TSA covert test leaves police in the dark, but there's a bright side

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05/23/2011

I traveled overseas last week on a much needed vacation to Grand Cayman. Whenever I travel, I can't help but take note of the security measures in place, which apparently makes me a suspicious passenger. While I dislike the inconvenience of undergoing secondary screening, I must say, I'm always sort of excited to experience these enhanced measures, first hand.

On this particular trip, it wasn't until I tried returning to the U.S. that I ran into any security issues. While in the Grand Cayman Airport (in all its five-gate glory), I was pulled aside and told that I had been selected for secondary screening. They took me into a windowless room in the back and a security officer rifled through my checked luggage. Other than a bottle of Grand Cayman's fine Tortuga Rum, there was nothing but clothes in my luggage. Then, as I was about to board my plane, I was pulled aside AGAIN and another officer looked through my carry-on. Earlier, I had joked with my friend, who had to undergo explosive-detection screening on her way to Grand Cayman, that I always get selected for secondary screening and saw her laughing at me as she waited on the tarmac making sure the plane didn't take off without us (although, frankly, it wouldn't be the worst place to get stranded, that's for sure).

But, I can't fault security, of course, they're only doing their job. And, apparently they are constantly being tested, too. I read this story with interest about a covert security test recently conducted at the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport.

On May 12, federal authorities sent a man of Middle Eastern or south Asian descent through security screening with a "device" hidden in a shaving kit. When the cylinder attached by wires to a watch was discovered by screeners, the police immediately handcuffed the man and started evacuating the area. However, before the airport was evacuated, TSA personnel intervened and informed the police that it was only part of a test.

TSA spokeswoman Carrie Harmon said the agency routinely conducts thousands of covert tests each year at airports across the country. The one at the Minneapolis-St. Paul airport ended up being a little too real because of "miscommunication" between the TSA and police, she said.

Yes, obviously communication here failed, but isn't it good to know that all these security measures that air travelers are being subjected to (some more than others) are actually working? Right?