TSA and Suspicious Electronics Prototypes 2


AetherCzar has passed on a number of TSA stories – most of which cast the agency in a poor light. In fairness, I should relate the story of what happened when Q-Track hauled a  suspicious looking RF transmitter prototype through the security checkpoint at the Huntsville, AL airport last week.

One of the TSA officers on duty indicated that our transmitter was one of the most suspicious looking items she’d ever seen. She questioned the Q-Track team about what we were carrying and why. We explained that our gadgets were prototype mine tracking devices that we were taking for an operational test. Not only did the TSA officers rescan our equipment through the X-Ray, but then they used a good portion of a pack of wipes checking our devices carefully for explosives residues. The results were negative (good thing none of us had been to a shooting range lately!). The whole screening took only a few minutes, and then they let us continue on our way.

My Q-Track colleagues and I were treated fairly, courteously, and with respect. I can’t complain.


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2 thoughts on “TSA and Suspicious Electronics Prototypes

  • Brian

    I’m gonna play the devil’s advocate here. 🙂

    1) I question whether the TSA agent has any idea whatsoever about what’s actually suspicious vs. what this screener thinks looks suspicious.

    2)You were a group of business travelers, likely wearing company logo’d shirts. You likely bought your tickets with credit cards in advance. This is not the MO of Muslim terrorists.

    3) I agree that if there was any suspicion, the piece should be wiped down with the pads and sniffed. But going to extraordinary lengths to test a part that “looked suspicious” is a joke. The terrorists go to great length to HIDE the weapons (shoes, underwear,etc.). Does the TSA really think that Al Quida’s great new plan is to have a Caucasian business man carry a suspicious looking weapon in plain site?

    I’m glad that they were courteous to you, but this experience does not shine a positive light on the TSA.

    • Hans Post author

      Part of the context I failed to mentioned is that it was really slow. My colleagues and I were the only people in the security area so the TSA team had nothing better to do than to scrutinize us. We did wear our Q-Track logo shirts to add a bit of corporate credibility to our business travel.

      I don’t blame a TSA officers for having trouble telling the difference between an RF tag and an electronic timer / detonator. TSA is supposed to have Bomb Appraisal Officers (BAOs) to assess suspicious devices. The TSA blog has a post on Traveling with Homemade Gadgets. The bottom line is that hand-built electronics will garner extra scrutiny.

      I’m not very impressed with the TSA BAO in Palm Springs who blew up what was clearly some kind of power supply in an Altoids Tin. If I can tell what it was from the shards and debris, an expert should have had no trouble identifying it before blowing it into a zillion pieces. Warning – graphic image of brutally dismembered electronics.