TSA confiscates heavily-armed soldiers' nail-clippers

Here's an anonymous account of a US Army soldier returning from Afghanistan who watched as his buddies -- who were all carrying high-powered rifles, pistols, etc -- were forced to surrender their nail-clippers and multi-tools:
So we're in line, going through one at a time. One of our Soldiers had his Gerber multi-tool. TSA confiscated it. Kind of ridiculous, but it gets better. A few minutes later, a guy empties his pockets and has a pair of nail clippers. Nail clippers. TSA informs the Soldier that they're going to confiscate his nail clippers. The conversation went something like this:

TSA Guy: You can't take those on the plane.

Soldier: What? I've had them since we left country.

TSA Guy: You're not suppose to have them.

Soldier: Why?

TSA Guy: They can be used as a weapon.

Soldier: [touches butt stock of the rifle] But this actually is a weapon. And I'm allowed to take it on.

TSA Guy: Yeah but you can't use it to take over the plane. You don't have bullets.

Soldier: And I can take over the plane with nail clippers?

TSA Guy: [awkward silence]

Me: Dude, just give him your damn nail clippers so we can get the f**k out of here. I'll buy you a new set.

Soldier: [hands nail clippers to TSA guy, makes it through security]

This might be a good time to remind everyone that approximately 233 people re-boarded that plane with assault rifles, pistols, and machine guns-but nothing that could have been used as a weapon.

Another TSA Outrage


  1. I guess these guys weren’t Marines or else they would know how to properly utilize their nail clippers and they’d be no hope if a Seal got a hold of the ones with the nail file.

  2. I guess these guys weren’t Spec-Ops or else they would know how to properly utilize their nail clippers and they’d be no hope if a Seal got a hold of the ones with the nail file.

  3. I’d love it if one of these SpecOps guys refused the nudidity scanner and some trembling, pudgy, ham-handed TSA agent had to touch his junk. I’m envisioning a rapid-combat scene straight out of a Bourne movie.

    1. I’d love it if one of these SpecOps guys refused the nudidity scanner and some trembling, pudgy, ham-handed TSA agent had to touch his junk. I’m envisioning a rapid-combat scene straight out of a Bourne movie.

      Depends… that could also turn out like this.

  4. If a plaster bust of Elvis is considered a blunt object, similar to a baseball bat, and can not be brought on a plane as a carry on, I would think that the butt of a rifle would also be considered a blunt object, and therefore a weapon.

    Not that I’d know about traveling across international borders with plaster busts of Elvis, or anything.

  5. According to every action movie, striking someone with the butt of a rifle will render them safely unconscious until a moment when it would be particularly dramatic for them to wake up, likely in a bleary POV shot. Seems like a better weapon for taking over a plane than nail clippers which can… maybe impart a small laceration.

    1. Now I want to see an action movie where the protagonist is completely punch-drunk and amnesiac after a blow to the head. The entire final act is him going, “Man, what happened to my head? It really- HOLY CRAP, WHY ARE THEY SHOOTING AT ME? *BLAM* *BLAM* *BLAM*. Man, what happened to my head? It really hurts.”

  6. Lucky he didn’t get arrested for suggesting he could use his weapon to take over the plane! :o) Isn’t this in the same category as saying the word ‘bomb’ or something similar?

  7. It is comforting to see that the comments on the linked post are as outraged as the ones here have been, and it’s a totally right-wing blog. There’s clearly bipartisan support to stop this lunacy, so there’s hope yet.

    1. Eh… The majority of comments I see on that blog’s thread are along the lines of “the only thing more stupid than this is a liberal” or “we should kill them and take back our liberties!”

      Sigh. Oh, America.

      1. NAIL CLIPPERS are not on the no fly list. Perhaps this story is bullshit?

        And yes, clicking on the red state blog you find some disturbing comments desiring death to liberals, never mind that Bush created the TSA’s current policies. The ability of some right wingers to avoid responsibility for anything is astounding.

    2. This is definitely bipartisan, but what I hate is that the right-wingers see the TSA’s lunacies as yet more evidence of Obama’s Big Government destroying your civil liberties. The miopia is astounding. Oh right, the TSA didn’t exist at all in Bush’s day…

    3. It is comforting to see that the comments on the linked post are as outraged as the ones here have been, and it’s a totally right-wing blog. There’s clearly bipartisan support to stop this lunacy

      Funny how right-wing support for The Lunacy evaporated instantaneously right at the moment the White House changed hands.

      Sigh. Whatever solves the problem. Go team.

  8. Something similar happened to us on the way back from Iraq in 2004. We stopped in Baltimore so we could run through Customs. This put us out in the general population of the airport, so we had to go back through the security checkpoint in order to board our plane. Complete with boot-removal, belt-removal and the rest. We had left our weapons on the plane with a Marine to stand guard, but the wing of the terminal where our plane was stopped was otherwise closed. No other passengers. One Marine in particular, I recall, went down to his t-shirt and green silkies in protest, putting all of his clothes on the x-ray conveyor.

