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Having recently traveled from Mexico, through the US, and on to Canada with a great deal of luggage, has given me a few new insights and experimental observations about smuggling and aircraft hijacking (not that I foresee either act in my future). I'd been in Mexico for a year, and Phil had a significant amount of stuff as well — we were traveling with several bikes, five computers, over a dozen harddrives and enclosures, a guitar, and lots of cables, clothes, and other items. Here's a photo of Phil taken as we finished our trip in the Toronto airport:
Anyway, the journey began in Mexico in San Jose del Cabo. They made us shift some things around in our luggage and charged a hefty fee for it being overweight, but there was no search of any meaning. One of the suitcases contained a mid-tower desktop PC case, which didn't only contain a computer — I'd stuffed it with power supplies, cables, and anything else that would fit to save space. So it was outrageously heavy, and if x-rayed, would look nothing like a computer. Searching was limited to a young Mexican kid opening the bag, looking at the top layer of clothes, and closing it again.
My first carry-on luggage bag contained two 17″ laptops each with dual hard drives stacked on top of each other, along with power supplies, a digital camera, and an MP3 player. They were not removed to be searched or x-rayed separately (meaning they could have been just about anything). Nor was my NAS computer (which contains four large hard drives, a power supply, and the electronics all in a tightly packed case), the contents of my second carry-on, searched or examined.
So in Mexico I could have easily brought a bomb into luggage, or a gun or other weaponry into carry on. OK, but it's Mexico, right? But when we transferred flights in Chicago, while I did have to take my two laptops out, I didn't have to take out the NAS (which could easily contain anything) or any of the steel-cased harddrive enclosures… So even in Chicago I could have brought a gun onto the flight with ease. Just as disturbingly, there was no real search of the checked baggage, although we did discover that the DHS had chosen a single bag to search:
- The legacy of Ashcroft's hatred for rock'n'roll.
- Too many viewings of el Mariachi.
- The DHS and TSA employees are lazy and don't really care about doing their jobs well, so they just pick easy objects to search.
Sadly, if I had to guess it's the last option. Pure and simply laziness and incompetence. What's the law? “Never attribute to malice what can be attributed to stupidity?” It was a little disturbing to have confirmed my belief that it would be very easy to take out a plane, but then it's also refreshing to look at that fact and realize that because it hasn't happened, that “terrorists” must consider hijacking a plane an absolute final option that they don't particularly want to do.
Oh, and Canadian customs didn't search me either; they didn't even look at what Phil and I were traveling with. Not that there's really anything particularly problematic that people would bring back from Mexico to Canada, so I can't imagine there's really much worth searching for… Maybe cheap cigarettes?
PS. I don't believe there is really a reasonable solution to what I've described about.