The TSA Sets Up an Instagram Account to Show Off the Things They Confiscate


What do a loaded gun, a stun gun disguised as a pack of cigarettes and an inert grenade all have in common? Pictures of all of them are to be found on the Transportation Security Administration’s (TSA) new Instagram account, where the government agency is doing its best to show the public the kinds of dangerous things its employees are confiscating on a daily basis.

The account was only created last Friday, but already there are 10 photos of dangerous and dangerous-looking items the TSA has had reason to confiscate from would-be passengers. It follows in the footsteps of the TSA Blog, which was created in 2008 and tells the stories behind items like these while keeping track advancements in the world of security.

It might seem strange that a government agency is using Instagram of all things to spread the word of their good deeds, but given the number of users that log on to the service each month, it’ll probably begin reaching many more people than the blog in very short order.

Here’s are the rest of the photos currently populating their feed:










In case the thought crossed your mind that TSA agents probably shouldn’t be taking time out of their important job duties to compose the best photo of a knife and choose the most appropriate filter, you don’t have to worry about that. Like the blog, any kind of social outreach is done by the TSA Office of Public Affairs.

So far, the account has amassed some 400+ followers and is growing fast (when Forbes featured the account earlier today they were only at 50). To see it for yourself and keep track as more photos of disguised weapons and live ammunition make it onto the TSA’s feed, follow this link to Instagram and click that follow button.

(via Forbes)

Image credits: Photographs by the TSA/i>

  • Max

    Oooohh!! Marlborough Red!!! Lethal!!

  • Adam Cross

    ” stun gun disguised as a pack of cigarettes “

  • Caca Milis

    Looks lethal, if they had stricter gun control laws maybe they’d have less work!

  • Adam Cross

    how people think they can get this stuff through security is beyond my comprehension.

  • Caca Milis

    Typical excuse, I forgot that gun/10inch throwing knife was in my pocket.

  • Wing Wong

    What’s interesting is that several of those are designed to be concealed. Ie, the cigarette pack/stun gun. The knives inside of a credit card sized metal sleeve and the knife that folds back on itself to conceal the blade inside of the round metal form.

    Looks like they were designed to thwart xray and perhaps the body scanner. Granted, they can certainly be improved upon.

    The card/knife combo could be improved if both sides were shielded. However, given the thickness or thinness, the outline of the blade would still be visible. Of course, if they see large metal block objects where they can’t make out the shapes, they’ll just visually inspect.

    Instead of plain, they should consider using embossed or other design/patterns that can obfuscate the outlines of the concealed blade,so that it looks like a a belt buckle, business card holder, or cigarette case… something less conspicuous.

    Just saying.

  • DaveWong

    Really convenient that they start posting all this stuff after the NSA Prism leaks. SEE U NEED US TO WATCH!

  • SiriusPhotog

    This is the stuff they caught. How much do you think slips through without detection? I traveled a couple years ago through several airports and when I got home I realized I had left my Leatherman in the bottom of the camera bag. I didn’t even know it was there and obviously the TSA didn’t either.

  • tttulio

    I knew that 4 year old girl was carrying something dangerous…

  • oldtaku

    I see they’re not instagramming the 99.9999(…)% of items they confiscate that are completely harmless like terrorist yogurt.

  • Roger

    Ah, they found a gun, that makes it okay for them to confiscate my toothpaste!

  • Burnin Biomass

    “Alright, take this plane to Vegas, or I’m gonna Majestic Waterfall all over this cockpit!”

  • Bill Binns

    A few years ago I was moving all my stuff to a new laptop bag. I had been using the old bag since 2000 or so and carried it on hundreds of flights all over the world. This includes the period just after 9-11 where your carry-ons were being hand searched multiple times per flight. At the bottom of that bag, under the padding for the laptop compartment I found a cheap 8″ hunting knife with a serrated blade that i only barely remembered buying. This was an evil looking knife that looked like a set piece from a Star Trek Klingon costume and should have jumped out at anyone viewing an xray of the bag.

    The TSA can post all the photos they want but I’m convinced just about anybody could get just about anything on a plane with a little forethought. The TSA is about the appearance of safety rather than actual safety.

    How many of these items were carried by people who were intending on using them to take over planes? I’m guessing 0. So no danger was averted. We all stand in lines and consent to a process very much like arrest so that potentially dangerous items can be taken away from dumb forgetful people that had no intention of using them on the plane.

  • Richard

    This is kind of my thought. Every follower they get will be leverage for them to validate their actions. I’m not saying that the TSA are useless, but I doubt all of these items were intended to be used by terrorists.

  • Frank

    Don’t know tha anything TSA dies should be classified under “good deeds”

  • Dwight D.E.

    I wonder if these corn pones from the TSA will start a another instagram account that shows all the sweetness they have stolen through the years that was NOT on their list of contraband… Total waste of resources.