    The joke, I thought, was on the TSA people, though. We were a bunch of dirty Marines who had been traveling for almost two days straight at that point. By the time I went through, there was a green cloud of BO and feet-stink hanging over that checkpoint.

    1. Sounds like a funky experience.

      But seriously, these “TSA screener problems” arise from the difficulty of giving front-line people an adequate amount of discretion, in how to deal with situations not covered by the rule-book, or under standing orders.

      Too much discretion as to how to treat people, in the hands of the incompetent or worse amongst these ‘front-line’ security personnel, is known from past experience to be bad: so perhaps too little discretion for those persons in how they are to conduct searches seems to be the current standard.

      That is, if everybody is treated in precisely the same way, then there is felt to be no cause for complaint.

      Equality of treatment, or increased discretion for the people searching? That seems to be the “trade-off”.

      Personally, I distrust discretion.

      Give them twenty or thirty years, and they’ll be better at it, I’d bet.

      1. Maybe.

        The irony is that our rifle company was responsible for “force protection” for a US Army/Coalition facility in Iraq. We had almost zero training on how to conduct personnel and vehicle searches other than what the unit we replaced could give us in the couple of days we had with them. We had the challenge of screening hundreds of local nationals every day, dealing with the Iraqi Police, even screening local females.

        And I had, as a relatively lowly Marine, final discretion on everything that went through me. Pass and no-pass was on my say-so.

        But we figured it out. Without a single negative incident in the six-plus months we were on duty there. (And not for lack of attempt as some of our guys did catch and stop a truck bomb destined for our chow hall.)

        The problem, at the end of the day, is training. And, dare I say, more than likely a mental acknowledgment by the screeners themselves that a pair of nail clippers aren’t going to matter a damn to the security of an airplane. The problem with those standards is that they are so laughable, especially in light of the current passenger culture. On the other hand, we knew our own lives were on the line everyday when it came to the possibility of suicide bombers or car bombs or whatever coming through our gates. We believed, if not in the war, then at least in the discrete mission. Protect the people inside our facility. Protect ourselves.

        I doubt TSA screeners have that level of mental accountability.

        1. The “legal distance” between you as a member of the US Armed Forces stationed in Iraq and the locals there, is of a different order than the distance between that TSA Agent, and her fellow Americans.

          Discretion = power: wherever it is found.

          The surest path to tyranny is the existence of, and public tolerance for, too great a discretion in the conduct of the Public business or in the enforcement of the Laws, by the Officials of the State.

        2. “the implication is that if a bunch of civilians all show up at the gate in camo fatigues and scrupulously unloaded machine guns (or even color guard drill rifles) everything will be hunky-dory and they’ll be allowed on to the plane”

          The reason this story is plausible is exactly the reason why this won’t work.

          US armed forces are still subject to the same TSA rules as everyone else, but have an exemption for specific equipment (including, apparently, unloaded firearms).

          1. There is a distinction, I believe, which is crucial.

            Members of the US Armed Forces are not allowed to carry weapons openly on general commercial flights. When our advance party team went out to San Diego when we activated, they didn’t take their weapons with them–they were packed with the rest of the armory. When an acquaintance of mine flew commercial back from Kuwait this year, his weapon was checked in a hard case, locked and sealed by an armorer in Kuwait.

            Flying “civilian” charter, however, is a different story and we were allowed to carry openly aboard the plane there, though unlike in this story, we were not allowed to carry them out into the airport, though I’m not sure whether that’s Law or just someone’s bright idea.

            Clearly, there are two different rule sets. Extending that to stupid crap like taking away other weapons or personal paraphernalia that a soldier or Marine headed to/from a combat zone might be expected to have is, in fact, simply common sense.

        3. I smell part of a solution here:

          Make TSA screeners part of the flight crew. Put them on the flight they are screening for, they will have more of a stake in security than they do currently, but they’ll also have to spend time on a plane with the people they just screened, which both humanizes them and forces them to consider the effects of their screening procedure after they are done.

          Shared consequences will make everybody behave better… it’s a theory anyway.

        4. I have never served in the armed forces of the US, Canada, or the UK.

          My brothers and my father have served. I am, however, a citizen of all three nations and a loyal NATO participant.

          Arbitrary and excessive measures against ordinary people doing ordinary things should be reported and resisted against.

          Some years ago I had reason to visit the Federal Building in Buffalo, New York. I wanted to talk about my pension stuff. When I passed the security checkpoint and I presented the man at the check-in (security) desk with my Swiss Army knife. [I use it for everything from trimming my nails to performing tracheotomies].

          The security guy said it simply was not allowed! I requested that he hold it in safe-keeping for me until I came down from upstairs. This jobs-worth refused.

          On the way in I noticed some guys in US Navy uniforms lounging about on the approaches to the building. They seemed to be sensible guys so I approached them and asked… “You seem to be people who can handle weapons.. Would you kindly hold my Swiss Army Knife for me while I go upstairs?

