Guns in flight: An inside job

Each week the TSA likes to remind the public how much contraband it confiscates at security checkpoints across the country. Among the items listed is nearly always some number of firearms (44 last week, if you’re counting). Because apparently sometimes people forget that they have a gun in their backpack. But that’s nothing compared to the sixteen (16!!!) guns one man recently brought on to a plane. And it wasn’t his first time.

Just a few of the guns confiscated by the TSA at checkpoints last week
Just a few of the guns confiscated by the TSA at checkpoints last week

Since early May the man flew from Atlanta to New York City on 17 different flights where is is presumed to have transported a weapon. As for how he got them on board, well, that’s easy. Just get an employee to help you out. The accused, a former Delta employee, was receiving the guns after passing through a TSA checkpoint thanks to help from an accomplice who was still a Delta employee (presumably not so much anymore).

And the most surprising part is that apparently the investigators never considered this avenue of illicit activity, despite the concerns aired regularly by security experts and TSA antagonists. According to Lupe Todd, a spokeswoman for the Brooklyn District Attorney’s office (as quoted in the NYTimes piece), “This office had absolutely no knowledge that guns were being transported by plane until the December 10 arrest.”

Months of investigating amongst the TSA, FBI, local authorities and other agencies and no one bothered to even consider that possibility.


Read More: Gun Smuggling on Plane Reveals Security Oversight via

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Seth Miller

I'm Seth, also known as the Wandering Aramean. I was bit by the travel bug 30 years ago and there's no sign of a cure. I fly ~200,000 miles annually; these are my stories. You can connect with me on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.


  1. There are hundreds of staff at each airport that are allowed to pass through doors to the secure side without being screened. While there are some security measures in place, they do not seem to be sufficient.

    Pair that with low wage workers (cause those guys pushing your wheelchair are likely minimum wage outsourced workers) and its no surprise something like this happened.

    But you know…go ahead and dump that water bottle and nail clippers in the nearest trash.

  2. When I worked as a ramper for an outsource company, I was quite surprised at how easy it would be to do harm. The entire program is risk based with background checks required for SIDA badge holders (the badge that allows you through without security). The only thing that prevents someone from bringing in prohibited items is the stipulation that any possessions in the SIDA area are subject to random search. The problem is, most of my co-workers in these low paying jobs were able to get badges despite openly talking about their drug use and dealing with their coworkers, some even used on the job. They were able to get their positions because they hadn’t been convicted of a serious enough offense to trigger a SIDA badge denial. We even had a sex offender who worked as a supervisor that was able to receive a badge.
    If they want to operate under this risk based system, they need to move to a system more akin to NEXUS/Global Entry where a more exhaustive background check is completed, otherwise, it is a gap waiting to get exploited. While I don’t think that they should completely exclude an employee based on a record, if they want to hire employees with a criminal record, they should be given Sterile badges which require going through security first.

  3. This is actually the avenue that I had assumed had been exploited on the morning of that horrible Tuesday morning 13 years ago. And I had jumped to this conclusion purely from the scene of a ramp worker inserting a fake “safety” pamphlet into a seat back in the movie Fight Club.
    It absolutely boggles my mind that something like this would still be possible over a decade later. If anyone tries to claim a failure of imagination in this fiasco, they should be have some sense beaten into them with the business end of a sledgehammer.
    This is flatly inexcusable and only highlights the irrelevant and polished performance theater they conduct at the TSA. Ugh.

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