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TSA explains reasons for its airport safety work

September 8, 2018

Myrana Gordon flies often from Fort Wayne International Airport to visit her 88-year-old mother in Mexico City.

She knows when she gets to the airport she’ll have to go through the hassle of security procedures including taking her shoes off and having her belongings X-rayed. But she said Friday she doesn’t mind.

“I think it’s good,” the Payne, Ohio, resident said as she waited to board a flight.

“I think the benefits far outweigh the inconveniences,” Gordon’s husband, Ken, said.

That’s music to the ears of Transportation Security Administration officials who were at the airport Friday -- days before the 17th anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks -- to explain why the procedures are necessary.

TSA spokesman Mark Howell said he travels to airports from his base in Florida around this time each year to remind fliers security measures are in place not to hassle them but to keep them safe.

“We’re right up on the 9/11 anniversary, so it’s a good chance to give people an idea of why we do what we do,” he said.

The government agency seizes thousands of items each year at U.S. airports that are prohibited on planes. Most common are water bottles and liquids, but nearly 4,000 guns -- 1,378 loaded -- were seized last year, according to TSA data.

Local statistics were not available, but airport spokeswoman Rebecca Neild said travelers often try to bring liquids, including water and syrups purchased from a DeBrand Fine Chocolates store, onto planes.

Ty Miller, one of four TSA explosives specialists in Indiana, said liquids are banned from planes because of a 2006 plot in England to create a bomb using liquid explosives. Other security procedures are in place for similar reasons, he said.

“Richard Reid is the reason now (that) TSA has you take your shoes off at the airport,” Miller said, referring to the British man who tried to ignite an explosive device hidden in his shoe aboard a flight in 2001.

Miller showed items terrorists have tried to use to bring down planes, including an explosive hidden in underwear and a device hidden in a laptop. One item was a bomb fashioned from a soda can, a device that was featured in a magazine for the Islamic State group.

“We have an ever-adapting enemy we need to adjust to,” Howell said. “We’re not here to hassle you. It’s not all arbitrary.” 

mleblanc@jg.net

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