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Claim: TSA confiscated nail clippers from a U.S. soldier returning from Afghanistan on a flight full of armed soldiers.
Example:[Collected via e-mail, December 2010]
A friend of mine sent me this about his TSA experience. He, unlike most of us, was coming back into the country from Afghanistan on a military charter.
As the Chalk Leader for my flight home from Afghanistan, I witnessed the following:
When we were on our way back from Afghanistan, we flew out of Baghram Air Field. We went through customs at BAF, full body scanners (no groping), had all of our bags searched, the whole nine yards.
Our first stop was Shannon, Ireland to refuel. After that, we had to stop at Indianapolis, Indiana to drop off about 100 folks from the Indiana National Guard. That's where the stupid started.
First, everyone was forced to get off the plane — even though the plane wasn't refueling again. All 330 people got off that plane, rather than let the 100 people from the ING get off. We were filed from the plane to a holding area. No vending machines, no means of escape. Only a male/female latrine.
It's probably important to mention that we were ALL carrying weapons. Everyone was carrying an M4 Carbine (rifle) and some, like me, were also carrying an M9 pistol. Oh, and our gunners had M-240B machine guns. Of course, the weapons weren't loaded. And we had been cleared of all ammo well before we even got to customs at Baghram, then AGAIN at customs.
The TSA personnel at the airport seriously considered making us unload all of the baggage from the SECURE cargo hold to have it reinspected. Keep in mind, this cargo had been unpacked, inspected piece by piece by U.S. Customs officials, resealed and had bomb-sniffing dogs give it a one-hour run through. After two hours of sitting in this holding area, the TSA decided not to reinspect our Cargo — just to inspect us again: Soldiers on the way home from war, who had already been inspected, reinspected and kept in a SECURE holding area for 2 hours. Ok, whatever. So we lined up to go through security AGAIN.
This is probably another good time to remind you all that all of us were carrying actual assault rifles, and some of us were also carrying pistols.
So we're in line, going through one at a time. One of our Soldiers had his Gerber multi-tool. TSA confiscated it. Kind of ridiculous, but it gets better. A few minutes later, a guy empties his pockets and has a pair of nail clippers. Nail clippers. TSA informs the Soldier that they're going to confiscate his nail clippers. The conversation went something like this:
TSA Guy: You can't take those on the plane.
Soldier: What? I've had them since we left country.
TSA Guy: You're not suppose to have them.
TSA Guy: They can be used as a weapon.
Soldier: [touches butt stock of the rifle] But this actually is a weapon. And I'm allowed to take it on.
TSA Guy: Yeah but you can't use it to take over the plane. You don't have bullets.
Soldier: And I can take over the plane with nail clippers?
TSA Guy: [awkward silence]
Me: Dude, just give him your damn nail clippers so we can get the f**k out of here. I’ll buy you a new set.
Soldier: [hands nail clippers to TSA guy, makes it through security]
This might be a good time to remind everyone that approximately 233 peoplere-boarded that plane with assault rifles, pistols, and machine guns — but nothing that could have been used as a weapon.
Origins: On 18 November 2010, Erick Erickson, the editor of RedState.com, posted the above-cited account to that blog under the title "Another TSA Outrage,"
stating that it was an e-mail he'd received from an unnamed friend who had recently returned from Afghanistan on a military charter. According to this account, when a military charter returning from Afghanistan stopped in Indianapolis to drop off 100 members of the Indiana National Guard, all 330 passengers (each of them a weapon-carrying soldier) were required to disembark from the plane; those who were continuing on from Indianapolis were held in a secure area for two hours and required to undergo another security screening by TSA (Transportation Security Administration), who confiscated a pair of nail clippers from one of the soldiers.
In response to the controversy generated by this account, the TSA's "Blogger Bob" posted the following entry to that agency's blog on 1 December 2010:
A story has been making its way onto a number of blogs about the TSA screening of a military charter arriving at Indianapolis International Airport from Afghanistan. The unattributed story claims TSA confiscated multi-tools and nail clippers, while all on board were allowed to carry military issued firearms. The bottom line is the story is not accurate and couldn't possibly be true.
At Indianapolis International Airport, military charters arrive at the remote transit terminal, exclusive for these types of flights. TSA staff does not have access to this facility and, we do not conduct any screening operations there. Also, nail clippers have never been prohibited by TSA.
The TSA blog linked to an earlier entry from May 2009 debunking the claim that nail clippers had ever been prohibited by the TSA:
Bigfoot is probably one of the best known urban legends, but nail clippers, knitting needles and corkscrews are probably the most believed.
Some time ago, someone out there spread a nasty rumor about us, that lead many of today's passengers to believe that we don't allow any of those three items. The facts though, contradict the myth.
Nail clippers. I can't even count the number of times I have heard or seen this... Totally not true. Way back when, 2001, pre-TSA,post 9-11, nail clippers were prohibited, probably an immediate reaction to the events of that day. However, when we came along, we changed the list, allowed nail clippers, but still get accused of being pro-long finger nail. Totally not true.
Erick Erickson followed up TSA's response by posting another e-mail from his (still anonymous) military friend, stating that:
Wow. Holy sh*t. That’s just an outright lie.
What a bunch of do****bags. See, this is why I want to remain anonymous. More bulls**t than I have time to deal with.
The funny thing is, almost everything blogger bob said mirrors exactly what I said — that we were taken to a separate part of the airport, etc — up until he said TSA has no access to the facility. Now that is a lie. I can tell you for a fact that they were there, we were screened by them, and they took nail clippers and a multi-tool.
Notice, he doesn't even deny that nail clippers are confiscated. He just says "they're not on the list of prohibited items". Doesn't mean a rogue agent couldn't confiscate them anyway.
The TSA's "Blogger Bob" then blogged again, offering more evidence to support his statement that TSA staff do not have access to the remote transit terminal where military charters arrive at Indianapolis International Airport:
On December 1, we responded to a story that had been and is still making its way onto a number of blogs and e-mail chains about the TSA screening of a military charter arriving at Indianapolis International Airport from Afghanistan. The unattributed story claims TSA confiscated multi-tools and nail clippers, while all on board were allowed to carry military issued firearms.
After responding, some folks, including the blog that posted the original story, stood by their claims. Well, since the facility is run by the National Guard, we went to them and received the following quote.
"TSA does not have personnel or conduct any screening in the facility where military charters are processed at Indianapolis International Airport."
Shawn D. Gardner
Director of Public Affairs
Indiana National Guard
Please feel free to forward this to anybody who may have been misled by the original story.
Ultimately, the tale of the confiscated clippers was a single-source story from an anonymous teller, it provided no date of the purported incident that allowed for verification (and did not seem to match the details of any recent flight into the named facility), it was not (as far as we know) confirmed by anyone else on the flight in question, and a similar story had been floated in 2004 about a group of soldiers returning from Iraq. All of which suggests that someone recycled a years-old story (that may or may not have originally been true) and relocated it to a different time and place.