Man Accidentally Carries Loaded Gun Onto Plane; TSA Failure Rate May Approach 70%

By Jennifer Welsh | December 21, 2010 11:39 am

gun-xrayIt seems like terrorists don’t even need to think of crazy new shoe, underwear, or pancake bombs to get around the TSA, since airport security seems to have forgotten what normal weapons look like. Though they still won’t let me bring four ounces of conditioner onto the plane.

About a year ago, Houston businessman Farid Sief accidentally brought his loaded Glock on a flight from Houston’s Bush Intercontinental Airport. The loaded gun, which Seif carries for protection, was tucked away in his laptop case, and should have been clearly visible since he had to take his laptop out of the bag, which was practically empty.

“I mean, this is not a small gun,” Seif said. “It’s a .40 caliber gun.” … “There’s nothing else in there. How can you miss it? You cannot miss it,” Seif said. [ABC News]

Seif was shocked when he realized halfway through his flight that the gun was still in his bag. He reported it as soon as he landed. Not that we haven’t seen this before with things like six-inch hunting knives or 12-inch razor blades, but aren’t x-ray machines put in place specifically to detect bulky chunks of metal like guns? The scary part is that a TSA spokesperson told ABC news that this isn’t an uncommon lapse of security:

Authorities tell ABC News the incident is not uncommon, but how often it occurs is a closely guarded government secret. Experts say every year since the September 11 attacks, federal agencies have conducted random, covert tests of airport security. A person briefed on the latest tests tells ABC News the failure rate approaches 70 percent at some major airports. Two weeks ago, TSA’s new director said every test gun, bomb part or knife got past screeners at some airports. [ABC News]

The authorities told ABC that “remedial training” was provided to the screeners at Bush. AKA they said, “hey guys, this is what a gun looks like.” As if this is somehow supposed to make us feel better, the ABC News story notes that the incident occurred before the controversial advanced screening “pornoscanners” and pat down measures were put into place.

Good to know that you just need carry your gun or bomb in your bag instead of on your body to get around them. It’s official: I’m never flying again.

Related content:
80beats: TSA Changes Its Mind on Security Rules—for Pilots
80beats: What’s the Real Radiation Risk of the TSA’s Full Body X-Ray Scans?
80beats: TSA Threatens Bloggers Who Published Security Info, Then Backs Off
80beats: Editing Goof Puts TSA Airport Screening Secrets on the Web
80beats: Body-Scanners in Courthouses Have Stored Thousands of Rather Personal Images
80beats: 5 Reasons Body Scanners May Not Solve Our Terrorism Problem
Discoblog: German Activists Protest Body Scanners by Stripping Down

Image: Flickr/hummers86

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Technology
  • http://www.miskeptics.org Chris Lindsay

    “It’s official: I’m never flying again.”

    Right, I’m now switching my reasons from “unethical/unconstitutional/violation of privacy (take your pick, whatever) TSA Body Scans” to “70% failure rate to stop guns/knives from getting on to the planes”

  • http://tobascodagama.com Joshua

    The point is, Chris, if they’re going to involve themselves in unethical violations of privacy, they should AT LEAST actually succeed in stopping weapons from getting on planes once in a while.

  • Charles Schmidt

    Why not metal detector with imaging that should solve the problem if they want ti solved.

  • Jason

    Lets be honest with each other, the only time they are probably REALLY paying attention is when a middle eastern man comes up.

  • Matt B.

    AKA ≠ i.e.

    @ #4. Jason, did you notice the gun carrier’s name was Farid? I’d bet he looks Middle-Eastern enough to scare people.

  • James Harmer

    Mr Seif can count himself lucky that he didn’t try a stunt like that at London’s Heathrow Airport. He’d have had a full body cavity search ( think about it! ) and then he’d be spending several years in a nice warm cell with several other big hairy cons.
    If he was lucky.
    If he was unlucky, the security guys ( guys in body armour carrying machine guns ) would have shot him.
    They take airport security a bit more seriously over here …

