Gov Career

By Phil Piemonte

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Next on TSA's agenda: Exploding cupcakes

Pity the Transportation Security Administration, having to devote time and effort (paid for, as some would be sure to point out, with taxpayer dollars) to defend a recent decision to forbid a cupcake from being taken past an airport screening check-point.

But that is what the agency was compelled to do after the media picked up the story of the confiscated cake this week, and the incident quickly devolved into Cupcakegate.

But as a post on TSA’s blog points out, this cupcake was a cupcake in name only.

As evidence, the agency posted on its blog site a photo of what most people think of as a cupcake, and a photo of what actually was confiscated—a “cupcake in a jar” that more closely resembles one of those premixed jars of peanut butter and jelly that groceries sell to lazy PBJ-makers.

As the blog post explains, the large amount of icing (which qualifies as a gel under TSA guidelines) in the jar appeared to exceed the 3.4-oz. limit, so the item was confiscated.

Simple enough. The blog admits that the incident “may seem like a silly move to many of our critics...” But it also notes that “when we can’t be exactly sure of what something is, every officer has the discretion to not allow it on the plane.” In other words, screeners should err on the side of caution. That is what they are trained to do.

We’ve been through a few airports lately, and we have to say that screeners have for the most part have been reasonable. And this is coming from someone who has had bars of his Trader Joe’s fair-trade dark chocolate dug out of a carry-on and swabbed for explosives.

Sounds ridiculous, right? Not entirely. Explosive chocolate bars are nothing new. They debuted almost 70 years ago. The Germans equipped saboteurs with explosives masquerading as bars of chocolate during World War II. Exploding cupcakes? Sure, why not?

So, look. Anyone who travels with any regularity eventually pays the price for today’s security, whether it’s a pat-down, a hand-search of a bag, or confiscation of an item. That’s just the way of modern air travel.

And though it’s inconvenient and sometimes irritating, it’s a necessary evil—like dental work. Feds do a lot of that kind of work—jobs that need to be done whether everyone likes it or not.

With a little luck, maybe more members of the citizens they serve will figure that out.

Posted by Phil Piemonte on Jan 10, 2012 at 4:02 PM

Reader comments

Thu, Jan 19, 2012 Beth Washington

The TSA is a disgrace and an embarrassment to all Federal worker. All of Homeland Secrurity is for that matter. Bureaucracies don't play well together? Let's make another bureaucracy into the quagmire so there is even less cooperation. I went to Mexico this winter and the Mexican Customs was far more organized dealing with International travel. I had a connecting flight in Houston and they would not let me go ahead of the line. The people in line understood and did not care if we went ahead to catch our flight and those TSA morons would not allow it. Moreover, there were nine line for foreigners and four lines four Americans and Green Card holders. I ended up missing my flight. Everyone in the American line was angry that foreigners were treated better than tax paying Americans. The Homeland Security was not created to protect Americans but to hold up Americans. Wait and see.

Wed, Jan 18, 2012 Stig Larsen Boston

The TSA, along with the "Patriot" act, are two of the most useless inventions in modern times. Useless doesn't begin to describe them.

Tue, Jan 17, 2012

Someone mentioned trains and why don't we have tight security for them. I thought everyone was for smaller government - oh well, you ask for it you'll get just don't complain about inconveniences. As for lab rat, better a live one than dead or missing its parts.

Fri, Jan 13, 2012

Asking how many would terrorists have been caught by the current system totally misses the point. Ditto for asking smugly, "how many have been prevented?" In fact, there is no way to know how many would-be terrorists have taken a look at the current system, seen the plethora of stories about TSA nit-picking, and then been discouraged by the risk of being caught in that system. The higher you build a wall, the more people it will discourage from trying to climb over it. And you are never going to know who those people are.

Fri, Jan 13, 2012

How many individuals have actually tried to come through TSA with weapons, taken away to jail and are awaiting trial? How many have been found through the screening viewers? I have heard that small weapons were found on airplane seats, which if true, proves that this system is not working. And putting small children through something like this could be very traumatic and do we really know whether TSA employees are or are not pedifiles? Israel profiles their passengers with known terrorist activities or connections and have flyers going through usual scanners to detect weapons. Those against profiling should remember that with TSA everyone and everything is now profiled, even children whether you realize it or not.

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