The weirdest items airport security agents are trained to catch when they scan your bags

Getty ImagesComputed tomography scan of carry-on luggage

  • Agents for the US Transportation Security Administration are being trained to spot an increasing number of rare objects that could be used to smuggle contraband or cause terror.
  • Internal TSA PowerPoint presentations obtained by INSIDER discuss these objects in detail.
  • These objects include disguised butane lighters, “burning bibles,” and self-defence weapons.


The Transportation Security Administration, the federal agency in charge of screening airline passengers, is perhaps best known for its rules concerning toiletries, laptops, shoes, and metal objects.

According to training materials recently released to INSIDER under the Freedom of Information Act, however, the agents of its sprawling workforce are periodically trained, with PowerPoint slides, to detect and assess threats posed by an increasing number of uncommon carry-on items, including reborn baby dolls, prosthetic devices that mimic pregnancy, and homeopathic devices.

We’ve compiled 15 of the these rather unique items below, and you can read the rest of the training materials here.

These materials are public record, but certain portions of them have been withheld or redacted under a US law, incorporated under exemption (b)(3) of the Freedom of Information Act, that prevents the release of records whose disclosure “would be detrimental to the security of transportation.”


Zappers

Transportation Security Administration (Released under the Freedom of Information Act)Homeopathic instrument.

Zappers are “a homeopathic medical device designed to induce [an] electric current into the body to destroy pathogens.” Subsequent slides describe Zappers’ superficial resemblance to improvised explosive devices, or IEDs.


Wristwatch that doubles as a lighter

Transportation Security Administration (Released under the Freedom of Information Act)‘Wristwatches with a hidden butane lighter function.’

According to this slide, the FBI and Department of Homeland Security came across evidence that members of the terrorist group Al Qaeda were seeking digital wristwatches that double as butane lighters.

The next slide, though, says “the FBI and DHS have no specific information indicating plans to use lighter watches.”


Belt buckle knives

Transportation Security Administration (Released under the Freedom of Information Act)Belt buckles can be used to conceal blades.

Because they contain sharp objects, belt buckle knives cannot be brought into the cabin of a plane.


Switchblade lighters

Transportation Security Administration (Released under the Freedom of Information Act)Another banned object that features a hidden lighter.

Switchblade lighters incorporate a concealed blade and a butane lighter. They’re also banned from carry-on luggage.


Pregnancy prosthetics

Transportation Security Administration (Released under the Freedom of Information Act)Used to mimic late-term pregnancy.

This slide claims that late-term pregnancy prosthetics could be used by suicide bombers to carry out a terrorist attack. The same presentation shows how agents can spot passengers who are wearing them.


Kubotan pepper spray combo

Transportation Security Administration (Released under the Freedom of Information Act)Both regular and modified kubotans are ‘prohibited past the checkpoint.’

The kubotan is a slender, non-lethal self-defence weapon invented in the 1960s. Some versions incorporate a built-in nozzle for pepper spray.


Real Simple magazine advertisement

Transportation Security Administration (Released under the Freedom of Information Act)This magazine advertisement delayed a flight for 27 minutes.

This slide depicts a “blinking ad” for Yellow Tail wine that appeared in the November 2007 issue of Real Simple magazine. Another slide claims “the photographs and x-ray images from the magazine advertisement display the classic characteristics of an IED.”


Walking weights with concealed pepper spray chamber

Transportation Security Administration (Released under the Freedom of Information Act)‘Self-protection item for exercise enthusiasts.’

This slide depicts walking weights that double as disguised pepper sprayers. Pepper spray is banned from carry-on baggage.


Cell phone stun guns

Transportation Security Administration (Released under the Freedom of Information Act)Some stun guns are modified to resemble cell phones.

This 2007 slide says TSA agents encounter stun guns designed to resemble cell phones “on a regular basis.” You can travel with stun guns if you put them in checked baggage, but not carry-on baggage.


Mini Firefly stun guns

Transportation Security Administration (Released under the Freedom of Information Act)Small stun guns are also banned.

This slide depicts a small stun gun, known as the Mini Firefly, which can fit inside an empty pack of cigarettes. Like other stun guns, they’re banned from carry-on luggage.


Coin knives

Transportation Security Administration (Released under the Freedom of Information Act)Coin knives, as their name implies, are small blades constructed resemble coins.

A coin knife is “designed to appear like a large coin” and contains a hidden blade. As with other knives, you can travel with them as long as you put them in checked baggage.


Flashlight stun guns

Transportation Security Administration (Released under the Freedom of Information Act)Another kind of hidden stun gun.

Certain stun guns are designed to look like flashlights, including those “used by law enforcement officers.” They are also banned from carry-on luggage.


Burning bible

Transportation Security Administration (Released under the Freedom of Information Act)Burning bibles do not have to be actual bibles.

According to this slide, “a ‘Burning Bible’ is a novelty item used by individuals to get an audience’s attention.” The device features “a hollowed out area and ignition system.” A later slide claims unnamed terrorists used a burning bible in the 1980s to conceal an IED.


Camera stun gun

Transportation Security Administration (Released under the Freedom of Information Act)Stun gun modified to resemble a cheap disposable camera.

This slide depicts a disposable camera that was “converted into a covert stun gun.”


Reborn baby dolls

Transportation Security Administration (Released under the Freedom of Information Act)Hyper-realistic dolls.

This slide warns that “reborn baby dolls,” which are designed to closely resemble human babies, can be used to conceal “explosives or other contraband.”

The same presentation argues that, “as the dolls become more popular, they may be chosen as the next vessel of choice for would-be terrorist and smugglers.”

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