  • http://discovermagazine.com Brian P

    The sad fact of the matter is the terrorists, by doing a few high profile incidents and a lot of ranting, have caused the USA to spend literally billions of dollars for something that no matter how much intelligence we have can be stopped to any great degree. The terrorists are using scare tactics and it’s working because they are causing the USA to pay outrageous sums of money to presumably keep us secure.
    So far, about all I see being accomplished, is making our daily lives less to do with what we as individuals would like to do and more to do with what the government feels is necessary to maintain an image, to the rest of the world, as well as our own citizens that they are doing everything they can for the overall safety of everyone. The terrorists are making us give up our privacy for a goal, that I feel, is unattainable. To a certain extent, they are, with little effort slowly pushing us to spend money on security and away from health care, education, public projects, senior citizen issues and just about every other conceivable problem we have.
    What is the answer? I’m not really sure. I know America stands for freedom but there comes a time when those of us already living here no longer feel as safe and secure as we did years ago. Stop allowing individuals to enter this country. We can’t take care of those who are here now. We need to stop grandstanding and say enough is enough. Our citizens come first and from now on only a truly international intervention will be the only answer to any issues arising in other countries.

  • Boyd

    “If he was unlucky, the security guys ( guys in body armour carrying machine guns ) would have shot him. They take airport security a bit more seriously over here …”

    So, an honest person who reported his error would become a cleanup problem. I’m tempted to ask how that indicates a more secure environment but … it sounds like theater to me.

  • Harry Linklater

    Let’s be completely honest and realize that these “security” measures have absolutely nothing to do with American safety but rather are for American totalitarianism. Anyone saying these measures are for our security are the same ones that patronized you for saying we should not enter into a war with Iraq. They’re the same ones that call you unpatriotic for standing up for your own American freedoms. If you do not believe that our own freedoms are being taken away for no cause, then you are highly misinformed.

  • http://clubneko.net nick

    Just wait until a bunch of martial artists take over a plane. Then we’ll need to be handcuffed to our seats “for our safety.”

    Or when someone figures out how to re-wire a laptop in five minutes to turn the battery into an explosive. Then laptops will have to be checked “to be stolen by baggage handlers” – no, wait, I mean “for your safety.” (this is mostly a joke, but considering laptops have exploded on their own…)

    Or wait until someone figures out that if you send a terrorist to school and then get him a job at an airplane building facility or in an airline as a maintenance operator… either access to the structural plans will let them figure out each and every weakness to exploit and/or be in a position to introduce weaknesses that cause crashes.

    The possibilities are literally endless and no amount of airport screening will actually cause this problem to cease. Bomb, drug, and gun sniffing dogs/rats(I’m not joking, look up the TED.com talk)/whatever are a far cheaper, much less invasive alternative.

    The only thing left will be martial arts or hand-held weapons, and as brave airline passengers have proven in the past, if they think you’re about to cause some dumb terrorist bullshit, they will take you the F#CK out when given the chance, now that we know the gloves are off (because hostage taking is so 80s).

    The only thing left after that will be systemic, insider attacks and sabotage, and the only way around that is to engineer planes that can shrug off and survive mechanical failures. And since those happen anyway, we are already doing that.

  • robert davis

    Give me liberty or give me death. Given the way America is going, looks like I’ll take death.

  • ccs

    Come on now. 70% is a lot and I wonder how they arrive at that number. I mean it’s not like this guy is like every person who goes and admits it. So what, they just pulled that number out of thin air? AND the first time somebody DOES take over a plane by getting something on the plane, you guys going to cry about that too? IMO, if they stop only ONE plane from being abducted, then it’s worth it. What’s the value of 250-300 people to YOU? Or is it not worth your perceived violation of privacy?

  • amphiox

    “So what, they just pulled that number out of thin air?”

    No, it’s stated in the post. Federal agencies conduct random tests where agents deliberately try to beat security, carrying various deadly weapons on their person. Each attempt is presumably well documented. They succeed over 70% of the time.

    The actual real-life rate of all passengers getting weapons past security is of course unknown. It may be lower, as if the shoe bomber and underwear bomber are anything to go by, the real-life would-be terrorists seem a tad less competent than your typical government undercover agent. On the other hand, maybe it is only the dumb ones that get caught.

  • Lukie

    @Jason: No. The ONLY time they pay attention is when an 8-year old boy needs to be scanned, and padded down. Must be his Ninja Turtle Underoos.

