TSA’s liquid rules: So long, 3-1-1?

The Transportation Security Administration’s unpopular restrictions on liquids, gels and aerosols in carry-on luggage — better known as the 3-1-1 rule — are history.

Passengers say the TSA has all but stopped screening their baggage for liquids. They say transportation security officers no longer ask them to remove lotions, shampoos and even water bottles from their luggage, and overlook all manner of liquids packed in their carry-ons during screening.

“I was never asked about the liquids in my bag or asked to remove them,” says Doris Casamento, a retiree from Naples, Fla., who recently flew from Miami to Rome. “My husband had a bottle of water from the hotel he forgot was in his carry-on and it was never confiscated. The water was in a shallow shoulder-bag bulging practically in plain sight.”
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“You have no idea what this tube of toothpaste could do to a plane”

Maybe it was the word “extreme” that made the Transportation Security Administration Security agent at Los Angeles International Airport nervous.

Crest with Scope Extreme. I had bought a little tube of it at the grocery store before boarding my red-eye flight to Orlando yesterday evening. Good stuff.

Contraband, according to the TSA.

“I’m sorry sir,” said the boyish security officer guy while his supervisor looked over his shoulder. “That tube isn’t regulation size.”

“It’s the smallest one I could find,” I replied.

The young TSA agent’s eyes darted toward his supervisor, who slowly shook his head. The tube had to go.

I complied. As the TSA agent walked me through security so that I could brush my teeth one last time and then trash the $3 tube, I asked him:

Don’t you think this is a little absurd? I mean, it’s toothpaste. I’m going to brush my teeth with it.

New Guy said he agreed.

I disappeared into the restroom, cleaned my teeth, tossed the tube, and passed through security without incident. The supervisor was waiting for me at the end of the conveyor belt.

“I’m sorry for the inconvenience,” he offered. He sounded like he meant it.

“Me too.”

Then I added, “Doesn’t it seem kind of counterproductive that I can’t go through security with a tube of toothpaste?”

His face tightened. “You have no idea what this tube of toothpaste could do to a plane. If you knew the things we knew, you wouldn’t question it.”

“If you told me what you knew, maybe I wouldn’t.”

“We have told you as much as we can. It’s online.”

I didn’t want to provoke an argument. “I’ve seen what’s online,” I said calmly. “I’m not sure how convincing it is.”

The supervisor said me he’d been in the Army more than 20 years. As if somehow that settled the argument.

I zipped my bag, smiled, and thanked him.

The supervisor didn’t make these asinine rules about liquids and gels. He’s just doing what some Washington bureaucrat ordered him to do.

Would my tube of Crest blow up flight 1472 from Los Angeles to Orlando? Of course not.

Common sense went out the door when the TSA started banning liquids and gels. When the agency decided to allow some liquids, but not others, it became something of a laughingstock.

It still is.

The sooner the government can install scanners that detect “dangerous” explosives like my toothpaste, the sooner we’ll restore reason to the security screening process.