  • Roland

    The card you see is called the Cardsharp; designed by Ian Sinclair, it’s just designed to be a light and thin utility knife you can carry in your wallet. Avoiding detection is definitely not a design goal and the latest design is actually being sold as childproof.

    Caveat emptor: I have not bought it and cannot vouch for aforementioned child-safety.

  • Jason

    Sure are a lot of awfully stupid travelers out there.

  • Tom Waugh

    Zürich airport has a perspex bin just behind the search area where illegal articles are deposited. The container is emptied every couple of days. I took this snap before it was emptied. It’s interesting to note that there’s even a couple of water pistols in there!

  • Robert Johnson

    I did forget I had some of my tools in my bag instead of my check in. When I returned home saw I had 2 box cutters and a hobby razor blade w/ handle in my carry one. OOOPS.

  • Robert Johnson

    No but still a gun or knife has no place on a plane. Check it in!!

  • junyo

    Since it’s already illegal for most civilians to carry an unsecured weapon on a plane, how would another law making super extra illegal make a difference?

  • junyo

    1. Once, they caught my Leatherman which I’d forgotten to move to my checked bag, but missed my Swiss Army knife in the same bag.

    2. Another time I got home and realized that there were a couple of loose 22LR rounds rattling around the bottom of my bag (my fault for not catching them at home) that had never been flagged through 4 airports.

    3. Another time, as my carry-onbag was going through the xray (and honestly, I’d flag my bag for special attention – between laptop, tablets, cameras chargers and misc cables it’s hard to tell exactly what’s what) and the TSA agent’s screen lights up red… just as this hot chick is getting a pat down the next aisle over. My bag – flashing red screen and all – sails through without a second look.

    The accumulation of these experiences and stories like yours has pretty much convinced me that if TSA catches contraband it’s mostly through random luck and sheer volume.

  • Mantis

    I once had a Terrorist Frapuccino confiscated.

  • Brett

    When you put government agencies in the spotlight while budgets are being cut, they are forced to show the value they provide in order to prove the organizations necessity. Take with a grain of salt. Too bad there are just enough radicals, insane folks, and stretched truths to convince us that we would all be dead every other flight if the TSA didn’t protect us from people who legitimately forgot that a checked firearm is fine, but the ammo is not. Only one of those photos looks like an active attempt to conceal something.

  • Lubyanka

    I wouldn’t be surprised if this were intended to be yet more scaremongering. The amount of date, time, location and contextual information featured in the photos is zero. So who knows from where/when/why/whom these images actually originated?

  • Matt

    Do you think some people bring stuff just to put in there?

  • Courtney Navey

    Yet even more proof that our government is wasting our tax dollars. How about less time on instagram and more time doing your job. If you’re really doing your job we would all see the proof in the safety on planes and in airports. I don’t MMS my boss a screenshot of every project I complete. I get paid to do a job and if I don’t do it I get fired. However Bank of America and our government are the only employers who don’t believe in that sort of thinking. Waste of time and money.

  • Mantis

    Of course it’s scaremongering.

    The TSA isn’t posing those scary looking photos of grenades and knives in an attempt at social network marketing. ;)

  • bob cooley

    That would make for a really uninteresting photostream.

  • maverickmage

    Hmm… by that reasoning, I guess TSA is doing a GREAT job considering that after 9/11 there hasn’t been a single plane that came down due to terrorist action.

  • Lubyanka

    Heh, well, they might be, from one point of view. :)

    For example, if I were considering this with complete generousity of spirit, I might simply admire the peek these photos offer into this one aspect of life as a TSA employee. That might legitimately be considered “social network marketing”. :)

    And if I were considering this with a considerably more elevated cynicism quotient, I might conclude that the TSA and/or their gov’t overseers might be scaremongering with a view to manipulating:
    a) More favourable public perception of TSA/USA’s warmongering
    b) Votes to cut funding for public services to fund TSA/warmongering
    c) Votes to increase TSA/warmongering funding

    That might also be legitimately considered “social network marketing”. That is, assuming I understand correctly what “social network marketing” means, which I might not.

    But far be it for me to judge the USA and its citizens for how they choose to interact with the rest of us. :p

  • Daniel Rutter

    Or “the specific PURPOSE of the folding ‘Card Sharp’ knife you took from me is that it’s the size of a credit card and sits in your wallet and you forget about it until you need it, so I perfectly genuinely really did just forget it was there”.

    The TSA did indeed have “reason” to take all these various things away from people, for that is the law. But they didn’t make anybody any safer by doing it, because unless they called the cops on the people they took these things away from, then the TSA themselves are saying that those people did not actually intend to harm anyone.

    If you confiscate something from someone, then let them get on the plane anyway, you are directly and undeniably stating that your confiscation was meaningless security theatre.

  • oldtaku

    Uninteresting, but honest. And yeah, not that great for extorting more budget for their ‘vital’ mission.

  • ninpou_kobanashi

    I have knives in a day travel bag. I could see myself forgetting to remove it for an air trip. I have a Leatherman in my camera bag. I also could forget to remove that as well.