TSA, the Military, nail clippers and an urban myth

OK, I got caught by this one.  For a few minutes anyway. But, seriously, all the red flags are there.

So, right up front: The TSA has never banned nail clippers (or so it says. I recall they did, in 2001, for a while). But the TSA says it does not do so now, and also says it has no access to the air terminals used in the following story, so it says the whole story has to be a fabrication.

What red flags? A sure sign of an Urban Myth is that the story is just really really pat, describing something so silly that you say “can that be true?” and while yes, there are instances it is true, most often it is not. You really need to search the web sites www.snopes.com and some others such as www.truthout.org and www.truthorfiction.com to see. I found this on the last of those three, by the way. Snopes doesn’t have it yet.

Got that part? OK, now the fun.

A good friend of mine forwarded me the following blog entry by an outraged returning military reservist who makes it clear he is pissed, and who can blame him?

  As the Chalk Leader for my flight home from Afghanistan, I witnessed the following:
When we were on our way back from Afghanistan, we flew out of Baghram Air Field. We went through customs at BAF, full body scanners (no groping), had all of our bags searched, the whole nine yards. Our first stop was Shannon, Ireland to refuel. After that, we had to stop at Indianapolis, Indiana to drop off about 100 folks from the Indiana National Guard. That’s where the stupid started.


First, everyone was forced to get off the plane-even though the plane wasn’t refueling again. All 330 people got off that plane, rather than let the 100 people from the ING get off. We were filed from the plane to a holding area. No vending machines, no means of escape. Only a male/female latrine.
It’s probably important to mention that we were ALL carrying weapons. Everyone was carrying an M4 Carbine (rifle) and some, like me, were also carrying an M9 pistol. Oh, and our gunners had M-240B machine guns. Of course, the weapons weren’t loaded. And we had been cleared of all ammo well before we even got to customs at Baghram, then AGAIN at customs.

The TSA personnel at the airport seriously considered making us unload all of the baggage from the SECURE cargo hold to have it reinspected. Keep in mind, this cargo had been unpacked, inspected piece by piece by U.S. Customs officials, resealed and had bomb-sniffing dogs give it a one-hour run through. After two hours of sitting in this holding area, the TSA decided not to reinspect our Cargo-just to inspect us again: Soldiers on the way home from war, who had already been inspected, reinspected and kept in a SECURE holding area for 2 hours. Ok, whatever. So we lined up to go through security AGAIN.

This is probably another good time to remind you all that all of us were carrying actual assault rifles, and some of us were also carrying pistols.

So we’re in line, going through one at a time. One of our Soldiers had his Gerber multi-tool. TSA confiscated it. Kind of ridiculous, but it gets better. A few minutes later, a guy empties his pockets and has a pair of nail clippers. Nail clippers. TSA informs the Soldier that they’re going to confiscate his nail clippers. The conversation went something like this:

TSA Guy: You can’t take those on the plane.
Soldier: What? I’ve had them since we left country.


TSA Guy: You’re not suppose to have them.

Soldier: Why?

TSA Guy: They can be used as a weapon.

Soldier: [touches butt stock of the rifle] But this actually is a weapon. And I’m allowed to take it on.

TSA Guy: Yeah but you can’t use it to take over the plane. You don’t have bullets.

Soldier: And I can take over the plane with nail clippers?

TSA Guy: [awkward silence]

Me: Dude, just give him your damn nail clippers so we can get the f**k out of here. I’ll buy you a new set.

Soldier: [hands nail clippers to TSA guy, makes it through security] To top it off, the tsa demanded we all be swabbed for “explosive residue” detection. Everyone failed, [go figure, we just came home from a war zone], because we tested positive for “Gun Powder Residue”. Who the F**K is hiring these people?

This might be a good time to remind everyone that approximately 233 people re-boarded that plane with assault rifles, pistols, and machine guns-but nothing that could have been used as a weapon. Can someone please tell me What the F**K happened to OUR country while we were gone?


Great fun, huh?

Always one to enjoy a good rant, I responded in kind:

To answer the last question first, what happened was a few guys from Saudi Arabia spent two years living in the US, using money from Saudi Arabia sent them by groups of religious fanatics in Saudi Arabia and Egypt, then hijacked some airplanes and ran them into buildings.

We, logically enough, attacked Afghanistan and Iraq because everyone knows that’s where Saudi Arabians and Egyptians hang out. The Iraqis, by the way, had a non-religious government that, while run by a brutal scummy dictator, hated the religious fanatics and had been our allies against the religious fanatics in Iran and the religious fanatics in Afghanistan, but who cares about that?

