The Things He Carried
Readers responding to Jeffrey Goldberg’s November article on airport security shared that they had carried the following items on board (with or without raising an eyebrow):
1. semiautomatic pistol
2. powdered tungsten to make a bomb
3. bowling ball
4. Swiss Army knife
5. ziplock bag of frozen spaghetti
Jeffrey Goldberg (“The Things He Carried,” November Atlantic) misses a most obvious component to why he was able to successfully pass through airport security whilst faking sweat, having no ID, using a phony boarding pass, and wearing an Osama bin Laden T-shirt: his race. Goldberg neglects to mention that a “smart terrorist” is better off using the ultimate weapon against the Transportation Security Administration: a white guy as the mule. Try all those things Goldberg did as a person of color, and I guarantee a different outcome.
TSA, like any bureaucracy, is not perfect, but, as a former transportation security officer, I was impressed by the professionalism shown by my colleagues and the Washington office. The vast majority of passengers understand the necessity of screening and cooperate accordingly. I quickly learned that a smile and a “thank you” go a long way in making the process go smoothly for all concerned. TSA must constantly evaluate and refine its procedures and adapt them to meet new potential threats. It also must work with a physical plant that in many cases is not well suited for maximum screening effectiveness. Since the agency’s inception, millions of passengers have flown without incident from the 450 airports staffed by TSA personnel. I think this speaks for itself. Finally, I would note that TSA personnel definitely do not, as Mr. Goldberg implies, retain Leatherman tools and other confiscated items.