          The friendly but cautious Navy guys said that they didn’t know how long they would be waiting or how long I might wait until I came back from my tax query. One rather clever guy suggested that I toss the frightening weapon of fingernail destruction into the hedge and retrieve it later. I did. It was there after I quizzed the tax people.

          God Bless the US Navy!

        1. Nonsense.
          All men are created equal: that is self-evident.

          When soldiers are traveling on civilian transport, they have to abide by civilian rules.

          1. “When soldiers are traveling on civilian transport, they have to abide by civilian rules.”

            It was a military ship, not a civilian transport.

          2. There seems to be room for confusion here, which it might behoove folks to clear up.

            US Armed Forces (in discrete units, as opposed to individually) travel to an from the theatre of operations, by air, in two ways. One is in dedicated Air Force transport. Flies generally in and out of military installations, operated entirely by military flight crews, and so forth. The other is that they fly on chartered “civilian” transport, which flies in and out of both civilian and military facilities.

            These “civilian” charters are, generally, from a company that exists largely to charter planes to the government. They are operated by civilians, but their planes don’t generally carry civilians (other than, perhaps, DoD civilian employees). They are subject to the FAA in ways that military flights are not (necessarily) and have to abide by federal regulations for air travel, especially when on the ground at civilian airports.

            So in a sense, it sounds like these soldiers were on one of these pseudo-military transports. Yes, civilian, but not open flights that any civilian could book.

            Again, this sounds, in almost all particulars, exactly like my experience flying to and from Iraq in 2004.

          3. I’m ignorant of any specific procedures: particularly, whether or not transiting Customs makes a difference in these kinds of searches of and confiscations from military personnel.

            I mean, how US Customs treats military personnel coming and going out of the USA itself, and how that treatment may differ from the domestic TSA procedures that people have to go through.

            One thing I am certain of however is that there are in place detailed Rules and Regulations governing the transport of military personnel. All administered by people who must needs be paid.

    2. And if you had chartered a flight on your own, you could have flown direct from airport to airport on your own Lear Jet.

      The rich don’t go through no stinking checkpoint.

      That shit’s for proles and plebes.

      They have their own gates and ramps.

    1. Now that would have been a sight!

      And it’s bad enough for us civvies to get all our junk back together after passing through the TSA – how long does it take a platoon to get their kit and lace their boots?

  9. Please, stop capitalizing soldier, marine, sailor, and airman. The DoD has really glommed onto this practice, but please don’t help them.

    1. Since “Marine” is part of the proper name of the organization, it’s grammatically correct to capitalize it, and has been de rigeur for quite a long time. Soldier, sailor, and airman are generic terms and should only be capitalized, as here, at the beginning of a sentence.

      1. I understand the basis, but will we also be capitalizing marines when we refer to NATO naval forces? What about Chinese or North Korean naval forces? Or, are just members of the US Marine Corps to be capitalized? Just call all of them marines, as a shortened form of marine soldier or marine troops. That makes sense, and keeps the other military branches from feeling like they need capitalization, too.

        1. First of all, “marine” is a fine, generic term for any infantry-type who operates from aboard a ship. If you want to refer to the class of warfighter as a whole, then that’s cool. But Marines of the Korean Marine Corps should be capitalized, as should British Royal Marines. Canada, for instance, doesn’t have any kind of dedicated marine unit, or not one they call by that name, so it’s fine to refer to any of their water-based soldiers as marines.

          It’s a simple point of grammar and modern capitalization standards. It’s also a long-standing tradition and one that I’m loathe to give up, seeing as I am, you know, a Marine.

    2. @Clayfoot As far as I’m aware, because Marine refers not only to the person, but to their specific attachment to the organization (a Proper Noun) it should be capitalized. i.e., if you were to say “an Army man”, referring to a member of the US Army, or if you were to point out that the man across from me is a Turk, both referents should be initially capitalized — but you’re correct as far as the rest goes.

    3. With the exception of “soldier”, those are proper titles, and should be capitalized for the same reasons we capitalize “Mister”.

    4. Re: Capitalization

      Boingboing quoted that verbatim. It’s capitalized because it was in the source. You don’t truly expect them to edit a quote, do you?

      If you want to voice that complaint, do it to the people who wrote that in the first place.

    5. Soldier, Marine, Sailor, and Airman are all proper nouns. A person can refer to another person as, “Marine,” without saying his name. In proper English, one would capitalize Soldier, Marine, Sailor, and Airman when referring to those people.

    6. Marine has always been capitalized is it is the branch and the person bearing the title. Yes the other branches of the service have done the same but it is out of respect for the people that call themselves Soldier, Sailor, Airmen and Marines. I was an Airman and I am now a Soldier and I am proud to put a capitol letter in front of my title thank you.

  10. Clayfood & Klecha–Worse than that, at work now I’m supposed to capitalize the word “Family” as part of the misplaced notion that anything important should be capitalized. And “airline” is also part of the proper name “American Airlines” or “United Airlines,” but you don’t capitalize it in the phrase “The airline lost my luggage,” even though you refering to a particular airline at the time. Similarly, since many nations have marines, I think it is silly to capitalize the word “Marine,” even though a marine is only a member of one nation’s military. Capitilizing the word “Marine,” is a relatively recent phenomena, little seen before WWII.

