I’ve been on the road lately and started my trip with a flight from NYC to California. When I picked up the bag I checked at Kennedy Airport I was surprised to see the lock missing. When I opened the bag I found a card from the TSA explaining that in order “to protect you and your fellow passengers, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) is required by law* to inspect all checked baggage.”
The law referred to is Section 110(b) of the Aviation and Transportation Security Act of 2001, 49 U.S.C. 44901(c)-(e).
While I understand the need for security measures on flights – considering how effectively we (in the U.S.) make enemies due to the brutal and unfair way we treat virtually every other nation on the planet – I didn’t understand why my bag wasn’t inspected in front of me. What if I had something in my luggage not allowed on airplanes that I wasn’t willing to part with? I should have been able to give it to a friend to leave in New York. Instead, I have to allow the Department of Homeland Security to confiscate it and just be content with losing it? I don’t see how it would be more efficient to check luggage in a secret place unseen by the public than right there in the terminal where it’s already been put on conveyor belts. What do TSA employees do with items they confiscate from the public they serve? Shouldn’t we be allowed to see what they do with our belongings?
I went online to see what items the Department of Homeland Security prohibits from being stored by U.S. citizens in luggage on domestic flights. Most seemed ridiculously obvious at first glance, such as weapons, tools and sharp objects. Then, I thought about what the danger of tools and sharp objects would be in the luggage compartment since passengers don’t have access to it. We aren’t able to grab these items and do anything with them onboard so why ban them in checked baggage?
One section in the list of banned items was medical equipment. That means that many disabled people are unable to travel on planes. That seems unfair. Apparently it isn’t profitable to take the time to check the safety of items for people in need.
Another item, or group of items, I noticed on the list was food. I didn’t see anything specific about precisely which food items are banned or if all food items are prohibited on flights. Being a person of “low income” status I always bring a few food items when I travel (which is almost always via train or bus). The prices charged at airports, train and bus stations, on Amtrak trains and at most places that sell food near transportation transfer points are obscene.
Now, the part that intrigued me. I had food items in my bag and they weren’t confiscated. I guess the inspector doesn’t like organic vegetable soup or brown sugar. The rest of my food items were in the backpack I brought onboard. The Himalayan salt and oregano oil underwent a chemical analysis right in front of me and I was questioned in detail about both items, but was allowed to keep them once it was determined they weren’t flammable or combustible.
If the soup and opened box of sugar were OK what were they looking for that wasn’t detected by a metal detector or X-ray?
I’m not thinking about anything deeply secret about these rules. I know that most of what the government and military do in the name of “democracy” and “protecting the homeland” is merely protecting the corporate interests of wealthy people. The state religion (demonology?) of Capitalism is murderous and suicidal so it must never be questioned. If people were to realize the wanton destruction of all life on the planet in the service of this system it would collapse like a house made of cards.
Protect the profits, not the prophets…