I walk my dog every day, rain or shine, and I carry pepper spray to protect us both. Apparently, I forgot I had the pepper spray in the zip up pullover I wore under my coat the day I traveled out of Mitchell International Airport in Milwaukee, headed for Boston. I had a carry-on and wanted to make sure I got to the gate on time so I paid extra for this new TSA PreCheck. Under this program, you don't have to take off your shoes or "light jacket." You still have to go through either the old-fashioned or the new full-body scanners. Well, I went through the old-fashioned scanner and I now know the pepper spray was in the pocket of my light jacket. If I would have been required to take my jacket off, I would like to believe, they and I would have also known it was there. Instead, I got on my plane and a connecting flight in Cleveland with a container of pepper spray.
So right about now you're thinking, "Well it was the PreCheck that allowed that to happen." Not so fast folks, on my way back, flying out of Logan I had the same pullover on and this time I went through a full-body scanner. I sent my carry-on through on the conveyor belt scanner and I had a container of peanut butter inside the suitcase, it doesn't matter why. As my bag went through one scanner, I went through the other. They did ask me to step aside and the woman patted down my hips and brushed over my jacket. It was only then that I noticed something inside when she hit my hip, but clearly, she didn't. She sent me on my way but the other TSA agent asked to look inside my suitcase and that’s when he discovered the peanut butter. Since it was over the allowable amount of ounces, it was tossed. As I walked away, I became curious as to what was in my pocket. I reached inside and pulled out the pepper spray. I was shocked. I didn't remember putting it there and I couldn't believe I was able to breeze through security at two major airports with it; I wasn't hiding it.
I can't say there is one thing that, if fixed, would solve what is clearly a major security problem on every level at U.S. airports. This was illustrated more dramatically by the kid who jumped the fence at the Mineta San Jose International Airport and ended up in the wheel well of a Boeing 767 headed for Hawaii. I mean how easy would it have been for him to plant something in the wheel well instead of just hitching a ride in it?
After this experience, I question the wisdom of the TSA PreCheck program. What's to stop someone with ill intent from being cleared to fly through the system? I also question how good these full-body scanners really are if they couldn't pick up a container in my pocket. Ultimately, however, this is clearly a people issue. Perhaps it's asking too much of human beings to be able to really screen thousands of people a day? I don't know the answer but I do know I'm concerned and you should be too.