    1. Anon – you might be interested to know that capitalization rules in American English grammar are relatively fluid. Used to be common a couple centuries ago to regularly capitalize words the author felt were important. For example, in our own Constitution: “The House of Representatives shall be composed of Members chosen every second Year by the People of the several States…” The habit fell out of fashion between now and then, obviously.

      1. “The House of Representatives shall be composed of Members chosen every second Year by the People of the several States…”

        Notice it’s not exactly “important words” but rather just all the nouns are capitalized.

        This is still the practice in writing the German language even now.

  11. I want to see a movie where the solider has shot everything to hell and is completely out of ammunition, faced with the enemy and goes “Dammnit, where’s my nailclippers!”

  12. I call bullshit on this story (and the ironyy being i sent that same message anonymously, but that’s held in moderation; a questionable anonymous story heads right to the page!).

  13. I also suspect that this is a fabrication.

    However, if it is not, the implication is that if a bunch of civilians all show up at the gate in camo fatigues and scrupulously unloaded machine guns (or even color guard drill rifles) everything will be hunky-dory and they’ll be allowed on to the plane.
    I can’t wait to try it!

    On another note, one of the commenters on the original thread makes a point I have been making ever since I flew out of Logan on September 18th, 2001 and my Mach III razor was confiscated. (the handle as well as blades)

    What, precisely, am I going to be able to accomplish with that [razor cartridge, nail clipper, etc.] that I cannot accomplish with bare hands and a little combat training?
    To say nothing of a pen, pencil, keys, etc.

    I mean, really, if “the best security possible” is the goal, as the disingenuous Mr. Pistole put it, we should all be flying handcuffed to the seat.
    And martial artists? Forget it. They shouldn’t even be allowed near the airport.

    1. I can state with absolute certainty that this sort of f**ktardishness has been going on since at least 2006 – it happened to me coming back from Iraq.

      Not a fabrication. Think of it as a portent of doom.

      Also, could Boing Boing please make the process of signing up to comment a little bit more stupid? It only took 15 minutes to get through all the crap.

  14. Dave Klecha
    You and your company are my heros. I wish I’d been there to see that.

    It might be bogus, (“anon” stories do have a risk about them), but it you don’t believe that this is possible, then you need to spend more time at an airport, infront of the TSA cretins to see what’s possible. ;-)

  15. coop: i spend plenty of time in the airport and don’t doubt the individual stupidity that comes in all forms as such and what may be possible(hear it almost weekly on Le Show as well!); but this one is bullshit…

    1. Just out of curiosity, what’s your reasoning? Because the rules are there, that military members traveling on chartered aircraft, cannot carry knives and nail clippers and such onboard. Witnessed it first hand. So that this interaction happened seems pretty logical given the policies and, as Ugly Canuck pointed out, these policies plus zero-tolerance/no-discretion training could easily give rise to this very situation.

      So, what is your reasoning? I’m genuinely curious.

  16. There are two reasons that TSA screeners do stuff like this. Many people suspect lack of training, but often it’s a case of the guy or gal thinking “this is the only time when everyone else has to submit to my will, so no way in Hell will I let these arrogant pricks just waltz through.”

    The other reason is simple bucking for promotion, hoping that their sticking to the rules will earn them a raise.

    I personally think the anecdote has been embellished somewhat, but not an outright fabrication. Just a gut feeling.

  17. I’m writing to ever airline I’ve used in the last two years and telling them I’m not flying anymore until this Bullshit stops. Maybe if they KNOW that they are being economically impacted, they will help stop the madness.

  18. Several years ago, a soldier coming home on a civilian flight had to surrender a pair of wire cutters.

    Why was he carrying wire cutters? Because his face had been shattered in an explosion and his jaw was wired shut. If he’d vomited, he’d’ve choked to death. The wire cutters were his lifeline, in that circumstance.

    Lovely people, the TSA. Bright, considerate, capable of rational thought.

  19. For what it’s worth, military terms of rank are also capitalized when they are used as proper titles, which is what confuses most people:

    Rock is a sergeant: Sergeant Rock is properly capitalized, since the title is considered part of his name. Simiarly, Airman Smith is an airman. Oh, and there’s a tradition in the Marine Corps of capitalizing Marine; I’ll not gainsay that when referring to an individual member of the Corps, but otherwise: tell it to the marines, the sailors will never believe it.

  20. Soldiers are dangerous by definition. They should generally be handcuffed on planes when not purposed to fight.

    1. The soldier’s experience is undated and thus could have happened at any time in the last nine years. As I said above, this jibes with my own experience (we were made to give up nail clippers, small knives, etc. and had to go through airport security once in the US) in 2004 returning from Iraq.

    2. This happened in Indianapolis; Indianapolis is in Indiana. As far as a lot of my fellow Hoosiers know, Reagan is still President. Of course a 2007 revision of TSA regs is disregarded — it won’t happen for another 25-or-so years!

