a hero among other employees. There are a few who shrug it off.

    There actually is some security going on but a lot of it is theater.

    I’m waiting for someone to get arrested for child porn. I’ve watched bored TSA employees look through cameras and laptops. Not the TSA that you see going in, but the ones who look through suitcases. The same ones who sometimes get caught stealing drugs, money, jewelery and other random stuff. Eventually someone is going to find child porn and call the cops. Just like the officer who confiscated the cash box of political donations. Then we’ll watch a public case of the 4th Amendment in action and people can hate the ACLU even more for defending a child pornographer.

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