BY MALIA ZIMMERMAN – In 2012, Transportation Security Administration officials discovered a gun in a hollowed out book at Honolulu International Airport, a knife in another book at Maui’s Kahului Airport, live 40mm high explosive grenade at Dallas/Fort Worth, Seal Bombs in a carry-on bag at Seattle’s airport, Six lbs. of black powder, detonation cords, and timing fuse at Grand Junction, and a disassembled gun and ammunition concealed in three stuffed animals at Providence TF Green Airport.
In addition, TSA inspectors found 1,543 firearms at 199 airports including 1,215 that were loaded.
These are just a few of the dangerous and sometimes unusual items the TSA found in luggage and carry on bags at airports throughout the nation last year. The TSA screened more than 637 million passengers in 2012 or more than 1.7 million people per day.
Besides a variety of potentially lethal items, the TSA discovered what their officials are labeling “odd” or “interesting” including a bear mace in a sock, a spear gun, dead venomous snakes, a chastity belt, an explosively-viable cannonball, cane swords, stun guns, a gassed up chainsaw, an 8oz. bottle of vodka discovered in a passenger’s pants, a knife mounted on a walker, eels, prohibited bling, a marijuana filled grenade, samurai swords, a stun cane, and jingle bell shotgun shells.
The TSA released the list on its web site to publicize “the outstanding work officers are doing in the field thanks to their vigilance and attention to detail.”
But despite these notable and likely life saving accomplishments, the TSA has been highly criticized both by lawmakers and the public across the country for issues ranging from invasions of privacy to management.
Congressman Ron Paul, R-Texas, pushed a federal proposal that urged the Congress to rein in the TSA abuses and make the agency more accountable for privacy rights and personal civil rights.
State lawmakers from a variety of states formed a national legislative task force – the United States for Travel Freedom Caucus – in March 2011 to ensure TSA accountability.
And while the TSA was able to stop dangerous items from going through security at various checkpoints in Hawaii, the 50th state has had its share of TSA-related problems.
In March 2012, a mother complained about being humiliated by a TSA agent on Kauai who forced her to pump breast milk into her pump before letting her take it through security. She told KITV News she was embarrassed, humiliated and angry. The TSA later apologized.
In April 2011, a Hawaii TSA screener plead guilty to theft after she was caught stealing $200 from an undercover agent, KHON TV 2 news reports. Dawn Nikole Keka was targeted after there were complaints she was stealing cash from Japanese travelers at the Kona Airport.
In June 2011, 30 TSA officials in Hawaii were fired for improper screening after an extensive investigation by their supervisors showed inspectors were improperly screening bags for explosives.
In October 2012, the Office of Inspector General in the Department of Homeland Security released a report that focused on security failures at Honolulu International Airport that occurred in 2010 that blamed both Transportation Security Administration officers and TSA managers for poor planning and supervision.
As Jim Dooley of Hawaii Reporter noted, the study was undertaken after Congressional committees received tips that TSA baggage screeners at the airport “dramatically failed in their performance of critical transportation security screening responsibilities.”
Recommendations to avert future security lapses at the airport have been adopted and their effectiveness is still under study, the OIG said.
Still the TSA maintains the agency has accomplished a great deal, even thwarting a kidnapping in Miami.