    3. I call BS! Nail Clippers are NOT on the no-fly list, haven’t been for a couple years now.

      Have you not noticed that mall cops of all flavors keep trying to stop people from taking photographs in places where it’s perfectly legal? Some of them have even threatened to arrest their own elected representatives or the higher-ups in their own firms. The rules are irrelevant to what happens at the security checkpoint.

  21. This is ironic, as a soldier with sharp fingernails is likely more dangerous then one who’s just been manicured.
    I had a couple acupuncture needles (about the thickness of a human hair) confiscated, but I didn’t argue it.

  22. My nail clippers were not confiscated on a recent flight, but my belly was patted. I guess food eaten the night before is not going to be allowed in the future…..

  23. Believe it or not, this has been the case for a long time. When I went overseas just last year that was the case. We all had Gerber multi-tool’s on our belts, weapon(s) on our person and no nail clippers allowed. There’s a whole list of ridiculous things soldiers can’t have when they go home.

  24. Wonder what would happen if a martial arts expert showed up only in their ‘work clothes’. “Sorry, you’re considered a weapon, you’ll have to go in checked baggage.”

  25. Questions of capitalization are generally decided on the basis of a particular stylebook at least when it comes to news organizations or publishing houses. What a bunch of commenters choose to capitalize or not capitalize is governed by basically nothing. Perhaps Boing Boing has a style book. I think in CP style you capitalize the name of the unit or if it’s part of the guy’s title like Marine Williams. But if you were writing something like:

    Williams, who is a marine, had trouble going through the security checkpoint.

    then you don’t capitalize. But maybe the Marines have a style book of their own. I’d say unless one of them is menacing you with a pair of nail clippers though you can just follow your own stylebook.

  26. TSA Agent: Hey, go through the scanner, its not harmful at all, its fine for you.

    Me: Um, you sure? I mean no offense, but its not like you have some advanced degree or training in radiation imaging or anything.

    TSA Agent: No no…its fine, trust me. I know what I am talking about.

    Me: um, ok?!


    Me: Yeah, so? Its not like I’m going to go clipping folks nails on the flight or anything.

    TSA Agent: Look SIR! I am the EXPERT HERE! Those can be used as a lethal weapon. I know what I am talking about. Now, give me those!!! They are to be confiscated!!!

    Me: So, um…you’re telling me, the clippers are lethal, but the machine bombarding me with radiation is fine?

    TSA Agent: Yes.

    Me: Um. Yeah, I’m going to go catch the next Greyhound.

  27. I wonder if they could have gotten away with carrying on their multitools if they’d been able to zip-tie them to their rifles and claim that they were custom sights or a rifle-cleaning kit or something.

  28. And your argument was:

    ‘That is, if everybody is treated in precisely the same way, then there is felt to be no cause for complaint.

    Equality of treatment, or increased discretion for the people searching? That seems to be the “trade-off”.’

    :-) Equality of treatment is Socialism.

    It’s a joke, son…

    And we’ll see if Penn has to go through the search on the way back from his trip. Either he gets treated equally to everyone else, or he’s threatened loud enough to get special VIP treatment. Truly a classless society.

    1. Equality of treatment under and before the law has nothing to say about “class”: except that it is both irrelevant and immaterial.

  29. While leaving Kabul on a USAF C-17 in February 2007, I had my nail scissors taken from me. Despite being allowed to travel with my M4 and M9. Unknown to me at the time was that they were placed in a envelope and given to the load master, along with everyone else’s stuff, and he redistributed the items again at the end of the flight.

    Just as bad was my flight into Kabul in August 2006 on a RAF chartered flight. The M4 and M9 were allowed to pass through the screening process without any issues, but the ASP Baton in my checked bag set off all the bells and whistles, and I was almost denied access to the flight.

    1. Some of this sounds like nothing more serious than good old-fashioned Army bureaucracy, eh?

      Kinda nice to see that some things apparently never do change.

  30. Of course this is Indianapolis. That’s the same airport that stopped me for carrying a can of tuna in my carry on luggage because it contained liquid. (I have food allergies, btw.) They then refused several times to just let me surrender it, and made me wait ten minutes until they could check with a supervisor to make sure it was ok.

    1. The Marine Corps commonly refers to “firearms” as “weapons” for official purposes. I was in “Weapons Platoon” after all, and we were called that for the honking big “firearms” that we were responsible for.

      1. I don’t have a problem with responsible gun ownership but I gotta shake my head when people get so worked up defending their second amendment rights that they refuse to admit that firearms are even weapons. “It’s not a weapon, it’s a tool! A tool designed to kill things!”

  31. There’s no way to know for sure, but something about this story makes me think that it’s apocryphal. It reads like the kind of thing my older relatives email to each other with a subject line like “Fw: Fw: Fw; Fw: Funny SToRy!” along with a GIF of a yellow ribbon and a “God Bless our Troops!” in red, white and blue. I’m off to check Snopes.

