TSA Testing Drinks at Airport Gates

By now, most flyers are well aware of the iron-clad rule of the Transportation Security Administration: No drinks allowed through security checkpoints. So when a YouTube video surfaced – showing TSA officers testing drinks at an airport gate, passengers were understandably asking, “What the heck?” Here’s what:

Listen as air travel expert Rick Seaney explains what you don’t have to worry about:

6 Things You Don’t Know about TSA Screeners

TSA: Mistakes Happen

According to the TSA, mistakes happen – or as the agency’s chief blogger put it back in July, “Any security expert will tell you nothing is ever 100% secure” meaning, screeners don’t catch everything (although they do catch a lot including 35 guns last week alone, of which 30 were loaded).

Passengers Forget the Rules

And people forget – they may not be trying to conceal forbidden items, but may forget rules such as only small amounts of liquids (no more than 3.4 ounces) are accepted at screening. If they forget and somehow a prohibited item gets by security, that’s a problem. By the way, traveling TSA agents sometimes forget the rules too and get called on it.

TSA Celebrity Targets

Random Gate Checks began in 2007

The TSA says random gate checks are nothing new – it’s been doing them since 2007 which includes swabbing hands for explosive residue [Editor’s note: I’ve experienced this] and checking out drinks. The latter involves the use of test strips that are place above the surface of a liquid (the strips do not touch the drink) after which a solution is applied to the strip to see if it comes out positive or negative.

Security Theater or the Price We Have to Pay?

By the way, people shown in the YouTube video were seen calmly offering their drinks to TSA agents for testing, although the individual who posted the video referred to the officers as “goons.” Whether these random gate checks are seen as an abuse of government power, pointless security theater or the ongoing price we pay for a post 9/11-world presumably depends on the passenger.


Published: September 6, 2012