Homeland Security and Public Safety

What’s the Strangest Thing the TSA Found in 2012?

Last year the Transportation Security Administration screened more than 637 million passengers and detected an array of interesting and dangerous items.

The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) screened more than 1.7 million passengers per day in 2012, and in addition to finding 1,543 firearms in carry-on luggage, also found stranger items including a live high-explosive grenade and dead venomous snakes.

In a blog post, Bob Burns, social media analyst with the TSA Office of Strategic Communications and Public Affairs, listed “notable firearm incidents” and the “odd/interesting” items that the traveling public tried to bring into airports last year. He wrote that 78 percent — or 1,215 — of the firearms were loaded, and Atlanta topped the list of most gun discoveries with 95.

Notable firearm incidents included:

  • a Portland passenger put a pistol in a potted plant;
  • a passenger at Rhode Island’s Providence TF Green Airport had a disassembled gun and ammunition concealed in three stuffed animals;
  • a pen pistol was discovered at Allentown, Pa.; and
  • a 22-caliber magazine was discovered wrapped in aluminum foil inside a DVD player at Fresno Yosemite International Airport in California.

Watch resembling an IED component. Photo courtesy of the TSA.

Another issue, while not as dangerous as live firearms, was the detection of inert items that resemble the real thing, including “more inert grenades than you would ever imagine.” “The problem with these types of items is that we don’t know if they are the real deal until we call out the bomb experts, and sometimes even they have a hard time figuring it out,” Burns wrote. “Inert items can lead to closed terminals and checkpoints, which usually result in canceled or delayed flights.”

These items included:

  • An inert IED with a block of simulated SEMTEX-H and a simulated blasting cap were discovered in checked baggage at Columbus Airport in Georgia.
  • An inert detonator was discovered in a passenger’s pocket during a pat-down search after a Charleston, N.C., International Airport passenger alarmed the body scanner.
  • A strange watch resembling an IED component was discovered at Oakland, Calif.
  • An expended AT-4 rocket launcher was discovered in checked baggage at the airport in Latrobe, Pa.

Photo of an inert mortar round courtesy of the TSA.

Finally there are the items that fell into the “odd/interesting” category: bear mace in a sock, a spear gun, “more cane swords than you could shake a cane sword at,” a “shocking amount of stun guns,” a gassed up chainsaw, a knife mounted on a walker, eels, a marijuana-filled grenade, samurai swords and a stun cane.