    1. It does have that writing style of the hoax emails and definitely fits in the, “We’d like to believe this to be true” category.

  32. I, too, call BS. TSA has specifically allowed nail clippers for several years. They are not on the list of prohibited items (they briefly were, after 9/11).

    TSA are a bunch of asshats, but the linked item is, as others have suggested, probably fabricated.

    Also: Redstate — not exactly a paragon of journalistic aptitude.

  33. What is worth noting, if you follow the original link back to RedState, is that a substantial amount of the posters there are blaming this incident on “liberals”.

    Note that the restrictions were rolled out during the Bush presidency, under his director of the TSA.
    Note that there has been very little liberal defense of the TSA.
    Note that there has been very little conservative criticism of the TSA.
    Note that there has been a great deal of liberal criticism of the TSA.
    (Yes, I know those are all oversimplifications, but the fact remains that staunch defense of TSA policies is simply NOT a general liberal position).

    Yet, if something stupid happens, it is clearly due to liberals.

    Now, if the criticism had been of the nature of

    “That stupid Barack Obama could have done something to stop this farce, and he hasn’t.”

    I think I would be mollified.

    However, it’s all just “dumb liberals”.

    I’m wondering if one could actually get some conservatives to blame the entire Bush presidency on “liberals”.

    1. Every one of those that I’ve looked at so far seems to be crediting the redstate.com post that is linked to on this article, and quoting the “A friend of mine sent me this” from that story.

      1. Just to be sure, I went all the way to the fifth page of the results, checking several random sites on each page along the way. Every single one that I checked had a link back to the same article or otherwise noted that it came from there. I stopped at there because I was reaching a point where there were only one or two results that were actually related to the story on each page.

        This, of course, is not evidence that the story is real – but I am rather surprised at how diligently it has been credited in various places.

  34. Who that is so f***in stupid because what the H*** are you gona do with a Nail Clipper?, stab someone, not likely because to do this you would litterally have too slam the top of the clipper in too the person to accually do some damage to anyone. so I say give the soldier his nail clippers back and someone talk to the TSA attendent about what went wrong.

  35. This is not at all a new phenomenon. I saw this exact thing happen (soldier required to give up nail clippers) about 10 years ago when the TSA first started up. With that event, it was crystal clear in my mind that it was all ‘security’ theater in its very conception. It was never intended to be anything but a farce to ‘reassure’ the masses.

  36. Interesting update on the original article…

    UPDATE: I’m getting a lot of emails asking if this is actually true and is this person actually someone I know. (1) Yes it is true — it is too absurd to be made up. (2) Yes, I know the person.

  37. While we’re on the subject of style, it’s “SEAL” all caps not “Seal” a Seal is a pinniped, a SEAL is a Spec-Op sailor.

  38. I’m always amused when I fly that I can take a pair of aluminium, 10″, pointed knitting needles on the plane… but not a normal sized bottle of shampoo.

  39. My observation is that front line security people- like TSA or the guards in a mall- are hired, in part, for their lack of imagination. Higher ups tell them something is dangerous, it’s dangerous. Nobody tells them it’s dangerous, then it’s not. I have been asked “what are those cables?” after dutifully unpacking my laptop. The cables, of course were the power cables for the laptop and obvious as such to anyone who has ever seen a laptop.

    1. I think that’s probably true, but I also know they’re not as dumb as you/we think. I suppose that particular person may have been, regarding the power cable.

      I fly pretty frequently, and I pack my carry-on bag full of electronic stuff – laptop cables and accessories, usually two cameras and extra lenses, batteries, cables, etc., compasses and small tools (non-restricted ones), portable hard drives, sony ebook reader, small metal things like international plug adapters; all kinds of stuff I can’t think of right now.

      I’ve seen the x-ray image as it goes through. It’s a mess, with wires and electronics all over the place. They often decide to send it through again at another angle, but they never ask me about anything (before they were phased out I used to get the explosive swab check on my lenses sometimes, but they never do a hand search). I take that back, I was once asked about a bottle opener – it was attached to a keychain pen that was missing pieces so I guess it looked strange.

      I have a macbook pro, and the power adapter has two plugs – one on a long cable, and one that is flush with the adapter. I usually use the flush one, but bring the long one just in case I need it. So I’ve got a big cable with a weird plug on the end in there… never gets questioned.

      Of course, swapping anecdotes doesn’t mean anything, and I’m not defending the TSA. But the x-ray and carry-on screening isn’t that bad – besides the new stuff that’s added like having to remove your shoes, no liquids, etc. of course ;)

  40. Never underestimate the stupidity of security procedures. I spent 9 months in a Middle East country supervising security and force protection of U.S. assets. Myself and my team lived on a secure base and worked at a remote civilian location.

    At the gate to our work site, U.S. Army soldiers had us get out of our vehicles while they hand-searched our bags and searched our vehicle (to include using a creeper to look at the undercarriage, poking around the engine compartment, feeling underneath the seats, and knocking on body panels). Mind you, we had just left a secure base and come directly to our work location without stopping. This happened every day.

