The Mysteries of the TSA


A Goldblog reader writes about a recent encounter with a Transportation Security Administration officer at JFK:

As I passed thorough the metal detector, my carry-on bag was flagged by the TSA and, after a cursory inspection of my turkey sandwich (which was judged to be benign), the TSA officer pulled the culprit item in my toiletry kit: L'Oreal's Studio Line Invisi-Gel.  "This gel container's too large.  You'll either have to check your bag or I'll keep this."  I shot the officer a plea for sympathy: "My Invisi-Gel?"  "Don't worry," she added encouragingly,"You can get another one at Rite-Aid."

I thought it over.  I'd rather lose the $5 gel tube than pay a $40 bag-check fee.  "Enjoy it," I said, concealing my irritation.  She replied, quietly, looking away from me: "I will." Do TSA employees get to keep this stuff?  Items confiscated due to their potential for hazard wind up in employees' bathrooms?

The official answer is, Of course TSA employees don't get to keep the often-expensive, often-unopened health and beauty products that end up in TSA waste bins. The unofficial answer is, If you were an underpaid federal employee looking at a thrown-away bottle of L'Oreal's Studio Line Invisi-Gel (whatever that is), would you take it if you could?

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Jeffrey Goldberg is a national correspondent for The Atlantic and a recipient of the National Magazine Award for Reporting. Author of the book Prisoners: A Story of Friendship and Terror, Goldberg also writes the magazine's advice column. More

Before joining The Atlantic in 2007, Goldberg was a Middle East correspondent, and the Washington correspondent, for The New Yorker. Previously, he served as a correspondent for The New York Times Magazine and New York magazine. He has also written for the Jewish Daily Forward, and was a columnist for The Jerusalem Post.

His book Prisoners was hailed as one of the best books of 2006 by the Los Angeles Times, The New York Times, The Washington Post, Slate, The Progressive, Washingtonian magazine, and Playboy. Goldberg rthe recipient of the 2003 National Magazine Award for Reporting for his coverage of Islamic terrorism. He is also the winner of the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists prize for best international investigative journalist; the Overseas Press Club award for best human-rights reporting; and the Abraham Cahan Prize in Journalism. He is also the recipient of 2005's Anti-Defamation League Daniel Pearl Prize.

In 2001, Goldberg was appointed the Syrkin Fellow in Letters of the Jerusalem Foundation, and in 2002 he became a public-policy scholar at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington, D.C.

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