Then we passed a law called the “patriot act” that gave the government the right to snoop into our daily lives because we want to be free and the best way to be free  is for the government to be able to monitor all our communications, including this e-mail. (Hi mom!)

Then we scared the piss out of everyone by saying that bombers can make explosives out of bottles of harmless liquids (real chemists say this would be very difficult and time consuming to do in an airplane, if not impossible, but who cares what real chemists say? My sister is a real chemist, by the way.)

Then some other actual bombers tried to carry bombs in their shoes and their underwear. They failed.

Instead of accepting that maybe sometimes a bomber will get lucky, and realizing that those two didn’t get lucky because the system actually did work, if you include in that system a public that is aware and takes action to protect itself, we decided to put a full-court press of security on because the American Public demands that it be absolutely, one hundred percent safe at all times even from failed attempts without ever having to do anything about it (throw a cup of coffee on a smoking shoe? Not my job dude!) and even if it costs an extra 100 billion dollars and means making 300 million people a year take off their shoes and show their underwear in public.

And then we put in charge of enforcing all that a bunch of rent-a-cops who failed as school crossing guards, but they sure know how to follow orders and if their orders say “no nail clippers,” then, by god, there will be no nail clippers.

I think this story must be old, by the way. TSA regs http://www.tsa.gov/travelers/airtravel/prohibited/permitted-prohibited-items.shtm currently allow nail clippers, although my Swiss army knife with a 1.5 inch blade was a no-no.

TSA regs also do NOT allow guns, gun parts, replica guns, or even pellet guns, loaded or unloaded, as carry-on, because you can still hijack a plane with an unloaded gun. This makes me wonder if there is not a bit of artistic license in this diatribe.

I have no idea if this story is true, but the sort of blind obedience to orders demonstrated by the TSA people it describes ought to be the one thing about that whole silly situation that you guys in the military would understand and even sympathize with.

I’m probably playing a bit fast and loose with some of the facts here, but so is the person who wrote the original thing, which is false. I do, however, insist that complaining about TSA people following orders is really off base — we hire them, we supposedly train them, we give them a job to do, we should not complain when they do it.

This is exactly the same as the abuse the troops coming home from Vietnam got — the war wasn’t their fault and it was completely wrong for blaming them for doing what they were told.

If the original writer of this rant has an issue with TSA, he needs to take it up with his Congressman who voted for the Patriot Act and funded TSA, not the poor schlubs carrying out the orders.But the whole story is a fake. As you can see from this posting: http://www.truthorfiction.com/rumors/t/TSA-Military-Nail-Clipper.htm

The TSA says it doesn’t have access to the air terminal this describes, and doesn’t prohibit nail clippers anyway.

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5 Responses to TSA, the Military, nail clippers and an urban myth

  1. tom says:

    Well well, the Standard Examiner’s own version of the TSA, AKA Web master, finally let me sneak through the fire wall they have apparently erected around Mr. “T’s” and Doug Gibson’s blog sites. More times than not when one tries to visit either blog site you get shuffled off to some BS “error” page. This has been going on for quite a while now and is really irritating. You would think in this modern computer age that a company like the Sandusky gang, who after all pulls a lot of money out of Ogden every day, could afford to hire a web master that had their stuff together way better than the current people do. While the current site is a lot better than it used to be, it still stinks in a few areas and it doesn’t seem to be getting any better.

    Any way it was a great post even if not many were lucky enough to get through the incompetence to read it.

  2. laytonian says:

    Here’s another Urban Myth: that Vietnam Veterans were “all” spit on when they arrived Stateside.

    As the wife of a veteran who’s spoken to many , many others – NONE have reported being spit on/at, NOR do they know anyone who was.

    Did it happen to someone? Probably. How many? A very few. But the victim-veterans will all claim it happened to them.

    What we DO remember is a potential employer coming to our apartment, to check both of us out, because “those veterans are all druggies”. When he found out how well we live, he offered my husband the job. My honorable husband turned him down, and as honor is always rewarded, found a much better job a week later.

  3. Tom says:

    Ah, I remember the good old days during Desert Storm when I carried my fully loaded weapon to, and from, the middle-east in a diplomatic pouch and gave all the six dollar-an-hour security inspectors a middle finger when they asked what I was carrying.

  4. ctrentelman says:

    well, you probably still could, Tom — this thing was also seen floating around in 2004, so it’s an obvious fake. The total absense of any unit names, or any press coverage of the event, plus the fact that the originator of it on redstate.com refuses to give the name of his so-called source, screams “FAKE”.

  5. I want to take this opportunity to say that I really love this blog. It has been a good resource of information for me in my research.

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