  • http://www.news-geek.com Rima Chaddha Mycynek

    Deviating from the majority here, I’m going to back off from the OMG WTF TSA! element here to discuss something equally important: Responsible gun owners do not ever “forget” where they put their guns. In fact, basic safety courses tell you to basically ritualize it. Done with target practice? Great. Now unload the gun, put the ammo away, clean the gun (optional depending on how often you shoot) and PUT IT AWAY.

    I sincerely hope that if Seif is a parent or spends any time around other people’s kids, he will be much more cautious in the future.

  • Scott

    Airline security is a joke. Americans are afraid so they are willingly allowing their freedoms to be subjugated by the Federal Government. But if the FAA is saying that they got it past 70% of the time, then one of two things is going on.
    Either the rate is much higher as they don’t want to look extremely incompetent. Just enough to get things changed. Or, much more likely, the rate is actually much lower, but they want people to become more afraid, so they can enforce must stricter regulation on us.
    Making the people fear what’s out there is a good way to control them. It happened in the 50’s with the communists. Now it is terrorists. God forbid (yes I said god, not Allah, Buddha, or anything else) the American public wakes up and sees that they are just being bamboozled. As long as they get their football and American Idol, they are happy. Who cares that all our phone calls are monitored. Who cares that the government is taking our freedoms away. Read the laws they are enacting. Read the Executive orders being put out.
    As V said in V for Vendetta, “People should fear the government; the government should fear the people.” It is high time we make the government fear us, the people. I am not saying to kill, maim, or hurt anyone. But start taking a stand. Remove the corrupt politicians and try them for treason. Kick out the illegals. Stop this political correctness malarkey. The American people need to take back this country.

  • RobertC

    You know, a little behavioral profiling would go a long way. Stop the bad guys, not the hardware.

    Time to be shed of this farcical security theater and go politically incorrect and profile. Every passenger faces a few seconds with a veteran trained and motivated to stop bad guys. I suggest wounded combat veterans.

    Stop worrying about my pocketknife and soda. Start stopping folks w bad intentions.

  • Hugo Fuchs

    I said at the very beginning that they only need station a soldier or two onboard and shoot anyone who brandishes a weapon. As for bombs, they could easily have bought chemical sniffers to detect explosive compounds (mixed or unmixed) to find that. Much less intrusive. In fact, the sniffers could also be used to detect drugs. They cost far below what the body scanners do.

  • sub

    if you seriously think that this army of Home Depot dropouts is going to stop anything, find anything, do anything except waste your dollars and balloon the federal employee rolls, you’re either gullible or stupid. or both. israel has all the knowledge, experience, expertise, and success in this area; do we follow their lead? no. because of a bunch of entitled old hippies worried about the civil rights of terrorists and criminals, your grandmother is subjected to a strip search. political correctness, the mantra of the entitled, arrogant, assumptive progressive class, is tying us in a knot. most of us, rightfully, detest these folks, and their ideology.

  • Jack

    Let passengers with concealed carry permits bring their guns onto the plane.
    Problem solved, with no expense and little inconvenience.

  • Guest

    People, 70% failure rate was some time ago. the most recent check was 100% failure. Things are becoming worse, not better.

  • http://www.vsca.ca/halfjack Brad Murray

    If they artificially induce comas in passengers, they could stack us like cordwood and triple (at least!) capacity while completely solving the security problem!

  • PappyHappy

    Guess the message here is ‘DON’T BE CRITICAL OF YOUR GOVERNMENT, EVEN IF YOU ARE CHARGED TO LOOK FOR SECURITY GAPS’!! Doesn’t give you that ‘warm and fuzzie’ feeling does it? (Reminds me a bit of Germany, 1937!)

    http://www.news10.net/news/article.aspx?storyid=113529&provider=top&catid=188

  • Vernxi

    Think about it. If they ever did catch a terrorist, it would be front page news. The past 9 years they have caught no one. They must mean they aren’t even trying. And that means both parties, TSA and the terrorists.

  • Michael

    I like the X-Ray-esque picture of that threatening pellet gun they put up there.

  • blert

    “The past 9 years they have caught no one.”

    That’s not exactly true, Vernxi. Terrorists have been caught, everyone from shoe bombers to underwear bombers. The problem is that they aren’t being caught at security checkpoints. They walk onto planes carrying high explosives (not just weapons, but high explosives!), and the security screeners don’t bat an eye.

