- 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 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
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
Because they contain sharp objects, belt buckle knives cannot be brought into the cabin of a plane.
Switchblade lighters incorporate a concealed blade and a butane lighter. They’re also banned from carry-on luggage.
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
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
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
This slide depicts walking weights that double as disguised pepper sprayers. Pepper spray is banned from carry-on baggage.
Cell phone stun guns
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
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.
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
Certain stun guns are designed to look like flashlights, including those “used by law enforcement officers.” They are also banned from carry-on luggage.
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
This slide depicts a disposable camera that was “converted into a covert stun gun.”
Reborn baby 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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