Turns out, you can take a four-foot sword on an American Airlines plane flying from Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport to Los Angeles. Who knew? Apparently, no one till Annie Jacobsen of the National Review Online got her hand on a federal incident report and interviewed Steve Elson, described in Jacobsen's story as "a former FAA Red Team member who, at the government's behest, used to sneak fake bombs and weapons onto planes."
Jacobsen, author of the optimistically titled book Terror in The Skies: Why 9/11 Could Happen Again, writes that the incident took place earlier this year: Guy gets on a plane, can't get his carry-on luggage into the overhead storage, calls the flight attendant for help, and, next thing ya know, there's a Kurosawa prop poking out of the bin. "The story," writes Jacobsen, "is as absurd as it is horrifying." She adds:
The "gentleman" passenger fortunately wasn't looking to employ his sword, but the fact that such a weapon made it past aviation security warranted a few questions for the TSA. After all, we're talking about a double-edged weapon as tall as my son.
"No comment," TSA spokesman Nico Melendez told me, adding, "Don't know about it" — a handy, unexceptional TSA response."
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Jacobsen's book, incidentally, is a pretty terrifying read on the subject of airport and airplane security. I tried reading it once, but it was either that or walk everywhere for the rest of my life. Turns out, being lazy helps you overcome many, many fears. --Robert Wilonsky