    You’re right that the terrorists are not trying often, but they are trying.

    The TSA, on the other hand, I’m not so sure. They are certainly trying to annoy freedom-loving Americans, and they come crashing down pretty hard on a pilot who speaks out on Y0uTube about serious airport security gaps, but when it comes down to actually preventing terrorists…the TSA has caught nobody. Passengers keep catching the terrorists on the planes, while the TSA is busy confiscating somebody’s water bottle and fingernail file.

    This is why I would feel safer on a flight knowing that a guy like Seif has a gun. If the real terrorists did try to pull something, at least someone like Seif would be there to fight back. As terrifying as a gun fight in a plane sounds, I’d rather have someone on my side with a gun than just the terrorists with their bombs and weapons.

  • Hal

    I’m glad someone else identified the weapon photo as a pellet gun. Sure not a Glock.

  • Buzzkill

    @ No. 7   Brian — The solution is obvious.

    Allow each of us to see to our own safety and security; I can think of nobody who is more interested in doing so (for what I can afford to) as I am.

    That way, everybody is as safe as he can be – and it is done without burdening others.

    #22 (Brad Murray) offers something truly workable, too! ;-j

  • John L

    IT’S CALLED “GAPING AT KNATS WHILE SWALLOWING CAMELS…….OR, IN THIS CASE, GLOCKS!!
    THE TSA PEOPLE ARE A NATIONAL J-O-K-E!!!!

  • Bob Deschamps

    Dear Sir:
    I have thought that this should be brought to the attention of every concerned citizen and I am writing now because it’s time we were heard. Recent events only make the following that much more imperative for action. I am insulted on every occasion when I wish to fly. I am 86 years old, a Veteran of WW II (ETO). I have a clean record and am economically and morally solvent. I owe no one. Especially I owe nothing to any terrorist. Yet, because of him I am humiliated every time I wish to visit my family or visit any other land. I AM PROFILED BECAUSE OF HIM! I will be considered a terrorist until I am cleared through the degrading process at the ‘Security’ Gate. There are millions like me who are held in suspicion until a politically mandated law is satisfied. This law has nothing to do with my safety from the other millions like me but we are all put through the process because it has been determined that certain groups of potentially vicious people will feel humiliated. I will harm no one but I am treated as a liar and the inspectors check me out to prove TO THESELVES that I am not a liar. That is a gross insult to everyone. I try to be humble and reserved in expressing my feelings but we need to be aggressive in doing something about the un-intelligent way that airline customers are insulted. Many millions besides me hate the process that has been consented to that puts all of us under suspicion before we are allowed to use the product we have paid for. To use the product TSA says untrustworthy liar, me…the 84-year-old War Veteran….so you will make no exceptions. So I must prove to you that I really am O.K. I must, after standing in a long, slow-moving line (On our most recent flights we had to go through this 3 times): Empty my pockets of coins, keys, pen, and etc. etc. Take out my billfold that contains Credit Cards Take the hearing aid from my ear Take off my glasses Remove my watch –jewelry Remove my belt buckle Take off my jacket or coat Remove my shoes and walk in my stocking feet to retrieve the above and spend the time to put everything back on or in its place. So, how are you finally, aggressively, going to take action to end this stupidity? Yes, there is a way for creativity to solve the problem: All the airlines will institute a program to have a ONE-TIME SECURITY CHECK. As each passenger purchases a ticket and goes to the airport, he/she will present a Passport, a Drivers License, a Birth Certificate, copy of Military Discharge (if appropriate) and a release letter from a State Office of Law Enforcement. ALL must be presented, as it would be difficult for this many documents to be accurately and convincingly forged. The venue to accomplish this must be well thought out as in initiating it millions will be applying in a short period of time. Presently airline Counter Agents ask for one of the identifications. They could ask to see and would scrutinize all 4 (or 5). A temporary Certificate using the UPC code for the flight would be attached to the Boarding Pass, the passenger would go thru the normal humiliation to get to his/her’s Gate and the Pass/Certificate would collected by the airline. If the passenger meets these requirements and past airline records verify his/her past flight history’s The Airline Industries ONE-TIME SECURITY CHECK Program would issue a non-forgeable, secure card with the passenger’s information and a unique magnetic Identification Strip. Henceforth an airline passenger would present this card at Security for a Security Person to scrutinize and swipe or there could be electronic machine verification at a turnstile monitored by a security person. That’s it. Period. Flying would once more be safe and FUN! 95% of Airline Citizen/ Customers would live in TRUST not Suspicion. Incidentally the other 5% would justifiably be asked to go thru a necessary full security check because they have not proved themselves, by circumstance or choice, to deserve a ONE-TIME SECURITY CHECK There might be a better way to handle issuance of the card as the passenger’s photo might need to be on it. Mail in all documents with a photo to a single Airline to be processed? Have the passenger personally present the documents at an Airline Office? Have local authorities process the in-person application? Whatever way, it should be kept SIMPLE. And most of the work in getting it should be up to the person wanting to put an end to the humiliation. Just tell me what to do! That’s your job! Lead the way! Millions will salute you! That’s good business! P.S. Security check for Israel’s El Al involves just a simple interview of each passenger…why is it they always prove themselves smarter than everyone else??
    Robert Louis Deschamps 24420 NE Vine Maple Way Redmond, WA. 9805

