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TSA Detecting Smuggled Items – Let's Take a Deep Breath

As I was waiting to pick up my son, daughter-in-law and grandson the Wednesday before Thanksgiving at Atlantic City (NJ) Airport, I overheard holiday travelers discussing their experience that day with TSA. Many commented that they had more trouble getting through the press looking for a story at the airport than with TSA.

I think we all need to take a deep breath and remember we live in a dangerous world.

I worked as a Special Agent for the U.S. Customs Service and DHS/Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) for over thirty years. In that capacity, I was assigned for a period of time to narcotics smuggling groups at Newark and JFK International Airports. While in this assignment, I was forever amazed at the various methods utilized by individuals to attempt to smuggle narcotics through the international port of entry.

You are only (and maybe not) limited by your imagination on the methods utilized. The Customs officers directly conducting the inspections could take nothing for granted. The smugglers were of all ages from infants (used by their parents) to the elderly (even confined to wheel chairs).

They came in all sizes, shapes, colors, backgrounds and beliefs. They used wigs, rectal insertions, swallowing, surgery, vests, girdles, false skin, prosthesis, tape, clothing with false compartments, etc. to conceal contraband. Particularly unique methods of concealment were documented, photographed and distributed through intelligence bulletins so officers in other ports of entry would have the benefit of that knowledge.

The bottom line – you could take nothing for granted.

In perspective, compare an inspection to keep narcotics from entering the U.S. to one stopping someone from potentially smuggling a weapon or bomb on to an aircraft in furtherance of a terrorist act. Should TSA be any less vigilant ?

TSA is being scrutinized and criticized daily for their procedures, specifically as they relate to body-scans and pat-downs. What do you think the criticism will be if they miss a weapon, bomb or threat?

It changed on 9/11. The further we get away from that fateful day, the less the general public (according to the press) wants to tolerate the “invasion to our personal privacy” we now live with on a daily basis. The days of taking airport security for granted are over.

Let’s take a deep breath.

Marty Ficke blogs primarily on federal law enforcement matters, with a particular expertise in financial crime, counterfeit goods, smuggling and conspiracy operations in port. Read More
  • Joanne

    I agree, as time goes on people forget 9/11. Our enemies will go through any means to destroy us. Body scans and patdowns may be an inconvenience, but I feel it is well worth tolerating.

  • Clicker

    I will never equate the government requiring me to subject myself to physical invasion of privacy, or inundating me with X-Rays as an inconvenience. I equate it to the government violating my 4th amendment rights, and subjecting me to illegal search and seizure.

  • Poissanb

    How do you think that wigs, rectal insertions, swallowing, surgery, vests, girdles, false skin, prosthesis, tape, clothing with false compartments, etc. would be used to actually put the flying public at risk. These are methods used to get specific items from one place to another. The swipe detects explosives, the regular scanners detect metal. Thats as good as it should get. The flying public knows the risks of flying these days, again not worth removing the 4th amendment from the constitution just because we bought an airline ticket.

  • misunderstood

    Thank God for people with common sense!

  • Rombo

    Body scanners do not detect explosives packed inside condoms that are inserted into the rectum or vagina.    All TSA has done is to move this type of smuggling up on the list of those wanting to board a plane to do it harm.      We need to demand better coordination and excellence among the security agencies.