    One day one of the guys struck up a conversation with one of the soldiers. “What are you looking for, anyway?” he asked. “Oh, you know. Dangerous stuff” was the reply. Patting his rifle, M203 grenade launcher, knife, and ammunition pouches, my guy smirked, asking, “You mean like this?”

    The real irony is that the local government-run vehicle gate 1/2 mile down the road lets anyone through with barely a wave of the hand and it accesses the exact same facilities. But we were the ones getting the full search, while a third-country national in a cement truck has free access.

  41. It’s not just the military, it’s also local Law Enforcement. We have short memories folks. Back in 2002 when the TSA first took over Airport Screening I was working at a large Southwestern Airport. These were crazy days, back when TSA was scrambling to assume responsibility, and were actually fighting with each local law enforcement agency over Airport Security. Relations were going from bad to worse.

    Case in point. An armed Law Enforcement Officer responded to a checkpoint alarm from the public side of the terminal. One of the screeners had pushed the alarm button to summon a police officer, and this officer, who was doing traffic control out on the departure ramp, responded to the call. Right up to the point when he started to enter thought the metal detector (there was no policy then of armed law enforcement officers using the exit lane). The TSA screener at the metal detector said “STOP!”. The conversation went like this:

    TSA: You have to remove your weapon.
    COP: I am a cop responding to the alarm I am not surrending my weapon
    TSA: Then you cannot enter the checkpoint
    COP: Fine. You are on your own.
    OTHER TSA AGENT: Let him in! We have a passenger who has set off the trace detection unit who is refusing to cooperate! And he is drunk and P’d off!
    COP: Can’t help you.
    TSA: Place your weapon on the x-ray belt and walk through the metal detector
    COP: F you. Let me in or I will place you under arrest for obstrucing a police officer in the line of duty.

    And so he did. The Internal Affairs investigation report was my favorite read for years. It was funny as hell.

    The TSA agent got a reprimand. The cop got a new beat assignment on strip club row. He was our hero.

    Those were the days.

  42. Coming back from a combat tour in Iraq in 2006 on one of these commercial chartered flights, my toothpaste was confiscated despite my carrying a 9mm pistol at the time. It was demoralizing. That was the exact moment, I believed my service was a waste of time. If my country cannot trust me with toothpaste yet make me support and fight its war, then the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan must be of the same idiocy and foolishness.

  43. Does the TSA realize that the convenience shops *inside* the airport sell nail clippers? So you can buy new nail clippers after you pass security and take them on the plane with you.

  44. MacGyver could blow up the airplane with a few toothpicks and some nail clippers. Good catch TSA!!! LOL

  45. I recently took a tour at a private museum near San Francisco that features a lot of (demilitarized) antique military equipment, tanks mostly, some from as early as World War I. The tour guide was a U.S. Army officer on leave from Afghanistan. He told us that a few months earlier, while in Afghanistan, he had a short leave. Not long enough to go home, but several days off. He decided to visit a friend of his, also in the service, at the other end of the country. So he hitched a ride on a transport plane, U.S. Air Force. When he got to the airbase, he saw they were walking everyone through a scanner. Called over an M.P. to see what was going on, because he was carrying his M-4 assault rifle and his M-9 Baretta pistol. Believe it or not, the M.P. informed him that he’d have to check any grenades, and any *extra* ammunition–but he was allowed to carry up to 500 rounds for the M-4 and 45 for the M-9 onto the plane! The surreal part in the story was when he recounted that they made them put their guns on the conveyor belt, so they could be x-rayed to make sure they didn’t have concealed weapons inside!

    I’ve said repeatedly, elsewhere, Airport security isn’t about catching terrorists. It’s about distributing inconvenience as equitably as possible, so that everyone suffers in equal measure. As a bonus, if people *imagine* that the security measures are working, it’s all good.

  46. I know middle aged men who can punch through brick, and middle aged women half my size who can improvise a dozen ways to kill me using just the airplane safety pamphlet.
    Also, it seems the TSA limits weapons to pointy, sharp, or explosive things. Plenty of hard, dense, blunt objects are very much allowed onboard.

    So why, again, do some people think these rules are anything but theater?

  47. @ nexusheli: it might be official policy for the TSA to stop confiscating nail clippers, but coming back from Iraq, our pocket knives, clippers and lighters were still being confiscated as of December 2008. @claysomething and everyone else about the distinction of capitalization of armed service personnel, we capitalize it internally in inter-service communication as directed by the Secretary of Defense office. for the layperson, who gives a shit? you can consider it a generic title for an individual or you can consider it a proper title. i am just me when i’m not in uniform on my own, but at work, i am a Solder and my co-workers are Sailors, Marines, and Chairforcemen (i kid, i kid).

  48. Clearly that soldier’s name was MacGyver and the TSA screener was justified in taking the nail clippers.

  49. “Dude, just give him your damn nail clippers and I’ll buy you a new set.”

