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TSA Finds Stun Gun Disguised As Smartphone

Airport security agents took weapon from a female passenger at LAX as she tried to pass through checkpoint this week.

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Transportation Safety Authority personnel at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) got a jolt this week when they discovered a female passenger's smartphone wasn't exactly what it seemed.

"It was a cute little pink smartphone that gave a whole new meaning to 'bad connection,'" according to a post by TSA blogger Bob Burns Wednesday on the TSA's blog. "It was a stun gun."

Law-enforcement authorities took the gun from the passenger and allowed her to continue to her flight, he said.

Burns said that potentially dangerous weapons impersonating every-day devices people carry on planes are the reason the TSA carefully examines even the most routine items people carry through security checkpoints.

[ Security is a high priority for government agencies. Read Obama Fortifies Efforts To Protect Critical Infrastructure. ]

"Everyday common household items aren't always what they appear to be," he said. "It may seem mundane at times, but this is why we take a closer look at everything that's going on the plane."

Indeed, the discovery may seem strange, but wasn't as uncommon as one might think. Despite tightened security measures and new technology aimed at ensuring passengers don't take banned items onto flights originating in the United States, the TSA said it often finds a range weapons as people pass through checkpoints.

A variety of weapons that the TSA picked up in a week at various checkpoints around the country were highlighted in a list posted on the authority's blog last month.

"Firearm components, replica firearms, ammunition, unloaded firearms, a bb gun, stun guns, a belt buckle knife, brass knuckles, a brass knuckles belt buckle, a 6" knife, a collapsible baton, a 4" switchblade, and a butterfly knife, were among some of the dangerous items found around the nation by our officers in passenger's carry-on bags this past week," according to a Nov. 11 post on the TSA blog.

In his post, Burns applauded authorities for finding the smartphone/stungun, and reminded passengers to check their bags carefully before flying.

"Even if a passenger has no ill intent, an item such as this one could result in a civil penalty or even an arrest, he said. "And we really don't wish that on anybody."

The TSA, a component of the Department of Homeland Security, last year rolled out new--albeit controversial--technology to help TSA personnel screen passengers at airport security checkpoints.

In March 2010 the department began installing full-body security scanning machines--or advanced imaging technology (AIT)--units at airports around the country. The units require people to go through a full-body scanner that allows (TSA) screeners to see if they have any metallic devices.

Not surprisingly, some raised privacy concerns over what they viewed as the invasive nature of the scans. But the TSA countered by saying people are not identifiable in the images the AITs produce, nor is the TSA storing images.

Currently, there are about 540 AIT scanners at more than 100 airports, and so far 99% of passengers chose to be screened this way over alternative screening measures, according to the TSA.

Our annual Federal Government IT Priorities Survey shows how agencies are managing the many mandates competing for their limited resources. Also in the new issue of InformationWeek Government: NASA veterans launch cloud startups, and U.S. Marshals Service completes tech revamp. Download the issue now. (Free registration required.)

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User Rank: Apprentice
12/5/2011 | 8:29:18 PM
re: TSA Finds Stun Gun Disguised As Smartphone
Last I checked, TSA stood for Transportation Security Administration, not Transportation Safety Authority. This is a simple fact that should have been verified by Elizabeth Montalbano prior to publishing her article. Also, the editors should have caught this.
User Rank: Ninja
12/4/2011 | 3:21:08 PM
re: TSA Finds Stun Gun Disguised As Smartphone
What is someone doing with a stun gun disguised as a smartphone? That's a pretty good eye by the security personnel.
Brian Prince, InformationWeek/Dark Reading Comment Moderator
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