    Robert Louis Deschamps 24420 NE Vine Maple Way Redmond, WA. 98053

  • Eric

    Isn’t the solution, as with all things, a robot or some other automated device? I mean, if Facebook can figure out a photograph I’m posting has human faces in it; can’t the gov’t employ shape recognition software to find the static image of guns or gun parts? …and no, I didn’t read everybody’s post to see if this was suggested already so sorry if this is a duplicate.

  • William

    Tasers. Seatback tasers.
    Let the terrorists on with guns, bix cutters, flame-throwers….
    Just arm every passnger with a seatback taser.
    Deal with the problem. Fly to destination. No more body searches.

  • Sue

    Rima says…Now unload the gun, put the ammo away, clean the gun (optional depending on how often you shoot) and PUT IT AWAY.
    Right…so when that split second arrives and you Need your gun,you can just ask the terrorist ,robber,etc., to wait while you get out your ‘put-up’ gun and load it.

  • Rocco Giuliano

    Yes, it has been established beyond question that TSA is an inefficient, abusive, bloated, and worthless organization. Year after year GAO comes out with scathing reports about TSA’s abysmal performance, and their only response is to crank up the PR machine, with vague references to all the “layers of security” that the public never sees. After working for a year and a half on a documentary about TSA, and hearing from many former federal air marshals and Red Team members, I can tell you that this agency is even MORE screwed-up than press reports suggest. Incidentally, one of our former Red Team guys observed quite sensibly that, post 9/11, nobody is going to take over a plane with a gun, box-cutter, or meat cleaver. The focus should be on explosives, identifying dangerous individuals, screening cargo, and controlling access by cleaning/catering personnel. For those interested, our movie is PLEASE REMOVE YOUR SHOES (pleaseremoveyourshoesmovie.com)

  • john

    i think its funny how people complain that this is a violation of rights (full body scanners) but yet you have every right in the world to walk away and not ride the plane. no one is forcing you to ride the plane, so no one is forcing you to do a full body scanner! if you dont like that you have to go through a full body scanner to ride the plane then dont ride the damn plane!!! but dont sit around and complain about tsa’s fail rate after they try and improve they’re tactics (mandatory use of full body scanners).

    hmm my rights (which aren’t actually effected) or my safety. i think im gonna go with safety here.
    oh and one last thing if a plane is hijacked, blown up, etc and every man, woman and child died it would make me sick to know it could have all been avoided by a full body scan. but hey!.. they died with their rights and thats better than life right?

  • Greg

    “They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety.”-Benjamin Franklin

    He is absolutely correct. I find it appalling the number of sheep that are putting up with this. What happened to America? We used to be the home of the brave, after 9/11 we are now a nation of cowards jumping at every shadow. Pathetic.

  • http://www.svnsvs.com Chris

    Funny they used an xray of a BB gun. I had that one growing up… totally…

  • http://netknucklehead.com Randal

    So, let’s see – who gets the “Knucklehead Award”…

    – The TSA for allowing a loaded gun to make its way on the plane, or

    – The traveler who reported it *AFTER* they landed at their destination?

    I suppose if the guy is trying to improve airport security, then good for him.

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