    Wow, that guy really knows how to break the ice and stand by his mate with the strongest argument he could ever think of.

  50. Could be the TSA agent was just using the clippers as a means to evaluate a questionable individual. The Israeli agents as well as US Border police don’t really care where you’re from. They care how much your pupils dilate when they ask you innocuous questions.

  51. We would be better off with our Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, and Marines protecting our airports and screening passengers than we would this tragic comedy we call the Transportation Security Administration.

  52. Forcing people to comply with pointless and contradictory rules is part of brainwashing.

    Instilling a fear of others is also part of brainwashing.

    Read up on cults.

    We’re living in one sponsored by the people that own the establishment.

  53. I don’t know how you guys deal with those idiots. Our (South African) airport security is way more relaxed. I’ve never seen a strip search, only had to remove shoes and belt etc for international flights. Take the big stuff out of your pockets and go through the metal detectors. That’s the entire process…

    Thing is, here we don’t make up problems and generate fear to control the masses. Our issues are real and the government tries to downplay them. The chances of being hijacked on the highway is much, much higher than the chance of being hijacked on a place.
    It’s incredibly unlikely someone will hijack a plane in South Africa. What chop shop would they take it to get broken down for spares?

    Not only is the TSA over-the-top excessive, they higher rentacop thugs. Read up what happened to Joe Voss, Medal of Honour winner. They treated someone who REALLY kept their country safe like he was some type of criminal.

  54. Old news.
    Took my Iraq bound Army friend’s pen but were cool with the M16.

    Er the Pen is Mightier than the…well you get it.

  55. Sounds familiar – security at Oslo airport took my homemade blueberry jam (could have been a delicious liquid blueberry bomb) but let me take my large Leatherman knife.

  56. I don’t think this have ever happened as it was described.

    Transport of Weapons by an Individual Soldier
    section states
    Firearms, ammunition and firearm parts may only be transported in
    checked baggage.
    Firearms, ammunition and firearm parts are prohibited in carry-on baggage.
    If you have just returned from overseas duty or any assignment where
    you carried a gun or ammunition, please be sure to double check your
    belongings, particularly your carry-on bag, to make sure firearms,
    parts or ammunition are not present.

    There is a section
    Transporting Firearms and Ammunition
    with a subtitle:
    Transport of Weapons by the Unit
    where it says:
    You may carry the ammunition in the same hard-sided case as the
    firearm, as long as you pack it as described above.

    So basically if they were travelling with the unit they would have
    ammunition with them in the carry-on luggage and if they were
    travelling by themselves they would not have the guns with them.
    Basically the story sounds like a pile of poopoo and most likely never
    took place except in the author’s head.


  57. Back in 2002 I was working as the Checkpoint LEO for a small Regional Airport. The Sheriff’s Office I worked for had taken over these duties from the National Guardsmen who were nearing the end of their activation (they all carried M-16s).

    Over the next few months the National Guard wound down from this detail and the screeners (civilian contractors) were preparing for the mandated TSA takeover which was scheduled a few months out.

    A couple of months before TSA moved in I showed up for my 0400 – 1200 Saturday shift. As usual I arrived at the airport 15-minutes before my shift. When I got to the checkpoint, there was already a line of passengers waiting for it to open up at 4 AM. The rolling gate was up about knee level and the screeners were busily stuffing their faces with McDonald’s breakfast food.

    I stepped up to the gate and motioned the lady in charge to please bring the gate up so I can assume my post (LEO booth behind them). This geezer, a retired Corrections Officer, looked up at her Egg McMuffin and stated that they weren’t open yet. I looked down to make sure I was wearing my uniform and asked that if she was aware that she could not open the checkpoint without me.

    This old hag (who later sued the TSA because she was too stupid to pass the TSA Screener exam in three attempts!!) just looked down and kept on munching on her food. So I told her that she can come get me when she was ready to play nice and I went outside and chilled out at an outside bench. I ran into the Airport PD SGT on duty and informed him what had transpired.

    i was going to wait until one of the screeners actually came and got me but I decided that would only punish the passengers. So at 04045 (5 minutes after the checkpoint opened) I made my way to my station.

    When the old hag was about to say something I loudly told her not to even say anything because it was her doing that these passengers are late getting to their flights because she would not let me in to take my post. I also told her that an official complaint had already been filed and that she should expect to hear from the Airport Management.

    The next time I worked there I had absolutely no problem getting to my post early and the old hag avoided any eye contact or interaction with me until the TSA took over. This old hag had at some point (not when I was on shift) actually confiscated the plastic rifle from a kid’s GI Joe Action Figure because in her opinion it fir the definition of a “gun”.

    The reality is there were stupid screeners long before the TSA existed. After all, look at who would actually work as a Screener?

  58. I hope the TSA never figures out people can do more damage with their hands than with fingernail clippers. I wonder if they ever think how silly the whole thing is when they give people bottles (beer & wine) on planes.

  59. This may have been already stated, but what’s more of a weapon, a pair of nail clipper or an unloaded gun, a.k.a. a 30+ pound metal club.

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